Would a 16G RAM Upgrade Fix Any Macbook Speed Issues?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by Adelphos33, Mar 23, 2017.

  1. Adelphos33 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 13, 2012
    I am a current 2015 Retina MBP user. I was kind of underwhelmed by the 2016 Macbook Pro upgrade in terms of additional utility and form factor (it's not much lighter than my Macbook). I don't push my laptops too much, so I have been looking into a Retina Macbook. The reviews here seem universally positive, except for the keyboard (I type of an iPad Pro keyboard a lot, I can get used to shallow keys) and the fact that the Macbook slows for certain intensive tasks and programs.

    Everyone seems to expect Apple to make a 16G RAM option available for this year's Macbook upgrade. Based on your knowledge of computing, how much would this improve the Macbook's performance? Seems to me it would make it almost perfect
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    If your usage means you're approaching 16GB RAM, you'll be hitting the CPU bottleneck long before that.

    IMO, it'd be a redundant option on that model.
  3. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Unless you are a data scientist processing a lot of data for say, NASA, or if you're a web developer that needs to simultaneously run all major operating systems at once in virtual machines (meaning you have at least Linux, Mac, and Windows running in virtual machines) with each taking up at least 2GB of RAM, it's kind of meaningless to have more than 8GB in the MacBook.

    And yeah, you'll run into the CPU wall before you run into the memory wall for sure. The MacBook is currently limited mostly by its CPU, not by memory.
  4. Adelphos33 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 13, 2012
    Got it - I wasn't sure if the CPU or memory was the issue. Thanks
  5. melmo macrumors newbie

    Nov 14, 2007
    I do real work on my Macbook with 8GB of ram, some of it in a 4GB Linux VM. It would be better if I could give it 6GB or 8GB, so I would welcome a 16GB Macbook.

    And no, I don't work for NASA :)
  6. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Have you tried reducing your Linux VM's RAM allocation to 2GB, or even 1.2GB? It's much more efficient than you may think.

    Unless you plan on running GIMP or any photo editing application, or code 3D graphics and the likes, I feel like anything above 2GB is a waste of resources anyway. You can totally check how much RAM your VM is using as well.

    I can get by with 1.5GB in my Linux Mint VM with 8 tabs in Firefox alongside Eclipse and a bunch of other developer tools running, not to mention the background stuffs like TomCat, MySQL, etc... I don't see how you'll need more if you're doing something similar.
  7. c0ppo macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2013

    How can you manage that? I'm using Arch Linux, and if I give it below 3GB, I get a lot of stutter. Using almost the same tools as you are using, expect I don't use Firefox on it at all.

    Windows is even worse then that, but ok, I have Visual Studio and .NET installed, coupled with Unity3D.

    But all in all, macbook 12 is a perfect little machine. Shockingly capable. For the last 2-3 months, it has been my only machine, and I use it mostly for web development + mobile games development. Connected to usb-c hub, and external monitor (2560x1440), it gets the job done. Without any problems at all.

    This was supposed to be my backup computer + laptop for movies and surfing. But 2016 MBP failed me, returned it. Now waiting for kaby lake version, and I am still amazed by this little machine. Considering continuing to use it as my primary computer.
  8. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Are you running VirtualBox? I have found VMWare and Parallels to be significantly faster than VirtualBox, especially at higher resolutions when I connect my MacBook to a 4K display.
  9. C64 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2008
    What about simply running a ton of apps, including many browsers with many windows with many tabs. Chrome alone can take up quite a bit of memory even though it doesn't really require that much CPU. I notice on my Mac mini with 8GB that it often starts swapping in those scenarios. This is mostly fine with fast SSDs, but I'd say that if you're buying this MacBook for the next 3-5 years, 16GB might come in use.
  10. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Use Safari, or Firefox. Chrome is horrible with memory usage now, and it's only going to get worse as Google has no plan to do an overhaul necessary to help with it.

    Safari and Firefox are significantly better with both performance and memory usage. My MacBook barely breaks a sweat non running 6 different tabs in Safari and 4 tabs in Firefox on top of running a virtual machine. Swap used is only 250MB over 30 days. And that was because at one point, I also had Capture One Pro (camera RAW image editing application) running.

    With the MacBook, I think it's important to consider more optimized software for your computer. It's not that the MacBook is slow, but more like we never noticed how crappy software has become.
  11. C64 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2008
    Not being able to use certain apps because they're memory-hungry is annoying. I use Safari, Chrome and Chrome Canary, all for different purposes. And when I'm researching things it can get easily up to 40-50 tabs across many windows. Most of them are inactive and I believe macOS will automatically suspend them (partially) or whatever, but you do notice slow-downs, especially when the active tabs have very inefficient sites that require a lot of resources.

    Usually everything can be kept running relatively smoothly by actively managing tabs all the time. Close what you don't need, open things in the right browser, etc. But that's the whole point: it's annoying! I don't want to think about that and just use it. If 16GB helps with that, it's worth it to me.
  12. melmo macrumors newbie

    Nov 14, 2007
    I'm running an Oracle database along with Oracle SOA Suite. My environment won't even startup with a 2GB VM, and I'm running VMWare Fusion.
  13. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    I think you'll run into UI issues trying to display more than 10 tabs concurrently in the same window on a 1280 x 800 effective screen resolution, or hell, even 1920 x 1200 or whatever else, before you run into hardware issues.

    When I do research myself, I don't "manage" the contents per se. I just type everything that I need down onto a word document, on every single page that I do the research. Makes it easier to search everything all at once, because the same keyword gets highlighted on every single page as well. Beats having to go to each tab, search, and then return to another tab to search the same thing.

    Yeah, I think that's your problem right there. Hardware requirements for Oracle database and its management software is quite intensive:

    But I'm curious on one other thing: why not have your Oracle database accessible via a server somewhere and offload the work on to that server, freeing your MacBook to simply be a client? For instance, you can use Oracle's own Cloud Service:
  14. melmo macrumors newbie

    Nov 14, 2007
    I needed total control over the Oracle products because I was testing out upgrade and patching procedures. Having the ability to rollback to a snapshot when an upgrade path fails is invaluable. It's also nice to have a portable environment that you can use when offline, such as when you are on a plane, or unable to connect into the corporate network.

    The last time I looked, Oracle's cloud service costs money, and we don't have any :)
  15. minton macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2004
    I will admit that I run into the same issues, with obvious slowdowns due to page outs b/c a browser like Chrome is eating up all available ram. Note that this has nothing to do with CPU speed as some have posted - some programs can be very ram hungry while being moderate in cpu usage. Instead of throwing more ram at the problem, try to debug your usage patterns.
    • Use the Tabs Outliner chrome extension to group sets of tabs and "sleep" them. The page titles will remain, but they will be completely unloaded from memory. This can also be helpful in gathering related tabs together where you can process them as a time boxing exercise / pomodoro sprint.
    • Find the worst offending sites in Chrome and move those tabs to Safari. Safari has the option (prefs-Advanced) to stop plugins to save power. Worst offender for me is Youtube in background tabs, so I do YT on Safari.
    • Use ublock origin to prevent ads and other annoyances from bogging down your browser.
  16. Elcompa macrumors member


    Oct 31, 2016
    NC, USA

    Brilliant and tnx for this. Really hard hitting and to the point. Answered some of my own unasked questions.

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15 March 23, 2017