Excel crawls on my new 2GB Air. Would extra RAM help?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by dubeye, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. dubeye macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2010
    I bought a 2GB Base 13" macbook air about a week ago, so it's still returnable.

    I was very happy with it, until I tried to edit a large Excel doc (1500 rows) and the beachball is very frequent with max CPU spikes very often.

    I see that I have two choices -

    Swap for a macbook pro and pocket the £100 difference,
    Upgrade to 4GB Air, for an extra £100

    Really I think the Pro would be portable enough for me, but I do really like how light the air feels on my lap.

    Can anybody pitch in with excel related experience, on this?
  2. Walter Bell macrumors regular

    Mar 25, 2010
    I had a 13 base and exvahnged it for 4gb. I still max CPU, but the ram has helped a lot.
  3. newdeal macrumors 68020

    Oct 21, 2009

    open the document again then open activity monitor and see how much memory has been used. If its almost all of it then more ram is good, if its not then it won't help you. My guess is quit safari and you can use it wth 2gb of ram, the longer you leave safari open the more ram it seems to hog, close and reopen and it goes back to a normal level
  4. Shasta McNasty macrumors 6502a

    Shasta McNasty

    Jan 5, 2010
    Southern Cali
    Yeah im wondering what else you have open...? Ive read about people here using more intensive programs than excel and the 2gb ram has been fine...
  5. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603


    Apr 29, 2005
    San Francisco
    It's likely that Excel for Mac is the problem. Install BootCamp and run Excel in Win7 and you'll likely see a noticeable difference. Office for Mac just isn't very good.
  6. dubeye thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2010
    Normal usage I have 50mb to 200mb free RAM. I've tried shutting everything down it doesn't make much difference .

    It's the CPU that is maxing out on Activity monitor, when the beachball is spinning not the RAM .

    Which is why I think a Pro might be the answer. But I would be sad to see the air go.

    One thing I have seen is a huge improvement on a PC from upgrading from 1gb to 2gb, with large excel docs, despite, excel only taking 500mb of ram, max.

    So maybe RAM speeds things up in other ways than just multitasking? I don't really know....
  7. HLdan macrumors 603


    Aug 22, 2007
    You can never have too much ram. If you can exchange it for the 4GB Air then go for it but you may be faced with a restocking fee.
  8. gglockner, Dec 29, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010

    gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    What version of Office? 2004 is extremely slow because it is not an Intel (Universal) app. 2008 is better; 2011 is really snappy.
  9. dubeye thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2010
    It's 2011 Office.

    I've just installed Numbers, and it's much better than Office but still sluggish, so really I am resigned to a swap.

    It's a choice between the base macbook pro @ £1000 or the air @ £1200 with 4Gb ram.

    Could install Windows, in which case I'd like more Ram anyhows.

    There is no restocking fee in the UK. You get 14 days free . But we pay more overall, so we're not laughing
  10. j_maddison macrumors 6502a


    Mar 31, 2003
    Nelson, Wales
    I've got the 13" with 4Gig of Ram. Excel 2011 is quite nippy for me, it loads in one bounce and is fast! I"m not sure why it's so slow on your Air. I went for the uprated processor too.

    Have you run all of the latest updates? And maybe tried repairing permissions?

    I used a time machine back up to transfer everything across from my Macbook, if your problems persist you might want to try a clean install of Office though.

    I've also ran Office 2010 in Parallels and that is pretty quick, faster than my work XP dog of a laptop

    Hope the problem gets solved for you soon
  11. gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Something sounds wrong with your MBA. Perhaps you've got too many other applications running in the background. As another person said, you may want to see what ActivityMonitor reports.

    Thanks to the SSD, my old 2009 MBA was as fast to load Excel 2011 as my Mac Pro with RAID. Then I did a side-by-side comparison with the 2010 MBA, and the 2010 MBA is incredibly fast. Granted, this is to load - the processor is limited so it's not for major number-crunching. But for everyday editing, you should be getting great performance from your MBA.
  12. SandboxGeneral Moderator emeritus


    Sep 8, 2010
    Sounds like you're doing a lot of heavy number crunching right? As earlier said, you can never have too much RAM. However, spreadsheets are mathematical and are more CPU intensive than RAM as you've seen.

    So there is not much you can do except get a computer with more CPU speed. Maybe a few more cores, but the application would need to be optimized to take advantage of the multiple cores.
  13. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
    I have the prior Macbook Air 2.13 Ghz with SSD and didn't have any problems with having only 2 GB of memory. I used the slower Excel 2008 and except for the start up time, it was fine.
  14. hcho3 macrumors 68030

    May 13, 2010
    Extra Ram always help, but you are going to be charged with restocking fee.
  15. newdeal macrumors 68020

    Oct 21, 2009

    just as a test I wanted to see how many programs I needed open before it would max the memory (2gb) and how it would respond at that point. I opened

    screen sharing
    disk utility
    activity monitor
    msn messanger

    I think that was it. Then I played around watching videos in safari and used expose and had no lag whatsoever, in fact it was far better than my old macbook pro (mid 2009) which had 4gb of ram. It was actually incredible especially expose because on the pro expose would come to a crawl with far fewer apps open
  16. dubeye thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2010
    I repaired permissions and actually this has improved things significant. Not perfect but an improvement.

    Also inactive RAM has gone down from 700MB to 150MB as a result too

    There is no restocking fee in the UK. I could get the extra RAM for £80. I'm happy to pay this for a slight improvement, but perhaps there will be none.

    I am also willing to sacrafice a 2lb in weight for a significant improvement, from the Pro's faster processer, but really I'm having a hard time working out if the Pro is for me or not. The air is otherwise perfect.

    I don't do any visually intensive work really, other than number crumching.
  17. j_maddison macrumors 6502a


    Mar 31, 2003
    Nelson, Wales
    I live in the UK also, I'd restock and get the 4Gig of Ram

    If you are a student, take it back and then order through the Edu store at your Uni or collage. 14% discount and free Applecare!
  18. Meric macrumors regular

    Nov 24, 2010
    I am using 2011 excel for mac and its running okay along with many other apps...( chrome, parallels, msn etc..)

    I just did a test for you... Opened a 3100 row excel sheet after clean boot... It opened in 5 secs and used 0.11 gb of memory... Free mem dropped from 2.88 gb to 2.77 gb...

    Excel process is using 58 mb.

    2nd test.. I opened other apps after clean boot ( chrome, msn, parallells, photoshop ) opened in 6 secs...used 0.12 mem..free went down from 1.58 to 1.46

    Excel process is using 60.8 mb.

    My spreadsheet is plain text..no macros just some equations... 3100 rows, 13 columns... File size 610k

    Hope this helps
  19. philxor macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2010
    Do you have complex equations which read a lot of the Excel data on changes or something?

    I've got some large Excel spreadsheets, like 2000 rows, and I'm using a 1st gen MBP 15" (1.83 Core Duo) with 2Gb of RAM and I do not see any real slowdowns in Excel 2011. And this machine is way less powerful than the newer MBAs.
  20. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Anyone comparing their Excel performance to his without opening his document is plain wrong. If every one of his 1500 row is an intense formula or a macro in each cell, performance is going to suffer.

    OP, you said it yourself : The CPU spikes when it beachballs. That means it's not a RAM problem. Either optimize your document better or get more CPU. Swapping out your MBA won't change a thing and it doesn't matter that everyone else's Excel documents work fine, obviously they haven't tested yours.
  21. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    However, the current MacBook Pro 13" has only a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo with 3MB of cache, which likely won't be that much faster than the 2.13GHz or even 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo with 6MB cache that is in the Air. The Core i5 would provide a bigger boost, and that is available only in the 15" and 17" models for now. It's possible that the next 13" Pro will get the Core i5, but that's just speculation right now, and in any case is likely beyond the OP's return period.
  22. gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Good points, I missed this when I first read the OP.

    However, the beachball indicates a slowdown, but it doesn't indicate the bottleneck. Could be the CPU, but it also could be RAM swapping to disk. Additionally, all the OP indicated was the number of rows; there was no indication of the number of non-empty cells, nor the complexity of these cells. As you noted, you can create some pretty complex formulas in each cell; as this grows, the overall times can suffer - even on something as powerful as a Mac Pro.
  23. dubeye thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2010
    Thanks for all the useful comments.

    There are some columns that use forumulas, but basic financial stuff, nothing to scream about

    I tried Windows 7 version of Excel 2010 via VMWare and that works absolutely fine. But the RAM is totally maxed out right up to 2GB. So that's a problem.

    So I think both solutions would do the trick. The new MBP processor would help me run Office native, and 4GB MPA would allow me to run windows

    So I'm still 50/50. I'm could get the MBP with 3rd party SSD added asap, for about the same price as the 4GB MPA.

    I think I would like both machines :) I am off to the apple store in an hour or so to trade, and will have a play with the MPB but it will not really be fair comparison without the added SSD.

    All opinions very welcome on which I should go for, given my need for Excel.
  24. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Or if you read all the posts by the OP (because the first guy suggested looking at Activity Monitor and the OP did), you'd know :

    If you're trying to help guys, it's much better to read everything that has been posted, then just the subject line before offering your 2 cents. You're not helping and just making the situation more confused if you don't read what steps have already been taken and what things have been verified. There's no need to repeat things that have been tested for already.
  25. Cerano macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2010
    go for the 4gb MBA you wont regret it

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