2011 MBP Slow - SSD or RAM?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by taylorwilsdon, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. taylorwilsdon macrumors 68000

    taylorwilsdon

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2006
    Location:
    Bay Area
    #1
    Before anyone jumps on me for a common question, I've done quite a bit of research on this site and others. My 2011 Macbook Pro is starting to feel very sluggish, to the point that it bothers me. I have a i5 MBP w/ 320gb 5400rpm hd and 4gb RAM and Mountain Lion.

    The overwhelming majority seems to favor SSD as an upgrade, which I have never had. My conventional tech wisdom (have been out of the field for 3+ years) tells me that RAM is the better upgrade - not to mention much cheaper, and I have no need for more hard drive space. Here's my current activity monitor:

    My question is - assuming I'm only going to upgrade one thing at this moment, should I get 8GB RAM, 16GB RAM (surprisingly not much more) or a small SSD with the 320gb moved into an optibay? Computer is primarily used for basic tasks, but regular photo editing as well.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. proximo, Jul 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012

    proximo macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    #2
    My 2011 MBP w/8GB felt sluggish from the day I bought it. At least more sluggish than I expected. Turns out, OS X was set up to spin down the hard drive whenever possible making loading programs take a lot longer because of the spin up time. Changing that setting in System Preferences -> Energy Saver made it feel a lot less sluggish. There are two profiles you can set independently: Battery and Power Adapter. I only changed the Power Adapter settings since my MBP is usually powered by the adapter.

    Since you are paging, and to a slow hard drive no less, I'd get the memory and try the above setting change. Memory is cheap right now and SSDs should get cheaper the longer you wait.

    EDIT: and I'd get 16GB just for good measure. There are those who will tell you over and over that 8GB is more than enough but as you say the cost is not that much more and you never know how much you'll need in the future.

     
  3. Prime85, Jul 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012

    Prime85 macrumors 6502a

    Prime85

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2012
    #3
    For me the ssd upgrade made a much larger differance then my 16gb. Since the ssd my programs load instantly and computer boots in 16 seconds. With a SSD the page outs of the ram would not be a problem since it will wright to the SSD much faster. So the logical choice would be a SSD upgrade if you can afford it. If you can't afford it then you will notice a little differance with a ram upgrade but that would be negligible.
     
  4. proximo macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    #4
    Paging to an SSD is still slower than not paging at all (DDR3-1333 RAM can transfer data at 10664 MB/sec vs ~300-400 MB/sec for SSDs). The OP doesn't say if his Activity Monitor snapshot is showing the system under load or not but if he's editing photos from modern cameras high quality JPGs can be multi gigabytes in size and editing them will chew up a lot of memory. If he's editing RAW photos, he's really in trouble with 4GB, SSD or not.

    I'm assuming the OP can only afford to buy one upgrade right now and IMHO he needs to address his memory constraints first. If he could stretch he could probably get 8GB of memory, a 128GB SSD and an optibay for < $250 and have the best of all worlds.

     
  5. Dammit Cubs macrumors 68000

    Dammit Cubs

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2007
    #5
    Well it looks like you have a lot of page in/outs. You have been accessing your hard drive because you were at times low on RAM.

    SSD will help especially if you are always going to HDD space to cache data. But I probably recommend the RAM upgrade as well. To reduce your page in/outs.

    RAM is cheaper than SSD. Get the RAM to fix first and then start looking for an SSD in the future.
     
  6. FastEddiebags macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2012
    Location:
    NJ
    #6
    Id get both. If you can afford an ssd, you most likely can afford the +$60 for 8gb of ram or 100 for 16
     
  7. jcpb macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2012
    #7
    16GB, and do it while the RAM prices are still depressed. Current RAM prices won't last forever.
     
  8. Broph macrumors 6502

    Broph

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2010
    Location:
    New Zealand
    #8
    Let's say, you start-up your computer from scratch with 'Activity Monitor' set to launch on start-up, and you keep an eye on the System Memory indicator.... As soon as possible, (i.e. as soon as the dock appears), you click to start-up a program (Safari, iTunes, whatever)..... It bounces there for a while, and then finally opens after about 30 seconds or so.... Now, throughout that whole time, you see that there was always atleast 30% of 'free' memory left.... THEORETICALLY, am I correct in thinking that adding more RAM won't make any difference to speed, as there's already a certain amount of free RAM that isn't being utilized?

    Of course, I know that the longer you use it, open more applications etc, then that's going to take up more 'free' memory.... So, am I correct in thinking that by adding more RAM, you're only increasing the amount of time that you are able to work before it starts doing Page Outs etc?
     
  9. proximo macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    #9
    IMHO, no. With enough memory for the usual workload, you won't be doing any page outs at all. With 16GB of memory, my MBP doesn't page out *ever* even running multiple VMs with Firefox and Thunderbird, both memory hogs, running at the same time.

     
  10. Prime85 macrumors 6502a

    Prime85

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2012
    #10

    I have 16gb of RAM and I have never seen page outs
     
  11. InlawBiker, Jul 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2012

    InlawBiker macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    #11
    Nah, you need RAM. Page-outs with an SSD are faster than a standard HD but still just mask the problem rather than solve it. As you point out RAM is cheap.

    Just for fun I opened Photoshop with 10 RAW files (16 mpxl), a 4GB Windows VM, a 1GB Ubuntu VM and a browser with 5 windows open. Lots o free space!

    [​IMG]
     

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