Why do you need more than 8 GB RAM in a MacBook Pro?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by boppin, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. boppin macrumors regular

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    #1
    Hello!

    Just a question.

    I have seen the discussions about "why does the MacBook Pro does not have more than 16 GB RAM" but I just why do you need more than 8 GB RAM in a MacBook Pro?
     
  2. Ries macrumors 68020

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    Apr 21, 2007
    #2
    My Macbook Pro uses currently 9.2GB RAM with photos, 4 tabs in safari (the youtube tab alone is using 512MB) and some of the standard mac osx apps open (mail, iMessage, notes, ...). That is only counting the app and wired memory, not the additional 6GB in use by the file cache.
     
  3. boppin thread starter macrumors regular

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    #3
    I have noticed that Sierra uses more memory than El Capitan.
     
  4. AFEPPL macrumors 68030

    AFEPPL

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    #4
    Depends what you intend to use it for.. but owning macs with both 8 and 16 the ones with 16GB simply run better and smoother and with a less powerful CPU. The other workflow is editing or using VMs. Your workflows may be different..... but i wouldn't get one again with 8, nor would i max out the CPU.
     
  5. erasr macrumors 6502

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    Sep 18, 2007
    #5
    I think I've made a mistake. I have just taken delivery of a MBP 8GB.

    Since this I've had a couple of friends say I should have got the 16GB. Reading the forums I see other people saying the same.

    I'm in the 14 day window but have used this MBP a little.

    I can send it back easily right? Plus, can someone with knowledge just please say if you really think I should buy the 16GB one. I need this for a few years and may do some gaming, web development work, image editing and music production.
     
  6. jerryk macrumors 601

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    #6
    Since you are in the 14 day window you should be able to return it even through you have used it and get the other unit.

    I do development work, photography, and audio production and would get 16 GB.
     
  7. SamVilde macrumors regular

    SamVilde

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    #7
    https://lifehacker.com/performance-tests-show-that-16gb-of-ram-is-overkill-1724827429

    This was the article that convinced me I would be fine with 8GB. I understand it's a few years old, but most programs are going towards being more efficient and more compact, so I decided not to worry. I don't use a many big apps often, but I use many cloud applications, often run 10+ tabs on Safari and Chrome simultaneously, photos, preview, MS programs, etc, and I'm not pushing this thing at all. Maybe the user above who claimed to be using 9.2GB with his usage was using that, because it was there, but that use case doesn't require 16GB, and wouldn't have hit the wall with 8.
     
  8. EugW, Sep 23, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017

    EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #8
    These types of tests never provide the full picture. Back in the day, you'd see the exact same tests telling you 2 GB is fine. Then it was 4 GB is fine. And now 8 GB is fine.

    Well, it turns out it's mostly true, but ultimately it's still a canned test, and furthermore it's for that time period. It does not truly factor occasional changes in workflow, and it doesn't factor increased memory usage by software and the OS over time. ie. It does not tell us what would be fine 3 years later.

    In the past it wasn't such a big deal, because you could simply just upgrade the memory later. In fact, it often made sense to do so, because buying memory at launch, esp. from Apple, would be horrendously expensive, while buying RAM a couple of years later would save money. However, these days you have just one chance to properly configure the machine. If you buy too little then it is a shame because you can't upgrade later without getting a new machine. If you buy too much, no big deal as it's just a couple of hundred bucks. I'd much rather err on the side of too much memory, even at the expense of faster CPU speed. I still am using my 2009 MacBook Pro because I could put 8 GB RAM in it, so as a secondary machine it's quite decent. With 4 GB it's still decent for basic use, but even for basic use it's not as good as 8 GB. Note though I bought the machine with 2 GB, thinking that 4 GB is all that I'd ever need in the machine.

    There's nothing wrong with getting 8 GB if you know that's all you need, esp. if you don't keep your laptops a long time, but if you're unsure, it may be prudent to get more. Or not. I do think it says something though that it is now impossible to get a Mac laptop with less than 8 GB RAM. 8 GB is the entry level. I got 16 GB in my MacBook non-Pro, and it was with an m3, not the i5 or i7.

    In my personal case 95% of the time 8 GB is sufficient in a MacBook, particularly because I do most of my heavy lifting on an iMac. However, there is that 5% of the time where more than 8 GB would be helpful... and this is in 2017 with a single user. Things change with a second user, and will likely change by say 2020. with macOS 10.16 High High High High Sierra.

    Development, image editing, and music production are all areas where memory can be extremely important. Or not, as it depends on your workflow. Gaming not so much usually though.
     
  9. ZapNZs, Sep 23, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017

    ZapNZs macrumors 68020

    ZapNZs

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    #9
    It depends entirely on what you do IMO. 8GB can do quite a bit, and the fast NVMe SSDs can somewhat offset the performance tolls incurred when the system caches to the SSD. But with certain Apps/scenarios, 16 GB yields a much smoother operating experience, and some tasks 8 will be woefully inadequate for.

    This Win7 VM has been given 4GB of RAM - leaving the host OS with 4 GB for the many Apps open in the host OS. At this point, the system is still perfectly responsive and running well. However, it is pushing the outer boundary of what 8GB can do. This works well for me because I know this usage pattern will probably not change during the time I plan to keep this system.

    Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 11.44.40 AM.png

    If I want to run a Windows 7 and a Windows 10 VM simultaneously, or use an ICR app in one of my Windows VMs, the 8GB simply isn't sufficient - but, for that matter, the rMB is not designed for this purpose and so the CPU isn't sufficient either. When I need to run both simultaneously, I do that on the 15-inch MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM.

    Considering the lack of upgradability, how many owners keep their Apple computers for a long time, and how it is difficult to predict how usage patterns will change during this long period of ownership, I think 16 GB often makes sense - I also think it may be more justifiable if that one machine is someone's primary computer, or if the owner is dead-set on keeping that specific machine for X amount of time and is strongly opposed to upgrading the machine sooner should their usage patterns/needs change.

    With that said, there are situations where one may have to pay $400-550 more to get the exact same system with 16 GB of RAM instead of 8 GB - in regards to the nTB or rMB, that's a third the price of a replacement system, and this could enable being able to upgrade the system sooner. I opted for 8 GB on my nTB because the 2.0/8/256 model was on a great sale (where as I would have had to pay $450 more for 2.0/16/256) and I knew I would not keep it as long as my other Macs - it did what I needed and less than a year later I sold it. I was able to get my 2017 rMB on a good sale in the base 1.2/8/256 configuration, which again justified going for the 8 GB option since I have a 15-inch MBP. Further, should issues of keyboard longevity arise, or should this machine wear faster because it is used as my primary mobile device, I'll be less frustrated replacing it outright as my initial investment was lower.
     
  10. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #10
    It may not apply on current machines as much but on older machines that memory pressure graph and memory usage table would really concern me. Once I hit that type of usage, I'd notice slowdowns and occasional beachballs even without hitting the swap or the memory pressure hitting red. I suspect part of it is due to the CPU overhead and lag from having to do memory compression.

    Memory compression is a great technology, but it is not a replacement for having sufficient RAM.

    I also generally keep my laptops a very long time, more than 5 years. If I had planned on keeping my machine only 1-2 years, I would most definitely have got it with just 8 GB. But in any case, I'm like you. My primary machine is an iMac and it has 24 GB RAM. My main laptop is a MacBook with 16 GB, but I do have secondary laptops with 8 GB and 4 GB respectively.
     
  11. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #11
    Probably because a lot of people who buy the 13" either have lighter needs or else have lower budgets, or both. Plus, not everyone keeps their laptops for 6 years.

    I think 8 GB is a good baseline standard. I bought a 16 GB MacBook, but truth be told, for 95% of my usage, 8 GB is fine for me, at least for now. 16 GB for the baseline is overkill, and would price entry level Macs way too high. However, 16 should always be an option of course, as should 32 GB esp. for the 15". It's sad that the power users have had to wait so long for a 32 GB option, but 2018 should finally be the year when it comes.
     
  12. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #12
    1900 what?

    The entry level MacBook Pro starts at $1299 US.

    I have never ever upgraded the exhaust in any car, and likely never will. Car analogies pretty much always suck.
     
  13. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000

    New_Mac_Smell

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    #13
    Really depends what you use it for. You'll have people say you NEED 16GB, and that their system is using 12GB doing minimal work, justifying the need. Truth is the system will use as much RAM as you give it. So same work flow on 8GB of RAM and 16GB of RAM will show different RAM usage.

    If you're a professional or likely to use a lot of professional apps, then 16GB is usually a worthwhile investment. However 8GB today is in no way the same as 8GB from 5 years ago. The physical size of the RAM is in no way a limitation, speed improvements and such means it calculates the data far faster within the RAM than it did 5 years ago.

    Truth is the RAM is the main bottleneck in a system, and if you can afford 16GB upgrade then it's usually worthwhile. But there's no need to convince yourself that you NEED 16GB of RAM if you're unsure if you need it. Usually, if you have to ask you don't need it.

    So some situations require more than 8GB of RAM, many don't. Just because your old computer had 8GB of RAM does not mean your new one should have more. Just because your old car was 2Ltr doesn't mean the new car should be 4Ltr... Think of the RAM like a giant warehouse, same size as the old one, but the new one is filled with much faster works and robots doing all the sorting. Same size, much more efficient.
     
  14. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #14
    Heh. That's the worst analogy ever.

    To overextend that analogy, if anything the robots get less and less efficient with each passing year, with regards to usage of space. The companies designing those robots are making them bigger and bigger every year, so that limited factory space becomes even more limited every year. The robots are doing cooler things yes, and often are doing it faster, but they need more space to work.

    Put it this way, 4 GB RAM five years ago was actually quite a decent amount of RAM. Today, it's the bare minimum for basic functionality. In fact, in 2017, none of Apple's new laptops ship with anything less than 8 GB, because that is really what the minimum should be.
     
  15. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000

    New_Mac_Smell

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    #15
    I think you're over reading a simple analogy there... I only say it as RAM is a hugely misunderstood part of computing, which is largely because of old style marketing. 2Ghz > 1.5Ghz, 2GB > 1GB etc. Which worked fine in the older days, but now we look at efficiency. Ideally we want computers with no RAM what-so-ever, RAM is just a solution to a problem in computing that hasn't been replaced, but it's a power consumer, so the less the better from an efficiency standpoint.

    Just because 8GB is the minimum Apple ship does not mean it's a minimal amount, it's the minimum that they can guarantee with provide a smooth experience for the user. Some people do need more which is why they offer it, very few people actually need more but get confused as it's a very complicated subject. Do people really look into BUS speeds, L2/3 cache sizes, SSD speeds, OS optimisation, CPU optimisation/dedicated architecture? No, they look at X > Y therefore I need X. All I'm saying is you need 8GB, it would be nice to have more but not necessary.
     
  16. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #16
    But what I'm saying is your analogy is very misleading. You suggest that the computers get more efficient as time goes on. Quite the contrary. Bloat increases every year. Sometimes that bloat is to support new fangled features and such, but nonetheless, that bloat puts increasing strain on the memory resources every single year. SSD speeds and OS optimization are great, but they don't solve the problem of insufficient RAM.

    Yes, 8 GB is enough, but if it's enough today, it may not be enough in 4 years. Hell, these days even my anti-virus software is eating up 600 MB on a consistent basis. In the old days it would have been something like 100 MB. We're talking about increase to 6X as much memory usage in just a few years... because the software has gotten a heluvalot more complicated and does more than it used to. Consequently, not only does it use way more RAM, it also uses more CPU cycles.

    Some people say some of those apps are not properly optimized, and that may be true, but that doesn't negate the fact that software does this, and it just gets worse every year. It's a fact of life.
     
  17. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

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    #17
    While I generally recommend 16GB if the money isn't too big of a deal (or obviously if usage demands it), it does kind of sound like you don't really understand how modern memory management works. Yes, the hyperbole about what it can accomplish sometimes strains credibility, but generally speaking, probably 80% of users would be perfectly fine with 8GB for at least the next several years.

    And actually car analogies work really, really well for computers. It's almost eerie how similar they are in the ways we can equate their history, development, construction, and usage.
     
  18. EugW, Sep 23, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2017

    EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    #18
    ...and then this post takes issue with my post about the benefits of 16 GB.

    Ah, the wonders of computer forums.

    ---

    BTW, for the record, I will point out that I actually have three SSD-endowed High Sierra Mac laptops in my possession right now. One of them is 4 GB, one of them is 8 GB, and one of them is 16 GB. Their CPU specs differ, but nonetheless having these side by side makes it pretty straightforward to compare the effects of different RAM amounts in the same modern OS.

    The 4 GB machine is actually quite usable, but only for very light business type usage without much multitasking. It's not too hard to get the machine to bog down with moderate business type usage, meaning email, browsing with multiple tabs, MS Office, and maybe with stuff like iTunes, iMessage, and a few other things thrown in.

    The 8 GB machine is very usable for up to that moderate business type usage with that significant multitasking, and it's a very good upgrade over the 4 GB machine. However, if you just check email and browse with a few tabs open at a time and do not much else, it's not much different than the 4 GB machine.

    The jump to 16 GB from 8 GB is less significant for moderate business type usage, as compared to the jump to 8 GB from 4 GB. However, in use cases where the multitasking becomes heavier, then it is a nice bonus and the difference can be noticeable, yes even for mostly business use. And of course it helps when you have a wife who doesn't sign out of her account because that takes up more RAM, and it would be a help if you run a VM.

    But overall, for the lower end of the spectrum, 8 GB is indeed sufficient for most... at least in 2017. 16 GB would be good for those who sometimes have more heavier needs and who have a desire to keep their computers for a long time, since average OS and software memory usage increases over time.
     
  19. throAU macrumors 603

    throAU

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    #19
    Work

    What I do for a job can easily use 32 GB or more (have seen 48 GB in use, not cache in my work desktop).

    Just because you don’t need more than 8 gigs doesn’t mean others don’t.
     
  20. leman macrumors G3

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    #20
    Unfortunately, 8GB is not enough for me, because me and my colleagues are too lazy to write optimal code, so processing our datasets ends up using too much RAM.
     
  21. Populus, Sep 24, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017

    Populus macrumors 6502a

    Populus

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    #21
    Hey, I want to raise a question, and I think this thread is the most appropriate for it:

    I have to buy a MacBook Pro 13" nTB with 256GB of SSD.
    The price differences between 8GB and 16GB of RAM are 200€.

    MBP 13" nTB 256GB 8GB: 1600€
    MBP 13" nTB 256GB 16GB: 1800€

    What would you do? I think the obvious answer is the 16GB model...
    The only thing that bothers me is the upcoming cannonlake CPUs in 2019. But I cannot afford waiting until then. I need a machine to last several years thoug...
     
  22. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    Jun 18, 2017
    #22
    16 GB could be a very smart decision for you, or it could be complete overkill. It really depends on what you need to do with it.

    For me the decision was easier though, since my price premium was CAD$216, which currently is less than 150€.
     
  23. TonyK macrumors 65816

    TonyK

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    #23
    Agree with EugW about which unit to purchase. For the price difference the 16GB unit is a good deal. My only suggestion is to spring for a larger SD unit as well. My own minimum requirements are 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM.
     
  24. New_Mac_Smell macrumors 68000

    New_Mac_Smell

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    #24
    I'm not saying the system RAM somehow gets more efficient as time goes on... I'm saying RAM has gotten more efficient. If you get 8GB now it's not going to be amazingly different in 5 years time, I'm saying 5 years ago the technology within the CPU/RAM was different. The OS is very efficient and can run on 3GB of RAM, and the system can do a lot with modern RAM that it couldn't before. So it's really misunderstanding what RAM is to go by a logic of what you had previously as an indicator of what you should have today.

    If technology had in no way advanced and you were looking at exactly the same machine as 5 years ago, then yes 8GB of RAM would not be enough. Except it isn't in anyway the same machine, and 8GB is plenty for the majority of users. Now that's not to say some people don't need more, or that some work flows can benefit from having more, but what you can do with 16GB of RAM you can also do with 8GB of RAM, it is not a physical limitation unless you physically cap it through VM use.

    RAM simply isn't what it used to be, and coupled with lightning fast SSD's it isn't the necessity it once was. Again, get more if you can as you never know, but no one should be questioning it and getting more in the belief it will make their system in any way faster or more capable. It more depends on the lifespan of the computer, and these things are just a disposable computer these days. Most people if you drastically change your work you'll buy a new computer to match it. And you'll probably be looking at upgrading in about 3-4 years time anyway. So it's often a fallacy to get a system in the thought that you might need it one day, as it's a waste of money. If you got the system you needed today and give yourself a little headroom, it will be plenty. By the time you want the extra power, it would have been cheaper to upgrade than it would have been to max out the system today.
     
  25. EugW macrumors 603

    EugW

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    Jun 18, 2017
    #25
    Honestly, I really don't know what you're talking about. There is no RAM magic in 2017. The efficiency improvements are mostly in power utilzation and speed, as well as the introduction of memory compression (way back in Mavericks). But even with all of this overall, the efficiency of RAM amounts in absolute terms has gotten much, much worse over time.

    8 GB is now the functional minimum for a new machine. 2 GB is essentially unusable. 3 GB can work with the most basic of usage, although 4 GB is more tolerable even just for basic usage. For anything more than basic usage, you'd want 8 GB (or more).

    Furthermore, having 8 GB in a 2017 machine isn't magically better than having 8 GB in a 2012 machine, despite the 5 years of memory technology improvements. Both will bog down at the same point under the same usage. Yes the 2017 will overall be faster, but having 16 GB in some workflows will be a huge improvement for both in workflows that need them.

    So again, I say your memory-is-much-more-efficient in 2017 is a very misleading statement at best.
     

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