It's actually really hard to decide between 8GB and 16GB....

Discussion in 'macOS' started by jimmyco2008, May 24, 2014.

  1. jimmyco2008, May 24, 2014
    Last edited: May 24, 2014

    jimmyco2008 macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2014
    I've scoured the Internet, and read many versions of this question on this forum and others alike, but they're not really helping me decide.

    As many of you may know, BestBuy has all their Macbooks on sale this weekend, even more so if you're a student (another $150 off), and so it turns out that they're cheaper than if I bought from Apple directly (about $50 cheaper overall to be exact, and I don't have to offload the $100 App Store giftcard I'd get as part of Apple's "back to school" promo, which starts in July. I really have no desire for anything in the App Store or on iTunes.

    Anyway, the only issue is, I *was* going to get the 13" rMBP with 256GB flash storage and 16GB of RAM, I was going to max out the RAM (for a whopping $180 more). That was the plan. Then I saw these deals on BestBuy (which of course lack "customized" Macbooks, the only one with 16GB is about $1,000 more, the 15.4" model), and started really asking myself, "do I really NEED 16GB of RAM?".

    I was looking at the numbers in Activity Monitor for Memory, and I've read not to trust them, among other things... But some clarification would be nice.

    I did a sort of "stress test" for the RAM in my current 2012 MBP (with 8GB of RAM), by opening everything I'd have open on a typical day, from Coda (like three windows and a combined 20 or so files), to Chrome, to iTunes, to even a couple of Xcode windows... and then opened up Safari, FireFox (each with at least 5 tabs on various pages), Server, Transmit, Kaleidoscope, Numbers, Pages, Spotify, the App Store, DaisyDisk, Aperture, VLC, Messages, and at the time there was even a Windows 7 VM installing updates (I dedicate 2GB to it, but Activity Monitor showed it as using a mere 78MB while installing updates..

    Anyway, as I was opening application after application, I noticed the "Memory Used" got to about 7.99GB (out of 8GB of course), and then from there the numbers on the right column (App Memory, File Cache, etc.) started shifting around. So it looks like OS X easily "maxes out" the RAM, but for nonessential stuff, and then when apps need the RAM, it is reallocated as necessary.

    Also, all the while, Swap remained at 0, for what that's worth...

    This isn't my first rodeo buying a Macbook, but it is the first Macbook where I can't upgrade the RAM later, so of course I'm hesitant to just "jump into" 8GB. I understand the idea of "future proofing", but that really has yet to be an issue for me. Historically I'd buy, say, a 32GB iPhone, you know, since I wouldn't be able to up it later, but I never used nearly that much space, not since my first iPod Touch six years ago. And so my 5s is 16GB and it suits my needs.

    So my thinking kind of is, while I want to get as much "runtime" out of this hefty purchase as possible, I'm not sure the RAM will be the "first to go". I mean, out of processor power, RAM, and SSD size, RAM is definitely the one I expect to limit me first, but that's if it ever does. Besides, the "standard" for Macbooks is still at 4GB, so I'm already upgrading the RAM a tier technically, even though that's what I currently have. Anyway, besides RAM and processor and SSD storage, I/O gets upgraded (ie. Thunderbolt 2), form factor gets upgraded (albeit not as often), battery life gets upgraded, Apple might even go for 4k tech in future Macbooks. The point is, even if I max out the RAM, I feel like I'll never really need it before I end up having to upgrade for *another* reason (a need for better battery life, or a better processor or something like that).

    So if I was to 100% decide on the 8GB model, this weekend would be *the* time to buy it. Not in July via Apple's "back to school" promo- now. But if I decide on 16GB, of course the prime opportunity is in a month or so. The difference in cost between the 8GB from BestBuy now and the 16GB from Apple in a month is about $226 (and $100 of that is an App Store gift card), so when you put it that way, I'm hard-pressed to justify shelling out for that RAM.

    For what it's worth, I'm a Computer Science sophomore, though I don't expect my RAM usage to really go up as I take those computer classes (actually the sad truth is, they love Microsoft at my school, so I'd either be VMing Windows or just using school computers for said work, haven't decided yet)... But I'd be working with the likes of Visual Studio for at least a few classes.

    So while it may sound like I kind of answered my own question, your input, as well as more info on the numbers in Activity Monitor, would be greatly appreciated! Virtual Memory is sitting at about 11GB (how is that different from Swap?), but in Server, its showing the RAM usage at about 5GB while Activity Monitor shows it as 7.99GB.
  2. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    With Mavericks, I have pushed my 8Gb of RAM all the way upto 18.5Gb before it starts to heavily page out. Just go with the 8Gb. Maybe using Bootcamp would be better?
  3. jimmyco2008 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2014
    Well, I'm not really worried about the Windows VM, mostly I'm looking for clarification on the actual benefits of having 16GB over 8GB for someone who doesn't do anything extreme such as Final Cut Pro/ Photoshop work.

    I mean, Apple's "standard" is 4GB, so with 8GB I'm already going above the "average user" I guess you could say... It's just not as easy to distinguish RAM demands in OS X as it is in Windows (I hate to admit), because "all" the available RAM is always being used by OS X for something, even if it's not necessary per sé.

    I know I won't need 16GB anytime soon, but I'm wondering too if having that extra ram for OS X to use could really stand to benefit the computer, performance-wise. Again, I guess I could use clarification on just what all my spare RAM is being used for, and how much it's helping to speed things up?
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    1. How long do you plan to keep the machine?

    2. What do you plan to do with it during that time?

    If you can't predict #2 fairly accurately, and #1 is something like 2-3 years or longer, then you're probably better off buying more RAM up front.

    Why? Insurance against the future.
  5. MartinAppleGuy macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2013
    More RAM will not speed things up in your case, just allow you to run more. 8Gb of RAM is for you, and you will be better butting the money saved towards the iMac after that ;)
  6. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Maybe this will be helpful. Almost no difference until you start getting into huge PShop files.
  7. ssls6 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2013
    open activity monitor and watch your swap size. Is it less than 10% of your actual memory? Is it 50% or 100%? It's easy to figure out if you need more memory.
  8. SPCW! macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2014
    I run a Windows 7 Pro virtual machine on my iMac 10.7.5 all of the time. I recently went from 8GB to 16GB RAM, and it has made a world of difference. No delays at all anymore.
  9. Meister, May 27, 2014
    Last edited: May 27, 2014

    Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    An imac is not a macbook. Different story.

    The pre-configured macbooks are very balanced machines in regards to specs.

    Once you start upgrading stuff you run into the danger of just wasting money.
    Even if its "only" 150$.

    I have the rmbp in my signature and I multitask pretty hard with Photoshop, Lighroom, other editing apps like intensify, imovie and the usual programm like safari and word. I never have any delay because of lack of memory. Not even close. But: I do not run VMs. If i would crave windows I would use bootcamp.

    So from my real world experience I find it close to impossible to max out 8gb on a 13" rmbp.

    Excellent link with hard proof. Funny how in some regards upgrading to 16gb will actually slow your system down!
  10. SPCW! macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2014
    Yeah, agreed Meister. I only had issues when running the VM, no other times. Without the VM running, I could run as many programs as I wanted and never had an issue. The VM was the only factor in adding more memory. Now I have 8GB allocated for the VM, and 8GB for OS X.

    I initially did run Bootcamp for my Windows needs. While it worked fine, it quickly became time consuming to switch back and forth as I need to access Windows several times daily.
  11. 576316 macrumors 601

    May 19, 2011
    If you can easily afford to, just go for 16GB of RAM. I bought an 8GB rMBP and I regret it and really wished I'd held out and gone for a 16GB option. I really don't think 8GB of RAM is enough anymore, even for basic users. Software and programs are getting more and more RAM hungry, I've even noticed a few App Store apps which take up lots of RAM yet you think are simple apps. Just go for 16GB, you'll regret it less than you'll regret 8GB. If you're already capable of maxing 8GB on a normal day, go for 16GB.
  12. jimmyco2008 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2014
    Thanks for all the helpful replies!

    I actually ended up getting one with 8GB because the deal was so good that the difference to go to 16GB through Apple was more like $400. Essentially I'd have been paying $400 for 8GB more.

    So far so good, as mentioned, yes, about the only thing I can't do is run VMs comfortably. I suppose I could run one Windows 7 VM with 2GB of RAM, though I don't even see myself doing that.

    In fact, I'm hard-pressed to use more than about 1GB (wired, which is what really counts). The rest is mostly App Memory. Definitely misleading to those unfamiliar with how OS X handles RAM.

    I do feel better knowing that 4GB is still the "base" tier, and that technically I am future proofing to a degree.

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