Intel Mac buyer's remorse or no?
November 30, 2020 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I've always stuck to my guns about not buying the first version of Apple products, so I ordered an early Christmas present that arrived today. Then I saw the reviews and benchmarks for the M1 Macs. Should I keep this Intel Macbook Pro or return it for an M1 Mac?

Relevant info:
Current Intel Mac: dual-core i7, 8 GB RAM
New Intel Mac: quad core i7 (a little slower clock speed but not 7 years old), 32 GB of much faster RAM

The M1 Macbook Pros max out at 16 GB of RAM. I probably wouldn't notice much of a difference on such a new machine, but I know they'll figure out how to get 32 GB or more of RAM in there eventually.

I don't need to run Windows at home. I work a lot with audio (live and recorded) and the extra RAM and processor speed of either new Mac will be an improvement. It seems like the M1 would be... just fine. Or is it actually more than fine? Would I be dumb to hang on to Intel at this point? Is it realistic to expect to get seven years out of this new Intel Mac?
posted by emelenjr to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In the short term, it'll be quite similar.

Over the medium to long term, you're probably better off with the M1 machine. The performance gap is really impressive out of the gate, and likely to only grow as software is rebuilt specifically for it.

I suspect you'd be fine for a couple of years, but I'd be nervous about expecting 7 years out of a machine that's the last of its kind. 3-5 definitely, but if you want longevity, you're going to put yourself at real risk of not being able to run new versions within a few years.

If it were me, I'd return it and place my bet on the M1.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I‘d go with the M1 as well. I think 16 Gb of RAM will serve you just fine with the mew memory architecture (if not 8).
posted by mathiu at 10:53 AM on November 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Get the M1 unless you need to run Windows today.
posted by rdn at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

While I'd be nervous about expecting 7 years out of a last-of-its-kind machine, I'd be equally nervous about expecting 7 years out of a first-of-its-kind machine, especially at half the RAM. I don't think you'll really know what the right choice is for the seven-year question for another year or two. The M1 might keep a better resale value, then again, for people who consider the Intel chip mission-critical, they may be looking for your machine down the line if you're ready to make the shift sooner.
posted by rikschell at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Get the M1. Increase the RAM to the max. Apple has a very generous but short return window with no questions asked, use it while you can.

I think concerns about hardware glitches with the first of a kind product are valid. However, the internals share a lot with the pro-level iPads, and those have been rock solid for years now. I think of the new machines as a super iPad inside a MacBook body.

I also reluctantly have come to accept, and even like, the non-upgradability of modern Macs. This is a big stretch - as I modified my first mac IIsi with more ram, a numeric co-processor, and boosted clock speed with a soldering iron!

But as I use macs more and more in production environments, the reliability of soldered-on RAM and storage is a huge upside.

My last two mac laptops have given me 10 years of service with stock components. I got plenty of value over time.
posted by sol at 11:23 AM on November 30, 2020

I haven't even opened the box yet, and it's only been in the house for a couple of hours now. I think I'll mask up and brave the mall to swap it out for M1/16 GB RAM. Keeping the 512 GB hard drive, I'll get a few hundred bucks back.

I hadn't thought about the implications of developers eventually dropping support for Intel. I see this Mac won't last me nearly as long as my old one has.
posted by emelenjr at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2020

Return it. Get an M1. No question. Just do it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:25 PM on November 30, 2020

The only M1 detractors I've seen are software developers who need virtualization tools like Docker to do their job. For everyone else it's the biggest leap forward in Apple performance since the PowerPC switch, if not ever.

(I personally wasn't sold on getting a gen-1 anything Apple either, but now I'm seriously considering an M1 Macbook Air...)
posted by neckro23 at 1:01 PM on November 30, 2020

Thanks, all. Best answers for the lot of you.

I honestly didn't expect to find so many Mefites in agreement about an Apple product!
posted by emelenjr at 1:30 PM on November 30, 2020

I've read that it will be hard for Apple to increase the RAM with the new processor because it's manufactured as a single package with the CPU, so squeezing more RAM in there isn't a matter of swapping out some discrete chips. So it might be a while before higher RAM MacBooks come out (and they'll probably come at a premium price, too!).
posted by BungaDunga at 2:23 PM on November 30, 2020

You'll have to wait a little longer for the 16" M1 MacBook though.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2020

Unless you run MATLAB or something like that, get the M1. No waiting to wake from sleep! Friggen awesome!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:41 PM on November 30, 2020

I'd sound a note of caution around your requirements regarding audio: not the RAM requirements, but bear in mind audio software (other than Apple Logic) tends to lag several months behind even normal OS updates; I don't think any of the major audio software companies (for the software I use, at any rate - Ableton, Native Instruments, Reason, iZotope) have announced Big Sur support yet, even on Intel, and wouldn't expect M1-native versions of much audio software to exist for quite a lot time yet.
posted by parm at 3:57 AM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Re: Windows, several applications that run Windows as a VM, such as Parallels, claim they have no issue running Windows VM on the M1 platform; even if their support is a little marginal now, it'll be better by the time, should it ever come, that you need it.

I really wanted to avoid M1, but the more I read about it, from technical sources rather than brand-loyal fans, the more I'm on board with it. And the price break they're offering is also something that cannot be sniffed at.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:31 AM on December 1, 2020

Update: I ended up making the switch, although that involved ordering again online because my local store didn't have what I wanted in stock. Returned the custom configured Intel, bought the M1 maxed out on RAM and saved $850. Bonkers.
posted by emelenjr at 5:09 AM on December 2, 2020

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