Mac Studio motherbaord, showing its RAM chips soldered onto the processor die

For the first time ever, Apple offers zero desktop computers with replaceable RAM.

The final Macintosh desktop computer with upgradable RAM, the Intel Mac Pro, has been killed. While the Pro series has had a slow decline since its release in 2006, it remained the most upgradable platform Apple offered (yes, even the 2013 model). However, with the new ARM-based Mac Pro offering no more upgradability than its Mac Studio counterpart, Apple has finally entered a new age.

 Apple Desktop Computer Lineup

Throughout the Intel period, Apple’s desktop computers always included an offering with upgradable memory – in the earlier years the entire desktop range in fact! RAM, unlike processors, has always been positioned as a relatively simple way to eek out more performance, or breathe new life into an ageing machine. Memory modules have been commonplace for decades, and still are – DDR generations continue to double in double data rate speeds doubly quickly, with DDR5 octa-channel offering 800GB/s of bandwidth with a 1024-bit bus on a 6400MHz clock, and DDR5X up to 1.3TB/s on the same bus width but with an increased clock maximum of up to 10,000MHz. Fast stuff. And of course Apple thinks so too, since the new ARM Macs use exactly that DDR5 memory configuration – using a GPU-style extra wide memory bus instead of a conventional CPU style bus width.

Apple Mac Studio Motherboard

During the PowerPC era, again Apple always had a Mac with RAM slots anyone could fumble their way around. From the early days with SIMM memory all the way up to the final Power Mac G5 which used the almost-still familiar DDR2 generation of DIMMs. Apple’s PowerPC and early Intel days were at the time when upgradable computers, even portable models, were commonplace – even if Apple wanted to close down their systems’ upgradability, their production lines weren’t set up for it quite yet.

PowerMac G4 RAM Installation Graphic

Go even further back to the Motorola era, and Apple’s desktops still had RAM upgrades available. Go far enough in the past and RAM comes full circle and ends up soldered to the main board again, as the complexity of personal computers reduces down to single board systems. But the expansion slots of the Apple ][ series were capable of holding RAM expansions. Imagine RAM on a PCIe card; expansion slots even today have very low-level access to the system bus, allowing for a connection to the CPU at fast enough speeds for RAM to work well.

Apple II RAM Expansion card

The original Macintosh, from 1984, had RAM soldered to the board and no room for expansion. The 128K model had a larger 512K sibling, and with a soldering iron and the right knowledge, you could upgrade the RAM to turn a 128 into a fatter 512. But even then, that’s more upgradable than what current Macs are – try the same with a Mac Studio and you’ll find a soldering iron won’t quite cut it. Whether or not you can swap the DDR5 ICs for larger versions and edit the system firmware to address the new space is not something many people at all will have the guts to try.

So it seems now, and for the forseeable future, Apple's desktops won't have the space for those much relied upon upgrades. Perhaps in a few generations' time Apple will return a model to its lineup that has slots for additional DDR7X RAM modules, allowing you to add blazing fast 1.5TB/s 256GB modules... But as the way we compute is changing, it may be that RAM itself ends up less of a concern at all, and 32G ends up enough for anybody


Images: credit,, Apple, Inc.

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