2012 MacBook Air, 256 GB hard drive vs 8 GB Ram upgrade?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by cory15000, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. cory15000 macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2009
    Recently got a deal on a 2012 MacBook Air with the upgraded HD to 256 GB. However, I am wondering if it is worth it to sell this and buy an air with the 8 GB ram upgrade opposed to the 256 GB. I am a student and use this computer for daily tasks, browsing, word, PowerPoint, movies, ect. I am also looking to use this for the long run. Is 8 GB necessary for me?
  2. Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    I can answer that 8 GB of RAM is definitely not necessary. That much is certain.

    For the most part, 8 GB of RAM is a future-proof strategy, not a requirement of computing today, especially with the fast, flash-based i/o of the hard drive.

    In my experience, the only time I can have a memory limit is when I run MS Windows using VMWare. When you do this, you basically have a 2 GB Mac and a 2 GB Windows system, so memory can page a lot. But I use Office for Mac and so I never need Windows. In fact, I might soon delete VMWare altogether.

    Perhaps there are people who are hard-core graphic designers or video editors who push their system to the limit, and they'll swear that 8 GB is essential. In my experience, there's always somebody who can push a system to its limits -- it's not that hard, after all. But I have a 2011 MBA and I run two browsers, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Photoshop all at once, without difficulty.

    On the other hand... 128 GB of storage is very little. I already use over 200 GB of my drive, and I'm not able to keep all of my photos and music on this machine. So I would definitely rather have 256/4 than 128/8.
  3. keysofanxiety, Mar 6, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013

    keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    I agree if you've got an SSD. But if you're running a standard HDD then 4GB+ is a must.

    From what I've encountered 4GB is nowhere near enough if you're running Mountain Lion. It's a memory-hungry hog that loves to use the HDD as a swap, even when you're just using Safari and iTunes, crippling the entire system.

    The amount of calls I get about MBPs slowing down, even after resetting PRAM, SMC, closing all programs and shutting down completely is beyond ridiculous. Once logging in I'll see about 2GB written to the hard-drive. 10.8 just hates reallocating RAM, it seems; no matter what, it'll insist on leaving the memory as 'inactive' and opt to write to the bloody HDD instead. It's simply not acceptable from a 1K+ laptop.

    I personally think it's a joke that Apple put a pithy 4GB RAM as standard in their 'Pro' notebooks anyway - considering the cheap price of RAM. SL could happily run on 2GB, but it's just not this way any more.

    Sorry if this comment came across as a little aggressive :p But in my experience, 4GB of RAM on Mountain Lion just isn't enough -- unless you've got an SSD in these or something, as you said. :(

    Not sure if this really contributed to the OP's question … ;) … may have just used this as an excuse to rant. but yeah, IMHO 8GB+ is always a definite if you don't have an SSD and you're running the latest OS. If you've got a MacBook Air, 4GB should be fine -- but 10.9 will probably be even worse for eating RAM.
  4. octatonic macrumors regular


    Mar 23, 2010
    I have the '12 Air with 8GB and 128GB HDD.
    IMHO it is the best balance of performance and cost.

    If I had a 4GB model I wouldn't sell it to buy an 8GB model though, esp this late in the refresh cycle.

    Wait <6 months and get the 2013 model.
  5. cory15000 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2009
    Thanks guys, both valid arguments which I have been consistently reading. It does have the SSD, but I've read that because it is only 4 GB it will be swapping a lot with it which can cause wear on the SSD? I've already notice how the OS has gradually required more ram each year, which is my concern if I'm looking to use this in the long run.. If I were to get the 128/8 opposed to the 256/4 I could always get an external hard drive, with the USB 3.0 it wouldn't be a problem. I'm just wondering if it really makes that big of a difference between the 4 and 8 GB given what I do (am I even using the 4 GB to its full potential)?
  6. Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    I don't see this at all. What are you doing? Right now, on my 2011 MacBook Air, I'm running:
    MS Word 2011
    MS Excel 2011
    MS PowerPoint 2011

    And the total amount of memory used has hit 3 GB.

    So then I opened up a massive linked spreadsheet in Excel and launched Photoshop and inDesign with a giant document I've been working on. Memory use is now at 3.86 GB... omg, the system is paging! But I can't notice any lag when I switch apps; for example, I can switch to PowerPoint, open another presentation and scroll through it without noticing any delay, then I can Cmd-Tab to iPhone and rapidly scroll through my 1,000's of photos without noticing a delay, and then to inDesign and scroll through my book layout without lag.

    I very often have all of my office apps open at once - MS Word/Excel/PowerPoint, Mail and a web browser or two. If I'm doing an intense editing session with inDesign, I shut down most of my other apps, and just switch between inDesign and Photoshop.

    EDIT: Ok, on top of all that, I next opened VMWare, booted Windows, and opened up a large PowerPoint. This took a while, and Fusion's gobbled up 1 GB of RAM. So, there you have it, if you're going to run VMWare Fusion in a window, side-by-side with OS-X and not in BootCamp, then 8 GB is the way to go -- which is what I said originally.

    Attached Files:

  7. tdhurst macrumors 601


    Dec 27, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ

    The SSD can be upgraded.

    The RAM cannot.
  8. cory15000 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2009
    I've already purchased the 256/4, is it worth it to go through the effort if selling it and looking for a 128/8?
  9. AnorexicPig macrumors 6502


    Dec 12, 2012
    Winnipeg,Canada/New Delhi India
    I don't really think so,while I do feel 128/8 is the better option,the only time I have seen my RAM usage go above 4GB is when am doing work in Aperture,as now you have the 256/4,just enjoy it .
  10. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Use what you have and be happy with it. You're over-thinking things.
  11. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Sorry for the late reply, matey. I promise I'm not talking out of my rear-end; just going on my experience and what I've seen! I mentioned: "10.8 just hates reallocating RAM, it seems; no matter what, it'll insist on leaving the memory as 'inactive' and opt to write to the bloody HDD instead".

    Although the RAM usage doesn't seem to be as high in your screenshot as when I was describing it, you'll still see there's a large 'unallocated' segment in your screenshot, leaving it to write to the HDD instead rather than using that unallocated segment. What I mean is that the unallocated should really be, well, allocated to programs. Instead OS X seems to leave it that way, opting to write to the hard-drive instead, making its memory management a little confusing to me (well, compared to the Snow Leopard days). I'll be the first to admit that I don't know an awful lot about this and I'm only going from my experiences, so please feel free to tear me a new one if there's something about UNIX memory management that I don't appreciate.

    I can't see VM being much of a problem when you've got an SSD due to the read/write speeds but with a 5400RPM drive I absolutely promise that it savagely crushes performance, and I'm inundated with calls about it daily -- when they're not even running much on their system either. It's really confused me and I've tried everything I can think of to fix the issue, without success. All I can say is that on every MacBook Pro running ML, 4GB RAM just isn't enough.

    Hope this helps clarify my position in some way. :)
  12. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    I say since you got a deal, just be satisfied with it. You've got a good size SSD for paging out and USB3 for external storage. Although the 256/8GB config would have been ideal for longevity if you were just beginning this process, it's rather expensive and rare in the refurb bin.
  13. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    SSD can be upgraded later, or supplemented with external / cloud storage.
    RAM can't.

    Go 8GB.
  14. Svend macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010
    I have 8 gb in my macbook and a HDD. I currently have 3.38 gb free. I don't think I'd buy a mac without at least 8 gb now.
  15. Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    2012 MacBook Air, 256 GB hard drive vs 8 GB Ram upgrade?

    600 MB paged out probably wouldn't be noticeable. How many apps do you have open to get to 4.62 GB of RAM used? I can do it only if I run VMWare.
  16. Hirakata macrumors 6502


    Mar 17, 2011
    Burbank, CA
    Since everyone has pretty much covered all of the bases already, I won't give my MBA experience...


    ...remember, you have 14 days to return/exchange your purchase at no charge if you choose to do so. You don't need to go through the hassle of reselling it.
  17. Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    Well, I have noticed that VMWare is far slower on my 4 GB MacBook Air than on my wife's Core2Duo, 8 GB MacBook Pro. I don't know why that is, but I'm thinking of doing a full re-install to fix it, because the performance is really awful.
  18. Kissaragi macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2006
    You can upgrade the SSD, you cant upgrade the RAM. Thats the reason i went with the 8gb/64gb option. I will upgrade the SSD sometime in the future.
  19. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Pretty sure GP post was talking about virtual memory (as in the OS using disc space to augment the available RAM), not virtual machines (as in VMware/Parallels/VirtualBox).

    Having said that, in the light of the original question, using VMware/Parallels/VirtualBox a lot would be a good reason for going with 8GB RAM since you have to share the available RAM between OSX and Windows. Unfortunately, its also a good case for going for the 256GB HD.
  20. Alameda, Mar 22, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2013

    Alameda macrumors 6502a


    Jun 22, 2012
    I didn't mean to confuse the two. My point is that 4 GB of RAM is insufficient for VMWare on my system, but that is because using VMWare with 4 GB is like running Windows with 2 GB and running the Mac with 2 GB.

    I changed the settings in VMWare and they seem to make a big difference. The default, with my i5 CPU, was 1 CPU core and 1 GB of memory... and it ran terribly. I changed settings to 2 CPU cores and 2 GB of memory, and so far, performance is much better on both the Mac and the VMWare side.

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