Macbook Air 256GB or 512GB storage, 4GB or 8GB RAM?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by gardnstate, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. gardnstate macrumors newbie

    Aug 25, 2016
    I currently have a Mid-2012 Macbook Pro.
    Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5
    Memory: 4 GB
    Storage: 500 GB SATA Disk (I've currently only used about 170 GB)

    Now, I'm looking to buy a Macbook Air because its lighter and I'll be carrying it to and from university. My question is, would it be smarter for me to upgrade from the 256GB PCle-based flash storage to the 512GB for the $360 that Apple charges, or should I stick with the 256GB?

    Also, if I get the 11-inch, it only comes with 4GB RAM, what difference does it make whether I have 4GB or 8GB? I do currently feel like my laptop is a tad slow, but I could also just be super impatient and have way too many tabs open at once (I also know nothing about laptops and don't know if memory even really effects speed a ton). Its $120 to upgrade to 8GB for the 11-inch, is it worth it?

    In addition, is the 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel core i5 processor sufficient or should I spend the $170 to get the 2.2 GHz dual-core Intel core i7 processor?

    I mostly use the laptop for the internet (research, social media, email, whatever), word-processing, and listening to music via iTunes or spotify. I've got a pretty large iTunes library and photo library and occasionally edit photos. Based on this, and in comparison to my current laptop, what do you guys think I should do?
  2. Garrod Suspended


    Nov 13, 2008
    The thing you should always think about when it comes to storage / memory (both the same really but I had to make a point because some idiot would reply with an idiotic comment!) is that you should buy as much as you can afford.
  3. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030


    Nov 8, 2014
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    It is always good to have as much RAM as possible, likewise the SSD. Of course space problems can be solved w/ alternative solutions as well.
  4. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    I suspect part of the reason your current MBP seems slow is the HDD. But I get that it weighs more than an MBA. In order, I would get more memory first, then more storage. You can't upgrade the memory, but there are 3rd-party SSD upgrades. Plus, you know, it's expected to get cloudy-er in the future ...
    We have 3 MBAs in our family: 2011 with 4/480GB, as a casual, light-use system it works fine. A 2012 8/480GB as a development machine. And a 2013 8/256GB that is a student system - also fine. All run El Cap.
  5. Pugly macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2016
    8GB is a must I think... unless you absolutely don't plan to do anything fancy. But even then feature creep of the os will make more ram the better choice.

    512GB at Apple prices is harder to deal with. I only have the 256GB and I need to be diligent about my storage space and keep the machine lean. I wish I had 512... but it was too much to justify the price. Maybe in the future the cost of MBA compatible drives will go down in price and I can upgrade to 1TB... but for now 256GB is fine.

    If you need 512... then you know it. For movies or games or whatever...
  6. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502


    Apr 2, 2012
    Somewhere In Time
    A basic 11" MBA (i5, 4GB, 128GB) will certainly meet most of your needs, storage being the most at risk. I know this because those are my MBA's specs. If I had it to do over I'd get one with 256GB, but I get along fine with what I've got. The i5 should meet your stated needs quite nicely. I regularly do backend processing of RAW images in Lightroom, with no issues other than it can sometimes seem a little slower than the iMac I usually do that task on.

    With music, photos, and Time Machine you should plan on 1TB to 2TB of external storage. I've got mine split between two-1TB drives, music and photos on one, Time Machine and a photo backup on the other (music is replaceable, photos are not).

    Choices are good; picking the right options can be confusing. Enjoy the process. When you've made your decision, don't look back with regret for not having done something different.
  7. Mal67 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 2, 2006
    West Oz
    I ran out of room on my 4/128 11" recently and wish that I had of gone with 256. I have had it since 2013 but this year have been pushing it. If I could have got it as an 8/256 at the time I would have done that and recommend that config or higher. I will certainly be looking at 8/256 as a replacement at some point.
  8. McScooby macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2005
    The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
    As much as I like the airs, & know folk with them, I'd pimp the one you've got, you won't regret it, u might even forgive the weight in your backpack & thankfully keep the weight in the wallet.
  9. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    You should upgrade the SSD on your 2011 MacBook Air.

    240GB for $170
    480GB for $280
    960GB for $512
  10. Ace2617 macrumors regular


    Mar 16, 2016
    OP - I recently had an 11" MBA that I just sold. It was i5 4GB RAM/256 GB storage. The amount of RAM was OK for what I used it for (mostly just writing for college) but it certainly wasn't future proof or anything. If you can swing 8 GB, I would go for that. As far as the SSD size, you may want to opt for the 512. I went with 256, but I don't have many large files. When I wiped the SSD and sold it, I had only used up about 80 GB of space. But I knew I never wanted to run out of space, and that was enough for me. SSD size is a personal preference for how much you'll need. But as others have said, with the RAM, you may want to get as much as you can reasonably afford.
  11. organic bond macrumors regular

    May 5, 2007
    8/256. Then if 256 is not enough you can always buy a 128/256 SD card for iTunes and/or Photos libraries. Transcend SD cards are good, that's what I have.
  12. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    You have to remember that the SSD is upgradable, but the memory is not upgradable.

    If the OP runs out of space, he can buy a bigger SSD later.
  13. BanjoBanker macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2006
    Mt Brook, AL
    Organic Bond makes a great point. The 13" MBA has a SD slot, so if more storage is needed, pop in a 256 GB SD card and rock on. My wife does eltronic scrapbooking and the resulting files are HUGE! I have the default file location set to the SD card with a 2GB card inserted. Card get full and I swap it out! The SSD is also upgradeable, so unless you want the 11" MBA, no SD slot, I would not worry too much about storage.
  14. sracer macrumors 604


    Apr 9, 2010
    As a fellow 4GB/128GB 11" MBA owner, I agree that increasing storage is more important than RAM. I use mine for graphics work and video rendering in iMovie and it handles the tasks without breaking a sweat. I'm doing fine with the storage, but it does take some care to manage.
  15. svenning macrumors newbie


    Mar 13, 2015
    Los Angeles
    Totally agree. I swapped the hhd on my mid 2010 13 Macbook Pro to a Third party SSD. It completely gave it new life, and I didn't do a fresh install (just cloned the HHD to the SSD). Went from taking 1,5 minute to open iTunes and play a song to about 7 seconds. Consider doing that instead of getting a new machine - it might not be as light as the MBa but its a much cheaper solution and with you usage I think a new SSD would do the trick
  16. tentales macrumors 6502a


    Dec 6, 2010
    I'd go for the 13", it comes with 8GB and costs the same as the 11" with the 8GB upgrade.
    Also, the screen size will be more familiar coming from your 13" MBP.

    However, if weight is most important, go for the 4/256 11".
    If $360 doesn't sound too much for you (it does to me) then go for it. As others have stated, buy as much storage as you can afford. It's more important than RAM unless you run VMs or Apps specifically requiring larger RAM.

    Also, with the 13" MBA you have the SD slot, which I use on mine to permanently park a 128GB flush mounted card that contains my iTunes Music lib. Movies are kept on an external drive.

    Also, the 2015 13" MBA has double the SSD speed (4x) of the 11" MBAs.

  17. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I agree completely. I have a 2013 11" i7/8gb/512gb MBA and still love it. Have just started a large video project and it works like a champ. Glad that I spent the extra money three years ago, when you consider the additional cost spread over the useful life of the machine, it isn't that much.

    BTW, I don't especially agree with the suggestion to upgrade a 2011 MBA. Of course, it's a personal decision that people may view differently. But I had a 2011 MBA before I got the 2013. It was a fine machine, but really lacks some of the basics I would expect today. The slow USB 2.0 is a real problem if you do anything with video, for example, since you will need to use more expensive thunderbolt disks. And they tie up the port you need for a big monitor or firewire adapter to capture from legacy devices. The slow wifi is also a problem if you work with shared drives on your LAN. Then there's the slow SD card slot on the 13" model, it is also connected to the USB 2.0 bus.

    Arguably, the biggest shortcoming of the 2011 MBA is battery life that is substantially less than the models introduced in 2013 and beyond. If it were me, I would save my money for a new machine instead of putting it into one that's 5 years old. But that's just me. :)
  18. eRondeau macrumors 65816


    Mar 3, 2004
    Canada's South Coast
    If it's a financial decision between more RAM vs more storage, I'd go with more RAM. I speak from experience. I'm currently typing this on a mid-2007 iMac with 4GB RAM; that's its maximum (and admittedly was tons back in 2007). However today El Capitan uses most of the 4GB by itself. Mine's currently running 220+ background processes. It often chokes on RAM and has to dump non-essential ones due to memory pressure. By comparison I've got a mid-2009 Macbook Pro with 8GB RAM and I've never yet seen it choke. So I'd say to run El Capitan 8GB RAM is now the minimum. And if you try it with less, it will still work (OS X is very good at memory management) but you'll always wish you had more.
  19. ghanwani macrumors 6502a

    Dec 8, 2008
    Agree with all those that said get as much RAM and SSD as you can. IMO, much more important than upgrading the processor.

    As the SSD fills up, you might see performance drop, so get the 512 so you have room to grow.
  20. haralds macrumors 6502a


    Jan 3, 2014
    Silicon Valley, CA
    I have a Mid 2011 Air with 4GB of RAM. On Sierra, I often see RAM pressure. Go for 8GB. I would also get 512GB.
  21. Rok73 macrumors 65816


    Apr 21, 2015
    Planet Earth
    8 gigs of RAM. Definitely. You can still get a 256 GB Transcend Jet Drive for data like music, photos etc.
  22. E5390 macrumors newbie


    Sep 20, 2016
    You should go with the 2.2GHz i7, 8gb of RAM 256GB SSD. best option to last you a long time.
  23. iRock1 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 23, 2011
    Why would somebody buy such an outdated machine these days, is just beyond me. I wouldn't pay full-price for that.
  24. Fozziebear40 macrumors regular


    Apr 14, 2008
    Newton-le-Willows, England
    Since the new MacBook Pro's are out prices have gone through the roof in the UK. I was looking for a new laptop but Pro's are out of the question now.

    I have managed to snag one of the last 11" MacBook Air's in the Country from John Lewis at pre-Brexit price. It cost half of what the cheapest MacBook Pro is (no touch strip)

    I am worried about the 4gb ram though. It's not my main machine, I work on an iMac. This is just for getting away from the desk for browsing, using pages and numbers, email etc. I'd like photoshop use plugged into an external monitor occasionally.

    A good impulse buy or should I return for a second hand 13" MacBook Pro early 2011?
  25. sracer macrumors 604


    Apr 9, 2010
    That's a GREAT impulse buy IMO. My iMac is my primary system and I have a 2014 4GB/128GB 11" MBA that I use when I need to use OSX on-the-go. (For other times, I use my 12.9 iPad Pro)

    I use my MBA for MS Office & iWork work, graphics editing, video rendering in iMovie, as well as running Windows virtual machines. I have never found the 4GB RAM to be an issue with my heavy usage.

    Be encouraged and enjoy... you got in on the last of Apple's great notebooks (at what sounds like a great price). :D

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