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Ask HN: Anybody running a maxed out MacBook Air with 24GB RAM as a dev machine?
12 points by Maro 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments
If so, how is it? What limits are you hitting with the RAM?

I've was trying to decide between a maxed out Air and Pro recently. I really like the form factor and portability of the air, but the thing that put me off the Air was longevity.

Right now I think an Air with 16GB RAM should be fine for all of my workflows. I might occasionally do something CPU intensive enough that it will throttle temporarily, but 99% of the time I'd expect performance to be comparable to that of the Pro.

However, in 2-3 year time I don't really know what I'm going to be doing – I could be working on a project that requires a lot more CPU. I also know that even if my workflow is roughly the same the same software in 3 years is going to demand more resources so every year the thermal bottlenecks of the Air is likely going to become more problematic.

So while the Air might be fine as a dev machine today, I'd worry in 3 years I'll regret the decision because my machine is now constantly thermal throttling. Plus, given the base Pro comes with 16gb, a faster SSD and slightly faster CPU (even when it isn't being throttled), I'm not sure the slight amount of money you'd save on a 16gb / 24gb Air is worth it...

I think the only reason to get the Air is as a dev is if the form factor of the Pro is a deal breaker.

Yes exactly this an M2 maxed out. What I spent over 6k for a maxed out pro in the past I now spend 2k. When M3 comes out supporting 32GB RAM MacBook Air this will be a must purchase. I have had some pause when doing AI training and inference but for playing around I use the smaller models/weights which all fit nicely in 24GB RAM. Also Docker, VM’s with lots of RAM needs work out wonderfully.

Yes, maxed out m2 air – excellent machine, really worth the money, it's extremely quiet (no fans) and light. The memory has not been an issue at all running multiple VMs (usually linux for docker and parallels for windows tools), can game on it decently well (I'm into mostly indie games and older CRPGs though) and the throttling has not been a problem

24GB RAM is really more than enough for everyday use, if I want to run anything that needs more RAM I usually just spin up a cloud machine

FWIW I bought my Air M1 with only 8GB ram (this was 2y ago, I was in a rush and couldn't wait for the 16GB), and I do a lot of dev work there. I'd probably recommend 16GB, but for sure the 24GB option is a great machine.

For me the Air vs Pro really comes down to: do you need more than 1 external monitor? Do you need more than 2 USB-C ports? These are the only 2 "limitations" I see with the Air.

Are you me? I too have an 8GB m1 air that I bought in a rush. It's a nice machine but 8GB can be annoying sometimes and it's definitely noticeable when running docker/VMs (it would help if browsers weren't so memory hungry, I have often ran out of RAM on the m1 just for having a bunch of tabs open)

I agree, the one external monitor was annoying at first, but I took the plunge to buy a single 5K monitor and it's working out pretty well for me to replace a two-monitor setup. I find it helps me focus too.

If I remember correctly the Pro also has a better screen as well as fans. I've got a 16GB Pro and I think I've only heard the fans kick in a few times though, I think you could easily get by without them. I'm selling it soon and going to see if I can get by solely on a Steam Deck. If I can't I'll probably buy an M3 Air when they get released next year as the new chip design should mean significant battery life improvements.

2020 m1 Air w/ 16GB user here.

For web development, it's more than powerful enough for anything I need (Python/Django/PostgreSQL work).

I'd probably be annoyed if doing anything CPU intensive (e.g. compiling C++ all day, ML, etc). Memory has never been a limiting factor as I don't run VMs.

I have a maxed out M2, It’s really impressive what you can run on this machine, in addition to vscode, sublime, java sql client, and running occasional vm’s, rdp clients, multiple ssh terminals,, I can also have photoshop, lightroom and a ridiculous amount of tabs opened in chrome without seeing any issues.

Note: Native apple silicon apps are a must as they startup and run significantly faster. It’s especially noticeable in vscode.

It is excellent. RAM is more than enough, but heat does cause it to slow down. Fortunately I have an insane build server. However, it’s the same size as my M1 13” Pro, and only slightly lighter. Also, fingerprints really show up on the Midnight one. Be wary of getting that.

Yes, M2 Air. I work on a special-purpose database designed for NVMe. Memory has not been an issue, but keep in mind nearly every database is designed with the understanding memory is a finite resource. I've bumped up against storage limitations more than anything.

Only for the occasional personal project (employer supplies MBP), but I am entirely in agreement - aside from the external monitor restriction, my base model $799 M1 Macbook Air is more than enough for my work.


I loved my previous macbook air and had used it for almost 10 years. This time, I have decided to buy the maxed out version, if it cat last for another 10 years, it is worth the money.

I use it for rust/frontend dev.

Yes. Two VMs (Linux and Win10) always running too. It is awesome.

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