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Resolved Pleasantly surprised by the amount of RAM required

revmacian

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I research a product for months prior to purchase and yesterday was part of my research into buying a MacBook Air.

I was in an Apple store yesterday and was asking about how much RAM I would need - many people have been telling me to upgrade to 16GB of RAM because 8GB won't be enough. I mentioned this to an Apple employee and he said 8GB would be plenty, and then he showed me something. He said "launch every app that is in the dock on your Mac mini, then fire up Activity Monitor and check the amount of memory that is being used" - I had told him that I had a 2014 Mac mini. I mentioned the amount of Swap used, and he said "Yes, you have Swap, but how often will you be using every app in your Dock at the same time? Swap is always there when you need it." I was surprised that he wasn't trying to steer me to a more expensive MacBook Air just because it had more RAM.

When I arrived home I followed his instructions and was pleasantly surprised to find that my Mac mini was using 3.89GB of RAM.

Why do some folks recommend more 16GB RAM over 8GB without asking about my computing habits?
 

Grey Area

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As the machine does not support upgrading later on, those 8GB will be all it ever has. Hardware requirements of software tend to increase from version to version. Some day it will hit the wall, with 8GB sooner than with 16GB. Maybe that is alright for you, for the expected lifetime of the machine.

Memory usage also tends to increase during runtime, though. Those 3.89GB, are they with freshly started apps, or have you been using them for a while, with multiple files and tabs open?
 
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revmacian

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As the machine does not support upgrading later on, those 8GB will be all it ever has. Hardware requirements of software tend to increase from version to version. Some day it will hit the wall, with 8GB sooner than with 16GB. Maybe that is alright for you, for the expected lifetime of the machine.
I'm not sure what to expected as far as overall lifetime of the MacBook Air 2018. I figure 5 good years and then it will possibly need a battery replacement? I had a laptop running OpenBSD with 4GB RAM and that was fine for several years, until I moved over to OS X a couple years ago - Mac mini Late 2014 also 4GB RAM.

Memory usage also tends to increase during runtime, though. Those 3.89GB, are they with freshly started apps, or have you been using them for a while, with multiple files and tabs open?

Tested with:
Calendar, Mail, Notes, Numbers with 2 spreadsheets, Reminders, Safari with 5 tabs open and TextEdit. That is more than I will ever be doing at any one time.. if I'm not actually using an app it gets closed unless I know I'll be coming back to it soon.

At 7:01 am, apps opened: Memory used: 3.14 GB

At 7:11 am, while working: Memory used: 3.19 GB

At 7:20 am, closed some apps because I dislike having that many open at the same time: Memory used: 2.95 GB
 
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StellarVixen

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As others have said, it is certainly enough right now, but it won't be enough in the near future.

"4 GB of RAM is more than enough" was just few years ago.
 
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revmacian

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I'm genuinely curious. How do people know that 8GB RAM won't be enough for me in the near future without knowing anything about my work habits? Is RAM usage going to be the same for someone who uses 1 or 2 apps a few hours per day as it will be for someone who uses 20+ apps for 16 hours per day? I feel that, when recommending upgrades, a distinction needs to be made between the demographics of the MBA and MBP. I see that some people complain that the 2018 MBA has issues when running Final Cut Pro all day. The MBA wasn't actually designed for those kinds of work habits. So, the result (the FCP complaint) is unjustified. Could this same thing be happening when recommending 16GB RAM?
 
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littlepud

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Sep 16, 2012
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When I arrived home I followed his instructions and was pleasantly surprised to find that my Mac mini was using 3.89GB of RAM.

Why do some folks recommend more 16GB RAM over 8GB without asking about my computing habits?

Because there are specific workflows that need a large amount of memory -- video editing, large-scale photo editing, virtual machines, etc. since the RAM is not upgradeable, you're better off going with the larger size unless you can completely rule out those workflows over the lifetime of the machine.
 
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revmacian

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Because there are specific workflows that need a large amount of memory -- video editing, large-scale photo editing, virtual machines, etc.
Those types of jobs shouldn't be performed on a MacBook Air on a regular basis - the MBA wasn't designed for that.

...unless you can completely rule out those workflows over the lifetime of the machine.
Yes, I can completely rule out those types of workflows for the life of the machine, as well as my own lifetime - I have no desire to ever engage in those habits. But, see.. most people never make an attempt to find out what I will be doing on a MacBook Air, which is not a MacBook Pro, before they start making recommendations.

You used the word 'unless', thanks for that.. at least you were thinking about workflows.
 
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dk001

Contributor
I research a product for months prior to purchase and yesterday was part of my research into buying a MacBook Air.

I was in an Apple store yesterday and was asking about how much RAM I would need - many people have been telling me to upgrade to 16GB of RAM because 8GB won't be enough. I mentioned this to an Apple employee and he said 8GB would be plenty, and then he showed me something. He said "launch every app that is in the dock on your Mac mini, then fire up Activity Monitor and check the amount of memory that is being used" - I had told him that I had a 2014 Mac mini. I mentioned the amount of Swap used, and he said "Yes, you have Swap, but how often will you be using every app in your Dock at the same time? Swap is always there when you need it." I was surprised that he wasn't trying to steer me to a more expensive MacBook Air just because it had more RAM.

When I arrived home I followed his instructions and was pleasantly surprised to find that my Mac mini was using 3.89GB of RAM.

Why do some folks recommend more 16GB RAM over 8GB without asking about my computing habits?

Do the same on a 16gb machine. You will be surprised how much is in use.
 
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revmacian

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Do the same on a 16gb machine. You will be surprised how much is in use.
If I can get by on an 8GB RAM machine, wouldn't it be a waste of time to test a 16GB RAM machine? Being that I wouldn't buy it anyway since 8GB RAM would suffice.
[doublepost=1544804950][/doublepost]I remember a saying in the *nix community; "unused RAM is wasted RAM".
 
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dk001

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If I can get by on an 8GB RAM machine, wouldn't it be a waste of time to test a 16GB RAM machine? Being that I wouldn't buy it anyway since 8GB RAM would suffice.

A friend or a test machine.
When I bought my MB, the rep made similar points. A similar machine with upgraded ram used more of the available. Over the last couple of years I have found "hobbies" that utilized the additional ram. As a result I have kept my device longer than originally planned.

On a side note, I will not be getting another Apple device to replace this. I have come to like the hybrid design I use for work.

If 8 works for you, get that.
 
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revmacian

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When I bought my MB, the rep made similar points. A similar machine with upgraded ram used more of the available.
Yes, a machine with more RAM uses more of the available RAM. This is because macOS is based on Darwin, which is based on BSD - this is where the saying "unused RAM is wasted RAM" comes from. What some people fail to realize is, just because the machine uses more doesn't necessarily mean that more is needed.

If 8 works for you, get that.
I like the way you think.
[doublepost=1544806450][/doublepost]
"Nobody will ever need more than 256KB" (Bill Gates)
This alleged comment was supposedly made decades ago, though I cannot find any concrete proof of it. I doubt that even 16GB RAM will be sufficient 20 years from now. I would be interested in seeing your source for this quote.

The sources I found that contradict your post:
Quote Investigator
Computer World
WikiQuote
New York Times
 
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revmacian

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If you need 16GB of RAM the Air was the wrong purchase to begin with.
I'm beginning to see this is true. And, I'm going to start telling people exactly that. I really wish I could press the 'Like' button a hundred times or so for your post.
 
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Howard2k

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Mar 10, 2016
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"Nobody will ever need more than 256KB" (Bill Gates)


Did you just misquote a fictitious quote?
[doublepost=1544819932][/doublepost]
If I can get by on an 8GB RAM machine, wouldn't it be a waste of time to test a 16GB RAM machine? Being that I wouldn't buy it anyway since 8GB RAM would suffice.
[doublepost=1544804950][/doublepost]I remember a saying in the *nix community; "unused RAM is wasted RAM".


There are plenty of folks on here who will tell you that you have to have 16GB or 32GB.

There are also plenty of folks running on 8GB of RAM, or even 4GB.

You don't make too much mention of your specific uses, but I would recommend 16GB for most folks today. Though 8GB is going to be plenty for many folks with lower demand usage scenarios. Since you're buying an Air, you're probably not going to be hammering it that hard anyway. So for regular light work, 8GB is fine. I also done some HDR in Lightroom and some recording in GarageBand too, on my 8GB machine. It never gives me the impression that it's struggling. But my machine is a few years old.

If I was buying an Air today, because I'm surfing the net or working on documents, 8GB is ok. 16BGB is better.
If you're doing any sort of heavier lifting (photo manipulation, music, video) then maybe 16GB will give you more longevity. But again, 8GB is still usable today.
 
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Wags

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As the machine does not support upgrading later on, those 8GB will be all it ever has. Hardware requirements of software tend to increase from version to version. Some day it will hit the wall, with 8GB sooner than with 16GB. Maybe that is alright for you, for the expected lifetime of the machine.

Memory usage also tends to increase during runtime, though. Those 3.89GB, are they with freshly started apps, or have you been using them for a while, with multiple files and tabs open?
I have 2 Gb on my 2007 machine seemingly with his same usage. Still waiting to hit the wall.
 
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revmacian

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this is
Did you just misquote a fictitious quote?
[doublepost=1544819932][/doublepost]



There are plenty of folks on here who will tell you that you have to have 16GB or 32GB.

There are also plenty of folks running on 8GB of RAM, or even 4GB.

You don't make too much mention of your specific uses, but I would recommend 16GB for most folks today. Though 8GB is going to be plenty for many folks with lower demand usage scenarios. Since you're buying an Air, you're probably not going to be hammering it that hard anyway. So for regular light work, 8GB is fine. I also done some HDR in Lightroom and some recording in GarageBand too, on my 8GB machine. It never gives me the impression that it's struggling. But my machine is a few years old.

If I was buying an Air today, because I'm surfing the net or working on documents, 8GB is ok. 16BGB is better.
If you're doing any sort of heavier lifting (photo manipulation, music, video) then maybe 16GB will give you more longevity. But again, 8GB is still usable today.
I'm not going to be doing any heavy lifting. Web browsing, Mail app, Calendar app, Numbers (simple spreadsheets), Notes app, Reminders app, stuff like that. The only app I use that isn't shipped with the Mac is GIMP and I use that once every few months or so.
 
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BorgCube

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I used a 2015 MBA with 4GB of ram HAPPILY for 3+ years until earlier this year 2018. It worked. I could have xcode up, Safari with 15+ tabs, word, Slack, UltraEdit, OneNote, and a myriad of other apps depending on what I was doing that day and I was never "red" for memory. Now doing World of Warcraft and a few other things pegged it but it happily took the work and did a very good job. I regret getting rid of it (sold it back to Apple to help pay for MBP).

My MBP 13' 2017 has 16GB of ram and I'm using a tiny tiny amount of it. My 2015 MBA was $750 from Best Buy. My MBP 13' 2017 was … needless to say... quite a bit more. I plan on keeping the MBP 6 years+.

8GB of ram should work for you for a long time. I'd be happy with it. 16GB is probably better for future proofing if you can afford it, if not, I'd be very happy with 8GB.

As posters wisely said here, your usage may change and having that space available is nice, but you do really pay for it.

My 2015 MBA 13' 128GB SSD 4GB ram was the best laptop I've ever had. My MBP 13' 2017 is quickly replacing that though. I've had it for 7 months now and I love everything about it. A great great computer.


Windows? Whole 'nother story. My XPS 15' with 16GB of ram is … not enough for my Visual Studio 2017, Word, Edge (I know I know) with 15+ tabs, Ultra Edit, Slack, OneNote... I'm near 90% usage. But … windows is an entirely different story. I imagine my XPS will be hurting in a few years with memory. But it is a work laptop.
[doublepost=1544820591][/doublepost]
this is

I'm not going to be doing any heavy lifting. Web browsing, Mail app, Calendar app, Numbers (simple spreadsheets), Notes app, Reminders app, stuff like that. The only app I use that isn't shipped with the Mac is GIMP and I use that once every few months or so.

Then if I was you, I'd be VERY happy with 8GB and expect a good 4+ years of usage out of my MBA.
 
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Altis

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If I can get by on an 8GB RAM machine, wouldn't it be a waste of time to test a 16GB RAM machine? Being that I wouldn't buy it anyway since 8GB RAM would suffice.

By that logic, if you "can get by" on a 2013 MBP why would people not be recommending you that instead of a new Air? Do you even need a new computer at all? :p

My 2010 MBP came with 4 GB and would have been recycled ages ago if it weren't expandable to 8 GB. In my experience, 8 GB is the minimum for the latest macOS to run well under most situations, and at some point it will no longer suffice. When exactly that will be is anyone's guess, but I suspect that's the main reason people often advise to buy the 16 GB model, even with Apple's dismal upgrade pricing.

Personally, I have a hard time paying USD $1400 + tax for a laptop that has a form factor that will last many years, but certain components will likely limit its useful life (RAM and CPU in the case of the new Air).

I managed to get the 2010 to year 8 (I was not the original owner) but since I only use it for pretty basic stuff on the go, I replaced it with a nearly-new ThinkPad for $275 all-in. It has 8 GB upgradeable to 16 GB, 1080p IPS display, SSD (user-replaceable), 16 hour battery life, 10.5 months factory warranty, and arguably one of the best laptop keyboards.
 
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revmacian

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By that logic, if you "can get by" on a 2013 MBP why would people not be recommending you that instead of a new Air? Do you even need a new computer at all? :p
I was unaware that Apple still sold the 2013 MBP. I learned my lesson about buying pre-owned computers well enough to not repeat the experience.
[doublepost=1544823227][/doublepost]
When exactly that will be is anyone's guess..
Exactly, let's worry about it when and if it happens. Some Mac users are still using 4GB RAM and not suffering at all. My Mac mini has 4GB RAM and works quite well. My only complaint is that it's a hassle to carry my Mac mini around and use it efficiently on the bus or at the beach.
 
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BorgCube

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Well stated ^. I miss the feeling of my 2015 MBA in my backpack. I didn't feel it. It wasn't there. lol. The thing was so light and thin that it was almost as if I wasn't even carrying anything.
 
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Altis

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I was unaware that Apple still sold the 2013 MBP. I learned my lesson about buying pre-owned computers well enough to not repeat the experience.

Never said they did. You're complaining that some people are recommending you 16 GB of RAM given certain conditions, which you claim not to need for your minimal needs. My point is the whole rest of the computer is also overkill for your needs. I've seen 2017 models on clearance for 66% the price of the base 2018 ($800). Heck, maybe all you need is an iPad. :p

Exactly, let's worry about it when and if it happens. Some Mac users are still using 4GB RAM and not suffering at all. My Mac mini has 4GB RAM and works quite well. My only complaint is that it's a hassle to carry my Mac mini around and use it efficiently on the bus or at the beach.

We have one MBA with 4 GB of RAM and it had to be reverted to Mavericks because it ran poorly on newer macOS. It takes very little to bog it down, so it isn't used for much other than basic tasks. Claiming they "aren't suffering at all" with 4 GB on the latest macOS isn't not a helpful statement in any way, nor supported.

Some people prefer to buy for longer-term, especially when in the $1400+ range, hence their view that 8 GB in 2018/2019 at that price could shorten the useful life and is best avoided. It isn't an invalid view just because you have a difference of opinion. Granted I suspect the new measly 7W CPU could be a problem before RAM on this device.
 
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kreasonos

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Honestly, the SSD is so fast it's probably no different than using Ram.
[doublepost=1544830800][/doublepost]
Well stated ^. I miss the feeling of my 2015 MBA in my backpack. I didn't feel it. It wasn't there. lol. The thing was so light and thin that it was almost as if I wasn't even carrying anything.

I miss my 12" iBook and Ti-Powerbook. Ah, those were the glory days of Apple.
 
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