Some of Apple’s decisions regarding the new MacBook Pro models are causing as much heated debate on the Internet as its removal of the headphone socket from the iPhone 7. In particular, the decision to limit the maximum RAM to 16GB rather than 32GB has been the subject of huge controversy.
Phil Schiller briefly commented on this, stating that 32GB ‘wouldn’t be power-efficient enough for a notebook’ but without going into more detail. Others have now chimed in with what appears to be a fuller explanation …
A Reddit poster suggested this was an Intel limitation, because Skylake currently doesn’t support the low-power RAM needed to offer 32GB.
The true reason behind the lack of 32gb or DDR4 is Intel. Skylake does not support LPDDR4 (LP for low power) ram. Kabylake is set to include support, but only for the U category of chips. So no LPDDR4 support for mobile until 2018 I think.
While neither Apple nor Intel has yet responded to my request for confirmation, the same explanation has been offered from multiple other sources – among them John Gruber, who said that he believes it to be true ‘from what Apple told me last week’ – as well as effectively confirmed by a KGI report referenced below. The only way to offer a 32GB RAM option would be to use desktop RAM, which is a lot more power-hungry – and would involve a big hit on battery life.
There are laptops that offer 32GB by using desktop RAM, but this is achieved either by a thicker form factor to support the additional battery volume needed or – in the case of lightweight notebooks like Dell’s XPS 15 – by accepting the significantly-reduced battery life.
Of course, confirmation of this wouldn’t end the controversy. Some argue that the type of power users who need 32GB RAM – such as those running multiple virtual machines – mostly use their Macs on mains power, so reduced battery life would be an acceptable trade-off. Others that a thicker machine would be a price worth paying for more RAM.
However, the backlash against Apple announcing that the new MacBook Pro had a battery-life reduced from 10 hours to 5-6 would be far greater than that against the RAM limitation. Only a tiny minority need 32GB RAM today against the far greater numbers who appreciate the battery-life (many pro users commenting yesterday that they don’t always have access to mains power in the field). And while I personally would side with those willing to have greater thickness, Apple is pretty firmly committed to its never-ending quest for thinness.
Of potentially greater concern is future-proofing. While 16GB is fine for most users today, we don’t know what app requirements might be 2-3 years from now in a machine many people keep for 4-5 years. KGI does hold out some hope, with a report that there’s likely to be a 32GB option in the second half of next year, when Intel releases its Canonlake processors. Again, though, this is dependent on Intel meeting its scheduled timeframes, which is not always a safe bet.
As ever, let us know your thoughts and plans in the comments.
Note: Disqus doesn’t seem to cope too well when there are hundreds of comments, as we saw yesterday. If your comment doesn’t appear immediately, please check back later in the day – we saw several comments posted multiple times yesterday by those who thought their comment had been lost or deleted.