New MacBook Air: Processor or RAM?

mwa

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So I'm upgrading my 2011 17" MacBook Pro (immaculate condition, if you're interested lol) for a MacBook Air + external monitor, which will give me increased mobility and also increase speed.

My question is, I can go for an upgrade of either RAM (4 to 8 GB) or processor (i5 to i7).

I do Photoshop work part time and don't do any gaming or other intense stuff. Most of my work is SEO and development. Which upgrade would fit better for my use and what would the differences be?

The reason I ask is that now, in a MBP I can upgrade RAM - processor is never something one can swap out oneself. In the case of the Air, you can't do either one yourself, so which one do I go for that would offer me the best performance?

Thanks!
 
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Dr Charter

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Feb 26, 2011
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I would go with the RAM upgrade to 8GB. I think you would see that more in everyday use. That seems to be the consensus on this board.
 

ChromeCloud

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Jun 21, 2009
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A RAM upgrade will definitely lead to better performance in memory intensive apps like Photoshop.

Also 8GB of RAM will extend the life and resale value of your Mac much more than any processor upgrade ever will.
 

mwa

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I would go with the RAM upgrade to 8GB. I think you would see that more in everyday use. That seems to be the consensus on this board.
I did a bit of searching but couldn't find this specifically, so thanks for mentioning that. :)

A RAM upgrade will definitely lead to better performance in memory intensive apps like Photoshop.

Also 8GB of RAM will extend the life and resale value of your Mac much more than any processor upgrade ever will.
That's valuable info since I do resell my old Macs. Looks like it'll also save me $50 too over the Processor!
 

mad3inch1na

macrumors 6502a
Oct 21, 2013
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So I'm upgrading my 2011 17" MacBook Pro (immaculate condition, if you're interested lol) for a MacBook Air + external monitor, which will give me increased mobility and also increase speed.

My question is, I can go for an upgrade of either RAM (4 to 8 GB) or processor (i5 to i7).

I do Photoshop work part time and don't do any gaming or other intense stuff. Most of my work is SEO and development. Which upgrade would fit better for my use and what would the differences be?

The reason I ask is that now, in a MBP I can upgrade RAM - processor is never something one can swap out oneself. In the case of the Air, you can't do either one yourself, so which one do I go for that would offer me the best performance?

Thanks!
I vote for RAM personally. If you cap out your RAM, the commands page on to the SSD, which isn't as bad as an HDD, but it is definitely not volatile memory and will bottleneck your speeds. An i7 processor will give you about a 20% boost.

Your computer will be slower with an i5, but you won't experience nearly as much lag as if you keep 4GB of RAM, assuming you actually need 8GB. If you didn't need 8GB of RAM, you probably wouldn't need the i7 anyways though. The bottom line is that memory pressure is typically more important than processing power.

If you are really needed both, a baseline 13" 8GB/128GB rMBP would be your best option. The i5 in the rMBP is about on par with the i7 on the MBA. You will get the best of both worlds for around the same price. It also comes with a more powerful GPU, and I personally believe it is Apple's best designed current computer. Just something to consider.

Best,
Matt
 

Meister

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For visual media work you should get the retina screen.

Get the 2013 13" 2.4/8/256 on a discount.
If you don't do 3d work you could also get the 2.4/4/128 on even more of a discount.

Do not get the 2014 rmbp 2.6/8/128. It's not a good bang for your buck.
 

joshlalonde

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Jul 12, 2014
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I vote for a rMBP for the retina display, 8GB RAM, and higher clock speed i5.

But if you really must, then I would say go for the RAM.
 

wordsworth

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Apr 7, 2011
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If you're going to spend the cash then I agree with others here that RAM is probably the best route for you.

For myself, I bought the Air with stock 4GB RAM because I got it at a great price and because, for what I do (basic text editing), it'll be fine. My 2009 MacBook is still going strong with just the stock 2GB that came with it. I always intended to upgrade the RAM yet never felt a pressing need to do so.
 

mwa

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Thanks for all the replies!

The bottom line is I'm running a Sandy Bridge atm in my 17", so any Haswell processor will be noticeably quicker anyway. Lag is something I can't stand, so RAM sounds like it's the ideal.

the rMBP is out since it a bit more than the 11" MBA. Plus, it's noticeably heavier and trimming down is my main reason for opting for the 11". I don't do enough visual work - at least not enough serious visual work - to warrant needing the Retina. :/

Less lag, higher resale value and a Haswell speed increase + $50 saved over the Processor are enough bonuses for me. :)

Thank you, guys!
 

valerinny

macrumors newbie
Sep 2, 2014
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I have the new macbook AIR, bought on Aug 16th 2014. I can tell you that the RAM is the best choice, I should have done the same. I'm Italian and I bought the macbook here in America for saving money, but I thought the memory was enough. The OS has a good managing of the RAM, so I don't have any problem, but I can see that the system use almost all ram, sometimes, with just one or two apps opened, the app said me that I have just 30mb of memory left!! o_O

But the laptop still works perfectly :)

I hope my dad can help me adding plus 4gb. He said he can, will see :/ (he is a technician, but in Italy we don't have a lot of MAC, so we don't know if the memory is separate or welded on the mother board.)

Anyway, spend more money for the RAM!!!
 

Meister

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I have the new macbook AIR, bought on Aug 16th 2014. I can tell you that the RAM is the best choice, I should have done the same. I'm Italian and I bought the macbook here in America for saving money, but I thought the memory was enough. The OS has a good managing of the RAM, so I don't have any problem, but I can see that the system use almost all ram, sometimes, with just one or two apps opened, the app said me that I have just 30mb of memory left!! o_O
You do not know how to read the activity monitor!

Please do not try to give people advice based on your ignorance!

The only relevant thing is the memory pressure graph and I bet yours is as low as it gets.
 

scaredpoet

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Apr 6, 2007
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I would focus more on SSD capacity before anything else, since that could have the most impact down the road.

Money for upgrades should be spent in this order:

1. Storage (SSD capacity)
2. RAM
3. Processor

----------

I have the new macbook AIR, bought on Aug 16th 2014. I can tell you that the RAM is the best choice, I should have done the same. I'm Italian and I bought the macbook here in America for saving money, but I thought the memory was enough. The OS has a good managing of the RAM, so I don't have any problem, but I can see that the system use almost all ram, sometimes, with just one or two apps opened, the app said me that I have just 30mb of memory left!! o_O
The OS is going to use all the RAM, you won't see that change with more RAM installed. It does this for caching and speed optimization purposes: since RAM is the fastest data access on the system, it crams as much frequently-used data in RAM as possible to keep things running fast. But just because the RAM is full doesn't mean there's a problem.

I have an MBA with 8GB of RAM, and pretty much all of it gets used too. My 27 inch iMac with 32GB of RAM? About 11GB of that are being used, and I just booted up. Again, this isn't a bad thing or a bloat thing: it's a speed/efficiency thing, and thus a good thing.

If your Mac isn't slowed down or memory pressure is low, you're in good shape.


I hope my dad can help me adding plus 4gb. He said he can, will see :/
Unlikely. The RAM is soldered on. The MBA isn't meant to have its RAM upgraded.
 
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joshlalonde

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Jul 12, 2014
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since RAM is the fastest data access on the system
Actually, I wanted to interject. Coming from an Assembly programming background, the fastest data access on the system is actually the CPU's registers. But otherwise, you could very well be right. Just saying ;p

This isn't me arguing for a CPU upgrade by the way. It's just a little fun fact. No matter what CPU you get, it's still 64-bit and can only address up to 2^64 physical bytes of RAM (which is about 16.8 TB and out of the scope of this discussion).
 
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JHUFrank

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Apr 16, 2010
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Someone up above stated storage, ram then processor. I'm definitely in that camp. However, RAM isn't super critical for normal usage on one of these boxes. The only place I really noticed memory shortage was working with VMs.
 

mwa

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...well, I have 750GB or 1TB (I forgot offhand atm) so moving to a 128 or 256 will be a bit of a change, but then again I store all my media on my computer and that amounts to a huge chunk that can be accessed off-world. So to speak.

I'd still rather have RAM than SSD. My primary work files I work with directly off the external, and that can be the case for the rest of my junk too... stuff I only access a handful of times a year.

Really appreciate the comments so far. The last thing I have to do is waltz into the Apple store (Eastview, NY) and try it out for my self. Plus I have a couple questions I can grill the tech guy with. :)
 

shenan1982

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Nov 23, 2011
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I love how when someone says "Should I get 4GB or 8GB of RAM?" all of the people respond "You won't notice the difference" (defensive of their choice to have gotten 4GB despite all logic), but when someone asks if they should get a processor upgrade or RAM upgrade, the response is overwhelmingly "Get the RAM, you'll notice a difference" . ... .. human nature is so funny.
 

Meister

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I love how when someone says "Should I get 4GB or 8GB of RAM?" all of the people respond "You won't notice the difference" (defensive of their choice to have gotten 4GB despite all logic), but when someone asks if they should get a processor upgrade or RAM upgrade, the response is overwhelmingly "Get the RAM, you'll notice a difference" . ... .. human nature is so funny.
Stop spreading your unfounded claims and post proof that there is a difference!

(i am not blindly defending 4gb, because my macbook has 8gb ram and I need 8gb ram!)
 

Meister

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Nobody "needs" it... you want it because it makes sense to fully utilize your computer, lol.
with 4gb of ram my memory pressure would go into the yellow too often.
So, i really do need 8gb for what I do.

You still haven't provided any proof for your various claims.
I and others have provided various memory pressure screenshots and even videos demonstrating ram usage.