15" Retina MacBook Pro: 8GB vs 16GB RAM

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Veradun, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. Veradun, Jan 19, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2013

    Veradun macrumors member

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    #1
    Hi all,

    I'm shopping around for a suitable 15" rMBP. So far I'm set on going for the base model - I just couldn't justify the steep asking price for the .3GHz processor difference and the 512GB SSD. I can live with a few seconds' slower difference in the processing speed of the 2.3 and as for the SSD capacity, I'm living on a 120GB hard drive that's not close to full. I'll be glad with the extra breathing room. Where I get stuck on my decision, is the RAM.

    This wouldn't be such a big issue if the RAM was user-serviceable: I'm more than aware of Apple's premium pricing on their hardware upgrades and would not hesitate going for a third-party manufacturer. But since the RAM in the Retina is soldered to the logic board, I need to make my decision at purchase. Right now, 8GB is more than enough for my needs, but I'm also thinking 5 years from now (which is how long I think I'll have this laptop before upgrading). Will it be enough then?

    I'm not a power user. And I'm not an extreme multi-tasker by any measure. At the most, I'll have Safari, Mail, Pages (or equivalent), Adobe Reader and Photoshop open. But my usage pattern may change in the coming years to accommodate Final Cut Pro for video editing and Parallels. I doubt I'll be running PS, FCP and Parallels simultaneously. But you never know.

    I'm leaning towards the 16GB, since I opened Task Manager on my Windows 7 desktop as I conducted my usual workload - Google Chrome and Adobe Photoshop CS5. Just those two. When I used the photomerge tool to stitch a Brenizer-method panorama (for that crazy DOF) the RAM usage jumped to 6GB out of 8GB! And it was just those two programs open. However, I don't know how comparable the Windows usage is to Mac OS X. It could be different.

    Your input will be greatly appreciated :) Anything to help me come to a decision soon. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. KPOM macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2010
    #2
    Since it isn't upgradable and you plan to keep it for 5 years, it makes sense to bump up the RAM.
     
  3. Krauser macrumors regular

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    Jan 19, 2009
    #3
    I'd stay with the 2.3Ghz processor (as it's not much of a difference in reality from the 2.6Ghz and you'll save some battery life as well as cash too and also some lower temperatures), keep the base 256Gb drive, and up it to 16GB. You can switch out the SSD in the retina models and, as with all SSD's, when you need to upgrade it, the price will come down.

    Besides the fact that you can't replace the RAM in these machines, which is enough for me to up it to 16GB alone, you mentioned you'd potentially be running Parallels and virtualizing OS' will eat your RAM quick. Those two factors (soldered RAM and virtual OS usage) is enough for me to tell you that you should skip the processor and SSD upgrades and get the extra RAM.

    Also, judging from your signature, your machine isn't the fastest, but Haswell should bring a nice upgrade to the Retina line what with the better integrated graphics to smooth out the UI so if you're willing to wait about 5 months (probably at a minimum, what with Intel's usual delays), you could probably see a better performing machine (at an almost guaranteed lower price point), and who knows, maybe some higher spec'd features (like more RAM standard or a larger SSD option at the base price) though that may be less likely.

    Either way, I'd recommend the 16GB of RAM if you really want a Retina 15" now. Forget the 2.6Ghz upgrade and the SSD (because you can get a bigger one from OWC in a year or two when they aren't astronomically priced).

    P.S. - A lot of people will tell you sticking with a computer for 5 years isn't a good idea, but the 5 year old '08 MacBook I'm typing this on begs to differ ;)
     
  4. Veradun thread starter macrumors member

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    Sydney, Australia
    #4
    @Krauser,

    Thanks for your input :) I think I'm pretty much set on going down the 16GB route, now. After all, there are valid reasons to: not upgrading for years, plus usage patterns may evolve to include more RAM intensive software.

    I'm planning to have a Retina in my hands before April comes around (taking advantage of the student discount + $100 student gift card in Australia - offer ends in April) so I don't think I'll be waiting for the Haswell update. If I were so inclined to always have the latest and greatest (which I'm not - my sig is proof enough LOL) I'd beat myself up over not waiting when the refresh does arrive, but to be honest the rMBP as it is is a hell of a laptop already.

    As for the UI lag issue, I thought that was a software problem and not a hardware one. But I don't think I'll be too bothered by it - my current laptop (Leopard) lags like crazy once it starts paging out...which it does, running just Safari and Activity Monitor!

    Hey, my MacBook (pre-unibody) is an '08 model, too. It may lag like hell at times, give me the spinning beachball of death, have cracks on the casing (I wasn't the first one to own this unit, and I sure treat it better than its previous owner ever did) and so on. It's a love-hate relationship. But it still works! You don't see that with a Windows laptop ;)
     
  5. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Location:
    Missouri
    #5
    I think you're making a good decision.

    It all depends on how much and how long you'll use it. If you are one of those people who replaces their computer every year or two, and you aren't doing heavy Virtualization work, apps like FCP, etc., 8 gigs is probably plenty.

    But, if you're like me and you do sometimes use heavy duty apps and hang on to your machines for a few years, 16 gigs is the way to go. My last laptop came with 2 gigs on it. If I couldn't upgrade it, (like, if it was a retina MBP), then it's life would have ended sooner. Just wouldn't be capable of doing anything that I need it to do! Basic web browsing and such, sure. But that's about it.

    Better to have and not need than to need and not have!
     
  6. Krauser macrumors regular

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    Jan 19, 2009
    #6
    Word, if you're using the student discount and need it, go for it. And that's true, the step up from what you have now to anything, let alone the retina models, will be ridiculously good.

    I had my retina 15" (which I returned due to hardware issues and no longer have), but I'm inclined to agree... for the most part. After using it for when I had it, switching the GT650 on helped improve some of the interface lag (like going back and forth between desktops and the dashboard as well as things like expose and mission control) so while it might very well just be more optimization code wise, it was pretty clear that the faster GT650m got rid of a lot of the lag that the HD4000 did make evident in some usage aspects. That said, the HD4000 is no slouch, so optimization is most likely the biggest culprit. I was only bothered by it because it costed me what it did... wasn't enough to return it by itself, but it didn't make me feel any better about the investment, especially when I planned to hold onto it for 5+ years. I'm back to my old 2008 machine now and I'm waiting it out for Haswell myself, but mostly because I had hardware issues. If I didn't, I'd be typing this on that retina right now.

    :p very true... I love my 08 unibody more than any electronic I've ever owned. It has been nothing but a dream of a computer to own and I actually felt sad when I got my retina 15" and saw my 13" sitting in the corner all unused haha. That said, mine barely ever beachballs and is in pretty much perfect shape. Maybe I'm lucky, but it helped me out knowing I could go back to such a wonderful machine upon returning the 15" retina.
     
  7. Veradun thread starter macrumors member

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    #7
    Hmmm. I could up the RAM in my current laptop to 4GB, and replace the HDD with an SSD, just to speed it up a little...but nothing's going to change the fact that it's a Core 2 Duo. Hence the upgrade to the current-gen Retina. Quad core i7 will run circles around my old laptop.


    The dedicated graphics on the 15" was what convinced my to choose it over the 13" Retina. The 13" form factor is ideal in my opinion (and I've only really owned 13" MacBooks - gonna have to get used to the larger size of the 15"), but the combination of no dedicated graphics and the price tag was the deal breaker for me. I'm hoping that Apple optimizes the software for the rMBP, and not neglect the first gen Retinas when Haswell arrives.


    Mine will be sitting in the corner unused too, when I get the Retina. Only difference is, I won't be going back to it. I'm not going to miss it too much - my school sold it to me for $50 (a steal!) after I graduated. It'd been in use for 4 years, 2 by me (hence why I'm not the first owner). Maybe I'll upgrade the RAM and HDD to an SSD in time, but right now my priority is a new laptop.
     
  8. Krauser macrumors regular

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    Jan 19, 2009
    #8
    This is true... the C2D is pretty much my bottleneck as well but being the major that I am (political science and law), most of the work I do that requires me to push the processor hard is stuff I do in my spare time. I edit HD video for my YouTube profile (which you should totally check out if you like guitar and stuff :p not blatantly advertising or anything hahaha) and music production for my own hobbies and such, both of which struggle hard on my 2.0Ghz C2D (don't even get me started on how much I dread exporting 1080p video on this thing). For me then, it isn't the hugest deal. When I'm doing it for school work, I almost never have issues and it runs perfectly (word processing, 100+ page PDF's for reading's, and general school usage), with the biggest bottleneck being HDD speed occasionally beachballing on big files.

    Same. I couldn't justify the 13", though I prefer that form factor. Hell, if it had a quad core or started at 256GB of storage, it would have probably been my machine. But where it is now, it's a non-starter for value in my book. That said, with Haswell, the 13" should see a much greater increase in performance per dollar than the 15". That's why I'm more likely to wait. Even if it Haswell doesn't double the performance, the update will almost certainly see a decrease in price for the 13" retina to something more understandable (like 1399 or 1499) and, if it doesn't drop, we'll more than definitely see either the base model start with 256GB of SSD and/or a quad core processor, which would make that a much much much more appropriate computer for the price. Also, I hope they don't neglect them either. I never buy 1st generation Apple stuff but took a gamble and rolled the dice on the rMBP. I happened to get burned with that gamble with multiple hardware issues so I just returned it and am waiting for revision 2. Ironically, the unibody 2.0 I have now that I'm typing this on is a 1st generation machine and it's the best machine I've ever owned (though it was returned 2 or 3 times for hardware issues when I got it... 1st generation like I said :p)... so who knows... either way, you'll be more than happy and if there's anything wrong with it if you do get one, get it fixed... Apple's good with that stuff.

    50 bucks?!?! That's amazing... makes me feel bad for spending the 1440 bucks I did on my 2.0 in 2008 :(
     
  9. M5RahuL macrumors 68020

    M5RahuL

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    #9
    $50 for a mac !!! :eek: It's probably worth more than that even today !!! :D
     
  10. Veradun thread starter macrumors member

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    Sydney, Australia
    #10
    As for me, I'm starting a degree in visual arts and design, and possibly will be majoring in photography and video. Right now my bottleneck is the C2D AND the RAM. While it can run photoshop and video editing (iMovie, in my case - FCP will destroy my system :eek:), it's just downright irritating to put up with all those beachballs! And I don't even export 1080p videos yet :eek:


    I can see the price dropping closer to the 13" cMBP's level (especially if they discontinue the cMBP line) but I doubt Apple's going to incorporate quad-core into their 13". Or if they do, they'll skimp on adding a dedicated GPU. Something has to distinguish the 13" from the 15", haha


    Looking back on it now, I realize how dirt-cheap they were asking for it. It's even better when I see the same laptop model going for $300-$400 on eBay :p
     
  11. el-John-o macrumors 65816

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    #11
    Sure it is! Even a PowerPC PowerBook will run ya $200 on eBay!
     
  12. Veradun thread starter macrumors member

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    #12
    Like I said to @Krauser, I see my model going for $300-$400 on eBay. So if I choose to sell it later...more accessories for my Retina :D
     
  13. walkie macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Buy as much RAM as you think you will need in the future, don't stick with the minimum since you won't be able to add more in the future.
     
  14. Krauser macrumors regular

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    #15
    True, something has to distinguish it. I'd say we're never going to see discrete graphics options in the 13". The only reason we might see a quad core chip is because of the improved thermals in the retina models, but it's in no way probable. We'll see quad core before we see discrete chips in the 13" models anyway, but either one or the other making an appearance in the 13" model is enough to differentiate it from the 15". I'd take a dual core system with a dedicated chip over a quad core system with integrated graphics only any day of the week. It's nice to have that extra oomph when you need it.
     
  15. Schranke macrumors 6502

    Schranke

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    #16
    since it is the retina model and you cant upgrade afterwards go for 16gb
     
  16. Arnezie macrumors 65816

    Arnezie

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  17. locoboi187 macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    No, anyone who says you need to future proof is wrong. More RAM isn't going to help you 5 years from now. 5 years ago I got 8GB of DDR2 RAM. It was considered OD then, but that RAM doesn't help a bit now. New standards are in place (DDR3), USB 3.0, better GPU/CPU, etc. Futureproofing is just a myth and people waste a lot of money with that "concept". Get what you need now, don't be fooled.
     
  18. MTD's Mac macrumors regular

    MTD's Mac

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    #19
    I'd go with 16, simple because the additional cost isn't a huge percentage of the total cost of an already-pricey machine.

    Who thinks they'll add a 16 GB RAM option for the 2013 13" rMBP? Is there any technical or space limitation making this impossible/difficult?
     
  19. Pentad macrumors 6502a

    Pentad

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    #20
    A MBPr with 8GB of memory is like a Ferrari with bicycle tires.

    -P
     
  20. Veradun thread starter macrumors member

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    #21
    To be honest, I think Apple perfected form-factor with the 13" Retina. It's just so much more portable over the 15", and that's important with a laptop. Quad-core would be nice but even the dual-core i5/i7 Ivy Bridge processors will leave my current C2D in the dust (anything today will, actually). Dedicated graphics will just be the icing on the cake. :D

    You see, you make a convincing argument against getting the 16GB. Five years from now, DDR4 may be the standard and my 16GB DDR3 is going to pale in comparison. Going with the base 8GB would be more than enough if I was going to upgrade in two/three years. But considering how I will have this laptop for five (or maybe even six years - but that's pushing it IMO), I can stomach the extra price the upgrade will add. Better to be safe than sorry with more RAM, I guess. The fact that its non-upgradeable in the Retina is the final nail in the coffin for me. Thanks for your advice, though :)

    Well, my budget is $3000 at the absolute maximum, and I'm looking at $2840 with the RAM upgrade from the base model, inclusive of student discount and AppleCare :) so I'm set.

    I doubt it - they never have in the past few years (it could change, but not this year. In the near future, though.). And I'm not meaning to generalize, but a lot of people buying the 13" Pro most likely won't need more than 8GB. The 13" is more consumer focused (though the Retina 13" pushes the boundaries on consumer priced laptops), and the 15" is geared more towards the "professionals" (I use that term loosely). That's just how I see it. I could be wrong :eek:
     
  21. tmagman macrumors 6502

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    #22
    whenever a machine cannot be upgraded aftermarket, always max out the internals. Seen way too many people regretting it later.

    More RAM has never hurt anyone.
     
  22. Xgm541 macrumors 65816

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    #23
    I don't see how, but ok.

    OP - My college had visual arts and design and I know many of my friends computers got damaged because the work conditions of some of those rooms were so crappy/dangerous for electronics. I say keep that in mind before bringing a $3000 computer to class.

    I would stick with the 8GB. Although not user upgradeable, I doubt it will be a bottleneck even 4-5 years down the road.
     
  23. joshuaginter macrumors regular

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    Canada
    #24
    This is an entirely new point of view that, for some odd reason, I have never read or even considered before.

    For the most part, I agree. Especially since people seem to be upgrading more often than ever before.
     
  24. tmagman macrumors 6502

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    #25
    futureproofing I think is more about 'what if i end up doing this later' ... i.e. you edit movies in imovie right now, but what happens when you start using fcp?
     

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