Do I have a warped perspective that 4 GB RAM is not enough?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by turnerburner, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. turnerburner macrumors newbie

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    USA
    #1
    Long post ahead.

    Three days ago, I bought a 13” i5 Macbook Air. While I know that apparently Safari 5.1 has a memory leak, it’s still raised concerns that 4 GB won’t be enough. It sounds ridiculous because the only application open 24/7 is Safari. iTunes, Word, and Text Edit are literally the only other programs I use on a regular basis. Quick Time, VLC player, and Preview occasionally, but nothing else. It’s usually Safari and one other program open, maybe two.

    I can easily have 5 windows open with 30+ plus tabs in Safari without even thinking about it. Most of the tabs are text, some with a few graphics, but generally not Flash. YouTube is rare, too. I do not play games.

    The Air replaced a 2006 Core Duo Macbook that has 2 GB of RAM (it runs Leopard). (It still works very well for what I need 95% of the time, but I had the desire and money to upgrade, so I did.) I push that constantly. I monitor the RAM usage in Activity Monitor always and have to force myself to limit the tabs I have in Safari. Sometimes, I have to quit Safari just to open Word. It’s annoying. I do not like FireFox and have never used Chrome. Unless Chrome is much better than Safari at RAM management and I can somehow transfer my 1,200+ bookmarks, I have no desire to use another browser.

    I thought 4 GB in my Air would be wonderful. So far, it hasn’t been. Almost a gig of RAM is wired (900 MB+, compared to ~400 MB on my MB), so that automatically drops the usable RAM down to 3 gigs. Add in Safari and Word (I have Word 04 on my MB – I assume Word 11 (which I will buy when I decide if I’m keeping my Air) uses more RAM?), and I’m already down to next to nothing in my Air, just like my MB. Maybe this is just a distorted perspective (so correct me if I’m wrong), but from usage, it seems like the 2 GB RAM in my 06 Macbook is pretty much the same as 4 GB in my new Air. And I thought Inactive RAM was supposed to be reallocated when Free RAM ran out and RAM was needed; this never happens - I could have half a gig in Inactive RAM and start paging. The only way I can get the Inactive RAM back is by rebooting.

    Is there something I’m doing wrong that my computer is using so much memory with these programs? Am I not realizing that computers use a lot of RAM these days? Am I being greedy? I know Safari is a memory hog, but this is ridiculous. I don’t want to worry about running out of RAM every time I hit command-T. Is this some Lion/processor issue? I don't want oodles of RAM free, but .5 GB Free at my normal usage isn't too much to ask, is it? I rebooted to post this thread, and the Air was automatically using 1.20 GB of RAM with no applications open. Is this normal, given the hardware and how much RAM I have?

    Also, I’ve lurked quite a bit on MacRumors, and the general consensus seems to be that page outs/swapping = BAD BAD BAD. With the SSD in the Air, swapping won’t be as slow as in a HDD, but is paging out on a regular basis actually bad for the SSD itself? I’d like to keep the Air for around 4 years. How bad is regular swapping going to be on the drive in those 4 years - negligible enough to not worry about it, or something to concern myself with?

    The Macbook Pro doesn’t appeal to me in its current state for various reasons, so if within the 2 week return period, I find that 4 GB RAM in the Air does not cut it, I will be forced to wait for the MBP and/or Air updates in 2012. And that will make me a sad panda.

    Any insights will be greatly appreciated, though it might take me a bit to respond as I'm posting this on my lunch break.
     
  2. Lord Appleseed macrumors 6502a

    Lord Appleseed

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    #2
    How can someone not notice having 30+ tabs open?
     
  3. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #3
    Well, that is a useful response

    I always tend to have a ton of tabs open also:rolleyes:

    OP: 4 should be fine but at this point, I would noot have anything less than 8 personally
     
  4. turnerburner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #4
    Obviously I notice I have them open. I meant that I can easily accumulate that many by saving things to read, opening things to look at later, having several open for school things in addition to personal ones, etc.

    It's really not that hard for me to have many tabs.
     
  5. Gemütlichkeit macrumors 65816

    Gemütlichkeit

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    Nov 17, 2010
    #5
    if you need more than 4gb, get the pro.

    i can have iphoto, firefox, itunes, pixelmator, ichat, memoir 44 online, open and the system still runs great.

    how many applications are you running where greater than 4 is necessary?

    if i'm saying a page to read for later, i'm bookmarking it.
     
  6. turnerburner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #6
    Exactly. I don't want to have to upgrade my computer every couple years. 4 would probably get me through 2 years fine with monitoring, but since I can't upgrade the Air, I need to buy what's going to be acceptable 4 years later.

    Well, I've only had the Air for 3 days, so I haven't gone over 4 yet, but I can already tell it wouldn't be too hard to go over. I'm trying to be proactive so I don't notice a month after I bought it that 4 gigs aren't enough and then can't do anything about it.

    I bookmark a lot of things, too, but my bookmarks are already out of control. I guess I'll just have to curb my tab addiction; I don't need all 30 tabs open, but I like it. I just can't believe how much memory Safari uses.
     
  7. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

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    #7
    I run Chrome + Office 2011 + Parallels running Win 7 + Outlook 2010 in 4GB, without any issue whatsoever. I'm dumbfounded that you are experiencing any issues at all given what you are running. Are you experiencing slow performance? or are you just constantly checking RAM usage and want to have more free?
     
  8. BeachChair macrumors 6502a

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    Copenhagen, Denmark
    #8
    Sounds weird. I use my computer like you. I always have a ton of tabs open, iPhoto, Excel, Word, iTunes, Adium and Sparrow open in the background. I'm on a 13" MBP with 4GB ram and SSD and I never experience any delays. I might use more than 4GB ram, I don't know, but the SSD makes the page file that much faster.
     
  9. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #9
    Why do you think Safari has a memory leak? I detect no such leak on my machines. I'm not saying your wrong or anything but many people throw around the term memory leak without really knowing what it is.
     
  10. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #10
    I wouldn't worry too much about the page-outs. SSDs can be written to thousands of times before they wear out, and modern controllers do a good job of managing write activity. You'll likely long since have traded up before SSD wear becomes an issue. Also, expect Apple to fix the memory leak issues in Lion and Safari 5.1. These are brand new releases of major upgrades, so there will be bugs.

    The bottom line is that you should be noticing a nice speed increase over the 2006 MacBook. If so, you should be fine for another 4 years with this one. Yes, 8GB would have been nice, but 4GB will be OK, particularly since the page-outs are to a fast SSD rather than a slow HDD.
     
  11. BBC Model B macrumors newbie

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    Jul 25, 2011
    #11
    Close Safari. Safari will reopen your last window. And all the tabs. So no need to keep it open. And try Chrome. Safari is better with Lion, Chrome is better for memory. But 30 tabs will not be good in any browser.

    8GB Air would be better. Maybe next year.
     
  12. turnerburner thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #12
    No, I am not experiencing slow performance at the moment. I will admit I may be a bit paranoid when it comes to the RAM, but this is due to my old MB constantly running out of memory and swapping, and close monitoring the usage with Activity Monitor. Just using Safari, Word, and iTunes would max it out easily. I don’t want to worry about being low on RAM having bought the Air three days ago and expecting it to last four years, especially with RAM requirements only increasing.

    …I worry too much.

    I first thought something was a little wonky when I was using Safari for 10 minutes only with 1 tab (shocking!) open and real memory usage was near 250 MB.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1181523

    Well, that’s good to know at least. I worry a lot, especially with significant purchases. The Air is extremely nice, the screen especially - I think this analogy is apt: Macbook:iPhone 3GS :: Air:iPhone 4.

    But… would that solve the problem? The majority of my active time on my computer is using Safari. I think only limiting the number of tabs will help, as closing and reopening the same number of tabs would use the same amount of memory, yes?

    ----

    Ah, well. I’ll keep using the Air and see how it goes for a couple weeks. Maybe I’m being silly, maybe I’m not being so silly. Thanks for all the replies though.
     
  13. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

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  14. Lord Appleseed macrumors 6502a

    Lord Appleseed

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    #14
    Well your response is very useful too. (Notice the sarcasm)

    Having 30+ Tabs open and then complaining about reaching the ram limits is kinda weird.
     
  15. johannnn macrumors 65816

    johannnn

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    #15
    Chrome is much better than Safari at RAM management. I too have +30 tabs open. These tabs however are not static, tabs are closed and opened constantly. The problem with browsers is that when you close 20 of those 30 tabs, the memory from the 20 tabs is not given back. So if you do this close/open for a while, the browser uses tons of memory. Chrome, however, uses a separate process per tab, so when a tab is closed in Chrome the process is killed and the memory is given back. Long story short, a long day of using Safari results in ton of memory being used, while a long day of using Chrome do not results in ton of memory being used.

    The export feature in Safari makes a html file of all your bookmarks, and the import feature in Chrome opens that html file and adds all your bookmarks.
     
  16. Contiguous, Jul 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011

    Contiguous macrumors member

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    Jul 22, 2011
    #16
    I used to have a lot of tabs but I found using a feed reader simplified things a lot. (Now I just have to deal with the rising "Unread Items" number, sigh.) Not sure if this would apply in your situation, though
     
  17. astrorider, Jul 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011

    astrorider macrumors 6502

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    #17
    My recommendation is to stop paying attention to your RAM usage unless you actually notice a slow down. Mac OS X is designed to use your available RAM in an intelligent manner, so the more you have the more the system will take advantage of it...lots of free memory is wasted memory if the system could be using it to keep more data in RAM for better performance.

    I have the previous gen macbook air with only 2GB RAM and I run quite a bit more RAM intensive programs than you're mentioning, including a Windows VM, Photoshop CS5, XCode, etc. and I rarely notice any slow down in performance. I believe the SSD keeps things snappy even when RAM is low
     
  18. johannnn macrumors 65816

    johannnn

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    #18
    This is so true, paging from SSD is incredibly faster than from 5400 rpm spinning HDD.
     
  19. spudwaffle macrumors newbie

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    Oct 20, 2010
    #19
    4 gigs is plenty. For me, Lion uses less ram than SL.
     
  20. DarwinOSX macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Safari does not have memory leak issues. You see Safari start to use a lot of ram when you have a lot of tabs or windows open and some of them contain Flash. The Click to Flash extension is a must because Flash is a pig on every platform but is especially bad on OS X for cpu and memory usage. Typical Adobe sloppiness. An ad blocker wouldn't hurt either.

    4GB is enough for what the OP is doing but not enough if you run lots of VM's. I would like to have 8GB but I can live with 4 pretty easily.
     
  21. DarwinOSX macrumors 65816

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    #21
     

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