Why only 2GB of RAM?

Gordon Werner

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 27, 2003
16
0
anyone know why the MacBook Air only has 2GB of RAM? are they ever planning on increasing it to 4GB like the other MacBooks?
 

scottness

macrumors 65816
Mar 18, 2009
1,368
3
Room 101
I think people who buy MBAs don't need it for too much more than basic Keynote presentations, email, browsing, and other simple things. That would be true of me, anyway. I just like the way it travels well. I do my real work on my iMac.
 

alphaod

macrumors Core
Feb 9, 2008
22,168
1,212
NYC
I think people who buy MBAs don't need it for too much more than basic Keynote presentations, email, browsing, and other simple things. That would be true of me, anyway. I just like the way it travels well. I do my real work on my iMac.
My browser uses about a gigabyte of RAM; open up Mail and Office which leaves about nothing for anything else.
 

Gav2k

macrumors G3
Jul 24, 2009
9,217
1,606
The air was designed for on the move extra ram reduces battery life. Tbh the performance of the air is very well balaced. More isn't always better.
 

nOw2

macrumors regular
Sep 1, 2009
167
2
The only time I've had an issue with 2GB is when I open a virtual machine. 2GB has handled everything else I've thrown at it over the last couple of years, and as a software developer I can tell you that Eclipse is not a lightweight bit of software.
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors 601
Mar 17, 2005
4,883
407
London, UK
The air was designed for on the move extra ram reduces battery life. Tbh the performance of the air is very well balaced. More isn't always better.
Extra RAM makes virtually no difference to battery life - if any.

Is the 2GB of RAM used in MBAs running in dual channel mode? I.e. are they using the equivalent of 2x1GB RAM or 1x2GB RAM. The reason they didn't offer 4GB of RAM on the MBA at the last update could very well be because of the jump in cost of higher density RAM.

Looking at Crucial right now, a 1GB RAM SODIMM costs $29.99. A 2GB SODIMM costs $56.99 ($28.50 per GB). A 4GB SODIMM costs $299.99 ($75 per GB).

Chances are, that is why Apple isn't offering 4GB MacBook Airs right now. In an ideal world they would manage to squeeze a RAM slot in there for the next update and forgoe soldered on RAM. That way they would be able to offer CTO MBAs with 4GB without having to raise the base price of the machines. So they could take the extra $300 that the business purchasers of the original MBA would be willing to fork out while still being able to sell the MBA at the more consumer (and more profitable) oriented price points that the MBAs are at now.

A slot in the next MBA would really not surprise me. Redesigning the logic board in the Rev C wasn't worth it since they're just using the Rev B boards but with faster CPUs. If they're having to redesign the whole thing anyway for Arrandale though, they'd be far more likely to make the change.

Edit: I just checked an MBA myself and they do use dual channel. My guess is that they're using the same density chips as in a single 2GB SODIMM though so as to save on physical space. Unfortunately, the only way to carry on using dual channel and still have a slot would be to either have 2GB soldered on board as well or to have two slots - which I don't think would fit. They could conceivable have 4GB as a CTO option to have soldered in but that would increase their manufacturing costs so they probably wouldn't bother.
 

coast1ja

macrumors 6502
Jul 13, 2009
291
0
The only time I've had an issue with 2GB is when I open a virtual machine. 2GB has handled everything else I've thrown at it over the last couple of years, and as a software developer I can tell you that Eclipse is not a lightweight bit of software.
same here. Virtual machines don't run very quickly, but they do run. I do some heavy data analysis in SPSS and Ram has never been a problem.

As for those that think it's because Apple is cheap... you are simply wrong. Have you ever looked inside a MBA??? ram manufacturers just released chips with the density to fit four gb in the same space as two. There is simply no room inside the MBA for twice as many ram chips.
 

alphaod

macrumors Core
Feb 9, 2008
22,168
1,212
NYC
same here. Virtual machines don't run very quickly, but they do run. I do some heavy data analysis in SPSS and Ram has never been a problem.

As for those that think it's because Apple is cheap... you are simply wrong. Have you ever looked inside a MBA??? ram manufacturers just released chips with the density to fit four gb in the same space as two. There is simply no room inside the MBA for twice as many ram chips.
It would have cost Apple maybe $20 more for each computer to add more RAM (using higher density). I'd have been willing to pay maybe $50 to $100 for that increase. Apple would still be making a bit from it.
 

Jason Beck

macrumors 68000
Oct 19, 2009
1,913
0
Cedar City, Utah
It would have cost Apple maybe $20 more for each computer to add more RAM (using higher density). I'd have been willing to pay maybe $50 to $100 for that increase. Apple would still be making a bit from it.
I don't have an air but I would tend to agree on that. I would pay the additional 50 - 100 bucks for more ram if it was offered, and I was getting an Air. I think the next revision will have more ram, I too wouldn't be surprised.
 

Encolpius

macrumors member
Nov 11, 2009
55
2
Seattle
Apple, like most technology companies, spends considerable time and effort figuring out who the core use of their products are and what is required to appeal to that user at a price point that is attractive to them.

The Air was never designed to be a high powered workstation, and at the time it was first designed, 2GB of RAM was affordable, met the requirements, and could fit in the space that was available. The lack of user-servicability limits the aftermarket options, and Apple is unable to offer a build-to-order model because that would require a custom logic board. Given that RAM prices have dropped and higher capacity chips are now available, I wouldn't be surprised if the Air is upgraded to 4GB next year.
 

dyn

macrumors 68030
Aug 8, 2009
2,708
384
.nl
It would have cost Apple maybe $20 more for each computer to add more RAM (using higher density). I'd have been willing to pay maybe $50 to $100 for that increase. Apple would still be making a bit from it.
The space on the circuit board is very limited. Apple at the time only had certain memory chips to fit in that space. They managed to squeeze like 8 pieces of those in that space maximising the memory to 2 GB. They could have used double sided but that would make the design more difficult as well as increase the thickness of the device. Like coast1ja already explained this is a technical limitation Apple couldn't overcome. With newer higher density chips they might be able to up it to 4 GB but then you have a new discussion. The MacBook Air is meant to be a device for on the road for stuff like Office, mail, etc. and not for scientific calculations and virtualisation (though that is possible). That's why it has a slow but low voltage cpu and uses those tiny 1.8" hdd/ssd's. The 2 GB of memory is enough for this kind of work. The only thing that is off is the battery that has only 50% of the capacity of the MacBook and MacBook Pro making those machines better suited in this area for road use. Apple really should address this in whatever way.
 

bmstrong

macrumors 6502a
May 30, 2007
513
24
Design at the time and that 2GB was the norm. That said?

The poster that said Apple was cheap may be on to something though...
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors 601
Mar 17, 2005
4,883
407
London, UK
There's only space on the MBA logic board right now for 8 memory chips.

2GB DDR3 SODIMMs with 8 memory chips (4 on each side) cost $59.99.
4GB DDR3 SODIMMs with 8 memory chips (4 on each side) cost $299.99.

The difference was even greater at the beginning of the year. Apple does not want to have to jack up the price of the MBA again! 4GB chips are dropping in price so there's a slim chance Apple may be able to sell 4GB MBAs early next year without having to jack up their prices but I wouldn't get my hopes up unless they can free up a bit of space when they redesign the logic board for Arrandale.
 

iGrant

macrumors 6502a
Sep 20, 2006
542
0
Ridgeway
I think people who buy MBAs don't need it for too much more than basic Keynote presentations, email, browsing, and other simple things. That would be true of me, anyway. I just like the way it travels well. I do my real work on my iMac.
Agreed, all the processor intensive and memory intensive stuff I do (all video) I do on my Mac Mini to the point that I just screen share to my Mac Mini from laptop.

The Macbook Air is just for checking email, surfing the forums, listening to music, or streaming video from my Mac Mini's iTunes library.

2gb is more than enough to do that, heck that is all my Macbook had and it worked great.

I think people buy a Macbook Air expecting it to have the performance of a Macbook Pro . . .

-iGrant
 

stoconnell

macrumors 6502
Mar 22, 2009
446
0
Rockville (Despite REM's plea.)
Folks-

I am pretty sure that there are 16x1Gb (bit not byte -- 1 byte = 8 bits) memory chips soldered onto the motherboard (8 per side). I am guessing Apple could very easily move from 1Gb to 2Gb chips, but cost or physical size might be conspiring against us (most likely cost). I doubt the power penalty would be much (I could be off base). Maybe heat? Dunno. I still tend to fall back on cost as being the issue.
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors 601
Mar 17, 2005
4,883
407
London, UK
Folks-

I am pretty sure that there are 16x1Gb (bit not byte -- 1 byte = 8 bits) memory chips soldered onto the motherboard (8 per side). I am guessing Apple could very easily move from 1Gb to 2Gb chips, but cost or physical size might be conspiring against us (most likely cost). I doubt the power penalty would be much (I could be off base). Maybe heat? Dunno. I still tend to fall back on cost as being the issue.
Actually, I've just had a look at the teardown at ifixit and you're right, there are 16 chips, not 8. So it would cost Apple about $20 extra to sell an MBA with 4GB of RAM.

I really hope they can find some way to fit some memory slots in the next MBA so that they can carry on selling 2GB MBAs but have CTO options for 4 and 8GB.
 

iGrant

macrumors 6502a
Sep 20, 2006
542
0
Ridgeway
Actually, I've just had a look at the teardown at ifixit and you're right, there are 16 chips, not 8. So it would cost Apple about $20 extra to sell an MBA with 4GB of RAM.

I really hope they can find some way to fit some memory slots in the next MBA so that they can carry on selling 2GB MBAs but have CTO options for 4 and 8GB.
I agree, it would be nice to have a CTO for the memory, I would rather have 8gb of ram instead of a SSD hard drive . . . but thats just me . . .

-iGrant
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors 601
Mar 17, 2005
4,883
407
London, UK
I agree, it would be nice to have a CTO for the memory, I would rather have 8gb of ram instead of a SSD hard drive . . . but thats just me . . .

-iGrant
I'd be happy with 4GB but I'd be a lot happier still if I knew that I could upgrade to 8GB by opening it up and putting a pair of 4GB SODIMMs in.
 
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