Upcoming purchase question: 16/512 vs. 8/1 TB?

Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 18, 2010
380
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Contemplating buying a MacBook Air. (Yes, i'll definitely wait and see whether the scissors keyboard comes to 2020 model.). Battery life and storage matter a lot. Was wondering which would take the greatest toll on battery life — going from 8GB to 16GB of RAM or going from 512GB to 1TB of storage?

Of course, I may just end up getting both upgrades...

My current usage (word processing, spreadsheets, email, photo editing, and web browsing) is light enough that an old MacBook Air with 8GB never struggles and, even with its old battery, provides well over 7 hours of run time.

I'm running out of space with its 256GB, though, and have already off-loaded 120GB+. 512GB might be enough on a new computer, but 1 TB would ensure there were no issues. Lots of people around here, however, say get 16GB RAM for future-proofing, but some also report that takes a toll on battery life. How big an effect is it?

Is Catalina running well under 8GB?

Any other considerations — and experiences — with the trade-offs between RAM and storage would be welcome
— and I imagine of interest to other Macrumors readers, too, who face the similar decisions.
 

hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
1,093
313
on the land line mr. smith.
I don't think either RAM or SSD will affect battery life enough to worry about.

One of the nice things about really fast SSD storage is that when you run out RAM....the swap space that gets used (the SSD) is fast enough that you are unlikely to get the SBBOD so common with swap on a hard drive. So being a little tight on RAM is not nearly as painful as it used to be.

Having said that....with RAM, more is better. A few years from now, 8GB might be too little.
 
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MacGizmo

macrumors 65816
Apr 27, 2003
1,477
814
Arizona
You should absolutely get both upgrades. Neither is going to place any measurable stress on the battery.

HOWEVER, if you don't have enough RAM, the system uses your storage drive as swap memory... and that WILL have an effect on battery life. Even though the SSD is so fast (compared to the old spinning disk drives of the past), the system i/o is still working hard... which will have an effect on battery life.

So I suppose that if I had to choose between RAM and storage, I would take RAM every time. In the end, you can plug in an external SSD anytime... but you can't add RAM later.
 
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Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 18, 2010
380
122
Hobo, appreciate the comment.

MacGizmo, good perspective...

Both quite helpful!