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I am asking myself which constellation is better: should I stock up my RAM up to 16GB (from 8GB), or should I buy a SSD with 128GB??

I really dont know :/

Cheers!

BTW: My macbook supports 16GB RAM, i already checked this ;)

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need to tell us what this is upgrade is for –  Graeme Hutchison Dec 22 '11 at 12:52
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In order to give you a valid answer, we need more information. What kind of MBP do you have? What software do you run on it? Do you use Virtual Machines? Do you run software that is demanding lots of processing power or I/O operations on the hard drive. –  gentmatt Dec 22 '11 at 13:47
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Make sure also that you have OS X Lion for TRIM support IF you choose to get the SSD. Just a helpful hint. –  lrussell810 Dec 22 '11 at 16:28
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6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

While I agree with others here that an SSD will give your MacBook Pro a great speed boost, the problem with a 128GB SSD is that it's probably smaller in capacity than your currently installed hard disk. If that's the case and you'll need to have a hard disk in the optical bay as well, the SSD solution is less attractive if you need the optical drive.

The problem with storage solutions that are too small is that they become less effective (fast) as you fill them close to their capacity. This is true of both hard disks and SSDs.

So, best to ask the questions:

  1. How big is my installed hard disk and how much of it am I using, how much more of it will I be using in the next year?

  2. Do I need the optical drive built into my MacBook Pro or could I move my current hard disk into that bay with an adapter.

If you can fit your MacBook Pro's current installed stuff into 64GB (unlikely but possible) then a 128GB SSD might work out well, even without the use of a hard disk for additional storage.

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To be fair, I don't think this is a very balanced answer. First, don't stretch the benefits of SSDs enough. Then, you don't take into consideration that an upgrade to 16GB of RAM will be useless for most scenarios (no increase in performance). –  gentmatt Dec 22 '11 at 13:44
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I only commented on the piece of the question I know about. I can't comment on the RAM issue because I don't know what he does with his computer. I do have a lot of experience with SSDs and I stand by my assertion that a 128GB SSD is a pretty small storage space if it's going to be one's only storage so the odds are it will be filled near capacity. That will impact its performance and so, it's an important consideration in thinking about the size of an SSD. –  Richard Dec 22 '11 at 14:58
    
It's good that you did that. I just had to write the comment because 8GB really is a lot of RAM and it sounded (even though not mentioned) like you wanted to encourage him to get the 16GB RAM instead. If I thought your answer was bad or wrong, I would have voted down. But I just though that it was inbalanced, so I wrote another answer. –  gentmatt Dec 22 '11 at 15:03
    
Agreed matt, I should have mentioned that 8 gigs of RAM is plenty and unless one is living in Photoshop (and even then) there's little reason to push for more. I have 8 gigs in this machine and I don't notice any problems when running many major applications at the same time. I keyed in mostly on the size of the SSD: many people see a deal on a 128GB SSD and forget that it may not be big enough to fully replace their internal hard disk. –  Richard Dec 22 '11 at 23:16
    
I can't say that 8 GB is plenty -- I frequently had to quit all open applications to run Aperture 3 because there wasn't enough memory free between web browsers, mail, and kernel_task. I upgraded to 16 GB for $130 or so (sale!), and have been much happier. –  khedron Jan 31 '12 at 16:56
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Go for the 128GB SSD. Your MacBook Pro doesn't use much more than 4GB of RAM with normal processes, and music/video editing will work well enough with 8GB. The SSD will make your MacBook Pro a lot faster, will give you greater battery life, and will have a lesser chance of crashing compared to your stock HDD. I hope this helps, and good luck!

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I follow Irussell810. I would go for the SSD. But tell us what you're doing with your MBP. Is it the average use (which I doubt cause you are eager for more power/performance) or do you use your Mac for high demanding tasks (like rendering, virtualisation,...).

If you just want a faster computer without really needing it for your job or so, I would go for the SSD.
If you are performing some high-load tasks on your Mac, I would go for both RAM and SSD-upgrade :) (but I think I would go for the RAM for virtualisation of rendering).

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Guess it depends what you use your MBP for. 8 GB RAM is sufficient for most scenarios (you could check the free RAM using Activity Monitor). But the SSD gives you an instant boost over any HDD - there you can immediately tell the difference.
If you need more storage you could also move your HDD to the Superdrive space using an optibay adapter or something similar from e.g. ebay

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RAM upgrade above 8GB if...

  • you do run Virtual Machines excessively because you need to allocate a lot of RAM to the virtual OS
  • Other than that, this will most likely not be necessary. Mac OS X operates very efficient with 8GB of RAM. If you do not run VMs, there will be no increase in performance in most cases!

SSD upgrade if...

  • you want a snappier response throughout the system.
  • you run big programs such as Adobe or photo editing software that take long to load.
  • you need faster boot/shut down/sleep times.
  • if you carry your MBP around a lot. SSDs are very shock resistent. No mechanical parts move.
  • if you want a more quiet MBP.

SSDs also consume less power. But you won't notice it significantly.

Think of this: In today's computers, the bottle-neck of processing is usually the hard drive. Processors generally need to wait for the hard drive's read/write operations which are a lot slower. Thus a faster hard drive is needed for a better overall performance in processing. RAM won't help if the needed amount is saturated.

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This is a great answer. Weighing the pros and cons of each. Personally, I have an 8GB MacBook Pro and grabbed the 256 SSD and it is fantastic. It is an order of magnitude faster. It really gives life to older machines. –  Nate Bird Dec 22 '11 at 14:13
    
Nate, had you installed a 128GB SSD would that have held all your stuff? –  Richard Dec 22 '11 at 14:49
    
I would move all movies and pictures that I do not use most of the time to an external hard drive (Time Capsule in my case). I use 128GB for Lion and Linux and still have 50% free space even though I got 2 days of music and several thousands of pictures stored on the SSD. –  gentmatt Dec 22 '11 at 14:54
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Correct me if i'm wrong but RAM upgrade which basically meaning is your physical memory, when upgraded, can help you have little less number of page faults..During the time when page translation takes place the logical address space needs to map the active processes onto the RAM i.e. physical memory based on the page table and page size of all those running processes. Now, consider a 32 bit processor which will have 2^32 logical addresses( worth 4GB) will have to have 4GB worth of RAM for absolute performance. Theoretically that means no virtual memory wud be necessary since the RAM alone wud capable enough to handle the processes when the page translation takes place (from logical address to physical address).This scenario is very much achievable (atleast theoretically) in case of 32 bit processors as the maximum no. of pages created is worth 4GB.A quick 4GB upgrade should fix the problem leaving virtually no possiblity of a page fault Now take modern processors having 64 bit architectures. Having a 64 bit processor means the total no. of logical addresses created wud be 2^64 i.e. whopping '16 million GB'. This is almost unthinkable beyond quantification. In order to handle these '16 million GB' logical addresses and map them to the physical memory u wud literally have to have a RAM module worth the eiffel tower or even empire state building.This is in no way possible to implement. What we wud need and have to heavily rely on wud be a virtual memory management model which relies on storage memory(typically HDDs).Upgrading from 4GB to 8GB worth of RAM(and having a slow HDD) so as to handle '16 million GB' worth of page translation wud be a teeny tiny modification though some processes wud definitely loaded faster or some heavy apps cud become snappier and more performant since no. of page faults gets reduced to quite some extent.In order to overcome these page faults the logical address wud definitely have to rely on HDDs (thru virtual memory mechanism). Having an efficient virtually memory mechanism is gonna be almost the only dependable feature for overall system performance. *Surely a RAM upgrade wud help but not as much as a switch from traditional HDDs to SSDs.**No matter what you do, you wud have to depend on virtual memory so you better think of having a greating storage memory..* As far as SSDs go, they surely are fit for the battle. You will still have a lot of page faults but let the SSDs take care of it. What is page fault?? Well,your logical address spaces are in the form of pages and these pages are to be mapped onto the physical memory(RAM).Some of these pages are not able to be mapped due some reason such as memory constraints. This means those processes (in the form of pages) do not get a 1-1 correspondence with the RAM.This is a page fault. Otherwise, there wud be a page hit.Due to existence of page faults which is kinda inevitable we do address translation(mapping) with storage memory instead.This is virtual memory management.No matter how much RAM you put,your storage memory will be key player in m/m management unless you get yourself '16 million GB' of RAM. Criticisms are welcome..

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If I understand this correctly you are saying "get more RAM first to avoid swaping/paging". But can you please edit your answer into a text which is readable? –  patrix Apr 30 '13 at 21:54
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