RAM or flash drive

Discussion in 'iMac' started by inthepines, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. inthepines macrumors newbie

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    #1
    Hi,

    My name is Sara and after running an crappy old PC for the last six years I am finally investing in an iMac. It's my first time into Mac territory except for my iPhone which I can't live without. I'm looking forward to learning how to use the new machine however at this stage I am stuck deciding on what custom specs to get... as I am going for the iMac 21.5" (2.7GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz) I understand I pretty much have to decide what I need for the next 3 to 5 years.

    Also I have considered getting a Mac mini but I would like the whole set up and feel I deserve it after working on such a slow computer for so long :).

    Anyway I would appreciate your feedback on whether I should invest in either a 16GB RAM or a 256GB Flash Storage. (I've decided against the Fusion drive as I only currently have about 50GB of data on my computer anyway - is that sensible?)

    In terms of usage patterns I will be using it for work from home (about 10 hours/week) and for study (about 10 hours a week). For work I use large excel files (~5000KB) and at the same time have Safari open, Skype and iTunes. For study I will be using Adobe, Safari and Word. (In general I tend to have many things running at once which my current computer can't cope with very well.)

    The extra RAM would obviously be useful however a flash drive would be handy too. For budget reasons I don't really want to get both (I'm going to have to fork out for Office for Mac too) - although at a stretch I could probably justify it as I would be using it so much for work and study.

    Any advise would be appreciated and explanations even more so - I'm pretty green when it comes to computers but I'm interested.

    Thanks for taking the time to read :)
     
  2. Zenton macrumors member

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    Oct 18, 2011
    #2
    Hi! IMO you should definitely get both. If you currently only have 50GB of data, the 256GB SSD would be enough. With that you would get faster boot time and snappier overall experience compared to a regular HDD.

    Honestly I think 8GB of RAM is enough for what you do. But since the RAM isn't user accessible and you are going to have the iMac for 3-5 years, I would get 16GB. Who knows what you will be doing two years from now? "Future proof"!
     
  3. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #3
    I would go with the RAM. In 5 years time I believe 8GB of RAM will not be enough. You can always add an external USB 3 or Thunderbolt SSD at a later stage if you need to.
    Do you already use an external for back up by the way? The Time machine back up on a Mac is great but you will need an external drive. Alternatively for such a small amour of data you could look into cloud storage if you trust someone else looking after your data.
     
  4. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #4
    Still, a Thunderbolt SSD wouldn't perform at its native speed. Take this for instance: http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/storage/display/buffalo-ministation-thunderbolt_3.html

    A Fusion drive can natively perform faster. But for the sake of pure speed and reliability, I'd suggest the OP to go for a 256GB SSD.
     
  5. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #5
    And stick with 8GB of RAM for the next 5 years? How much RAM were you using 5 years ago? Would that be sufficient today for even the OP's basic tasks?

    In an ideal world the RAM and the SSD or Fusion internally would be better, but like most people they have a budget and she states its one or the other. My option gives the best longevity on the RAM and an external later if needed.
     
  6. Dark Dragoon macrumors 6502a

    Dark Dragoon

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    #6
    Isn't the standard config still a 2.5" 1TB HDD?
    In that case stepping up to the 1TB Fusion drive (128GB SSD + 1TB HDD) or the 256GB SSD will give a big and noticeable performance boost over the 2.5" 1TB HDD.

    My personal preference is for the Fusion Drive however here are some points:-
    - The 256GB SSD will be silent, the 1TB Fusion Drive will use a 2.5" HDD and so will make some noise.
    - The Fusion Drive is made up of two separate drives (HDD + SSD), data is shuffled between the two with the most used placed on the SSD. With the current amount of data you have (50GB) it would all be on the 128GB SSD anyway and so should perform pretty much the same as the dedicated SSD.
    - If in the future you decide you need a lot more space, for example you want to store lots of photos, or dual boot Windows (Windows would be on the HDD) the the 1TB Fusion Drive would mean that you pretty much wouldn't need to worry about space.
    - Additional external (USB, Thunderbolt ) connected storage can be added easily and fairly cheaply later on.


    8GB of RAM should handle those tasks fine, however 16GB would be better for the future.
    What is the specification of your current computer?


    On a semi-related note, as Apple fanboy mentioned, you will want to buy or use an existing external hard drive to use for Time machine to backup your data.
     
  7. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #7
    Apple creates a real dilemma for many when it comes to budgeting and deciding between RAM and drive space/type.

    Here are things to consider -

    1) you only get one shot at the RAM. Would this be enough down the road?
    2) If you opted for a 1 tb drive, would you be happy with an external Thunderbolt drive down the road?
    3) The reality is that people don't hold on to their Macs (in general) for more than 3-4 year and not five years. As such, this might be your best way to view things. Figure you will have the Mac for at least 3 years and budget wisely for this investment. Apple has way of adding things at given times to almost obligate the fanboys to upgrade. I see upgrades only based on application needs vs bells and whistles and "wow" factor. Other people buy for different reasons than myself. What is important to you?
     
  8. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #8
    I would definitely get the 256GB SSD. I have a 2013 MacBook Air with 8GB and it does fine on Excel, Word and Powerpoint.

    The stock 21.5" disk config is a 5400 rpm 1TB drive. It's even slower than the 1TB 7200 rpm drive in the 27" iMac. SSD is vastly faster -- not just for a few rare cases but it affects almost everything you do.

    People do FCP X video editing on MacBook Airs with 8GB, with reasonable performance. This is way beyond your envisioned workload.

    Ideally 16GB RAM would be better, long term, but there's no question which has the greatest general day-to-day impact -- it's SSD.
     
  9. mvmanolov macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 27, 2013
    #9
    i would also get the SSD you'd see the most increase in speed and performance from the SSD not the RAM....

    get both if you can but if absolutely not possible, then get the SSD over the ram any day!
     
  10. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

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    #10
    The Buffalo HD-PATU3 is a hard disk, not an SSD.

    An external Thunderbolt SSD won't benchmark as fast as an internal PCIe SSD, but unless you're working with 4K video you will not notice the difference in daily usage.

    You are correct, sir. With a 21.5inch iMac, this is absolutely the only choice to make between these two options. The RAM cannot be upgraded later.
     
  11. yjchua95 macrumors 604

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    #11
    If you scroll down to the middle of the page, you can see that the benchmarks are for a Kingston SSD and Crucial SSD mounted in the HD-PATU3.
     
  12. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

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    #12
  13. accountforit macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Go with the SSD; no question. 8gb of RAM is more than enough for you and if you need more in the future you can have a service center upgrade it for you then, or buy a new computer.

    You will see and be able to take advantage of the SSD right now. Get the SSD and I bet you won't even think about more RAM. It will fly.
     
  14. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #14
    Glad someone agrees with me. Nearly everyone else opted for the SSD. You can see my choice from my signature! RAM and Fusion Drive. A great computer for my tasks.
     
  15. accountforit macrumors 6502a

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    #15

    The RAM CAN be upgraded later. It may not be as easy as in the past, but it can be done. If you want to use that argument, then the same thing can be said for the storage. If she chooses the RAM, then she is stuck with a slow old school drive and will probably never notice the RAM increase in daily performance.

    On the other hand, an SSD will make her computer faster from the start....noticeably faster.
     
  16. inthepines thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Auckland, New Zealand
    #16
    I just wanted to say thank you for responding and the good advice (about backing up especially) - I read all of your posts with much interest.

    Despite there not being a consensus of opinion I think I will go for the majority vote (SSD) for the reason in that I probably will not end up upgrading the RAM at all anyway but I think that 8GB option should last me at least three years.

    Am so excited about getting my first Mac - thanks again for the replies :)
     
  17. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

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    #17
    Well OK, obviously it's not impossible, however, it would be a heck of a lot easier for the OP to add a Thunderbolt SSD later.

    That is not to mention that the prices of such flash drives and Thunderbolt accessories should continue to drop over the course of the next few years.

    ----------

    I am well aware that it is possible. I fully intend to replace the 128GB SSD in my own 27" iMac with a 512GB+ after the AppleCare expires in 3 years and have done surgery on previous iMacs without issues.

    I was guessing that the OP was not interested in doing such an operation.

    If she is, then by all means upgrade the RAM later. ;)
     
  18. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

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    #18
    I absolutely agree with you and also have the 1TB Fusion Drive and recommend it highly.

    But one of the things I love the best about my Late 2013 iMac over the Late 2009 iMac I replaced with it is the addition of USB3 and Thunderbolt. Finally, the possibility exists to add external media fully capable of running the system at SSD speeds.

    Even with an SSD in a UASP USB 3.0 enclosure like this one for $17.99 would allow you to enjoy the blazing speed of a flash drive. See here.

    ----------

    Fair enough, but they also say:

    This product’s Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces are implemented via separate controllers, so the difference in write speed may be peculiar to its design only.

    You can find a full thread full of Thunderbolt SSD benchmarks here with results that more or less blow away the XBit Lab results with the HD-PATU3. :)
     
  19. toddzrx macrumors 6502a

    toddzrx

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    Nov 20, 2012
    #19
    Good call to go with SSD. I say this based on my own experience, in which I upgraded a new (to me) 2010 iMac from stock HD to SSD, then about a week later added RAM for a total of 8 (up from 4). The additional RAM made a slight improvement in overall performance. The SSD however put the iMac in a different league. Given what you're using it for, I think 8GB will be fine for at least the next 3 years. And if you want to, you can upgrade to 16 in a couple years when your budget allows. But the SSD is the bigger bang for the buck right now.
     
  20. torana355 macrumors 68020

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    #20
    SSD 100% no doubt about it. 8GB of ram is more then enough for most users. So many people put 16GB of ram in a machine and never actually use it, the SSD you will use and feel the difference everyday.
     
  21. andycho7 macrumors member

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    Dec 2, 2013
    #21
    I think performance gap between the HDD and SSD is a lot bigger than the difference between 8GB of ram and 16GB of ram. So if I HAD to choose ONE, then I'd go for SSD.

    However, do whatever you can do to just get both. It's better to overkill than underkill.
     
  22. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #22
    How exactly will she upgrade the RAM in a few years in a 21" iMac? I doubt she will have the skill or equipment to do that. Remember only the 27" has user accessible RAM.
     
  23. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

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    #23
    The other contributors to this thread seem to think this is a contest between which is a better upgrade between increased RAM and a flash drive. If that were the case then there is no question that in terms of a performance boost the SSD is the clear winner.

    An average non-enthusiast user has a clear, easy upgrade path on the 21.5" iMac for adding an SSD externally (Thunderbolt or USB3) to a machine that doesn't have one. The same can not be said for the RAM. That's all, end of the story.

    At any rate, the OP in this case has already decided she's not going to need more than 8GB of RAM in the future and will therefore go with the SSD. If she won't, indeed, be needing more RAM then she's clearly made the right choice. However, if she does end up feeling constricted with 8GB down the road, she may end up regretting it.

    Even 16GB is not enough for me, personally. But that's just me. ;)
     
  24. accountforit macrumors 6502a

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    #24

    ...or she can go to the Genius Bar or a service center and get more RAM installed. This isn't a rMBP pro with soldered RAM. It's an iMac that's a tad bit harder to open for the average user. The RAM CAN be upgraded.
     
  25. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #25
    A tad bit? Your joking right? Take a look at ifixits tear down. http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iMac+Intel+21.5-Inch+EMC+2638+Teardown/17829

    Not something I would do to my machine!
     

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