Processor speed vs. RAM

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nhcowboy1, May 30, 2011.

  1. nhcowboy1 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Okay, I give up . . . thought I knew what I was doing and am now thoroughly confused. My teenager can get a new 13" MBP with an i5 processor or - for about the same money (or slightly less) - get a C2D with upgraded RAM and HD. And I've just realized I don't understand the difference.

    He's not into gaming, so he'd be using the machine for more mundane stuff: word processing, downloading movies and videos, chatting and IM'ing, surfing the internet, lightweight photo and video editing, plus some web design and programming (probably using Windows).

    Probably all at the same time. :D

    Clearly, anything (even a dinosaur with an abacus!) would be a step up from his old ibook . . . it just doesn't have nearly enough RAM to keep up with him. But going forward, which is going to help him more, the new 2011 processor or the 2010 processor with double the RAM (and maybe a larger/faster HD, as well)? And, no, his budget doesn't allow for both - and I'm sensing that would be overkill, anyway.

    I'm sure this question has been asked and answered before . . . so if you just want to point me in the right direction, that would be great!

    Thanks!!!
     
  2. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    #2
    An SSD would be a much bigger upgrade honestly.
     
  3. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Sorry, but . . . huh???

    Can you explain SSD? What's the difference?
     
  4. Hunts121 macrumors regular

    Hunts121

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    #4
    its a type of hard drive, considerably faster than traditional ones, but also more $$$$ for less capacity
     
  5. Repo macrumors 6502a

    Repo

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    #5
    You can save a lot of money by upgrading the RAM yourself (Apple charges a large premium). An SSD (Solid State Drive) is a hard drive with no moving parts, and works at much faster speeds. There are a lot of SSD's on the market, but they're also very expensive. Here's an example.

    As for your teenager, I would lean towards the faster CPU, and either upgrade the RAM yourself, or get an SSD. If none of this makes sense, that's ok. Either laptop you buy will be a lot faster than the iBook.
     
  6. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    So how is the SSD an advantage for the type of use I described - as compared to the more readily available upgraded RAM or larger HD?
     
  7. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #7
    It just loads programs faster. For the usage described, I'd probably just get the new one and upgrade later if necessary.
     
  8. Repo macrumors 6502a

    Repo

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    #8
    Take a look at this video.
     
  9. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

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    #9
    I have a 2008 Macbook. It scores 3,000+ on geekbench which is faster than today's 11 inch Macbook Air but is only half as fast as the slowest current Macbook Pro. It's plenty fast enough for me most of the time. I decided to order RAM and install it myself. Because I have an older machine I can do that. The newer unibody machines are more difficult (not possible?) to upgrade without going to the Apple store.

    Still, if faced with a choice between an older machine with upgraded RAM and HDD and a newer machine, I would have to recommend the newer machine as a better overall value. As far as SSD is concerned, it's in the overkill category in my book. A 300 Gig SSD can cost over 500 dollars. That's way too much money. I picked up a 500 gig "hybrid" ssd for 140 bucks that I'm going to give a try. I had my hands on a 320 gig 5400 rpm drive but decided I wanted to try something faster so I went for a 7200 rpm "hybrid" that has 4 gig of SSD on board. I would get the most RAM you can afford and pass on the SSD. Perhaps in a few years when it's time to upgrade again, SSD prices will be "only double" what regular hard drives cost and then they could be worth it depending on your needs.

    If you get AppleCare, they will generally install stuff for free but you will have to pay Apple's prices for upgrades. Apple tends to charge a lot more than market pricing for hard drive and memory upgrades. So here are your tradeoffs:

    Newer machine, faster cpu, possibly limited upgradability (might still be a better value overall)

    Older machine, slower cpu, possibly user upgradeable (you should definitely confirm this before buying)
     
  10. maclaptop macrumors 65816

    maclaptop

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    #10
    Add Memory it's the easiest, least expensive & worthwhile upgrade.

    While I have lots of experience with solid state drives (SSD) installing one requires experience and one can still end up with problems. They are extremely expensive also. On a sheer capacity basis you get a very small amount of storage for a whole lot of money.

    The reason so many people will tell you to install one is they marvel at the speed, yet many have not used them for years. I have, so I'm over the "honeymoon stage" and also know the downsides. Apple is also a finnicky computer and not all SSD's will work properly. It's technology that's simply too new yet.

    Apple pushes them because of the profit margin. So do yourself a favor and go with a regular tried & true hard drive. You'll save so much & be so glad you did. Then a few in a few years they'll be cheaper, very reliable, and you can buy it already installed in the computer without paying the obscene price Apple charges presently.
     
  11. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #11
    Ram and HDD are a breeze to upgrade in the unibodies. I have done it in mine, and both jobs were easy with the right tools. Just be careful not to strip any screws.
     
  12. cupcakes2000 macrumors 6502

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    #12
    It's still very possible to upgrade the ram on the unibodies yourself. You need a special screwdriver.
     
  13. Furrybeagle macrumors 6502

    Furrybeagle

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    #13
    I beg to differ. If “only” 120 GB storage on the computer is sufficient, then an SSD is definitely the way to go. I have no experience with hybrid drives, but replacing a 5400 RPM HDD with an SSD is like getting a whole new computer. It really is that much faster, and in my opinion is a far better than a faster processor.

    Personally, I took out the optical drive in my Mac and replaced it with a 120 GB SSD kit from OWC. That’s always a future upgrade option…
     
  14. cupcakes2000 macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Ha! Got there first!!
     
  15. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #15
    It's a standard 00 philips.
     
  16. Furrybeagle macrumors 6502

    Furrybeagle

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    #16
    I have a 2011 Unibody, no special screwdriver required. The user-guide provides instructions for upgrading the drive and memory.
     
  17. Perdification macrumors regular

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    #17
    To answer the OP's question, I believe a RAM upgrade would be the most feasible (since the OP mentioned that he's going to do all the stuff at once), although I think that the current specs should be good enough. SSD would come next, and when it comes to doing many stuff at once, processor speed nonetheless has a part to play but I'd say it's minimal. Processor speed would majorly affect gaming performance, which in your case, is not of much relevance. Hope it answers your question. :)
     
  18. gmans46 macrumors regular

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    #18
    i would just get the new base mbp and future proof yourself
     
  19. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    Okay . . . well, not really okay. Just trying to keep up.

    The upgrades you describe are definitely not an option if we get the 2011 13" - the machine itself would max out the kid's budget. That leaves the options of a used 2010 13" with upgrades already added or a used 13" that we could upgrade ourselves. Which gets me back to where I started - which is the best investment: faster processor, more ram, or bigger (or faster) hard drive?

    So I'm going to ask one of you to explain this to me in the simplest terms you can - what does each of these three (cpu, ram, HD) contribute to overall speed? As I understand it, the faster hard drive allows you to load (or shut down) programs faster. The larger ram allows you to keep more things "at your fingertips" - so that you can get to them faster once they're already opened. And the faster cpu . . . oh, heck, well I know that means it's faster, but I'm not exactly sure how that would manifest. I'm guessing that with a video game, if the cpu was really slow, the images wouldn't load properly . . . they would just be too slow?

    And, yes, "future proofing" makes sense!
     
  20. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #20
    Faster hard drive: boot faster from off, load apps faster.

    RAM: have more stuff open at once, 4GB is enough for most people, only worthwhile if shown to be necessary

    CPU: quicker times for video encoding, slightly better gaming performance


    Either machine would work fine for the uses described, but I would buy the new computer, just because it's new in box, if nothing else. The CPU is two generations newer, so the computer will likely be relevant for a bit longer as well, but I don't buy into future proofing too much.
     
  21. sn0wman72 macrumors member

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    #21
    The faster/more powerful i5 processor in the 2011 MBP 13" is the better "investment". You can never upgrade the processor. The ram and hard drive are upgradable

    That said for the uses you describe a mid 2010 MBP would be more than adequate. These are currently $899 in the refurb store at Apple...add 4g of ram down the road...maybe a hard drive if needed
     
  22. r0k, May 31, 2011
    Last edited: May 31, 2011

    r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

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    #22
    Go for future proofing! LaCie has already announced Thunderbolt drives and buying the older model means you can't use them when they become available.

    Even though the 13 in MBP maxes out the kid's budget, the base model as shipped is plenty good enough. My son has been using a base 13 in MBP at U of M for two years now. As was pointed out earlier in this thread, you can go back and get more RAM and even an SSD later on but you can't do anything about the CPU (or add Thunderbolt) later on.

    And I stand by my earlier remark that SSD is a low priority. If the 13 in MBP blows your budget, you certainly shouldn't be thinking about spending several hundred dollars or more on an SSD drive.
     
  23. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

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    #23
    OP: Get the 2011 i5. The i5 CPU is faster than the C2D (If he ends up doing either a lot of programming or a lot of video editing this will be very important), and you get the future-proofing of Thunderbolt, which is a very nice thing to have. As far as RAM/HDD/SSD goes: You can upgrade all of those later on, as and when he needs the upgrades.

    (Seriously, if he ends up doing either video editing or programming - CPU speed is first priority - for video editing as it speeds up the compression of the video and for programming as he'll probably end up running Windows alongside Mac OS X, and so the extra speed will be handy there). A current 13" MBP with 4/8GB RAM should be fine for him for the forseeable. (I only had 3GB in my Mac Pro for a while, and I was using that for Professional Video Editing, Modelling and Programming and it coped. Just), and extra storage can be added externally (How I coped with a MacBook as my editing workstation for a year and a half)
     
  24. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

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    #24
    My 160 Gig internal drive is overstuffed. That's why I'm upgrading. I suppose I could rely even more heavily on my external 1TB firewire drive and go with a 120 Gig SSD but for now I'm more interested in having a drive that isn't so full. (oops, it looks like I forgot to click submit reply. if two of these show up I'll have to blame it on my browser for bring this tab back after a restart)

    I must admit that going on a "data diet" to get ssd is tempting. My Time Machine backup file is sitting at 119 gig so I gotta lose some weight to squeeze everything down to 120 gig. Or I could bottom feed... At Microcenter, there is a 256 gig ssd available for $250 with only a 30 day warranty. Wow. I don't think I want any storage solution that doesn't come with at least a 3 year warranty regardless of price.
     
  25. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #25
    Thank you all for your replies!

    There seems to be a distinct lack of consensus out there on the best way to go, with perhaps a slight bias in favor of the 2011 processor. So it looks like we'd do okay regardless of whether we get the new machine (as is, without upgrades) or go with a mid-2010 with either RAM or SSD upgrade. Which means, at this point, that it'll depend on price . . . and we'll just have to grab the best deal we can. My personal bias would be towards new, but it sounds like he'll do fine either way.

    This raises all sorts of other questions about backup HD's (can you really put the backup drive in the laptop???), but I guess the only thing I really need to know is if there's anything (other than keypad protector) that we should get now. If there is, I can be looking for it at the same time.

    Many thanks again!
     

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