MBA Purchase : More Ram or More SSD?

ColdShadow

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Sep 25, 2013
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So I've been thinking about replacing my iMac (Mid 2011) with a new 13 Inch MBA (2014).I've been offered a good deal for the iMac so I want to do it ASAP.

I can either afford ordering one with 8GB RAM (instead of standard 4GB) OR with 256GB SSD (Instead of standard 128GB)..

I cannot decide which upgrade will be worth my money,my current iMac has 4GB RAM and is quite alright for my needs but I'm tempted to have a 8GB RAM MBA as it's going to be my main computer at home.

on the other hand,my iMac's 500GB HDD is around 300GB full,it's been like that pretty much all the time..so I definitely have to move some of my files into an external storage if I opt for more RAM which is doable but not very convenient.

which would you say is the more important investment out of two?
is 128GB SSD practical or is it just too small?
is doubling the RAM on these MBAs noticeably improve the performance?
 

Ronnoco

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Oct 16, 2007
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Well, since you can always use external drives for storage and surely OWC, Transend and others will have internal SSD upgrade kits soon, you would be ok with just the base 128. You cannot however upgrade the RAM once you decide on 4GB.
IMO you'd be fine with 4GB of RAM especially if you're not doing heavy video or photo editing. I'd go with the 4GB 256 myself as the 256 SSD is quite noticiblely faster than the 128 and the more free space you can leave on the SSD, the better it will perform.
Good luck with whatever you choose. The 2013/14 Airs are among the finest computers ever produced by Apple (and IMO, by ANY manufacturer).
Enjoy! :apple::)
 

DistantOrigin

macrumors newbie
Jul 28, 2014
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North Carolina
So I've been thinking about replacing my iMac (Mid 2011) with a new 13 Inch MBA (2014).I've been offered a good deal for the iMac so I want to do it ASAP.

I can either afford ordering one with 8GB RAM (instead of standard 4GB) OR with 256GB SSD (Instead of standard 128GB)..

I cannot decide which upgrade will be worth my money,my current iMac has 4GB RAM and is quite alright for my needs but I'm tempted to have a 8GB RAM MBA as it's going to be my main computer at home.

on the other hand,my iMac's 500GB HDD is around 300GB full,it's been like that pretty much all the time..so I definitely have to move some of my files into an external storage if I opt for more RAM which is doable but not very convenient.

which would you say is the more important investment out of two?
is 128GB SSD practical or is it just too small?
is doubling the RAM on these MBAs noticeably improve the performance?

What do you normally do in terms of computing on your iMac?
 

Traverse

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Mar 11, 2013
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Yeah, if I had to choose I would definitely get the RAM. 4GB is just barely enough for casual use and you can easily expand your storage.
 

ColdShadow

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What do you normally do in terms of computing on your iMac?
general use,some casual photo editing,watching full hd videos also,and straming via Plex and other softwares..
but with the iMac I already feel I can benefit from RAM upgrade from 4 to 8.

----------

Well, since you can always use external drives for storage and surely OWC, Transend and others will have internal SSD upgrade kits soon, you would be ok with just the base 128. You cannot however upgrade the RAM once you decide on 4GB.
IMO you'd be fine with 4GB of RAM especially if you're not doing heavy video or photo editing. I'd go with the 4GB 256 myself as the 256 SSD is quite noticiblely faster than the 128 and the more free space you can leave on the SSD, the better it will perform.
Good luck with whatever you choose. The 2013/14 Airs are among the finest computers ever produced by Apple (and IMO, by ANY manufacturer).
Enjoy! :apple::)
I didn't know about 256GB SSDs being faster than 128GB..are you refereeing to read/write speed of those?
if so how faster are the 256GB SSDs in 2014 MBA compared to 128GBs?
also how much free space is ideal for optimal performance?
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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Putting the RAM issue aside…. if you buy a computer with too little disk space, you won't be happy. And hoping for a non-existant future upgrade doesn't seem very practical - the 512gb upgrades to 2011/2012 models are expensive.

I think you need to find some more money and get both upgrades….
 

ZombiePete

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Aug 6, 2008
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San Antonio, TX
4GB is just barely enough for casual use and you can easily expand your storage.
Define casual use. Most people that I've seen here who have 4GB of RAM have stated that they never notice any issues in relation to memory usage; I would define myself as a casual user (web surfing, watching videos, light gaming (World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, stuff like that), school-related stuff (research, paper writing, etc.), email, and more) and I've never once had an issue "only" having 4GB of RAM.

Your comment that 4GB is "just barely enough for casual use" belies either a lack of experience with a MBA with 4GB of RAM or a misunderstanding of what casual use is.
 

Dilster3k

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Jul 20, 2014
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You should find a balance, but I do feel SSD's should be the priority. Considering that it's where you operating system lives on. Your overall experience will be snappier. But more RAM is also good and more cheaper, but useful when working with intensive applications.
 

Traverse

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Define casual use. Most people that I've seen here who have 4GB of RAM have stated that they never notice any issues in relation to memory usage; I would define myself as a casual user (web surfing, watching videos, light gaming (World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, stuff like that), school-related stuff (research, paper writing, etc.), email, and more) and I've never once had an issue "only" having 4GB of RAM.

Your comment that 4GB is "just barely enough for casual use" belies either a lack of experience with a MBA with 4GB of RAM or a misunderstanding of what casual use is.
When I had 4 GB I ran out of memory with iTunes, Mail, safari, Word, Activity Monitor, and Preview. However, that was prior to Mavericks. I haven't tried Mavericks on 4GB so you may well be right.
 

iterva

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Jun 16, 2013
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MBA Purchase : More Ram or More SSD?

general use,some casual photo editing,watching full hd videos also,and straming via Plex and other softwares..

but with the iMac I already feel I can benefit from RAM upgrade from 4 to 8.

----------



I didn't know about 256GB SSDs being faster than 128GB..are you refereeing to read/write speed of those?

if so how faster are the 256GB SSDs in 2014 MBA compared to 128GBs?

also how much free space is ideal for optimal performance?
Regarding the speeds of SSDs.. The difference is minimal in read/write, especially in everyday computing. So don't for a second think that you will notice a speed improvement just by opting for the 256GB ones in casual or work related tasks. Maybe if you use a stopwatch and have 2 macs side by side, one with 128 and other with 256 you can make out a slight difference (second(s) in difference). :D

And your question what to choose.. That is a though one. And i thought long on this, and i probably would go with ram upgrade just because they are soldered so there is absolutely no chance that it can be upgraded later. As SSD on the other hand should (hopefully) be upgradeable someday...But thats just speculation.

Best of luck with your choice! :)
 
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ColdShadow

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so far I've decided to opt for more Ram instead of more SSD:

there is zero chance of upgrading the RAM,whilst SSD upgrade is technically a possibility..also there are SD like upgrade kits available..
also with my current setup of 4GB Ram iMac,I can tell that 8GB RAM would make things faster.

on the other hand I think the price difference between 128GB to 256GB SSD is way too much..

can anyone comment on how much free space is required on a MBA's SSD for optimum OS performance?
 

Meister

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Oct 10, 2013
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I would try to get the base i5/4/256 combo on an offer.
Ram aint gonna help you when your ssd is all filled up.

Also consider the i5/4/128 base model. People get it fo as low as 700$. Thats a bargain!
 

556fmjoe

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Apr 19, 2014
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I would do neither. Get the base model, and buy a 1 TB external HDD for $50 with the money you save. You'll have far more storage than if you went with the 256 GB SSD and will save a lot of money. The extra RAM is not necessary. With 300 GB used on your current computer, you'll probably have to go with an external drive anyway.
 

Meister

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I would do neither. Get the base model, and buy a 1 TB external HDD for $50 with the money you save. You'll have far more storage than if you went with the 256 GB SSD and will save a lot of money. The extra RAM is not necessary. With 300 GB used on your current computer, you'll probably have to go with an external drive anyway.
Listen to 556fmjoe. He's got a good point! Your wallet will :)
 

DistantOrigin

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Jul 28, 2014
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North Carolina
Why not get the I5/8GB/128GB SSD and make up for the 128 GB loss with an SDXC card? There's a few 128 GB ones on Amazon for less than $70 USD. The difference between speeds on 256 GB vs 128 GB SSD's is hardly noticeable to the average end user.
 

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
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So I've been thinking about replacing my iMac (Mid 2011) with a new 13 Inch MBA (2014).I've been offered a good deal for the iMac so I want to do it ASAP.

I can either afford ordering one with 8GB RAM (instead of standard 4GB) OR with 256GB SSD (Instead of standard 128GB)..
You could have a look at refurbished MacBooks on Apple's store website. Usually about 15% cheaper, so you can get both the RAM and the SSD and probably money left for a backup drive.
 

ColdShadow

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You could have a look at refurbished MacBooks on Apple's store website. Usually about 15% cheaper, so you can get both the RAM and the SSD and probably money left for a backup drive.
the majority of refurbished ones on Apple website are the base models,also I personally think buying a brand new one generally beats a refurb with more SSD or RAM..

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Why not get the I5/8GB/128GB SSD and make up for the 128 GB loss with an SDXC card? There's a few 128 GB ones on Amazon for less than $70 USD. The difference between speeds on 256 GB vs 128 GB SSD's is hardly noticeable to the average end user.
That's what I'm leaning towards at the moment..I5/8Gb/128Gb SSD and I'll add a Trascend Jetdrive lite 128GB..these cards are basically SD cards with smaller and neater foot print that you can stick into Macbook's SD card slot and they don't stick out,resulting a nice,neat look..being SD Card they are much slower than SSD,but they do the job.
 

Meister

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That's what I'm leaning towards at the moment..I5/8Gb/128Gb SSD and I'll add a Trascend Jetdrive lite 128GB..these cards are basically SD cards with smaller and neater foot print that you can stick into Macbook's SD card slot and they don't stick out,resulting a nice,neat look..being SD Card they are much slower than SSD,but they do the job.
SD cards have a reputation of mysteriously draining the battery which defeats the purpose of a mba.
The i5/8/128 is a somewhat odd combo imo.
 

capathy21

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Jun 16, 2014
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also with my current setup of 4GB Ram iMac,I can tell that 8GB RAM would make things faster.
This is because your current Mac has a slow spinning hard drive. Trust me, Meister and Joe when we tell you 4GB is more than enough for you when paired with PCIe flash storage. The drive makes all the difference.

I have a base model (4/128) pro and I can do what you do and more as if I had 16GB's of ram. I cannot make my machine slow down.

I think you should either find a base model 2013 or 2014 through the refurb store or Best Buy, or if you feel you need to upgrade something, find a 4/256 and have plenty of storage.

The ram upgrade isn't necessary for you.
 

ColdShadow

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The i5/8/128 is a somewhat odd combo imo.

This is because your current Mac has a slow spinning hard drive. Trust me, Meister and Joe when we tell you 4GB is more than enough for you when paired with PCIe flash storage. The drive makes all the difference.

I have a base model (4/128) pro and I can do what you do and more as if I had 16GB's of ram. I cannot make my machine slow down.

I think you should either find a base model 2013 or 2014 through the refurb store or Best Buy, or if you feel you need to upgrade something, find a 4/256 and have plenty of storage.

The ram upgrade isn't necessary for you.
I understand that,but what about Yosemite? I keep reading it will need more RAM to work smoothly..
That aside..
The fact that RAM on these machines is fixed and not upgradable bothers me.

There are ways to overcome storage limitation (external HD,SD,and even a good chance likes of Trascend will come up with SSD upgrade kits like they did for older MBAs)..

After all I'm replacing a more powerful machine (processor wise) and have to pay a considerable amount extra on top to get a MBA..I want it to be as future proof as possible..maybe 4 GB RAM works fine now but having zero option to upgrade that is not very encouraging.
 

Boyd01

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Feb 21, 2012
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When I had 4 GB I ran out of memory with iTunes, Mail, safari, Word, Activity Monitor, and Preview. However, that was prior to Mavericks.
I had a 2011 i5/4gb/256gb MBA running Lion (10.7) for two years. I never saw any problems. And I ran software like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, VectorWorks, Photoshop, FileMaker Pro.

I'm sure there was swapping going on, but I was never aware of it with the fast SSD. Since the new CPUs and disks are faster, it should be even less of a problem. Remember, 4gb was the maximum memory available on the MBA until 2012.