16GB or 32GB RAM for Web Development?

mike_hasarms profile image Mike Healy ・1 min read

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?


markdown guide

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


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..


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.


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 😂💯 and use firefox you can check it out my recent article on dev why firefox is the best browser for web-development .


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

AHHH, soooooo Coooooooooolllll


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.


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


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


I can't even run vscode with extensions bruh... 😂

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

  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.


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.


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.


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.


I am sure you must be looking for i7 or later. I am currently on 16gb with intel core i5 and it sucks. I am getting my work laptop replaced with i7 16gb. I hope that'll work out a lot better. If using node, vs-code, or any such heavy lifting apps, I'd suggest go with 32gb as a long term investment.


As RAM is soldered in MacBooks, I'd definitely opt for the 32GB, or more if available.

You never know when your workflow might change, and dishing out another 3 grand for a new MacBook with that upgrade if/when that happens will likely feel orders of magnitude worse.


I've never seen a person that regretted getting more RAM. You should go with min 32GB or 64GB if that's into your budget. I'd definitely go with 64GB if the plan is to use the machine for 5-6 years.


64GB is definitely not in my budget. $600AUD for the 32GB upgrade is plenty... : )


Just checked your profile, and you're a contract developer. Can you go for one of the upgrades and use it as a tax write off? I have no idea of Australian tax laws.

It might be a depreciating asset over time, so possibly can be a bit of a tax write off each year.

You're correct, it's tax deductible, but I still have to pay for it minus my marginal tax rate 🙂


You get some very performant ram. I'd probably go with the i9 16gb 1tb version.
Or base model with 32gb.

If you do a lot of virtualization with docker or vagrant you may get more use out of the 32gb ram.


16 Gb is more than you'll ever need for web development unless you start dockerizing the hell out of an application, in my opinion. I work on a 8 Gb and it's perfectly fine too for a similar stack. Also, consider that 16 Gb is double than 8 Gb, it's not a little more.


Can't you upgrade urself the ram in the new mbp? If that's the case, buy the cheaper ram, but with better storage


Ram, disk and battery are all soldered to the motherboard on all current, and probably future mac books. The only way to 'upgrade' them is to buy a new system.


Oh f.....what about getting one which you can upgrade then? Cause its a nonsense the cost for more RAM.
I use a mini 2012 with 8gb ram, I don't do graphic design, but I use emulators for mobile, I barely run 3 iOs + Android on the same time, so....I would say 16 must be fine?


No, they're usually non-upgradable. You have to decide when you buy how much RAM to get.


It makes me feel sick thinking about it. I use mac because that what I was provided with at work but if I were to get my own laptop I would get an xps or carbon x1 and run Linux\win10 hands down. My macbook has 16gb and when running 6 containers at once it sounds like a aeroplane. Honestly I wish I could use my desktop pc. I get macs are reliable but I just hate using them. If you use containers and want to run a bunch of browsers tabs as well then it's worth the upgrade even if they charge stupid prices for the crappy specs they offer.


It depends on your workflow. If you need to run VMs and/or docker for Mac with containers such as solr search (which alone can eat 16gb), databases, etc. you may want to consider 32GB. But for most cases 16GB is enough. For your use case you’ll be good with 16GB.


I recently changed job, and they dropped a new Mac on me with 32gb. I never paid much attention before, but it seems I am often using around 16-17gb without trying. I think 16 does the trick and 32 is perhaps a luxury or for running a lot of electron apps lol.


What is the cost difference between the 16gb or 32gb?


$600 AUD where I live (~$420 USD)
Given that I just built a desktop Windows PC and the whole 32GB RAM was < $300, it's a lot : )


Yikes. That is a lot.

Someone made a point the other day that since you cannot upgrade RAM after the after with the newer Macbooks, putting the money in now, for more RAM will give you a long life with that machine.


16gb is fine as it's quite performant ram.

32gb gives you piece of mind though. If you have to compile code or cable with ML, docker etc. you'll like to have more.

I'd probably go with 16gb for now, but the better processor and 1tb hard drive. Should be easier to sell in a few years. Also get Apple care.


Imo 8GB is fully sufficient.


Physical machine? Try virtual machine. RDP it.


I dont think so it may help. I have used VM from Citrix, and that too, at work. Believe me, you'd feel a lot better and personal hand touch with physical device, running apps than on VMs. The allocation of RAM is always or mostly dynamic even though we can set a max value. It's to my experience and knowledge, based on availability. I'd say, 16 or 32 is ideal based on what I have experienced but definitely i7 or later. I am currently on 16 gb with i5, and I feel it really sucks. I am getting my work device replaced with 16gb, i7. Hoping to see benefits. Btw, I am a windows developer/user.


Kernel level machines have issues compared to machines crafted out from OS level.
Also, you looking for windows which is resource hungry. Windows does not have lighter DEs like xfce. Anyways, look at this thread may it help you in talking decision



32 for VMs on a Mac I think, at work, we have both 16 and 32GB models and the 16s really struggle (we are however running 5 docker containers with things like MySQL and Redis for local development).


Just get Gitpod or codesandbox, I'll tell you it gets sooooo better. Almost unlimited power that too on any machine, synced without any cost or problems.


Did anyone say I got a PC with 8GB ram?


web dev ! not ios developer so dont buy a mac
buy somthing like thinkpad x1 carbon and switch to linux you ll feel the change in your mind ! 🧠
from a Vim user .


I have 32gb. .. To run arch, i3, few terminals, ssh and vim, rarely use more than 2gb.(RoR dev) so it largely depends, on your workflow, I guess


16GB would be enough for your use case. If you're planning on using VMs or heavy video editing then upgrade to the 32GB.


If I'm doubtful that spending the money for 32GB is worth it then doubling that cost again for 64GB is definitely not.