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Mike Healy
Mike Healy

Posted on

16gb vs 32gb 16GB or 32GB RAM for Web Development?

My 2013 15" MBP will reach the end of its life at some point and I'm looking to replace it with a 16" ARM MBP when they're released.

I do full stack web dev with PHP, and JS/Vue/static site generators on the front end. I also do some visual design, and occasional lightweight video editing (iMovie only).

I'll use the new machine for at least 3 years, and maybe even 5 or 6 years. I'd like to get 32GB of RAM, but it is an expensive upgrade, it's not something I'll add just for the sake of it.

How useful do you think the extra 16GB of RAM will be for this sort of work?

Top comments (69)

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weppami profile image
weppami

If you can afford it, get the 32gb. The macbook will last you at least 5 years and better be ready for new requirements, technology, workflow..
Last macbook I bought (mid 2014) I decided to max it out (ram, ssd and gpu) and believe me I dont regret it even if it was quite hard on my wallet..

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

It seriously depends on your stack and tooling. I see that you've mentioned using php, but there's other things which can eat up a lot of resources such as your database (or other middleware like elasticsearch). There's also a huge difference in resource consumption between intellij and vim. You can still develop on an 8gb machine without issues, it just depends on what you use.

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_garybell profile image
Gary Bell

It depends on your workflow. My work machine (not a mac) has 32GB RAM, but I use virtual machines to set up the environment to be close to production like.

If you're running all services locally, then 16GB should be just fine

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on3ss profile image
on3ss • Edited on

16GB? 32GB? I have only 4gigs....smh

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

That's rough ๐Ÿ™

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

I can't even run vscode with extensions bruh... ๐Ÿ˜‚

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rsa profile image
Ranieri Althoff

4GB can only run some Electron instances. Pick between Slack or VS Code

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

Nah, sublime and firefox. Take it or leave it.

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zilti profile image
Daniel Ziltener • Edited on

Sublime? Rather Emacs. I actually did that my first weekend on the job. We had some miscommunication so I showed up without a laptop. Ended up using a thin client with 4GB of RAM, set up Archlinux with Plasma 5, Emacs, PostgreSQL, PHP and Firefox.

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

Never tried emacs, will give it a go

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan

Same, same, the 4 gig life is rough

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scampiuk profile image
Chris Williams

Have a good look at non-Apple kit. You can run Linux on anything that runs Windows so you don't have to so that, and you don't pay the Apple Tax. You'll not find a better touch-pad than MBP's tho.

If you're doing apple app Dev then you need a MBP, else, you're just buying into the ecosystem.

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee

Beware the non-Apple laptops following their lead on soldered components, though.

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krishnakakade profile image
krishna kakade

Here I go with my minimalistic setup for web-development it works fine for me but not awesome but 16GB ram is sufficient but take care of browsers open and tabs to friends then everything will go smooth like butter ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ’ฏ and use firefox you can check it out my recent article on dev why firefox is the best browser for web-development .


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maxdevjs profile image
maxdevjs

wow, not so minimalist :)

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hemant profile image
Hemant Joshi

I found your stickers are sticking in my eye as well as my Brain.....

AHHH, soooooo Coooooooooolllll

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activenode profile image
David Lorenz

I have a 2011 Macbook Pro. Since the stuff is not glued I was able to upgrade it to 16Gigs of RAM and 512GB SSD.

For web development it still runs damn fine even though the CPU is like 10 years old.
So if you go with 16GB RAM, the newest ARM CPU and a SSD you should be well prepared for web development for the next years tbh.

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karanr profile image
karanR

I also want to get M1 16 in and I am thinking to go for 32 gb. Here's why I had 16 gb hackintosh and it was working all fine until i got a project which has multple internal projects and all dockerized.. When i had to run more than 2 projects the docker alone would take up to 14 gb so I had to add another stick of 8gb.
This was hackintosh .. upgradable .. M1 wont be upgradable and you don't know in 2-3 years what kind of projects you will be working and some time multiple memory eating things running at a same times ! so better go with 32 gb! Hope this helps

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

yeah, the non-upgradability is a thing. I went for 16GB for various reasons, but would err towards 32GB for my next generation.

The Apple Silicon chips are interesting as I believe they are more memory efficient due to their architecture. Having the memory integrated with the chip reduces churn and the need for RAM. Still, VMs and Docker aren't light!

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w3nl profile image
Pieter Epeรผs Wigboldus

You can also reduce memory usage by pick the right software.
Building process with node can consume a lot of memory, so more is better for you.
But i have 16GB (Linux), and don't have moments i have to few memory.
But if you can afford and you don't want to think about memory usage for the next years, you can get the 32GB.

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scottsawyer profile image
Scott Sawyer

I have 64gb and don't regret it at all. Chrome can easily eat up 20gb, with all the tabs I keep open (150 - 200), add Gimp, inkscape, Nautilus, 8-10 terminals, and I am often using more than 30gb. I highly recommend using a desktop, switched from laptops about 10 years ago. Not only does it save money, looking at these two 27" BenQ screens and mechanical keyboard beats any laptop. The whole set up is under $2000 USD and completely silent. Just have an old laptop for meetings.

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rsa profile image
Ranieri Althoff

How do you live with this sh*tload of tabs? Do you even remember what the first ones are about or you just keep opening them over and over again?

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scottsawyer profile image
Scott Sawyer
  1. I have two large screens.
  2. Organization.

If I am working on multiple projects at the same time, it can get hairy. Right now I have 11 tabs open to different bitbucket repos, 5 Google sheets 16 documentation tabs, and 64 other tabs. 2 Firefox windows, 4 chrome windows, 7 terminals, 7 images in Gimp, and 2 Inkscape.

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan

Wow I wish. ๐Ÿ˜ป
But how can you keep track of your life?

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siy profile image
Sergiy Yevtushenko • Edited on

At the best of my knowledge, ARM64 code is little bit less dense than x86_64. From the other hand, most of RAM space is consumed by data, not the code, so most likely there will be no significant difference. Nevertheless, apps tend to consume more RAM so for hardware which is intended to be used during long term it worth to buy as much RAM as you can afford.

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sznowicki profile image
Szymon Nowicki

You probably already decided on that, but for everyone stumbling upon this post, here you can find my comparison between MBP 16" i9/64G and i7/16G for development that includes docker, some npm scripts and occasional Xcode.

nowicki.io/macbook-pro-16-64g-i9-v...

tldr;
I feel no difference.
When the 16G is idling after start it takes 8GB of RAM (compared to 20GB on the higher version).

When I'm fully in the working mode (IntelliJ open, docker containers running, npm frontend bundlers + chrome tabs with devtools) I always have little spare RAM. Looks like MacOS is just being awesome in the memory management aspects.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

Thanks for this โ€“ interesting read.
I wonder too if the fast SSD MBPs have mean that a bit less RAM is even less of an issue?

I'm hoping to hold out until the ARM based 16" are available and maybe the memory offering will be different then. If not 16GB might be enough.

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tracker1 profile image
Michael J. Ryan

I'm currently using WSL 2 with docker, but will go Linux on my next person laptop. I tend to run several database servers and services via Docker in order to do more complete, full stack developent on multiple projects and 16gb often doesn't cut it.

I'm not sure if I'd cut over to arm just yet. And would suggest considering a Linux laptop option. System 76 or Dell.

I've been holding out for a higher end AMD to come out myself.

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_hs_ profile image
HS • Edited on

As previously stated by some people I would also go with "it depends" and right away on "Do you use virtualisation?". Reason is that when I want to build something in Java like simple monolithic service with some web interface, let's say you go ahead and generate JHipster app, you really don't need more than 16GB to run it including IntelliJ, VS Code for front, maybe a simple DB running inside Mongo or PostgreSQL. You can even have DB running in Docker with this kind of setup.

Now I have 48GB, it's funny but I had 16 and added 32 more. Thing is I'm running 1 REST API which is a bit bigger than standard microservice, 2 more APIs, and Mongo, Neo4j, and Apache in docker. Now imagine running 3 APIs written on JVM (Kotlin, Groovy, Java) 2 DBs and 1 messaging system, 3x IntelliJ for that, VS Code, Postman, couple of Notepads and Sublimes, Opera with couple of tabs and Brave also couple of tabs, Slack, sometimes tools like Azure Storage Explorer, MS Teams, node.js apps for administration of these tools running in docker... Yeah, even GNU/Linux would give up at some point and ask for more RAM because you still need GUI running, maybe Spotify, and such. Now you might go with less RAM for all of this but I like my IntelliJ and I like not closing stuff all the time.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

but I like my IntelliJ and I like not closing stuff all the time

ha, fair enough!

I don't use VMs that heavily now, but I possibly will more in the future. I think I will go with 32GB because of the longevity it'll add to the machine. Being non-upgradable I think 16GB will shorten its useful life.

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan • Edited on

Being honest, I use 4 gigs of RAM, 16 gigs of eMMC storage, and Intel Celeron ๐Ÿ˜“ and I have little problems running Microsoft Edge, Zoom, and VSCode, (and I am developing an electron app) all at once. Except for when the computer just crashes and I have to replace the operating system and wipe my storage. :)

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