1080p and RAM overkill

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by indg, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. indg macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2007
    this is on a base 2.4ghz mini with no upgrades:

    i normally don't have this many apps open simultaneously, but i wanted to show what would happen to 1080p video when all the ram is used. notice the swap file is nearly 2GB. normally it's less than 128MB with half-dozen apps open.

    even with this many apps open, 1080p h.264 videos (quicktime mov container, bluray rips in mkv, etc.) play just fine (tested with quicktime x, vlc, mplayerx). no stuttering, no dropped frames. the cpu still has a lot of breathing room. even 1080p flash videos on youtube play fine with the new h.264 gpu decoding in flash 10.1.

    if you have video playback problems, simply throwing more ram at the problem is not necessarily the solution.

    you may hear many people recommend going to 8GB of RAM on their mac mini without actually qualifying the reasons for doing so. if you have a legitimate need for 8GB of RAM because you use apps that require a lot of RAM for adequate performance, such as hd video editing, 3d games, or virtualization software, then by all means upgrade to 8GB.

    but if you're using the mini as an htpc or for general computing purposes (web, email, itunes, ilife, iwork, etc), 4GB should be more than sufficient. and really even 2GB is perfectly adequate for basic htpc needs as shown by my example.

    people tend to freak out when they see their free memory get low. but memory is SUPPOSED to be used, and snow leopard is pretty good at handling memory resources. when someone boasts about having 75% of their 8GB of RAM free and all they're doing is watching videos with their mini, that just tells me they wasted their money on 2x4GB modules.

    so don't upgrade to 8GB of RAM just because someone said having a lot of free memory makes your system run better/faster. depending on your needs, 2GB-4GB may be all that you need and 8GB may be overkill.
  2. mabaker macrumors 65816


    Jan 19, 2008
    Unfortunately I can't agree on "snow leopard is pretty good at handling memory resources".

    Truth is, throw Leopard or Tiger at the VERY same machine and 2 GB will feel like 8 GB under Snow Leopard.

    SL is abysmal with RAM handling, hoarding the inactive memory into infinity and not iving it away when it's needed. It goes straight to swap whenever there is no available "free memory".

    There is a reason Apple doubled the standard RAM memory in all their Macs recently. Snow Leopard as good as it is, but it's got completely screwed dynamic pager and screwed Expose (which is hackable so it's not such a big deal).
  3. Bitgod macrumors regular


    Oct 25, 2003
    I wouldn't recommend 8GB, 4GB is fine. The price on the RAM is a little tempting, but I have 8GB in my windows system, and it's overkill. Unless you're really doing some crunching with your system, you'll very rarely need more than 4GB.

    And 2GB is a little underkill these days. 2GB is good enough, but I know there are times at work when I wish I had more RAM in my system if I have too many apps open at the same time.

    Pretty much 4GB is the best answer, unless I was putting together an X58 system with a triple-channel controller, then I'd go with 3x2GB.
  4. Thermonuclear macrumors 6502

    May 23, 2009
    I'd recommend getting the full 8 GB RAM if the budget permits. The two reasons:

    1) The greater the amount of RAM, then the less the amount of paging. Page traffic to and from the disk can often be the biggest cause of disk wear and can accelerate the onset of disk replacement time.

    2) Software bloat by Apple and by third party application authors has been uncontrolled for a long while and no improvements are expected any time soon. Having more RAM will forestall the day when the machine needs to be replaced due to obsolescence.

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