Is RAM or processor more important?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by shamash, Aug 15, 2012.

  1. shamash macrumors 6502a

    shamash

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2008
    Location:
    Taichung, Taiwan
    #1
    I'm looking into buying a new/refurb/used MBA... I'm having a hard time figuring out which one to get because I'm not really sure what's the most important.

    My top choice right now, except it's sort of expensive, is the 2012 base 13" with RAM upgrade to 8gb.

    My second choice is the capped 13" in the refurb store, which would be pretty much the same price, but double the SSD space and an i7 instead of an i5, although only 4gb ram.

    If I can buy used, it will likely be a decent amount cheaper still than the refurb store.

    The extra space isn't that important to me, as I have an external HD I don't mind using for big things. 128gb will be a change and maybe a little hard to get used to, but I think I can, although 256 would obviously be nicer. My biggest worry is the i5 vs i7 (are the i5s and i7s different in 2011 vs 2012 as well?) and 4gb ram vs 8gb ram. If that refurb is going to run better and have twice the space as the 2012 MBA I'm looking at, it would seem silly to get the 2012 just because it's newer.

    If anyone can give me some tips and pointers and help in figuring out the right MBA to buy for me, that'd be great. My only requirement is 13" and not 11", as I really think the 11" will be too small for me, since I can't really imagine using my iPad w/ keyboard case as a computer even if it has OSX on it.
     
  2. ducatiti macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Best advice I can give you is just buy the base 2012 13" Air from Best Buy which is $200 dollars off @ $999. That would be a great deal.
     
  3. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    #3
    Can you get the ram upgraded at Best Buy? That's a pretty slick sounding deal, but I also don't know when I'll be able to buy it (probably saturday or monday at the earliest) - do you know how long that deal is up for?

    I was going to be buying with the student discount, which would save me $50 on a MBA and give me about 80-85 in a giftcard to sell, but the best buy deal sounds like it may be better.
     
  4. Roman2K~ macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 11, 2011
    #4
    If you have to choose between an i7 and 8 GB of RAM, the choice is obvious to me: the RAM.

    It's definitely the upgrade that will benefit you the most. The performance difference between the i5 and i7 is negligible while 4 additional GB of RAM means double the space before hitting the swap (unbearable even on an SSD). Plus it's the cheaper upgrade of the two :).

    EDIT: Oops, I didn't catch that the i7 was a 2011 model. Battery life would be way worse than an Ivy Bridge i5. This reinforces the choice of the 2012 i5 with 8 GB of RAM.
     
  5. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    #5
    Alright. I didn't know that about the processors/battery life. I think I'll try and stick with the 2012.

    Now I just need to decide if 8gig over 4gig of ram is worth the price difference. $999 at Best Buy or $1239 with a $100 AppStore GC at Apple. I think it'd be pretty easy to get $85 for the GC, so I'd say $999 vs $1154.
     
  6. virtualandy macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    #6
    Ars Technica had a good review of the 2012s versus 2011s:

    "The highest-end 2012 machine certainly performs well on all tests, but the numbers are only about 20 percent (give or take) higher than what you could get out of the low-end 2012 machine or the high-end machine from 2011. If you already have a high-end MacBook Air from 2011, you may not actually notice a significant improvement if you upgrade to the equivalent high-end Air of 2012."

    I'm struggling with this same question myself, having picked up a loaded 2011 11" (i7/4gb/256) for 999 and wondering if I should instead get the 13" at BBY.

    In terms of technical details, memory is more of a bottleneck than the cpu (unless you have a bunch of vm's/apps open and your cpu is battling deadlock or something).
     
  7. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    #7
    I actually watched videos where same spec 2011 outperformed 2012 on some things. The $999 bestbuy deal is really tempting to me, with such a great price point, but the 2011 refurb is also pretty tempting. Ugh.

    ----------

    Also, looking more at BestBuy, I could get the 11" for 899 with student discount and the same specs. It makes me want to play with an 11" to see if I could handle it. Pretty sure I can't ;P
     
  8. virtualandy macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 25, 2010
    #8
    Feeling ya on the 'ugh' aspect...

    The 2012 11" or a leftover 2011?

    I think an 11" would cut it for me, knowing I could hook up to a bigger monitor or airplay it at home. Lately I think I'm buying into the whole 'do one thing at a time' aspect of full screen apps, ios, etc. Otherwise I get sucked into distracto-land. :)
     
  9. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    #9
    I meant $869, not $899. It's the 2012 11". I meant to say $799 in OP but didn't add to cart, since this is the $999 model at the Apple Store. At $869, I'd rather get it at Apple.
     
  10. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #10
    8GB is nice for some stuff. It also boosts the vram configuration. If you were a photographer, graphic designer, etc. I'd say definitely go with the 8. Looking at the relative cost here, you could probably get away with the lower spec.

    On what things? It's always possible, but overall that's not very likely. The air gpu is still a little weak as it's clocked lower, but it got a nice boost over what it was last year. The difference between the i5 and i7 if comparing 2012 models isn't enough to be significant. I'm not even sure whether you'd notice it. I realize some people will always spec everything out to the maximum configuration, but if the i5 to i7 cpu difference is critical, it's likely that the Air is not a suitable machine. The i5 to i7 thing is somewhat more significant in desktop cpus where the i5s have hyperthreading disabled. This isn't the case in notebook class cpus.
     
  11. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    #11
    I'll mainly do light mac gaming (maybe d3 or wow, probably tf2) and internet browsing, movie watching, etc.

    I just sold a quad-core 17" acer with pretty great specs because I can't handle PCs, I've been using macs for like 7 or 8 years and couldn't adjust back to PC. I'm not too intensive in my needs, but I do use a computer a lot.

    The tests were mostly HD speed tests I think, I saw the videos on youtube so I don't really remember.

    Really, I'm mostly settled on the 2012, if I go with 4gb ram, the 999 is not easy to beat. Apparently you can get an open-box one for 899 as well, if you're lucky at best buy, which would be hands down an instant buy.

    My main concern right now is 8gig ram vs 4gig ram. If I can do 899 instead of 999 on an open box, the 4gig of ram will surely be fine. At 999, it might be worth it to me to get the 8gigs from apple for $150 more after selling the gift card.
     
  12. WesCole macrumors 6502a

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    Jul 1, 2010
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    Texas
    #12
    I got the 8GB version, but I think most people would be fine with the 4GB...I just have to run W7 in a VM quite a bit. Even if the RAM gets full and it has to swap to the SSD, it won't slow down NEARLY as much as if it had a HDD. These new SSDs are very quick.
     
  13. lowbelly macrumors member

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    Sep 18, 2007
    #13
    processor, only because you will be able to upgrade your RAM with third party stuff later.
     
  14. Wokis macrumors regular

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    Jul 3, 2012
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    Stockholm, Sweden
    #14
    Not possible. The RAM is soldered on the motherboard. What you buy is what you're stuck with. Forever!
     
  15. SpoekGTi macrumors regular

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    The Netherlands
    #15
    I'd go for the RAM easily.

    I was pondering on it for a while also, but since i already had an SB i5 windows laptop i knew the CPU wouldnt be a bottleneck for my things but memory could be. (in the windows laptop i also have 8GB)

    So i decided on that basis. Now i got a MBA with the i5 and 8GB and a 256GB SSD and it works excellent definitely the best notebook i ever bought. I use it for the interwebs and running some VM's for my work and light gaming like WoW and D3.

    I gave my Mac Mini a bump to 8Gb also and that even worked out excellent also and thats an 'old' C2D on 2.4Ghz

    And by the end of the year the Windows Laptop will be replaced with a same MBA as i got now :)
     
  16. bubbleboyjones macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2010
    #16

    Same thing with me. There's 2 things that I always regret not upgrading in computers(its RAM and HD space). The only that sucks is the price jumps up a lot with both the 8GB and a 256GB SSD especially compared to the Best Buy deal. Thing is I know for a fact I would have been bummed on the 4GB and a 128GB SSD version a bit.
     
  17. OnceYouGoMac macrumors 6502

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    #17
    My dad tells me RAM is very important and you can never have enough of it, but I bought my Air with the default 4GB in it and I don't find it too slow. In fact it's really fast and I've never once seen the spinning beach ball on it.
     
  18. plucky duck macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    #18
    Depends on your usage. Everybody's needs are different. For someone like me who uses it to browse the web, check email, run Windows and game on it, and the occasional short video editing 4GB works just fine for me. Even with Handbrake working, Safari opened with 8-10 tabs, and 8 other apps open I don't notice any lag or beach ball. Safari works as usual, jumping between apps is fine no lag, can still check my email, no UI lag. 1GB paged, yes, but there was minimal negative effect on user experience.
     
  19. mrboult macrumors 6502

    mrboult

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    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    London, England
    #19
    Doubling the RAM will significantly extend the lifespan of the computer. In terms of running the latest software in 4-5 years time.

    I am on a 4 year old Laptop that is running mountain lion very smoothly. It will also handle decent sized projects in final cut with reasonable speed considering. I am sure this is helped considerably by the fact that I have 4GB of RAM. (upgraded from 2GB when I bought the machine)

    Back then (4 years ago) 2GB was considered enough by most and I received a lot of advice that 2GB was enough. Now 4 years later many people are saying that OSX Mountain Lion really needs 4GB of RAM. . . . . This pattern has been the same way for a long time.

    Considering the inability to upgrade the RAM yourself at a later date (I think this is the case with these new airs) I would whole heartedly suggest upgrades to RAM over processor.
     
  20. Blackberryroid macrumors 6502a

    Blackberryroid

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    #20
    Both. Just look at what my Apps did to the World's Most Powerful MacBook Air. It could barely stand. And that's not all, it also has 9 GB of Virtual Memory. You need both.
     

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  21. Blackberryroid macrumors 6502a

    Blackberryroid

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    #21
    And here's for the processor on the World's Most Powerful MacBook Air
     

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  22. NuggetSauce macrumors regular

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    Aug 10, 2012
    #22
    The RAM is more important. The i5 processor is quite capable to handle most tasks quite well, but 2-4GB of ram can be inadequate under demanding programs and heavy multitasking.
     
  23. dkersten macrumors 6502a

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  24. shamash thread starter macrumors 6502a

    shamash

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    Jul 19, 2008
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    Taichung, Taiwan
    #24
    I'm at 33 gb page ins, 17gb page outs. I really haven't noticed any slowness or issues though, still. Everyone seems to be talking about page ins/outs like they're herpes or something, but they haven't bothered me.
     
  25. bubbleboyjones macrumors member

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    Jun 4, 2010
    #25

    yes theres specific taks where the processor benefits but no matter what I'd still get RAM upgrade over the i7.

    I got both so doesn't matter :D
     

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