Pimping my 2011 MacBook Pro to 16GB RAM Running at 1600MHz

I am a fairly heavy user of memory-hungry VMWare VMs. I was running into a problem with excessive paging slowing down the host OS or even not being able to launch all the VMs I needed to simultaneously due to memory limitations of my pretty damn new 8GB RAM BTO late 2011 15″  Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro system.

The late 2011 Sandy Bridge 15″ MacBook Pro machines come with 1300MHz 9-9-9 non-ECC DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM configurable up to 8GB in a BTO configuration. The 2012 Ivy Bridge models come with RAM operating at 1600MHz and the Retina MacBook Pro has a 16GB BTO option. The chipsets are similar and I was pretty sure that the non-Retina model can support 16GB of RAM and the Sandy Bridge models can run at the 20% faster 1600MHz just like the Ivy Bridge ones.

I had some trouble finding 16GB 9-9-9  latency non-ECC DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM kits on the aftermarket and none were labelled as “for MacBook Pro”. There are a lot of options at 1333MHz from Kingston, OWC, Corsair, Crucial and iFixit but at 1600MHz there are slim pickings. I suspect that the reason that the 2011 MacBook Pro ships with 1300MHz memory is a cost/availability issue.

Corsair has a kit of 16GB with slower 10-10-10 latency. I’m not sure what the implication is of 10-10-10 latency at 1600MHz vs. 9-9-9 at 1300MHz but I know that Apple specs 9-9-9 memory in their systems, so I soldiered on. The only kit that had specs I was looking for was the HyperX PNP 1600MHz 9-9-9 16GB DDR3 non-ECC SO-DIMM kit from Kingston which I got from Amazon.

Memory access schematic from support.apple.com

Installation is pretty easy. You need a high quality static dissipative Phillips #00 screw driver to remove the 10 screws without damaging the heads. Once the back is off the computer, the memory slots are easily accessible in the center of the machine.

As you can see, the Kingston kit worked. OS X Mountain Lion recognizes the 16GB of RAM at 1600MHz and is quite happy. I have a lot of memory head room now. I can run all of my VM workloads simultaneously with iTunes, Pixelmator, OmniGraffle, MonoDevelop, Xcode, etc., etc. all running at once without any hiccups whatsoever. Overall, I’m very happy with this experiment. The Kinston kit screams.


I got a Geekbench score of 11020 with the new RAM installed.

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