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View Full Version : How well does your MBA operate with 4GB of RAM?




RobertoooMac
Feb 14, 2013, 01:08 PM
Hi guys,

I'm definitely going to be buying a MacBook Air soon, but I just don't know how it would work with 4GB of RAM. Does the OSX 10.8 use a lot of RAM in the background, and if so is the system slowed down? Does anyone think it's worth going for the 8GB option? If anyone has either the 11" MBA or 13", I'd love to hear from you how smooth your system is, or is not. I'm running 8GB of RAM on my 2012 iMac now and it's great. I'll be using the MBA for word editing, internet use and also some light music production. Any replies would be much appreciated.

Thanks a lot for your time,

Rob:-)



imac5
Feb 14, 2013, 01:29 PM
I've got a 2012 13" w/ i5 and 8 GB of RAM. I don't think I've ever seen my RAM usage go above 4 GB with my regular use (which is not particularly heavy: web browsing, iTunes, iPhoto, a few simple games). You wouldn't have any issues with only 4 GB but really at just an extra $100 I think it's probably the most cost effective upgrade you can choose when ordering.

Saberon
Feb 14, 2013, 01:31 PM
Seriously, don't even consider NOT doing it. It's 2013, you're spending 1000+ on a notebook, do not settle for 4GB. In a year from now you will kick yourself for getting 4GB.

SnowLeopard2008
Feb 14, 2013, 03:47 PM
Well, when the physical amount of RAM is used up, it will start using hard drive space instead. But since the hard drive in a MBA is an SSD, it won't be as bad as if you had a mechanical hard drive. Neither is evenly remote close to RAM transfer speeds but the SSD would be much faster than HD.

David58117
Feb 14, 2013, 04:36 PM
I've got 4 gigs, currently I have 1.71 gigs free (according to Memory Clean), just using Safari with 5 tabs open.

I also have about 8 apps installed on the menu bar, including facebook, a weather app, Radium and istat menu.

When I had Safari closed, I had about 2.5 gigs free.

Just for tests I opened Finale 2012 ( a piece I'm working on), Steam, and XBMC in the background (in addition to Safari with 5 tabs open, and 2 news extensions running at top). It's staying steady at 1.13 gigs free, with them running in the background. 1.02 gigs free when I was browsing through Steam..

But that's not regular usage. I always close apps I don't use, and regularly browse activity monitor in an attempt to max battery life. Usually approx 5 tabs in Safari and Finale on a second desktop view is my setup. Or everything else closed and XBMC running.

Down to 643 MBs free (I'm streaming a talk radio station from Radium), with XBMC, Steam, Finale 2012, Radium (streaming) and 5 tabs in safari (plus 2 news extensions)..plus the 8 or so menu bar apps. Radium and Steam are huge memory hogs..

Closed everything but Safari and Radium (streaming), and the 8 menu bar apps, ran Memory Clean, and currently at 1.76 gigs free, while listening to my stream.

Anyway, that's my experience. 11" 2012 64 gig MBA.

yanksrock100
Feb 14, 2013, 04:50 PM
Runs pretty well! I have about 1.5 gb available most of the time, having a bunch of apps open.

I chose 4 gigs because it was either: 4 gigs for $1024 at Best Buy, or 8 gigs for $1299 at Apple. For me, it wasnt worth an extra $300-ish dollars. By the time 4 gigs is not even acceptable, it will probably be time for a new laptop anyway.

Cheffy Dave
Feb 14, 2013, 05:00 PM
54 C2D 11" MBA's purchased for me/friends working perfectly,All working perfectly with 4 MB of RAM

arefbe
Feb 14, 2013, 05:47 PM
My 2011 13" Air works well with 5 apps open most of the time. About 1.80 megs free.

rbrian
Feb 14, 2013, 07:23 PM
I generally have less than 1GB free RAM on my 2011 11" Air, and that's without very much running - half a dozen tabs open in both Chrome and Safari, Outlook 2011, Mail, iTunes, Lync, Messages. When I open up iPhoto or Excel then I start paging, and my swap file is usually at least 2GB.

If 8GB was available in 2011 I definitely would have got it, and since it's impossible to upgrade after the fact it's definitely worth getting it now.

iSmack
Feb 14, 2013, 08:10 PM
It's only a $100 upgrade. It's a no-brainer if you ask me. I didn't hesitate getting the 8GB model when I bought my 2012 MBA. And when the time calls for an upgrade, you have the upper hand on the 2nd hand market because you opted for a more future proof solution. Only downside is you have to wait a couple of weeks because it's build to order.

thejadedmonkey
Feb 14, 2013, 08:21 PM
I have 4gb of RAM, with 900mb free and photoshop open, among other things. If I used this as a work machine and regularly used VMWare I'd want 8gb, maybe 16. Otherwise, for daily use, 4gb is fine. Probably even 3 if the OS is pre-iCloud.

rufhausen
Feb 14, 2013, 11:39 PM
4GB doesn't seem to be an issue for me at all. I have 326MB of page outs since rebooting 7 days ago, and that number hasn't changed for several days, so maybe I did something extra heavy a few days ago.
If the refurb store had had the 8GB version of the 13" when I bought it, I probably would have spent the extra $100, but it didn't.
This thing still feels smoother than my 2011 iMac with 16GB of ram.

rhinosrcool
Feb 15, 2013, 01:01 AM
With 4gb, my 2012 air works well. However, at present, I am not using VM ware. As with all of my tech, I bought it used and saved a lot. If I had found a used one with 8gb, it would have cost several hundred more; I am very happy with 4gb.;)

Abazigal
Feb 15, 2013, 06:01 AM
4gb ram is pretty sufficient for your case. Unless you see yourself possibly needing more in the future, don't bother paying extra for the upgrade you will never need.

konicky
Feb 15, 2013, 06:28 AM
For your uses 4GB will be fine, my 2010 13" runs 10.8 on 2GB without any problems. So it all depends how much the price difference means to you. Here in the UK the 8GB is 80 extra which I would probably pay just for a bit of extra future proofing.

Amplelink
Feb 15, 2013, 08:44 AM
I've got a late 2010 with 4GB. My next MBA, probably later this year with the new releases, will definitely have 8GB. I don't do anything insanely intensive, but 4GB shows its limits. If you're going to buy a laptop, I'd suggest at least trying to future proof it to some degree.

Abazigal
Feb 15, 2013, 06:50 PM
It's only a $100 upgrade. It's a no-brainer if you ask me. I didn't hesitate getting the 8GB model when I bought my 2012 MBA. And when the time calls for an upgrade, you have the upper hand on the 2nd hand market because you opted for a more future proof solution. Only downside is you have to wait a couple of weeks because it's build to order.
What future proof solution? The extra ram is going to earn you less than what you paid for if you do sell it off. The only upside is that you benefit from more ram during this time, assuming you really do have a legitimate need.

cjgonzales1900
Feb 15, 2013, 07:44 PM
Right now Using 4gb of ram on the MBA is perfectly fine. But in the next year are 2 your going to wish you got 8gb of ram. I do! I strongly recommend upgrading your ram to 8gb to future proof your air. Especially if you plan on keeping it for a long time.

KiwiAdventure
Feb 15, 2013, 08:56 PM
I would run 8 if you are going to use parallels and back up to a time capsule. 4 just works but can slow down at times.

neteng101
Feb 16, 2013, 04:57 AM
Still on my 2010 13" MBA with 4GB... it does all things fine for the most part, the main issue with the lack of extra RAM for me is when you fire up a virtual machine via Parallels/Fusion.

Miat
Feb 16, 2013, 05:00 AM
I run 4GB on a current model 13" Air. It is enough, if you don't want a lot of programs and windows open at once, or don't work with large databases/calculations, or run VMs.

For me most of the excess RAM use is from browsers, and a simple quit - reopen of the browser usually fixes that. Running the 'purge' terminal command can also help a lot.

Mainly just don't try to do too much at once with it, and you should be fine.

The next round of Air upgrades will almost certainly include 8GB, and probably IPS screens, plus cheaper (ie bigger) SSDs. If you can wait until the middle of the year. :D

PraisiX-windows
Feb 16, 2013, 05:35 AM
I think most people who have written here don't really have a clue.
Not that I do either, but my 2011 mba with 4 gb of ram is fine, I doubt I would feel any difference what so ever, if I had 8 gb ram - yet it would still be nice to have (peace of mind), but it is hardly a necessity.
- If you run several operating systems virtually you might want more, so I've heard at least, but I don't know.

Boyd01
Feb 16, 2013, 02:15 PM
I also have a 2011 MBA and 4gb was the most available then. I have not noticed any problems using programs like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, VectorWorks, Photoshop, Filemaker Pro and all the other usual stuff.

I don't leave tons of programs open at the same time but, for example, it's no problem to record 4 channels live audio in Logic pro while Photoshop, Safari, Mail and Skype are also open.

One nice thing about the SSD is that you can open programs quickly, so there's not a lot of need to leave them open unless you're actively doing something.

However, if I were buying a MBA today I'd go for the max configuration - 8gb RAM and 512gb SSD. :)

Mak47
Mar 2, 2013, 07:56 AM
I'm shocked at how well it works. I have an 11" entry level model. When I bought it I had no intention of using it how I am now.

I hook it up to an external 1920x1080 display, with the internal open. Run Photoshop, Pixelmator, Adobe Muse, Safari with multiple tabs, iTunes etc. Often 3-5 of these apps are running at the same time with multiple large files open.

It chokes occasionally, but clears up fast. I'd love a bigger screen at this point, but the processor and RAM performance really hasn't been an issue.

thadoggfather
Mar 2, 2013, 08:59 AM
yeah my 2011 air has still been running quite well.

Boyd01
Mar 2, 2013, 09:01 AM
I hook it up to an external 1920x1080 display, with the internal open.

Me too, 90% of the time my MBA is on my desktop connected to an old 23" 1920x1200 Apple Cinema Display. I keep the lid open and the internal display brightness cranked all the way down most of the time. When I run the external display with the lid closed (clamshell mode), the fan kicks into high gear too often.

James Craner
Mar 2, 2013, 09:05 AM
The MBA runs very well with 4GB of RAM, especially with your expected usage. If you are the kind of person that upgrades your laptop every 2-3 years then 4GB should be ok. If you want to keep it longer than that you may want to increase the memory to ensure it's longevity with potential future OS and App requirements.

rufhausen
Mar 2, 2013, 10:24 AM
To follow up on my earlier post, I'm not at 22 days of uptime (no reboot) and my Page Outs is at 515 MB. If I understand that correctly, that's how much data has had to be stored on the SSD because there wasn't enough RAM.
I think that's pretty good for how I've used it: running a LAMP server in the background, running lots to scripts, Photoshop, etc.

Weerez935
Mar 4, 2013, 05:27 AM
I have a 2011 air and my wife has a 2010 macbook.

I upgraded her ram to 16 gigs and her hdd to a 128 owc ssd.

My mac air is still faster even though it only has 2 gigs of ram. I constantly have mail, calender, contacts, safari, and iTunes open with no issues or page outs. However when doing audio work I would close your other programs. But logic / protools don't get very ram intensive until you start doubling tracks / adding lots of effects.
The other thing to consider is that 4gb of ram will run almost anything, it just might not be instant. People on here act like it takes 8gb for pages.

You should be fine.

DisplacedMic
Mar 4, 2013, 08:25 AM
What future proof solution? The extra ram is going to earn you less than what you paid for if you do sell it off. The only upside is that you benefit from more ram during this time, assuming you really do have a legitimate need.

i think his logic is that if you can add an extra $50, for example, to your asking price over what you would have been able to ask if you only had 4 then you really only paid $50 for the upgrade...

by definition "future-proofing" isn't ever going to be about getting a return on your investment beyond postponing a future purchase.

lorcar
Mar 4, 2013, 09:41 AM
For me most of the excess RAM use is from browsers, and a simple quit - reopen of the browser usually fixes that. Running the 'purge' terminal command can also help a lot.


well, i use lots of tabs open at the same time, and this is the reason I am thinking to leave PC/Win and switch to mac
If you say web browsing makes Mac sluggish as well, I might be better stay with PC after all

Also, I am still torn between MBA and rMBP, reading a lot, adn the more I read the more I am confused. Basically, it seems the world is not yet ready for a retina screen and you may see ugly images, and that additional 4G is used by the screen itself rather than improving the overal machine. Not even to mention the Samsung/LG screen lottery

maatae
Mar 4, 2013, 10:11 AM
To follow up on my earlier post, I'm not at 22 days of uptime (no reboot) and my Page Outs is at 515 MB. If I understand that correctly, that's how much data has had to be stored on the SSD because there wasn't enough RAM.
I think that's pretty good for how I've used it: running a LAMP server in the background, running lots to scripts, Photoshop, etc.

I always seem to get large spikes in pageouts (about 500 MB) whenever I transfer files from my external HD (USB 3.0). Are transfers from external drives known to cause that or is there some other process going on that's causing page outs?

iMacFarlane
Mar 4, 2013, 03:44 PM
54 C2D 11" MBA's purchased for me/friends working perfectly,All working perfectly with 4 MB of RAM

Here's a picture of the only computer I ever bought with 4 MB of RAM. When I couldn't install Windows 95 on it, it was time for a new computer!

http://i1051.photobucket.com/albums/s427/MichaelJ62/oldcomputer1002_zps97c83d8c.jpg

kahkityoong
Mar 4, 2013, 04:33 PM
I think most people who have written here don't really have a clue.
Not that I do either, but my 2011 mba with 4 gb of ram is fine, I doubt I would feel any difference what so ever, if I had 8 gb ram - yet it would still be nice to have (peace of mind), but it is hardly a necessity.
- If you run several operating systems virtually you might want more, so I've heard at least, but I don't know.

Rubbish. I had a 4GB MacBook Air. Whenever it ran out of RAM (frequently when using Photoshop) it would slow down like a car stalling. Similar to my previous MBP with 4GB. The change going to 8GB RAM was large. If all you are doing is surfing, word processing and emailing, then 4GB probably is fine but you better be sure that there's no chance you will be doing anything more intensive on it.

stockscalper
Mar 5, 2013, 02:54 PM
I have no issues with mine. Right now I have Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Mail, Safari, Scrivener and Pages open. Sometimes I'll even add Aperture to the mix when I'm processing photos. Everything runs very smoothly with no issues.

David58117
Mar 5, 2013, 10:31 PM
I didn't notice slowdowns on the 2012 11inch mba with 4 gigs ram.

The ssd makes it much less of an issue than in the past.

Miat
Mar 6, 2013, 04:52 AM
If you say web browsing makes Mac sluggish as well, I might be better stay with PC after all

To be clear, it is only extended or heavy browsing with two different browser programs open, when it starts seriously using up the RAM. Have not had any trouble with just one browser open.

It also doesn't make it 'sluggish', because when RAM runs out it starts swapping out RAM work to the SSD, which is still pretty quick.

The reason you don't want that happening is that it wears the SSD faster than necessary, not that it slows the thing down.

If you are worried about it, just get the 8GB version.

JonLa
Mar 6, 2013, 05:32 AM
You won't notice it for the day to day writing, web browsing, etc, but your music work will definitely benefit from 8GB of RAM. And as others have said, if you're future proofing and want the machine to stay with you for 4-5 years then the upgrade is a must. Also worth waiting to see if there's a summer update (there has been the last two years running) to the processor.

Interestingly, I mainly use my 2010 Air (with the C2D processor!) for web browsing, writing etc - I have many tabs and apps open all at once and it never crawls. Even iMovie only crawls when it's working with HD sources or generating the final output file. My RAM use is regularly near to 4GB but that doesn't seem to have any bearing on when it's crawling.

617aircav
Mar 6, 2013, 04:08 PM
My advice, get the most you can afford. I have 8gb on mine and notice lag with photos.

shortcrust
Mar 6, 2013, 05:24 PM
I didn't notice slowdowns on the 2012 11inch mba with 4 gigs ram.

The ssd makes it much less of an issue than in the past.

^^^ This! I have a 2011 11" with 4GB and have no complaints. Usually the memory is enough, but even when it's not I can't say I've ever noticed without looking at Activity Monitor.

Twe Foju
Mar 9, 2013, 12:09 PM
for the stuffs i do with my MBA? hmm well let's see

mainly opening email for work, browsing, itunes stuffs, music, youtube, photoshop, illustrator and skype

4gb is more than enough

thing is, depends on what you use, if you buy a MBA, the stuffs you do wouldn't be too extreme i supposed, so 4gb for the supposed things you do in MBA is enough i think

oh and i am not a fan of too much multitask, that is why i dont need 8gb of ram

i would mostly just open 2, 3 software max at a time ( mostly being Chrome, Photoshop and Skype )

BenTrovato
Mar 11, 2013, 12:32 AM
Runs fantastic with 4 gigs, runs a bit better with 8. If you're actually in a position to be needing that extra 4 gigs of ram, I would probably be looking at a MBP.

LightOnAHill
Mar 12, 2013, 11:58 AM
My 2011 11" has 4gb ram and runs great, even when running parallels.

I use it for practicing law, so lots of office apps open at the same time, web browsers, often times a video app to watch police violate the constitution, and music, all without problems. I'm sure that 8gb would make it somewhat faster, but the real bottleneck is the video card.

sebseb81
Mar 12, 2013, 02:51 PM
I have a late-2010 MBA with 4 GB of RAM. For what you want to do, it will not be a problem at all.

mcarling
Mar 13, 2013, 01:31 AM
I have a 2011 MBA with 4GB and it does quite a bit of swapping to the SSD. If I were buying another MBA today, I would definitely get 8GB.

jojoba
Mar 13, 2013, 06:57 AM
I don't have any issues with mine (4GB mid 2011 13"). I usually have lots of apps open, but I work mainly with text (not so much video/photo, no gaming). I'll frequently have Scrivener, Bookends, Evernote, Safari, Postbox, TextExpander, OmniFocus, OmniOutliner and DevonThink Pro open at the same time.