Apple’s new 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro models are powered by next-generation M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The notebooks are configurable with up to 64GB of Unified Memory — Apple’s fancy-pants term for a pool of RAM shared by both the CPU and GPU.
However, won’t memory that has to be shared between components deliver less performance than two separate pools of dedicated system memory and dedicated GPU memory?
To find out, Max Tech put a 14″ 2021 MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip and 16GB of Unified Memory ($2,499) and a 14″ Microsoft Surface Studio with 16GB of DDR4 RAM (about $2,599) through a series of memory stress tests in a recently published YouTube video.
What’s more, the Surface Studio even has an Nvidia RTX 3060 under the hood with an additional 4GB of dedicated graphics memory.
Max Tech put various workloads on both notebooks, including Chrome tabs, Photoshop, Lightroom Classic photo editing, video editing in Davinci Resolve, and much more, often at the same time.
The results? Apple’s Unified Memory absolutely humiliated a similarly-priced Windows laptop with the same amount of RAM and an additional 4GB of dedicated video memory.
When exporting a 5-minute 4K video in Davinci Resolve, the 14″ MacBook Pro only saw a 2-second performance penalty when running with the RAM completely full (2 minutes and 56 seconds vs. 2 minutes and 54 seconds with nothing running in the background), along with a 33-second performance penalty while exporting images in Lightroom Classic.
The Surface Studio, on the other hand, went from exporting the same 5-minute 4K video in Davinci Resolve in 4 minutes and 26 seconds with the RAM empty to well over 32 minutes with the RAM maxed out. Lightroom Classic performance was almost halved, with the Surface Studio taking 5 minutes and 23 seconds to export the same images with the RAM full as opposed to baseline results of 2 minutes and 50 seconds.
A major contributing factor to the 2021 MacBook Pro models’ unprecedented memory performance is the exceptionally fast SSD storage, which enables the notebooks to ‘swap’ open programs and files to and from the storage without closing anything or needing anything to be reloaded.
The results also demonstrate the performance benefits of an integrated device with components that harmonize well with one another.
Check out Max Tech’s full testing in the video above — it’s certainly worth a watch.