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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Got a new MBP, should I upgrade RAM?

Got a new MBP, should I upgrade RAM?
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sdilley14
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Aug 17, 2011, 08:10 PM
 
Well, I finally got a new MBP (13" 2.3GHZ i5). It came with 4GB RAM. It has been a loooong time since I've bought any RAM and it looks to be pretty damn cheap to upgrade these days. 8GB kits can be had for $50-$60 bucks. Seems like I paid double or maybe even triple that for a 2GB stick back in the day. Anyway, my question is this...would it be worth it for me to upgrade? I wouldn't consider myself a "power user"...I don't do Photoshop, video editing, gaming, nothing like that. I mainly use it for web surfing, iTunes, very light audio/photo editing, Word, streaming media to my PS3, watching movies, things like that. I will say that I multitask quite a bit as well. I do plan on having this machine for another 3-4 years and I want to be sure this stands the test of time as newer, more resource intensive programs and OS updates come out.

So what do you think? Is it worth the money? Would I notice any difference?
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SierraDragon
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Aug 18, 2011, 02:37 AM
 
Go to Activity Monitor and check the Page Outs number (ignore "free RAM," etc.). Then run your normal multitasking workflow for an hour. Recheck the Page Outs number. If it increased significantly you will benefit from more RAM.

IMO it generally makes sense to go to 8 GB because RAM is so cheap, but if Page Outs are not increasing you could instead choose to save your money. You can always add RAM later if need be, and it will be cheaper later.

HTH

-Allen Wicks
     
Spheric Harlot
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Aug 18, 2011, 02:47 AM
 
^ what he said.

You should be fine with 4gb for what you describe, though.
     
makemineamac
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Aug 18, 2011, 04:17 AM
 
I also don't run Photoshop or any graphic-intensive Apps. But for the price of 8 gigs of ram, you will be far happier overall. Do it! Seriously...
     
Waragainstsleep
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Aug 18, 2011, 05:21 AM
 
Yeah, go for it. Its not going to get much cheaper.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
ghporter
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Aug 18, 2011, 06:56 AM
 
More RAM is ALWAYS Betterâ„¢. It certainly cannot hurt to add RAM, even if you don't "need" more RAM, and 3rd party vendors of quality RAM are pricing it so very attractively that now is a great time to go for it.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
ibook_steve
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Aug 18, 2011, 10:27 AM
 
This should never be a question. Always max your RAM (if you can afford it). There's no reason not to. If you're not a heavy user now, you never know when you might become one.

Steve
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SierraDragon
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Aug 18, 2011, 02:36 PM
 
Actually there is a very good reason not to spend money on RAM today IF you do not need it today:

MBPs only have two RAM slots but will support 2x8 = 16 GB RAM. Today's pricing makes 2x4 = 8 GB the only reasonable upgrade choice financially, but 8 GB RAM module prices will fall. If one does not show significant additional benefit from 8 GB today it makes sense to postpone adding RAM until really beneficial (such as due to an app or OS change) because at that (future) point when RAM is actually needed buying 8-GB RAM modules might be cost-effective.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Aug 18, 2011 at 02:47 PM. )
     
P
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Aug 18, 2011, 03:39 PM
 
A data point: My habit from when I got my first Mac up until this one has always been to install to fill the open slot(s) with memory twice as dense as what Apple put in, thereby tripling the base RAM. After a while, when prices come down, I replace the Apple RAM with something twice as dense again, thereby doubling it. I go on like this, replacing the smallest memory chip (or smallest pair, these days) every 18 months until I hit the RAM ceiling. Next time I feel it's getting slow, I buy a new Mac. The exception in this case is that this iMac came with 4 gigs, which I felt was decent enough at the time, so I didn't upgrade until recently.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
sdilley14  (op)
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Aug 18, 2011, 05:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by ibook_steve View Post
This should never be a question. Always max your RAM (if you can afford it). There's no reason not to. If you're not a heavy user now, you never know when you might become one.

Steve
My thoughts exactly. Now I just need to decide if I want to buy and install it now, or if I'm going to return this unit due to the lack of responsiveness from the caps lock key. :/
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amazing
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Aug 18, 2011, 06:38 PM
 
Just saw this on Macintouch (can't confirm this, but maybe others can test this?):

"- Beachballs, freezes, and RAM: The biggest surprise to me about Lion is its real-world RAM requirements. I'm truly thrilled with full-screen on the laptop, but it naturally makes large demands on RAM. My mid-2010 MBP had 4GB of RAM. I was always fine with that under Snow Leopard, but Lion consistently choked my whole system by maxing out RAM with just a few apps running (e.g. Mail, iTunes, a few browser windows, Pages). Everything ground to a halt when I had too much running. Activity Monitor revealed that RAM was the problem. I've now upgraded to 8 GB and typically am using about 4-5GB. Vendors always understate the minimum requirements for these things... this was even true back when I was running an IBM/370 shop. I'm one of those consistent defenders of Apple... but to say 2GB minimum, 4GB recommended is not really right. My wife's 2008 MacBook Pro maxes out at 3GB, and I won't be putting Lion on it. You could run Lion like that, but get a few big apps going and, based on my experience, you'd quickly be toast. "
     
Waragainstsleep
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Aug 18, 2011, 07:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by sdilley14 View Post
My thoughts exactly. Now I just need to decide if I want to buy and install it now, or if I'm going to return this unit due to the lack of responsiveness from the caps lock key. :/
This issue seems to affect most if not all unibody MBPs. Returning yours may not help.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
sdilley14  (op)
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Aug 18, 2011, 09:40 PM
 
Uuuuugh...that's what I'm starting to see. I have always used the caps lock as opposed to the shift key to capitalize pretty much everything. That's definitely going to be a hard habit to break... :/ :/
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SierraDragon
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Aug 18, 2011, 10:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by sdilley14 View Post
Uuuuugh...that's what I'm starting to see. I have always used the caps lock as opposed to the shift key to capitalize pretty much everything. That's definitely going to be a hard habit to break... :/ :/
All keys including caps lock work perfectly on my 2011 17" MBP. I would have Apple fix it, especially because if there is one lame key now, others may show up after the warranty expires. Keyboard replacement is straightforward for the folks who do it all the time.

-Allen
     
sdilley14  (op)
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Aug 19, 2011, 01:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
All keys including caps lock work perfectly on my 2011 17" MBP. I would have Apple fix it, especially because if there is one lame key now, others may show up after the warranty expires. Keyboard replacement is straightforward for the folks who do it all the time.

-Allen
I may take it to my local Mac reseller/repair shop and see if they can do it for free rather than sending it in. Thanks for the tip!
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Spheric Harlot
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Aug 19, 2011, 01:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
All keys including caps lock work perfectly on my 2011 17" MBP. I would have Apple fix it, especially because if there is one lame key now, others may show up after the warranty expires. Keyboard replacement is straightforward for the folks who do it all the time.
well, it entails dismantling virtually the entire machine. That's "straightforward", I guess.
     
Sosa
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Aug 19, 2011, 02:19 PM
 
I bought 4x4gb of RAM from Crucial for $120 to max out my iMac i5. I briefly considering following the same strategy described above and just purchasing 2x4gb, getting rid of OEM memory at a later date but I'm thinking I could probably sell these on Ebay now for a better rate than later, and since my iMac will be running multiple users and their apps, I decided maxing out was cost effective.

Prices for RAM will certainly come down in the long term but I agree that you should max out if you can afford the prices now. I wonder if the iMac takes 32 gigs of RAM? If so I'm not maxed out yet, but those 8gb sticks are expensive!
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Waragainstsleep
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Aug 19, 2011, 09:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
All keys including caps lock work perfectly on my 2011 17" MBP. I would have Apple fix it, especially because if there is one lame key now, others may show up after the warranty expires. Keyboard replacement is straightforward for the folks who do it all the time.

-Allen
Yeah, they work fine when you press them deliberately and carefully, its when you are typing fast you can hit the caps lock (properly) without it switching on. Try tapping it fast repeatedly and see how many times it turns on or off.
As Spheric has pointed out, replacing unibody keyboards (its the whole top case) is a pain even for those who do it often and if its the issue I described, I doubt a new keyboard would do it.

Personally I don't see the current 8GB RAM chips getting down to a worthwhile price for consumers during the useful lifetime of current Macs. Luckily 4GB modules are big enough for most users and nice and cheap.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
SierraDragon
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Aug 19, 2011, 10:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Yeah, they work fine when you press them deliberately and carefully, its when you are typing fast you can hit the caps lock (properly) without it switching on. Try tapping it fast repeatedly and see how many times it turns on or off.
OK I tried that and did make it reproduce the described problem. I guess there is one advantage to being a slow typist...

-Allen
     
sdilley14  (op)
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Aug 20, 2011, 06:03 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Yeah, they work fine when you press them deliberately and carefully, its when you are typing fast you can hit the caps lock (properly) without it switching on. Try tapping it fast repeatedly and see how many times it turns on or off.
As Spheric has pointed out, replacing unibody keyboards (its the whole top case) is a pain even for those who do it often and if its the issue I described, I doubt a new keyboard would do it.

Personally I don't see the current 8GB RAM chips getting down to a worthwhile price for consumers during the useful lifetime of current Macs. Luckily 4GB modules are big enough for most users and nice and cheap.
Described my problem to a "T". Wish they would come out with an update that would allow users to turn this feature on/off in the keyboard settings. Wishful thinking.

Now, off to buy 8gb RAM from Crucial...
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Waragainstsleep
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Aug 20, 2011, 10:11 AM
 
I don't think its a feature that can be switched off. I suspect its just the design of the keyboard.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
B Gallagher
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Aug 20, 2011, 10:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by amazing View Post
Just saw this on Macintouch (can't confirm this, but maybe others can test this?):

"- Beachballs, freezes, and RAM: The biggest surprise to me about Lion is its real-world RAM requirements. I'm truly thrilled with full-screen on the laptop, but it naturally makes large demands on RAM. My mid-2010 MBP had 4GB of RAM. I was always fine with that under Snow Leopard, but Lion consistently choked my whole system by maxing out RAM with just a few apps running (e.g. Mail, iTunes, a few browser windows, Pages)."
That doesn't sounds right to me. I'm running a mid-2007 MBP with 4GB of RAM, currently with Mail, Firefox, iTunes and a few other apps open. I've got 1.46GB of RAM free right now with 0 page outs. Snow Leopard was noticeably faster on this machine than Leopard was, whereas Lion's about the same. The system's certainly not choking!!
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Spheric Harlot
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Aug 21, 2011, 03:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by amazing View Post
Just saw this on Macintouch (can't confirm this, but maybe others can test this?):

"- Beachballs, freezes, and RAM: The biggest surprise to me about Lion is its real-world RAM requirements. I'm truly thrilled with full-screen on the laptop, but it naturally makes large demands on RAM. My mid-2010 MBP had 4GB of RAM. I was always fine with that under Snow Leopard, but Lion consistently choked my whole system by maxing out RAM with just a few apps running (e.g. Mail, iTunes, a few browser windows, Pages). Everything ground to a halt when I had too much running. Activity Monitor revealed that RAM was the problem. I've now upgraded to 8 GB and typically am using about 4-5GB.
If he's now typically using 4-5 GB, (thus completely wasting 3-4 GB), it's pretty clear that lack of RAM was NOT the problem.
     
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Aug 21, 2011, 12:15 PM
 
For your usage, given that you already have 4 GB, I would say that the RAM upgrade is probably a waste of money. In fact, I'm upgrading my 2009 MacBook Pro from 2 GB to 4 GB. I have no qualms about not being able to run 8 GB on this thing, since it's not doing any heavy lifting. (I have an i7 iMac with 12 GB for that.)

However, you would notice a HUGE difference if you stuck in a solid state drive. A decent 96 GB drive goes for about $125.

To put it another way, for our usage, I'd rather have 2 GB and an SSD than 8 GB and no SSD. 4 GB with SSD is the sweet spot though IMO.
     
SierraDragon
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Aug 22, 2011, 09:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
...Personally I don't see the current 8GB RAM chips getting down to a worthwhile price for consumers during the useful lifetime of current Macs. Luckily 4GB modules are big enough for most users and nice and cheap.
Agreed 4 GB modules are big enough for most users and are nice and cheap. However IMO the 8 GB modules will reach a worthwhile price for some consumers during the useful lifetime of current Macs. I paid ~$440 (approx. the cost of an 8 GB DIMM today) to take my 2006 MBP to its max of 3 GB RAM, and as an Aperture and Photoshop user it was well worth the money. Photoshop has always taken advantage of lots of RAM, and Aperture under Lion reports as a RAM hog to where I expect that a year from now I will be paying the price to get to my 2011 MBP to 16 GB.

-Allen
     
SierraDragon
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Aug 22, 2011, 10:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
If he's now typically using 4-5 GB, (thus completely wasting 3-4 GB), it's pretty clear that lack of RAM was NOT the problem.
?? If one exceeds RAM limits at all, Page Outs result, a bad thing. When one has a typical 4-5 GB load as described, 8 GB is appropriate, not "wasting" RAM. Personally the only memory data I really trust is the Page Outs count.

Supporting Amazing's comments, I see the same kinds of comments on the Aperture forum. The longest list of posts ever in one thread, mostly folks with 4 GB RAM that used to run Aperture OK but now seems inadequate under Lion. However verified causes have not yet been defined. Personally I am happy as a pig in mud with Aperture, SSD, Sandy Bridge, 10.6.8 and 8 GB RAM.

-Allen
     
   
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