Is the lack of RAM a problem for the future?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Mike0105, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. Mike0105 macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2011
    I'm thinking of buying a 13" air to replace my original Macbook and my one concern is that it only has 4GB of RAM and that I can't update that. I know the Air runs Lion no problem but I tend to keep a computer a bit longer than most folks here seem too so I'm concerned I'll wind up with an issue a few years from now where my Air wouldn't be able to "keep up" due to the lack of RAM. I only use a computer to surf the web, work in word/excel and occasionally edit some photos so I may be making this a bigger deal than it actually is
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Not for Apple. It's just one more reason you'll be buying a replacement Apple machine in a few years.
  3. Mike0105 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2011
  4. lukekarts macrumors regular

    Mar 16, 2009
    It's likely not going to be a problem for 3-4 years, at the earliest. Only really demanding software requires more than 4GB RAM; OSX is pretty good at managing it so I wouldn't worry.
  5. OneMike macrumors 603


    Oct 19, 2005
    Based off your use I think you are making this a bigger deal than it is. I can't imagine you having an issue period.

    I think worst case you'd end up with a computer years down that road that can't update to whatever the new apple OS, but it would still work for you.
  6. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    How much memory do you have in your MB? How much memory do your routinely use (see Activity Monitor under Utilities)? What do you use it for? Define "a long time"

    If you are talking keeping a machine for more than 3 years, I'd be wary of the MBA unless you are a really light user (surfing, email, word processing etc). For more moderate routine use (including casual multimedia editing) I'd be wary beyond two years. And of course if you are already pushing the envelope (heavier multimedia editing, Virtual machines etc), I wouldn't count on more than a year or so. These are gross generalizations without knowing the answers to the above questions.
  7. Brandon0448 macrumors 6502


    Aug 2, 2011
    Anchorage, Alaska
    For your uses the MBA will last you plenty of years with only 4gb of RAM. Nothing you listed is very demanding RAM wise. I say go for it, you will love your new MBA. They are amazing machines.
  8. LordVic macrumors 601

    Sep 7, 2011
    RAM usage is really dependant on usage of the machine, software you use, and yuor own usage pattern

    In the terms of the AIR, its not likely to be your powerhouse workhorse computer doing 1gb image manipuation and video creation, or high end 3d rendering or the like.

    Most computers today, even in windows will be perfectly fine with 4gb of RAM. your typical gaming and desktop use, web browsing and what not of today pushes to hit that.

    In my own experience on my windows machine. I can run World Of Warcraft windows with ultra settings at 1600x1200 in major city, while having around 10 tabs of a web browser running alongside your typical IM programs, steam, what not. I barely EVER top 3gb of in use physical RAM. 2.5 seems to be where I tend to max out.

    Then when you start going into modern machines that are using SSD's this becomes a little less critical as well. the extreme high speeds of SSD's tend to allow caching of RAM to be less impactful on performance than it used to be with HDD's, which were the biggest slow down in systems with insufficient memory in the past.

    So if you had 4gb now, you'll probably have more than enough. Considering most OS's today are backtracking the bloat and are starting to run on even lower performance systems (Win 8 will run on just about anything).

    The 2gb might seem a little low, especially for windows. But as i said, Caching to the SSD should reduce a lot of the perceived slowdown of having too little ram that it used to cause
  9. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    You need to remember that the MBA has SSD disk. When you run out of RAM, it is going to page to disk. In this case, its paging to something that's just as fast as the RAM. This is completely different from paging to spinning disk.

    I am running my MBA with OSX, Lotus Notes, Safari (with 10-12 tabs), Mail, MS Office (all 3 apps open), DevonThink (with several GB of files open), OmniFocus, Adium, RadioShark, PathFinder, and several other apps. In addition I have Filevault turned on and Symantec End Point running. And, I have a Windows 7 virtual machine running via Parallels and have IE running with a java app. Just for giggles, I have run Lightroom and processed a bunch of images while all this is up. I've not seen any slowdowns. At the peak, my swap file will hit 5-6G, but is usually around 2-4G.

    I can't see anything I'm going to be doing in the near future that would change my RAM needs unless Apple bloats OSX, but they've not had a history of doing that. I think you are fine.
  10. Xikum macrumors 6502

    Oct 19, 2011
    Exactly this. My MBA has 2 GB of RAM, and I'm not worried. Mac OS X is pretty good at RAM management, and the above poster has stated, the SSD also helps alot.
  11. ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    There is no way you will run in to a problem based on this use-case in 3, or even 5 years.

    Remember, should Apple someday release an OS version that requires more than 4GB RAM, you don't have to elect to purchase that. You can just keep doin what you're doin with what you have.

    The only thing you really have to ask yourself is "Will my use-case change?" If the answer is yes or maybe, than you have to consider a little harder. Can always go with a MBP...
  12. scarred macrumors 6502a

    Jul 24, 2011
    Yes, being fixed to 4GB is going to date your computer in 2 to 3 years.

    No, your SSD isn't going to fix the situation. Don't delude yourself.

    But so what? I still use a iPod touch first gen. It still does everything I want it to, just like the day I bought it (1st day it came out). The same will be true for your Macbook Air.

    Buy it for what you need today! It'll keep performing those tasks for a very long time. It may or may not solve tomorrows needs.
  13. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    Yes. I think that the MBA series will need to have a 8 GB RAM and 512 SSD before it will be a long term keeper or a biz tool. Right now it replaces the white MacBook as a student's tool.
  14. Lara F, Oct 25, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2011

    Lara F macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2005
    Montreal, Quebec
    I was getting page outs all the time on 2GB RAM with my MacBook when I updated to Lion (and still get some after upgrading to 4GB, although that's likely due to only using 3GB of it). That's seriously not an issue with the Air?

    Relatively light user btw.
  15. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    I'm not meaning to be insulting, but do you understand how swapping works? Going back before SSD, RAM was very fast and expensive, and disk was very cheap and slow. This was a big tradeoff. A computer has a limited amount of RAM and when it runs out, most modern operating systems handle the situation with "virtual memory". You may have 4G of actual RAM, but the OS sets up 8G of virtual RAM on the disk. The CPU can only deal with actual RAM, so the OS "swaps" information back and forth between the real 4G and the virtual 8G, as the CPU needs information that is not currently in real RAM.

    When using a spinning disk, this swapping can really slow things down because of the speed difference between RAM and disk. With SSD, you are basically swapping information between RAM and RAM. Its pretty much the same speed. So the impact of swapping is negligible. Its not a big deal on an Air, because they all have SSD. Its the SSD that is giving you this speed, not the Air. My guess is this is why Apple has not worried too much about RAM upgrades and such... its simply not a real issue.

    Given the applications I sited I'm running simultaneously with no slowdown, I'm not sure how anyone would argue that its an issue. I can't speak to 2G, but I doubt most normal users are going to tax 4G in the foreseeable future.
  16. scarred macrumors 6502a

    Jul 24, 2011
    Hmm... No. An SSD is not RAM. It is no where near as fast as RAM. It is a real issue.
  17. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    Yes, inside the SSD are many "RAM = Random Access Memory" modules. There are many different types of RAM. I didn't say it was exactly the same type of RAM and exactly the same speed. There is some speed hit with volatile vs. nonvolatile storage, of course. But in relative terms, the SSD is closer in speed to RAM than it is to a spinning disk. And if its an issue, I'm not seeing it in real use.

    I'm sure there is a use case somewhere that the user would see a noticeable speed difference with adding more RAM, but its going to be a small fraction of users. Time will tell if its an issue or not. At some point you have to jump in the boat or you'll be waiting playing the "Just a little bit more" game forever.
  18. Mike0105 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2011
    I checked the activity monitor last night and I never used more than 2GB of RAM. Currently my MacBook has 4GB so I think for what I want to use the Air it will be fine. Thanks for all the help
  19. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    Keep an eye on "Swap Used" as well. In my case, I'm showing 3.74 GB of "Used", but "Swap Used" is at 2.04G.

    To make you feel even better, when I've loaded my system up and pushed it to get the swap used up to over 6GB, I've noticed no slowdown in the system. With a spinning disk hard drive, things would be slowing down.
  20. johannnn macrumors 65816


    Nov 20, 2009
    For most people I'm sure 4 gb is enough for at least 10.7 and 10.8. The cpu and gpu will be the bottlenecks.
  21. DarwinOSX macrumors 65816

    Nov 3, 2009
    Only 4 GB? Thats plenty for most people.

  22. NJuul macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2006
    I'm sorry, but this is really wrong.

    Maximum speed of standard rotating drive: ~70-80 MB/sec
    Maximum speed of standard SSD: 200-400 MB/sec
    Maximum RAM speed for 1066MHz DDR3 in dual channel mode: 17,100 MB/sec

    You cannot replace memory by an SSD, the speed difference is enormous.
    But that said, you will probably be fine for a few years with 4GB in the air.

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