6GB vs. 4GB RAM? Worth it?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by shred, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. shred macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2009
    Hey guys,

    Lately I've been running into some RAM issues with my 15" 2.8Ghz uMBP (4GB RAM). It seems to slow down quite a bit with Photoshop/Lightroom/Firefox/iTunes open. This is making me consider picking up 6GB RAM. Will I see a significant difference? And, any idea how much specifically? Any problems with not having two identical sticks of RAM?
  2. splitpea macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2009
    Among the starlings
    What version of Photoshop, and how many images open in PS and Lightroom?

    If you open Activity Monitor, what does it show for RAM usage (active/inactive/free)?
  3. jaredwaynef macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2009
    ^That can be pretty important in making this decision.
    From what I've read on this forum, when you upgrade to 6GB you lose "dual channel mode" (or something like that), which will (not dramatically) slow down from the standard mode. Sure you'll be able to multi-task more, but you may lose speed in single operations that run on RAM heavy spec. Although it's cheaper, upgrading from 4 to 6 isn't near as efficient as upgrading something to a SSD or 8GB. So yea, from my personal experience, save up for a while to get either 8gb or a SSD other than going with the cheaper alternative of 6gb.
    IMO of course. :rolleyes:
  4. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    Look at page outs and swap file size in activity monitor.

    There is very little difference in speed between matched and unmatched modules. Most laptop chipsets these days do asymmetric dual channel, so you get most of the benefit of dual channel with unmatched modules. Unmatched modules will be slightly slower (a few percent) than matched, but if you are out of memory and using the disk, you will notice an overall speed increase. You probably will never notice a difference in memory speed except in benchmarks.

    I've been running 6gb for a while, and it's great. VMWare is a lot faster, and OS X can keep more programs in cache (inactive memory) so they start faster. The only downside I have noticed is that the computer takes longer to go to sleep (the time when the screen is off and it is writing safe sleep data), but that's expected. If you aren't using all the RAM, it won't take any longer than if you had less RAM.
  5. stevemiller macrumors 68000

    Oct 27, 2008
    i definitely appreciate hearing people's thoughts on this subject. my mbp has the same spec as the op and i use after effects heavily for my job. if i set it so each core renders its own frame, i rapidly eat through my 4gb and can amass 2gb in page-outs even with relatively simple compositions. this literally makes the system unusable until the render finishes (which also takes forever with all the drive thrashing).

    of course the simple solution is to turn off simultaneous multi-frame rendering, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that i can't take full advantage of this multi-core feature.

    i got the short end of the stick with the first gen unibody's that don't go to 8gb, so its 6gb or bust for me. any after effects users in particular able to chime in on the benefits for a usage scenario like mine?
  6. shred thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2009
    Photoshop CS4 with typically 2-3 images open, in Lightroom I edit one at a time.

    RAM Usage:

    Wired: 553MB
    Active: 2.20GB
    Inactive: 877MB
    Free: 159MB

    Swap: 1.75GB
    Page-ins: 403,351
    Page-outs: 210,211
  7. iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    If that's what you would typically be working with, 4GB should be enough. I can open 7-10 images in CS4 (not very high-resolution pictures, average.) with other applications running in the background and still have plenty of RAM leftover.
  8. BlizzardBomb macrumors 68030


    Jun 15, 2005
    I don't know, a ~2:1 page in/page out ratio is pretty poor and could be significantly slowing the system down, even though he has about 1 GB free (inactive RAM is basically free) in the example.
  9. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    And a 1.75gb swap file is kind of big. Mine is 18MB, and I only have 1.2MB of page outs with 15GB of page ins. (and my uptime is 8 days, so it's not like I just restarted or anything)

    With 159MB of RAM free, you are probably out of RAM. That number will almost never go below 50MB before 99% of stuff is swapped to the disk. Inactive RAM should theoretically be freed up since it is things like recently closed programs kept in memory to make them start faster next time, but I've noticed OS X is more likely to swap stuff out than just free up inactive memory.
  10. shred thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2009
    So, what do you guys think? Do I really need more RAM?
  11. m85476585 macrumors 65816

    Feb 26, 2008
    If you don't want your computer to slow down with all those programs open at once, then yes you probably need more RAM. If you can live with the slowness or close some programs, you don't need more RAM. If the time you will save is worth more than the price of RAM, then there should be no question. Alternatively, you could get an SSD, which would make anything swapped to the disk faster and application load times faster, but it won't completely eliminate the slowdowns once your RAM fills up.

    Try playing with the Photoshop memory settings and restarting Firefox before you upgrade. Leave fewer tabs open in Firefox and use a plugin like Flaskblock to keep Adobe from eating up any more resources in the background.

    I think Adobe is really a distributed computing botnet trying to break government encryption and take over the world. That's the only way to explain their resource usage.
  12. mrsir2009 macrumors 604


    Sep 17, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    If your doing lots of heavy multitasking 6GB can be worth it. But 4GB is plenty for most people...
  13. shred thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2009
    Ended up going with the upgrade to 8GB. Figured upgrading to 6GB was good, but I'd see the most different with 8GB. Might as well max this thing out, given the work I put it through (heavy photo and video editing for my production company).
  14. dudeitsjay macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    From notebookreview.com
    "Do I need the same size RAM sticks to run in Dual Channel? Yes (AMD at this point says yes)/No (Intel) but you do usually want the same speed and latency as every thing clocks down to the slowest of both. Example 533Mhz CL4 mixed with 667Mhz CL5 will go with the slowest of both 533Mhz CL5 (not always with the latency) and slower than if either were matched. Same size sticks will run slightly faster symmetric RAM array (Interleaved). If the RAM is of different sizes it runs in what is called “asymmetric RAM array” (Intel Flex Memory/ AMD does not support). The greater the disparity between your 2 sticks the greater the performance hit vs sticks of the same size. The difference seems to be approximately in proportion to the ratio of the the smaller stick x2 to the entire amount of RAM. An example with Intel, 1GB stick and 2GB stick. 2/3, 1GB(smallest stick)x2 to 3GB(the entire amount). Well 2/3 of the total improvement, of the Dual Channel running with the same size sticks (symmetric RAM array) 10%, the asymmetric RAM array example is about 6.7% so a 3.3% less than symmetric RAM array. With 512MB stick and 2GB stick, 512MB(smallest stick)x2 to 2.5GB(the entire amount). 1/2.5 4% improvement. AMD's will show greater improvements and losses, Dual/Single keep that in mind."

    Unless they came out with 3gig sticks, I'm assuming you were going 4x1 and 2x1, in which case you want to just avoid doing that as it actually bogs down performance as it goes into asymmetry. 8gigs is way too expensive for what it is right now and it's just smarter to build a decent desktop with faster 8gigs of ram for the equivalent $600. Though the portability factor could be essential, I just cannot justify $600, even in light of absolutely needing portability.
  15. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    Yeah I'd rather get a 160gb SSD drive for $600 or so than 8gb of ram.
  16. topherbuckley macrumors newbie

    Oct 17, 2011
    Hahaha! That hit a funny nerve since I have been dealing with Adobe too much lately.
  17. xpcker macrumors regular

    Oct 25, 2010
    i had the same problem, bought owc 8gb ram for 60 bucks. all working fine and great!

    more than 8 is not worth imo u cant feel it really.
  18. heisenberg123 macrumors 603


    Oct 31, 2010
    Hamilton, Ontario
    you need more ram based on this


    i use to think 4GB was enough for just everyday, but for me just doing simple editing like joining 2 avi files or converting mp4 to avi etc my page outs where climbing higher than my page in in activity monitor, so i upgraded to 8GB no problems now.

    now maybe joining avi's and converting video formats is not that "normal" but it's nothing i didnt do on my 2GB Windows 7 Dell laptop

    i think Lion takes too much for 4 to be enough anymore
  19. No1up macrumors regular

    Feb 7, 2009
    photoshop is a RAM hog... I would, but I would go to 8g I mean it's only $80 or so...
  20. Skream macrumors member

    Jul 25, 2011
    If your upgrading your ram you might as well just go up to 8gb. It's not that much of a price jump, assuming you don't take it to the apple store to get it done.
  21. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    Go from 4 to 8GB, that will provide a noticeable boost for Photoshop, multitasking, and day to day use.

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