Upgrade: i5 to i7 Processor, or 8 GB to 16 GB RAM?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by missjantastic, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. missjantastic macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2017
    #1
    Hello, so currently I have a Macbook Pro from 2014 running iOS 10.12.6, and here are its current specs:

    Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5

    Memory: 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3



    I'm going to be upgrading to a new laptop for school, so here are the choices that I have:

    • 2.3GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
    with

    • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory


    OR


    • 2.5GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
    with

    • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory


    So basically, what I need help deciding, is should I upgrade from i5 to i7 processor, or 8 GB to 16 GB?



    What I will mostly be using my computer for is school stuff, so running multiple tabs/programs at once probably (which if I think right, that would be RAM). For example, being on Skype, with Chrome in the background, playing while playing a game or editing a video. I'm a communications major, so I'm not in any major that requires certain programs like engineering.

    But then at the same time, I do edit videos with Final Cut Pro as a hobby, but the editing is nothing crazy and mostly basic. The most intensive thing I've done is import large raw video files (like 50 hours worth of video total), and speed it up for a drawing time lapse. However, my current laptop wouldn't be able to handle that, so I imported videos in 3 hour segments, sped those up, saved them as smaller .mp4 files, and then compiled all the small mp4 files together. I really didn't mind the process all too much if it means saving a few hundred dollars in upgrades. I'm not making short movies or anything like, but just standard videos you'd see on youtube with basic editing, maybe some voice-over and some simple effects.

    I also do draw on photoshop, and create things using photoshop, which does slow down sometimes as well, especially with larger projects.

    I also do play some computer games, but it's not something I do often at all. Right now, the only game I have is Minecraft haha.



    So I'm looking for something that could handle my school work, my basic video editing and photoshop use, and handling me in general lol. I know in an ideal world I'd have more RAM and a better CPU, but my budget doesn't allow for that, unfortunately. In the end, I'm wondering if I would even NEED to upgrade either? Or would I be fine with the 8 GB and i5 processor? I'm guessing I would see an improvement regardless, since my current laptop is 3 years old. I'm also concerned about whether the i5 processor will become "too old" in these coming years as better CPU's are being released? But also am taking into account that an i7 processor would take up more battery life, and with college portability is important.



    So sorry for the ridiculous amount of questions, but if you could help me out I would be soooooo grateful. Thank you all very much.
     
  2. deany, Sep 19, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017

    deany macrumors 68030

    deany

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    Sep 16, 2012
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    #2
    Not sure but...
    Watched this program on Chips last night:
     
  3. xb2003 macrumors 6502

    xb2003

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2016
    Location:
    MO
    #3
    Don't worry about your CPU, you won't notice the difference. As far as Ram goes, it's up to you. Everyone else will say go 16GB. And there is nothing wrong with that. You'll never be able to upgrade the ram, so having a bit more for the sake of future proofing wouldn't hurt. But you would probably be fine with 8GB.
     
  4. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2017
    #4
    Hi xb2003, thank you for the advice! So do you think an i5 processor would also be "future proof" enough to rule out the i7?
     
  5. frankgrimes macrumors 6502a

    frankgrimes

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2016
    #5
    I would also say go with more RAM, Photoshop is a RAM hog it's using around 3gb of RAM, add to that a few Chrome tabs here and there, video editing and it all adds up. I don't know if you are using some HD mods for Minecraft but if you you'll for sure benefit from more RAM in case of multitasking.

    Trust me the difference between 3,60 and 4 GHZ is not that much.

    As for being "future proof" that's always hard to tell but going but what I've seen in the past, AMD and Intel's cpu updates are evolutionary not revolutionary ones and keep in mind that you can't upgrade the RAM later so if your needs are changing you'll be better of with 16 gigs if you are playing to use that machine as your main computer.
     
  6. xb2003 macrumors 6502

    xb2003

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    MO
    #6
    They are both dual core CPUs with hyperthreading so they have 4 logical cores. It's not like the i7 has some major advantage over the i5, it's just a little bit faster. Generally speaking, there isn't anything you will be able to do with the i7 that you can't do with the i5, it just may happen a few seconds quicker. And often not even that.

    I'd just stick with the i5.

    Also, don't expect some huge performance gain over your 2014. The 2017 ought to be a bit snappier and the graphics are a decent amount better. But it won't be night and day
     
  7. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2017
    #7
    Okay, thanks for the explanation. Yeah, the main reason I'm getting a new macbook if because my current one is having some problems, so my sole purpose isn't for an upgrade. I figured I might upgrade something while I am getting a new laptop, though, and from what I'm hearing the RAM would be the best option. Thanks again!
    --- Post Merged, Sep 19, 2017 ---
    Okay, yeah, I've been pretty confused about the difference between RAM and processor when it comes to that, because some people say speed will come from a better CPU, but others say RAM is what I need. But from what I understand, a CPU is just a faster computer in general, and RAM is about actually running programs?
    And okay, I see, I was unsure about i5 vs. i7, but in the end they are also both dual-core.
    And okay, so for adapting to future changes in technology, having higher RAM would probably be more useful than having a newer CPU?
     
  8. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000

    New_Mac_Smell

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2016
    Location:
    Shanghai
    #8
    There is no such thing as future proofing, if what you are using today runs fine then it'll run fine in 5-10 years time. Most computers are around 50% faster than what people need, so it provides a huge margin for updates and such. Unless you drastically change your work, they'll be fine.

    CPU is just a processor that processes numbers, whenever an application does something, it needs this information processed; this is ran through the processor and it receives an output, which is then displayed to the user. So a faster CPU just does these calculations at a faster rate (Frequency, which is why 4Ghz is faster than 3.6Ghz). However, if you are only ever giving it small instructions, then it can parse through the data at such a fast rate that it'll never utilise the entire spectrum. If you are doing rendering, encoding, or anything intensive, and for a period of time, then a faster CPU can make a noticeable difference. But even then you are talking 5% speed, which over a matter of minutes is not worth the financial cost. If it's hours long renders all the time, then it adds up to a big difference. Generally, if you have to ask if you need a faster CPU, then the chances are you don't.

    As to RAM, this is just a buffer that the CPU uses to temporarily store information whilst it parses the data. Think of it like a warehouse, if you've got an 8GB warehouse then it can only store so much information, before a backlog appears at the door and the CPU has to hold that data elsewhere. Which would go onto the scratch disk (Hard drive). So more RAM will give the CPU more room to store this data. Having 16GB of RAM would be great, but if you're only using the corner of it then it's a waste of space. Also you have to consider the speed of the RAM itself, 8GB at 800Mhz can store the same amount of physical space as 8GB at 2400Mhz, however the latter can crunch through it 3 times faster, so is less likely to fill up with slow moving data. There's also the speed at which the CPU and RAM communicate (BUS speed), as well as lower level caches such as L1/2; which are super fast and used to store critical data.

    I've tried to simplify that explanation and hopefully you didn't get lost. But basically you need to understand the improvements in the technology. It is more than just 2.6Ghz Dual Core and 8GB of RAM, which likely you'd see 3-5 years ago and assume it's the same. It's more like comparing a 2Ltr 10 year old Ford to a modern 2Ltr BMW. Both have the same engine size, but one is considerably faster due to refinement. Any modern CPU will be much better than an older one, usually noticeable after 2 generations, the same goes for RAM.

    So in an ideal world you would get 16GB of RAM, but know this just increases the space. Modern OS's don't add RAM in a linear path, so if you have PS/Minecraft/Safari open at the same time, that's not 3GB+6GB+2GB of RAM being used, it's whatever you are currently using - it puts the rest onto a temporary space and accesses it when you need it. If one particular App is likely to use up that entire RAM block, then you need more, but not running multiple Apps or anything.

    Remember, if you're using a 3Ghz CPU and 8GB of RAM today and not seeing any slowdown, then getting a new system with double those specs is just like buying a much bigger house, even though you were only using 2 rooms. You won't notice the benefit beyond a new lick of paint.

    TL;DR. Just get the best one you can afford within your budget, and don't worry about if you need/should get XYZ. These things only provide minor speed boosts that you're unlikely to ever observe unless you used both on a regular basis. If your budget is $2000 and that covers the computer, accessories, warranties etc. then just get it. Don't sweat over spending another $200 to get a better processor, or perhaps $150 and getting more RAM and things like that. You say you currently have a 2014 so are on a 3-4 year replace cycle, any major upgrades you added to the purchase won't be noticeable for another 3-4 years, by which time you'd be looking at a new system with the specs you are thinking about today but at the base price.
     
  9. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #9
    If your issues are with PS and gaming then you would probably benefit from the graphics and quad core of the 15 inch.
     
  10. ZapNZs, Sep 20, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017

    ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #10
    Have you determined the cause of the issues you have now? In order to determine which MacBook Pro is best for you, I think it is very, very important to know the exact cause of current issues to avoid buying a system that will ultimately have the same issue in a short period.

    For example, you could use Activity Monitor to keep an eye on the memory pressure and CPU usage. If your CPU is constantly pegged to near 100%, you need to determine what program/process is doing it (to ensure it is in fact the software you use and not a software/hardware problem). You could also use a program like iStat Menus to monitor graphics performance and fan speed, and Intel Power Gadget to look for trends in terms of thermal throttling.

    If you are unable to determine a specific cause, running the Apple Diagnostics (to look for hardware failure) and reinstalling macOS (to see if the issue is a software problem rather than the hardware being unable to meet your needs) may be worthwhile, if you are yet to do this.

    • If your memory pressure is extremely high (yellow or red colored), you need more than 8GB of RAM for optimal running performance. The base nTB with 16 GB should meet your needs well.
    • If one of your Apps is pegging your CPU to extremely high usage, then you need more processing power - the base 2.3 GHz i5 will make some difference, but it might not be hugely significant. I agree that the 15-inch may be the best choice here given it is a much more significant CPU jump over what you have now than the current 13.
    • If your graphics card is the bottleneck, the new generation MacBook Pro 13 has vastly superior integrated graphics than the 2014 generation - the integrated graphics of the 13 may solve this issue, although the discrete graphics card in the 15 inch has dramatically better performance and may serve you better.
    • If the CPU and GPU are pegged high, and the fans constantly run at near full speed, and the Intel Power Gadget CPU graph looks like a Richter scale during an earthquake, your enemy could be thermal throttling. The new design manages heat better. The touchbar model is probably the better choice for you over the non-touchbar, again with the 15 having advantages over the 13.
    Regardless of the above factors, IMO if you do go for the 13-inch, what one really does need in 2017 is more than 128 GB of storage. While the 256 size is still pretty tight, it's somewhat more workable. But if you are going to be working with huge image and video files, the 512 size may not be a bad investment. Some of this cost could be offset by purchasing a refurbished 2017, which are now available.
     
  11. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2017
    #11

    Okay, so I tried using Activity monitor while using several applications similar to something I might be doing, and these are the results:
    Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 8.19.31 AM.png Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 8.19.39 AM.png

    I'm not quite sure how to read it. The thing I notice the most is my computer slowing down, and the fans running pretty hard/warming up. Does that point to CPU?

    And the only 15 inch I would be able to consider would be the non-touchbar model at its most basic standard configuration, which would still have upgraded RAM and a quad-core, but I'm really concerned about portability and battery life, because in the end the primary purpose of my laptop would be using it for school and at school, so I might prefer portability and longer battery life.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 20, 2017 ---
    The only 15 inch I would be able to even consider with my budget would be the non-touchbar model at its most basic standard configuration, which would still have upgraded RAM and a quad-core, but I'm really concerned about portability and battery life, because in the end the primary purpose of my laptop would be using it for school and at school, so I might prefer portability and longer battery life. If the 15 inch still has good battery life, I may consider it.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 20, 2017 ---
    Oh, thank you so much for the detailed explanation! But okay, I see what you're saying. And that is true, I'm thinking the primary purpose of my laptop should probably be for school at the moment, and maybe I can focus on other better aspects after I graduate when I have my own place and can afford to splurge on a desktop instead.
     
  12. ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #12
    While 16 GB may be beneficial down the road, in the image you have here, it should NOT be impacting your performance and slowing your computer down. If you continue to check this periodically and it stays in the green, IMO lack of RAM is not the problem you are facing. This is, IMO, something else.

    What tasks are consuming the most CPU during your normal usage?

    Can you post a screenshot of the Intel Power Gadget over a period of sustained usage? This will show us your system's temperature and the CPU's frequency.
     
  13. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2017
    #13
    Yes, how do I access the Intel Power Gadget? Sorry, I don't know much about all this.
     
  14. ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #14
    Download and install the Mac version:
    https://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/intel-power-gadget-20

    Make sure when you take a screenshot that this covers a point where you experienced the slowdown. When you post the image, keep a mental note of at what point in the graphs you are experiencing slowdowns, and what Apps you were using when doing it. This can help other Members (who are more knowledgable than me) determine if this is a heat-induced issue or something else.
     
  15. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2017
    #15

    Okay so inserted three thumbnails. The first was while running final cut, and the spike was when i started rendering a video. The second was after I tried quitting final cut and I crashed, and the last was while running a game of Minecraft.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

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    Jan 23, 2017
    #16
    I am far from a CPU expert, so wait until someone else says something on this who is more knowledgable than me, but in my opinion you are being limited by CPU/GPU, and the heat that they generate.

    If a 15-inch is not doable in the budget, this would arguably favor the 13-inch with touchbar, even if that means going with 8 GB of RAM instead of 16. Something like this might work very well, if the budget constrains RAM to 8 GB and SSD to 256.
     
  17. missjantastic thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 19, 2017
    #17
    Oh okay, so do you think the "3.1 GHz i5" processor that comes in the touchbar model will be a better investment than the "2.5 GHz i7" processor in the non-touchbar model?
     
  18. kindaichi81 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2015
    #18
    For normal usage, even u dun upgrade, the i5 processor and 8gb is good enough.

    If u really need to upgrade, you should go for
    storage > ram > cpu.

    cpu has the smallest noticeable impact and you will likely to get more fan noise with the i7 processor.
     
  19. macgeek18 macrumors 68000

    macgeek18

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    Northern California
    #19
    Go for the i5 and 16GB RAM. That is the only limitation of my Air that I'm stuck at 8GB. I'm a poweruser though who loves the Air to much.
     
  20. ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

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    Jan 23, 2017
    #20

    I am not a CPU expert, but, if we are speaking exclusively to the 13-inch,

    Yes - the higher wattage and base frequency of the 3.1 GHz i5, combined with having two fans (the 2.5 GHz i5 has one fan), may make a noticeable improvement for your specific workload, which appears to be sustained CPU and sustained GPU.

    In your instance, the 3.1 GHz i5 touchbar with 8 GB of RAM may very well give you better performance than the 2.5 GHz i5 non-touchbar with 16 GB of RAM. (I think the 3.1 GHz i5 touchbar with 16 GB of RAM would be optimal, but, if pricing is very constrained, IMO there is good reason to consider the touchbar model over the non-touchbar.)

    Someone with more CPU knowledge than I would probably have a better response than me.
     
  21. deany macrumors 68030

    deany

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    #21
    I've got i5 rMBP 13" 2015 and in Parallels it struggles a little in W10 with fan coming on.
    Our iMac i7 16GB is fine, I'd get i7 16GB if poss.
     
  22. Jamalogo10, Sep 21, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017

    Jamalogo10 macrumors member

    Jamalogo10

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    #22
    The i7 in the nTB with 16gb of ram seems do-able. It'll likely be the same price as the TB with 16gb of ram. I have a maxed out nTB because I value battery life as I'm constantly on the move. And you should expect to get an hour to and hour and a half longer battery when doing non-intensive tasks when compared to the TB models (bigger battery and there's not an additional screen). I also prefer the feel of tactile keys. The i7 in the nTB can turbo boost up to 4.0GHz. It's a very capable machine. You cannot game on either 13 inch MBP but the TB would get the edge. Two fans allow it sustain turbo boost for longer but you said you don't use heavy data compiling apps anyway.

    get the nTB... especially if you aren't getting apple care. The TB models typically develop more problems.
    The kaby lake i7's in the nTB benchmark higher scores than the i7's in the 2016 model touchbars.

    EDIT: I also read when under very heavy load, my computer throttles down to 3.6GHz and it can sustain that load nearly indefinitely. The 2.5GHz label is a marketing ploy to sway buyers to their revolutionary, amazing, swift, and godly touchbar models they spent years developing ;)
     
  23. Wicked1 macrumors 68040

    Wicked1

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    #23

    How much better would the 15" be with discrete GPU over the 13", I am assuming anything like video editing and gaming would excel on the 15, however I am not sure I would even be able to quantify the 15" cost for myself, especially since I am no longer a gamer.
     

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