Why the MacBook Air comes with 2GB standard instead of 4GB

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by emx620, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. emx620, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

    emx620 macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    Hi all,

    I'm new here and decided to create an account as I wanted to pitch an idea of why Apple decided to ship 2GB as the standard amount of RAM in the MacBook Airs. If I understand correctly, after an hour of closing the lid, the MacBook Air's will enter a "deep sleep", in which it basically writes it's RAM to the SSD, and powers down to conserve as much battery as possible. When you open the lid, for the Air to power back on, it has to write the RAM dump from the SSD back to the RAM. Now, if the Air has 4GB, it seems the RAM dump would be up to twice as big as the 2GB, and would take even longer to write back to RAM after the deep sleep, thus making the "instant on", even less instant, compared to 2GB. I know SSDs are fast, but when you're talking about a RAM dump that is potentially twice as big (2GB bigger), it seems this performance hit could be significant in getting this information back into the RAM.

    Since 2GB of RAM works for most people, it seems Apple figured this would provide the best blend of instant on performance for the user. This also makes me wonder if this is why iPads are able to turn back on so quickly as they only have 256MB of RAM -- I'm unsure if they utilize the same kind of technology to write their RAM to the HD or not, but if they do, it makes a lot of sense why the iPads come out of standby so quickly. I've searched high and low on the internet to try and find if 4GB MacBook Airs take longer to turn back on from "deep sleep" and actually be responsive than their 2GB counterparts, but have been unable to find any solid information or benchmarks to support this.

    Also, if anyone who is technically inclined with a 4GB Air, can max out the RAM usage, and see what kind of performance time-wise you see coming out of deep sleep, I'd really appreciate it!
  2. Tagline macrumors newbie

    Aug 3, 2010
    If what you were suggesting was true, then Apple wouldn't have offered 4GB of RAM as an option. There's too much risk involved for Apple to pull something like that.

    Think about it - if there's a noticeable performance hit involving one of the MBA's most advertised features if you upgrade to the better RAM, you can bet people would have noticed it and the media, with all the controversy surrounding minor issues like the iPhone 4's antenna, would have been all over it like bees to honey.

    It also doesn't make sense from a financial and brand image perspective - why disadvantage the users that are paying more for custom options for your product? The people who do buy CTO from Apple are probably the most likely to be longtime fans of and the most willing to keep purchasing Apple products. Why risk alienating that market? Apple wants to gain customers, not lose them.

    I think that it was simply a matter of cost and profit. Since the MBAs come equipped with SSDs that, for the average user, are plenty fast and capable for their needs and offset the 2GB RAM in the majority of cases, it was simply a matter of minimizing cost while maximizing their profit.

    The 4GB CTO option is there to please the more demanding and technologically proficient users and to make sure Apple can cater to both markets - it has absolutely nothing to do with the limitations of the instant-on feature.
  3. Voondebah macrumors member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Assuming this is correct, you would only see a slow down assuming you are actually using more than 2 GB of RAM.

    Personally, I'm in the mindset of disabling hibernation, as I wouldn't want sacrifice 2-4GB of space for a hibernation file on a constrained-size SSD. Disable hibernation and then you wouldn't encounter the problem you describe.

    Has anyone with an Air disabled hibernation? Has it reduced the standby time?

    IMO, 2GB is the default because it works fine for typical Air-intended usage, and not because of effect on the instant-on feature.
  4. Xeperu macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2010
    It comes with 2GB because it enables $teve Jobs to charge 90$ more on a 10$ investment.

    Any other claim is faux and wishful thinking of Apple cultists.
  5. emx620 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    I'm wondering though, from a technical standpoint, if deep sleep relies on writing the RAM from the SSD, it seems numbers don't lie, and it has to take longer for a 4GB model to fully "recover" after opening the lid, than the 2GB. I know the Air SSDs have a fast read speed of 200+MB/s, so that seems to indicate it would still take a matter of seconds to get potentially up to 2GB of extra information back into RAM. I'm sure if you're not using up all your RAM, there is less information to transfer to/from the SSD though. To test this out, I guess you'd have to have both a 2GB and a 4GB MacBook Air, and max out both of their RAM usage, and test them side by side to see if there are any performance hits coming out of standby ("deep sleep"). I'd love to test this out myself, or find someone that can do this for me =)
  6. emx620 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 1, 2011
    I'd love to disable hibernation, but then you can't get the 30 days standby time, that attracted me to the Air in the first place. I loved that about the iPad -- you could use it at random and set it down on the counter and not have to worry about the battery dying. If you turn hibernation off on the Air, then the battery will last only a matter of days (2-5) instead of 30. I guess it's a tradeoff you have to make.
  7. Voondebah macrumors member

    Mar 28, 2010
    I can see your point. I'm just so used to keeping my laptop plugged in that standby time has never been a big need for me.
  8. Gasu E. macrumors 601

    Gasu E.

    Mar 20, 2004
    Not far from Boston, MA.
    Your need to preempt disagreement by attacking potential critics in advance is interesting. It suggests you suffer from a deep-rooted insecurity. The first statement should have been able to stand on its own. The second statement clearly indicates you don't have sufficient self confidence for that.
  9. Davichi macrumors 6502

    Feb 23, 2011
    Why does MBP 13 inch only comes with 1280X800 resolution?

    Why does gas price continue to rise? Why can't it be 2 dollars per gallon instead of 3.50 cents per gallon?

    Why does it do this? why can't it do that?

    Are you just naive?
  10. St. G macrumors member

    Nov 29, 2010
    My 4GB model wakes up faster than my fiancee's 2GB model.

    Anecdotal evidence isn't worth a ton, but it's worth more than baseless theory.
  11. Jest3r macrumors regular

    Nov 22, 2010
    The MacBook Air isn't designed for number crunching or running dozens of apps simultaneously... It's a purpose built laptop for on-the-go communications. If you need 4GB's of ram, you purchased the wrong laptop. A MacBook pro would more suit your needs.
  12. ozred macrumors 6502

    Feb 19, 2011
    Apple likes to portray itself as a premium company. At one point that was true.

    Then came Apples overwhelming desire for profit & mainstream sales via big box stores, Walmart & Best Buy just to cite two.

    By shipping with 2GB it gives the fan boys something to justify, by offering 4GB via BTO Only, it compels users like myself to spend even more money with Apple.
  13. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    Then why does Apple offer a 4GB version?

    The MacBook Air is intended as a mainstream notebook. For most users, 2GB is sufficient to run OS X. However, some people need more RAM, such as those running Windows in virtualization, those running RAM-intensive applications such as photo editing software, or those who like to have lots of applications open at one time. Such users are better off with 4GB of RAM, and having that option enhances Apple's margins.
  14. ozred macrumors 6502

    Feb 19, 2011
    I agree with you.

    Another is: OS 10.7
  15. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    A 2 GB model makes the 4 GB model seem like a better deal to some consumers, even at a higher profit margin for Apple.

    It's a great marketing tactic for keeping profits maximized. Retailers often put the product they want you to buy between a cheaper product which you don't want, and something too expensive. Makes it easier for a customer to justify the price of the middle item.
  16. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    Also the 4gb is only available from Apple, it's likely to be a better seller hence why it's BTO option.

    I prefer to get my Macs from another store (that offers a 2 year warranty) instead of Apple, however I couldn't get the MBA I would've liked. I think it's a superb device, but it should've come with 4gb as standard.

    /edit: Ozred made the point earlier, but I missed it!
  17. tom vilsack macrumors 68000

    tom vilsack

    Nov 20, 2010
    ladner cdn
    -it saves weight
    -smaller chip provides needed extra airflow room
    -they make the chips in plant in china,and 2 is lucky number in chinese
    -it stays nice and cool
    -survey finds apple users prefer the 2 gig chip design (unibody chip)

  18. DarwinOSX macrumors 65816

    Nov 3, 2009
    Not in the US. 4GB model is available pretty much anywhere.
    I'd say the only reason for the 2GB models is to create an artificial higher price point. Its just plain annoying to have a 2GB model when 4GB is the sweet spot for OS X and all other Macs now have a minimum of 4 GB.

  19. Funkymonk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2011
    The three reasons apple went with 2gb is:
  20. Robin Chung macrumors member

    Robin Chung

    Apr 6, 2010
    Only Reason is money. Apple couldve added 8gb standard to the MacBook pro but they'd miss out on people upgrading. Those ram chips are extremely cheap these days, especially in large volumes.

    Same applies to the air. Upgrading to 4gb is a must though in my view, really helps a lot! ;)
  21. Xeperu macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2010
    Sure thing Professor, I bet the urge you had to reply off topic had nothing to do with your own rooted insecurity.

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