Performance Boost - SSD or more RAM

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by MBPLawyer, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. MBPLawyer macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2010
    I have a mid 2009 2.53 15" MBP with 10.6 4gig RAM and the 5400 hd. I'm currently running parallels and need a performance boost. What will get me the most performance boost in this configuration? Upgrading to 8gb of RAM or a 128gb ssd?

    Both will run 500-600 which is about my limit for now. I'm going to do both at sometime, but I just would like to know which will give me the biggest immediate performance boost.

  2. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    I'd suggest the RAM, personally. If you can afford the extra $80-120, add on a 7200rpm drive.

    That said, I will never use a platter drive in a portable again. Had WAY too many drive failures go down in the past three years to try it again.
  3. Nano2k macrumors regular

    Nov 6, 2009
    I doubt more ram is going to help Parallels that much, I have seen W7 x64 running in parallels on a new i7 iMac with 8gb of ram and the performance is far from stellar... and on my MBP 2.8 it's also nothing great, it works but that's about it.

    Overall the best you can do to improve performance is buying a SSD, if you can afford the $$$ for a decent capacity drive.
  4. marksandvig macrumors regular

    May 21, 2006
    Agreed. I dont really think SSD's are worth the cost, but the jump from 4gb to 8gb isn't very noticeable
  5. MBPLawyer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2010
    Votes so far
    RAM -1
    SSD - 2

    Does anyone out there know what sort of performance I'd get from going to a 7200 drive from a 5400? Also, how big is the performance jump from a 5400 to an SSD - right now I'm looking at the Patriot Torqx 128gb SSD.

    Thanks for the advice so far.
  6. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    When you say you are running Parallels, does that mean just a single virtual machine, or multiple ones simultaneously? Virtualization is certainly one place where you can generally use as much RAM or processor power as possible, but a faster disk never hurts. What you really need to do is isolate where your bottleneck is. When you are up and running and things start to get slow, open Activity Monitor and determine what is pegged. Are you out of RAM? Is your processor maxed? Is the disk going crazy?

    My suspicion is that if you are just running a single virtual machine and not using either the virtual or real computer for any processor intensive tasks, that disk access is your bottleneck (it almost always is for modern computers). If that is the case, the SSD will make the biggest difference by far. Adding more RAM or more processor if you are not limited by either of those items isn't going to make much of a difference.

    I don't know anything about that Patriot drive in particular, but know that there are vast performance differences from one SSD to the next. My preference is for Intel, but you do pay a premium. In my opinion it's worth it as there is no other performance boost you can get on a modern computer that rivals it.
  7. MikhailT macrumors 601

    Nov 12, 2007
    People with 2x 10,000RPM WD raptors in RAID0 will experience a performance jump switching to a single SSD. That's how fast it is.

    Remember this, seek time or latency is where overall OS responsiveness comes from, with 5400/7200rpm drives it is measured in 8-12ms. SSD? 0.1ms. Every aspect of the computer will be ultra-fast. No platter drive on the planet can beat a good SSD.

    The only cons are the price and capacity. You can get 120GB Vertex for 450$ at Newegg. Unfortunately due to the low supply, the prices for those SSDs have jumped. I bought my vertex 120gb back in March 09 for 330$.

    You are not going to notice any big difference between 4gb and 8gb, it has no effects on your OS overall responsiveness. The only difference is you'll experience less slowness due to lack of memory. It doesn't increase performance, just gives you extra room for more applications. Your virtual machines are still limited to your disk's speed.

    So the questions are, how many VMs are you running and what is the total space requirement for them?
  8. Chrysaor macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2006
    You need to be specific about what you are doing. If you are not even filling 4gb memory, upgrading to 8gb will make no difference. Again, if you are not doing lots of read/write operations but CPU intensive tasks, SSD will not help at all, but processor upgrade will.
  9. fehhkk macrumors 6502a


    Jun 11, 2009
    Chicago, IL
  10. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    Lots of tests here:

    A $500 PC would be faster than a $500 SSD.

    If you really need that much speed from VM, then VM might not be the best answer for you. Maybe Bootcamp, although thats a PITA.
  11. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    SSD all the way. with the intel X25-M 160GB, my Core Duo MacBook Pro launches apps within three seconds at most!
  12. Jedi macrumors regular


    Apr 28, 2008
    Question ? Help appreciated ! = Thanks

    Do you have to modify or reprogram any part of a MBP ?

    What about fan speeds , will they compensate for lack of heat ?

    Are the intel X25-M 160GB SSD`s better than either the 128 or 256 Gig offered by Apple in there "option BTO" ?

    What if the new ( maybe soon to be released new ) MPB`s are like the MB ?
    Sealed :confused: , would it be better to buy now or take a chance that you will still be able to unscrew the back to access and change out the HD for the SSD ?

    Sorry for so many questions , but I do thank you for your help ! :D

    Gary 
  13. angemon89 macrumors 68000


    Feb 5, 2008
    The place where Apple designs stuff
    $500-600? No way. More like 470 shipped for the best SSD on the market.

    If you check the reviews you'd find that the Intel SSD's are pretty much the best on the market. So yeah, the x-25m is better than those offered by Apple in their BTO Macs.

    The current MBPs are already sealed like the current MacBook. But yeah, you can easily remove the the back to access and change out the hard drive. It's really easy to do.
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Look at "Activity Meter". That is the only why to make an informed decision. If AM shows any "swap outs" you really need RAM. But you must double the size of your RAM to make much difference. If AM shows the disk is running at high sustained IO rates then you could use a faster disk. A lot depends on the applications you are runing.

    Believe me. IF AM shows yu disk running at 1/2 it's fastest rate, buying a disk that is twice as fast means it will run at 1/4 it's maximum rate. But if your current disk is at it's limit, different story.
  15. MBPLawyer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2010
    You're correct, I'm not doing anything processor intensive on either the real or virtual (only 1 Win Vista Ultimate) - I guess the main problem, and what I'm trying to eliminate is the boot up time for the VM. It takes at least 3 minutes and can sometimes take as long as 5. These long boot times lead to me keeping the VM running when I'd rather not.

    I know a lot of the problem is windows itself. I have a linux vm as well and it boots in under a minute.

    From what's been posted, it sounds like the SSD is the best bet. For anyone that has the Intel 160gb SSD - what's your experience been with it and do you have any recommendations on where to purchase?

    One last question. Are there any special screws that I will need a different screwdriver for? I have phillips head screwdrivers that will fit the case, but am not sure on what's under there.

    Thanks for all of the responses!
  16. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
  17. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    Why would you need to double your RAM to make a difference? All you need to do is add enough RAM that you are no longer paging to the drive.

    As for the disk, that's not true either. It's not so much the maximum sustained read or write speeds that matter (although they do), it's the access times that make a SSD so fast. If you can hear the heads of your hard drive moving around rapidly (the subtle clicking sound) while you try to open a program or do some activity, you are dealing with access time limitations.

    How much RAM have you allocated to your Windows VM? Make sure it has at least 512MB. 1GB or more would be better.

    Disk access on a virtual machine is also a problem, as you are creating a virtual disk on top of a physical disk and this layer creates some inefficiencies. I can't, however, say for sure that a SSD will significantly speed up your VM. It certainly won't hurt one bit, and every aspect of the machine will be faster as a result. The Intel drive is bar none the best drive available. It isn't the cheapest or the fastest in benchmarks, but for all around use it's the one to get.
  18. Winni macrumors 68040


    Oct 15, 2008
    On my Mac Pro, when I still used Windows in a VM, I usually assigned two CPU cores and three GB of RAM to the Vista VM in VMWare Fusion. In my experience, Parallels completely sucked for Vista, and that was the reason why I switched from Parallels to VMWare Fusion.

    If you really need Windows for your daily work, then I doubt that you need OS X. You should boot into a native Windows installation instead, it will be MUCH faster (especially when it is a 64-Bit Vista).
  19. MWPULSE macrumors 6502a


    Dec 27, 2008
    I'd go for the SSD.. if you already have 4 gig of ram the difference between 4 and 8 gig of ram is going to be minimal.. unless you have logic, final cut n photoshop open in mac osx and firefox in windows playing back a youtube clip, and opening flash websites. Thats the kinda thing where you need all the RAM you can get.

    But then of course with Logic, n final cut the reliability of those pieces of software doing their job effectively is dependant on you having a fast hard drive for video rendering, and multiple audio track playback..

    Sooooo it really is a balancing act. Do which you feel you need most urgently, then do the other part at a later date if need be :)

  20. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Not to discount the impressiveness of this, but honestly I'd rather have to wait 20-30 seconds for an app to load and then have it be more responsive and faster to do the actual work. But then I also tend to leave 90% of my apps open constantly, so...
  21. MikhailT macrumors 601

    Nov 12, 2007
    He was just showing off the speed, the speed is constant on an SSD regardless of opening or closing or whatever. The OS overall responsiveness is important and in this case, SSD beats anything on the market for providing the most performance boost.
  22. Habitus macrumors 6502a


    Feb 26, 2009
    Where ever my life takes me...
    From personal experience, get more RAM. SSD is very expensive; RAM is not. Also, RAM has more benefits (better all around performance and more bang for buck).

    God luck,

    Habitus :apple:
  23. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    If you'd read the rest of the thread you'd realize that he does not appear to be maxing out the RAM he already has. If he adds more it's going to sit idle and wasted most of the time.

    I would argue that, as long as you have reasonably enough RAM, a SSD will make a far bigger difference in 'all around performance' than RAM, and that while expensive, it is the best bang for the buck you can currently get. Nothing else will have as big an impact.
  24. MikhailT macrumors 601

    Nov 12, 2007

    More than enough RAM does not give more benefits and more bang for the bucks in this situation. We're talking about 8GB of RAM here, that's 450-500$ right there. If he is not using any more than 4GB, it does not give any benefit and thus does not provide more bang for any bucks. Also more RAM does not improve all around performance, it only give more headroom for memory. SSD does provide all around performance regardless of full use.
  25. dankybear macrumors regular

    Jul 6, 2009
    HDs are the bottle neck, I love my SSD. Go for it.

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