MacBook Pro M3 Big Money - Source Image: Ars Technica

Our Tech Lords and Masters

I do like Mac computers and Mac OS generally gives me less heartburn and security nightmares than Windows – I don’t need to be a mechanic, I just drive… But that does not mean our tech overlords don’t manage to routinely piss off this workin’ class creative pro. Don’t get me started on Sonoma, I have … OPINIONS. A client recently had to update her laptop to Sonoma from Mojave and Apple has changed so much of what was once straightforward and intuitive that she is near paralyzed trying to use her once faithful machine… but I digress.

“Are the new M3 Macs great computers? Sure. Are they expensive? You betcha. Does any excuse for Apple’s stingy 8GB RAM configurations or highway-robbery RAM upgrade prices? Absolutely not. This is pure corporate greed from the world’s biggest and richest technology company…” Apple’s MacBook Pro memory problem is worse than ever, Jason Cross, Senior Editor, Macworld.

The least-expensive new MacBook Pro you can get costs $1,599 and includes only 8GB of RAM – so the true cost of a “Pro” configuration is $1800, more if you want more than 512BG of Storage. While it is true to a point that with the Unified Memory scheme employed by Apple Silicon on their M-series system-on-a-chip (SOC), it does use memory more efficiently than Intel-based Macs and PCs. But run up a bunch of browser tabs, with some memory hogging Adobe Apps open and you absolutely will see performance hits. And to be sure, my Ancient, Aging, and pampered 2012 Mac Pro Tower is currently rocking 64GB of Ram, and I can still routinely squeeze it. But an 8GB laptop RAM module at Micro Center costs less than $25, a 16GB module, if you need to swap out a single slot – around $45. But at Apple, if you want to bump your configuration from 8GB to 16GB of RAM, it will run you an eye watering $200. The technical reason is that is has to be built into the chip to accomplish the “Unified Memory” feature. But the actual RAM chips can’t possibly be costing them on the north side of $150.

Similarly, the issue of storage comes up. Base configurations of the MacBook Air are outfitted with 256 GB SSD drives, the MacBook Pro, 512GB. Any kind of real work, especially design and video work, will eat those fast. Want more storage, add $200, $400… $1200… It has been argued that you can add nearly unlimited external storage for more reasonable market pricing, but that’s of course more stuff to haul about. The point of laptops being their portability. If I am at a client meeting, it’s awkward to have a pile of devices hanging off your machine… docks, drives, what have you. As Mr Cross points out in his article, the pricing is conspicuous. Nice round numbers, clearly rounded up to a sum determined by executive fiat.

And Yes, there has always been an Apple Premium, or as some say, an “Apple Tax” for their OS integration and build quality, fit and finish. And professionals and fans have happily, or grudgingly paid it for what we get in return. But with Apple silicon, Apple seems to be happy to hose users, because they can. With the Apple Silicon SOC design, everything is integrated, there is no ability for user upgrades across the entire line. These machines are true appliances as much as iPhones. Even the once mighty Mac Pro, the former Technical God of customization, now can only accept niche specialty PCIe cards, but discrete GPUs are now a thing of the past.

Costly customization options on 14" MacBook Pro M3

With Apple Silicon, Apple is massively leveraging their monopoly power, and the hosing of users has become egregious. The trade-off for the startling high performance of the M-series SOCs are their utter non-upgradability – which forces users to purchase the machine and specs they might expect to need in 5 years, rather than upgrade it… ever. Now to be sure, I have always encouraged people to buy the heaviest iron they can afford that does the job they need at the time of purchase. But now we have to buy for what the job might be five years down the road, and perhaps the heaviest Iron we can’t afford. And of course, meeting Apple’s increasingly eye-watering pricing for upgrades at egregious markups.

Compared to my experiences with Windows, I will absolutely take the integration, reliability, and security. Mac OS has a much higher “it just works” behavior and mostly stays the hell out of my way, “ah’m WORKING heah.” As a user, I do not wish to spend my productive hours being a mechanic, I want to DRIVE. Of course Windows is a much improved experience than it once was, and professional users have been bleeding away from Mac for a decade. The current incarnation of the Mac Pro, essentially a Mac Studio in a big, really expensive box, continues to fuel that trend.

That said, it is still unpleasant to endure Apples increasingly predatory behavior towards their customers… mostly because they CAN. Trust me, we know we’re there, but the grousing is a way to blow off steam while we check our bank accounts. Among some Creative Pros is a grumbled proverb, “Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away.”

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