16GB RAM vs 512GB SSD

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by king464, Jun 24, 2017.


16GB RAM or 512GB SSD

  1. 16GB RAM

  2. 512GB SSD

  1. king464 macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2017
    Hi everyone!

    My first post here, so please bear with me! I am about to purchase the new 2017 MBP 13". After waiting what seems to be an age for the processor update to KabyLake, I am finally ready to buy!

    I am getting the MBP for university (long battery life, lightweight, MacOS etc) and am opting for the touchbar model also. However, I can't decide which specification to pick.

    13" MBP Touchbar - 256GB 16GB RAM
    13" MBP Touchbar - 512GB 8GB RAM

    I will be using the laptop for Google Chrome, Spotify, downloading music/tv, programming and I may start video editing and photo editing properly. I currently have a Mac Mini with 8GB RAM and the 1TB HDD, and it can feel sluggish at times (maybe due to the traditional HDD). I have another Windows laptop with 1TB HDD and im using 800GB!

    400GB is movies/tv shows/software install packages/OS iso's etc.
    120GB Steam/Games
    60GB Photos
    40GB Music
    20GB Documents

    (I doubt I will game on my mac, and I wont be storing large files such as iso of MacOS/Office/ etc)

    I could store heavy files on a external HDD or computer but it seems to defeat the objective of having this new MBP.

    Looking at activity monitor on Mac Mini shows that I use:

    4.5GB RAM Idle
    5.8GB RAM (Chrome with 5 tab, Spotify streaming, Photos, Microsoft Word, Messages, iTunes, App Store, Airmail).
    6.2GB RAM (Above + iMovie)

    I cant decide between the two upgrades! RAM = possible future proof for more intensive MacOS. HDD = more space for storing photos/videos/possible bootcamp. It's difficult for me to justify picking both upgrades! What is better for future proofing/increase life span? I know that I probably wont be using more than 8GB RAM currently but that could be possible especially with newer versions of software.

    Thank you all for reading!
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Larger SSD. macOS's memory management is great, honestly a non-issue with your usage.

    I knew a programmer who had 6GB RAM assigned to a W10 VM on the nTB 13" and the system while coding & heavily browsing in Chrome on macOS. System was still screaming, wasn't paging to the disk, and macOS just made the most of the RAM it could.

    macOS is much different and far less frustrating compared to Windows in that regard. Give it 16GB RAM & it'll do its best to use all 16GB. Give it 32GB and you'll find that idling RAM usage will be higher still.

    You'll be better off with a larger SSD & 8GB RAM.
  3. No. 44 macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2016
    Long gone
    You could have both 16 MB of RAM and the 512 GB drive for a hundred dollars less than either of the options you have listed, if you were to opt for the MacBook Pro without the touch bar. Not everyone finds the touch bar to be useful.
  4. king464 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2017
    Thanks for such a rapid reply! Although I have Windows & Mac, I am used to Windows more and do find the memory management to be significantly poorer to MacOS. I think the only reason I even thought about 16GB RAM is the fact that I'm trapped with whatever Apple has soldered one (As opposed to other computers I can add RAM modules).
    --- Post Merged, Jun 24, 2017 ---
    A very valid point, although I want to have the TB for Touch ID, and I think I will be able to make it useful with BetterTouchTool (Spotify Now playing, Chrome Tabs, etc).
  5. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    I think you're telling us you want both 16 GB and 512 GB. So bite the bullet and get both.
  6. Ries macrumors 68020

    Apr 21, 2007
  7. king464 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2017
    Maybe! But then I feel that the price is too high to be spent on a laptop... If you had to pick only one which would you choose?
    --- Post Merged, Jun 24, 2017 ---
    Yes that is true. However, then I think that this can ruin the supposed portability of a laptop in having to connect an external drive to store files. Plus, I am not taking the advantage of Apple's super quick SSD speeds.
  8. Fancuku macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2015
    PA, USA
  9. Mr. Dee macrumors 68000

    Mr. Dee

    Dec 4, 2003
    After many years of computers, I have come a simple conclusion, you can never have enough RAM.
  10. Populus, Jun 24, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017

    Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    My vote goes to RAM too.

    I'll be in your same dilemma when I purchase my next MacBook Pro.
  11. tvith macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2012
    I look at it this way, ram can't be upgraded later on, so might as we well max that out. As for the HD, you can always get an external HD if you ever find yourself reaching the max. Also, I'm pretty sure with the adaption of USB-C the external HD will be faster than what's there now.

    That being said, your OP indicates that you should upgrade both. I mean, you have about 800gb of HD used already and if you do video editing, those files are not small to begin with. You should look at some youtube videos of Mac reviews, since they all have to edit the videos before uploading them on youtube. See if you can find what the "pro's" suggest. From what I remember, they all seem to go for the 15" due to the dedicated graphics, which makes it easier for external monitors and video editing.
  12. Matthew9559 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 7, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    If you have to choose, ram. You can still have a decent size boot camp partition as long as you offload your media to an external HDD.
  13. HiRez, Jun 24, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017

    HiRez macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2004
    Western US
    I'll take more RAM almost every time. If they offered 32 GB I'd probably say stop at 16 and get the larger SSD but 16 vs. 8 is a big difference, especially if you want to use the machine more than 2-3 years. But ideally you find some way to afford both because running out of storage space sucks too.
  14. killawat macrumors 65816

    Sep 11, 2014
    Probably not unless he is using an SSD. A HDD connected via USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 will be identical to USB 3.0 (because thats what it is) save for minimal enhancements to power throughput and using newer chipsets, and the connector of course.

    OP you need space but not necessarily speed right? Do you really want to pay the premium for more internal storage to store TV shows? I would offload the media to a different drive, how often are you watching TV on the go? Do you have a phone that could do this?
  15. funman895 macrumors member


    Jul 30, 2008
    Ann Arbor, MI
    With regard to later storage increases:

    I'd go external SSD at this point, the speed is fantastic, the price isn't horrific, the size is way better, there's no noise from fans, they're more portable due solid-state durability, and they'll last long enough that I wouldn't be too afraid of random death like you get with HDDs.
  16. king464 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2017
    Thanks for everyone's replies, I am really grateful that you've all given me your input! It seems that most would upgrade the RAM. Thinking about it, I am sure I would be offloading the TV Shows/Videos anyway. If only the new MBP had a SD Card slot and I could have just purchase a TarDisk! As of right now 8 vs 16 doesn't seem to show much difference but I suspect in the future there will be...
  17. prh8 macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2014
    I'll put in another vote for RAM. Offloading media to another drive will be enough to ease your storage qualms (since you won't be gaming either). If you are going to be programming, you can survive just fine with 8, but I'd really encourage getting 16, that will grow with you much better.
  18. jerryk macrumors 601

    Nov 3, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    Have you thought about uploading the shows/videos to cloud storage? Then you could then play them from your Mac, or any other device you have.
  19. ZapNZs, Jun 24, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017

    ZapNZs macrumors 68020


    Jan 23, 2017
    It sounds like you could benefit tremendously from NAS. If that is something you are interested in, my vote would be either 16 GB of RAM, or 8 GB RAM + 256 SSD with the extra money towards a NAS enclosure and two good quality desktop class HDDs for a RAID1 setup. Because you have multiple computers, and many files spread across those systems, NAS could provide you with greater flexibility (not to mention data integrity) than a single larger local disk on just one computer. They can also be pretty awesome for media servers...

    Has there been any battery tests on the 2017s yet? I ask because it sounds like battery life is something you really need, and with the 2016s the nTB models had a pretty significant advantage over the 13-TB models.
  20. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Ram, because you can use cloud services or just get an external drive.
  21. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2016
    Ideally you want both. This is a computer you'll be spending a lot of money on and probably have for a while. Either of those will be limitations you'll have to deal with in a couple of years.

    Although you really shouldn't be storing masses of movies/music/photos on the internal drive if you can help it. It is something you do, and you'll have to ensure you only put important files on there. Which might be fine for a while but could get frustrating in a few months.

    It's only a $200 difference to make sure you don't need to worry so much, and you'll easily spend that $200 on an external drive anyway.

    I've said this before but just incase, you should never stretch a budget simply to get a Mac. They are an expensive platform to use and you should be serious that you need it. You can get what you need for half the price with Windows a lot of the time, but if you're stretching a budget and cannot afford to get the extra RAM that you need, you'll be frustrated later on. So budget on what you need, and go up from there, not down making sacrifices on hardware or even software. If you simply cannot afford that extra $200 then maybe wait for a refurb or a 2016. There isn't a whole lot of difference between 2016/2017, you'll pay extra for that difference but could sacrifice what you actually need for that luxury.
  22. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    I bought a 256 but that's because of my usage habits. I KNOW I'm not a heavy usage of storage space on my laptop. Hell, I usually use less than 80 GB on my current MacBook Pro, because my primary machine is an iMac and the big data either goes there or else on my NAS. So for me, 256 will be plenty for a long time.

    However, for those who are not sure and who want to keep their machines for a long time, it's best to err on the side of more.
  23. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000


    Oct 17, 2016
    Of course it's always a personal choice based on personal usage. I find it easiest to double what you usually use today as a safe bet.

    The OP mentioned they are used to 1TB of storage, and by the looks of it are using about ~200GB at the moment (Excluding music/films). So they are cutting what they're used to by 75%, which is a huge adaptation to make. They may also want to have a bit of free space every now and again to act as swap space, or may one day want to instal Windows. I just think they may be permanently handicapped with space.

    Anyway, for those reasons I strongly recommend 512GB HDD. RAM is always more important as there is nothing you can do should this become limited. However your use case can happily work with 8GB of RAM, but once you start photo/video editing properly as you put it you may find it annoying to work from an external drive. I always find it easier to copy whatever I'm doing to the internal, that way I don't have to worry about it. And back everything up to an external. Some jobs end up with huge files once if you are exporting high resolution .tiff files from LightRoom to edit in PhotoShop or anything. And whilst you can work from an external, or work on a few at a time. I always find it best for my workflow to complete each step in succession.

    So I don't think you should see it as an either/or. I think you want 16GB of RAM and it'll by all means be a bonus, and you need 512GB HDD. You should be looking at 512GB or 1TB based on your current usage. But try get that $200 today in order to not have to worry a year down the line with the machine.
  24. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    It's not just the Touchbar you get with the Touchbar models though - faster processor, faster graphics, faster RAM and twice as many ports all made it worth the extra for me even without the (admittedly gimmicky) Touchbar

    When I got mine, I decided to go for 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM as I want it to last me a few years, but if I had to choose between the two, I'd definitely have prioritised RAM over SSD because (as others have said) you can easily add external storage whereas the RAM you buy is the RAM you have for the life of the machine
  25. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    Exactly why an extra $200 isn't a big deal when you're spending around $2,000+ already. You're going this far with your purchase, don't cheap out and cripple the thing cause you're too cheap to spend another couple hundred.

    I always ran out of space on my 256GB MacBook so this time I paid the premium and went 1TB. Running out of space and constantly having to manage the internal space and hook up external drives is a pain in the neck. I regretted not opting for 512 on that MacBook every single day.

    As for RAM, 8GB is probably ok but barely in this day and age. Go with 16.

    If you absolutely have to get one or the other, the space is a no brainer. Realistically, you'll forget how much ram you have and everything will still work fine. But on space, youll be reminded daily you don't have enough when you have to waste time moving files around and carrying around an external.

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38 June 24, 2017