What do I need more? 7200RPM HD or 4GB Ram?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by andrew8404, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. andrew8404 macrumors regular

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    #1
    So I just got myself a sweet new 13' Macbook Pro and would like to upgrade the HD or Ram. I know the extra 4GB of ram will help big time especially when Snow Leopard comes out. But what will speed up itunes album browsing and computer faster? A new 7200RPM drive or extra ram? And if I do get a new hard drive which one is best on OWC? Do certain brands run hotter or waste battery life more? I don't have money for both so I can only get one now.
     
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #2
    Without saying what you do then I say RAM. No one really needs a 7200 RPM drive over the 5400 RPM if they're really not doing something that will call the HDD repeatedly. You have to understand what 7200 RPM means really. Once an app is open it is open. It's what the app does that may or may not require the faster drive. In that case, you'd want a 7200 RPM drive and the memory would be necessary to compliment it.
     
  3. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

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    #3
    RAM won't make your computer faster unless you have used it all. A faster HDD will ALWAYS make your computer faster.

    iTunes is an application which will benefit greatly from a faster internal drive. It constantly accesses the main drive to manage the library, even if your media is on an external disk.

    Anyways, the best speed benefit for your money is WD's Scorpio Blue 500GB. It actually matches in speed of other 7200RPM drives while retaining the benefits of a 5400RPM drive.
     
  4. andrew8404 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    Thanks that WD hard drive looks really nice! Looks like I may have to go that route!
     
  5. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #5
    7200rpm hard drive will speed the computer up more than you can think of now.

    Despite some reviews that have managed to show some 5400rpm drives on par with the faster ones, you still can't beat laws of physics; faster is always faster, and by this I mean rotational latency. Disk is round and if the reading head "just missed" the block the drive will need to wait for a whole revolution until it can read it. And this revolution takes 8.3ms or 11.1ms on 7200rpm and 5400rpm drive, respectively. This small amount of time difference builds up easily whenever you need to read and seek lots of small files.

    Of course, SSD would give you even bigger performance boost, but IMO those things still cost too much.

    RAM is easy to check; just open Activity Monitor after using your computer for a while doing what you always do. If there's some "free" memory then adding more will give you zero benefit. FWIW, my MBP shows 1.95GB used and 2.05GB free, so my laptop has 2GB unused memory reserve that does not speed it up, nor would it be any slower if that memory reserve was not there. You see performance gain for added memory only after your computer runs out of free memory and begins using swap.
     
  6. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #6
    I disagree, but everyone is entitled to an opinion :)

    Hard disk drive is the biggest bottleneck of a modern laptop, so in a way slow HDD is crippling most laptops out there. The faster the hard drive, the faster the system becomes overall, so more people would benefit from faster HDD than just professionals who really need the speed.

    It is so nice to use a laptop that is not-so-slow when it needs to access HDD. The difference becomes very obvious once you go back using a laptop with slower drive.
     
  7. MacFanUK macrumors 6502a

    MacFanUK

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    #7
    So glad I spotted this thread.

    I'm about to buy a Mac Mini, but still looking at other options for now and I've been wondering what to do about the hard drive. I'd be going for the low end mini and swapping the hard drive myself so will be going for a 7200rpm.
     
  8. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

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    #8
    When you swap the drive is it as simple as just popping in the OSX disks?
     
  9. Poncho macrumors 6502

    Poncho

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    #9
    The speed of a hard drive is not simply down to whether it is described by the manufacturer as a 5400, 7200 or even 10,0000 rpm for that matter. There are numerous elements in the drive make-up that determine its absolute speed. I should now, of course, go on to to list them. However, I only know this because of a great podcast in the MacGeek Gab series in which one of the presenters gave the lowdown on it all and now I can't remember the details. The point is that after listening I realised there was far more to it all than simply the speed quoted by the manufacturer.
     
  10. MacFanUK macrumors 6502a

    MacFanUK

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    #10
    Yes it is. However, I think that throughout the installation process you need to go into 'Disk Utility' to format the drive as a Mac drive.
     
  11. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

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    #11
    I look for cache too. I think the biggest is 32MB in a 3.5" and maybe 16MB in a 2.5" If I'm not mistaken my Black MacBook came with 3
     
  12. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #12
    Yes. Rotational speed is only one part of the story, but it still means faster the better (in regards of rotational latency and seek times overall). That is the everyday use part of the story. You know, most of the time your computer is reading lots of small files.

    But if accessing huge files is most important to your workflow, then seeking fast or slow does not probably mean much. You would most likely be very interested in maximum throughput. And there lies the voodoo part of the story: "slower" drive might have better throughput than "faster" drive. This is because:

    You would have to check specs very carefully to notice how many disk platters and r/w heads are inside the drive. More disk platters and more heads leads to more work being done at once. This is very important in regards of throughput. You will also factor in the areal density of a platter, which means that denser the disk more blocks can be stored on same area thus making it faster to read same amount of data (compared to another disk that is less dense). This also kind of leads back to rotational speed as you would likely be interested in how much data can you read during one round. Probably very dense and slow disk would read more data during one round than very fast and less dense disk. If this makes sense, you've understood a lot.

    Simply put:
    - faster rotational speed = snappiness
    - higher areal density = throughput

    So... whatever 7200rpm 500GB drive you put in a laptop will surely be faster than whatever 5400rpm 320GB drive, but it gets tough to compare a 320GB 7200rpm drive to 500GB 540rpm drive.

    As a rule of thumb, that is.
     
  13. MacFanUK macrumors 6502a

    MacFanUK

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    #13
    I believe the Macbook drives have 8MB Cache, The Cache you are thinking of is on the CPU.
     
  14. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

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    #14
    I just checked, you're right :)
     
  15. MattZani macrumors 68030

    MattZani

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    #15
    Im thinking of doing this to my Penryn MBP, Upgrade to 4Gb ram and a 500Gb 7200rpm drive, just to give it as much boost as i can. RAM is simple, but HDD's arent, im finding it hard to find the right HDD in the Uk, could anyone help?
     
  16. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    #16
    Right and I agree fully. But a faster hard drive overall ... does it really speed up the system or just the way the system calls to apps? And if he is memory deficient then what good is a faster drive?
     

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