Buying an M1 iPad Pro for your creative work? Take note of the iPadOS RAM limit

Apple unveiled the M1-powered iPad Pro back in April, and surprisingly disclosed the amount of RAM they came with. Models with 512GB of storage and below had 8GB of RAM, while 1TB and 2TB models has a massive 16GB of RAM. And yet despite that, app developers are unable to make use of the memory as Apple has apparently limited iPadOS apps to a maximum of 5GB of RAM – regardless of how much RAM it has at its disposal.

Apple’s webpage for the iPad Pro M1 finally lists the RAM included.

This odd policy was unveiled after Procreate, a digital art app, announced a new update to their app that optimised it for the new M1 iPad Pro. This update increased the amount of layers allowed in a project from 91 to 115 on the M1 tablets. However, despite the two models on the higher end having twice as much memory, Procreate users – or any other app user for that matter – are unable to make full use of it.

This is because as Procreate points out, any app on the iPadOS is only allowed to use up to 5GB of RAM. In fact, if you were to develop an app that uses more than that, iPadOS simply force-quits the app and evicts it from the system memory.

Of course, the one upside of this is that the iPad Pros with 16GB of RAM could run multiple apps at the same time and have the processes running in the system memory. However, on a per-app basis, performance would be the same regardless of how much RAM your iPad Pro has.

RAM limits aren’t specific to just the M1 iPad Pro. Indeed, per-app limits on RAM usage had been around in iOS and iPadOS since the early days. To be fair to Apple, the iPad Pro from 2018 and 2020 came with 6GB of RAM, and had a limit of 3GB of RAM per app, so there’s actually been an improvement in that regard. Furthermore, as a percentage, there’s actually more RAM available to you in the 8GB models now. However, in the 16GB models, this means that the percentage of RAM available per app is just below a third of the total memory now.

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This memory limitation impacts apps that handle multimedia the most, seeing as they work better the more memory it has access to. This in turn means that the target demographic of the iPad Pro – creative professionals – might not be able to fully utilise the two most expensive models of the tablet. Procreate users on the iPad Pro with 16GB RAM for example might find themselves hard done by the 5GB limit when their hardware can handle more layers on their project. Of course, 5GB of RAM may be more than enough for most users, but the RAM limit is still definitely something to take note of when purchasing an iPad Pro.

That being said, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Apple is set to unveil the iPadOS 15 in a few weeks time, and hopefully one of the changes in the upcoming update unlocks the system memory for apps on the iPad Pros with 16GB of RAM.


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