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I am using MacBook Pro for the last 1.5 years. Here is my configuration.

13" MacBook Pro, min-2010
2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo
4 GB RAM
OS X Lion 10.7.4

Would you recommend upgrading to SSD for fast processing or would upgrading RAM will be better?

I am also worried about my pocketbook. 320 GB of hard disk can be used as external hard disk after upgrading, but in case of RAM previous RAM will be useless, as the Macbook Pro only has two slots. (Currently both are used, 2GB RAM slots each.)

PS: I am a Ruby on Rails and iOS developer and using my MacBook Pro more than 15 hours a day for coding purpose. I have the 2 year extended warranty.

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You should have redacted the serial number from your image. I moved the relevant information to text so it can be read by those who cannot see/read images and to get rid of the serial number. –  CajunLuke May 21 '12 at 18:17
    
Ram should be maxed out (8GB) when you first get your mac. SSD should be installed when you can spare few hundred dollars. –  mspasov Jul 18 '12 at 11:47
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6 Answers 6

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It depends on how much RAM you're using. Use something like iStat Menus or MenuMeters to keep an eye on your RAM usage.

If you're constantly near or over 4 GB RAM used (wired+active), more RAM will be the better option. (You can also tell this by seeing how much swap space you use; if it's over some nominal value like 64-128 MB get more RAM.)

If, on the other hand, you never even get close to 4 GB of RAM usage, get the SSD. Or, get more RAM anyway and use the excess as a ramdisk, which will be way, way faster than an SSD.

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Lion notoriously caches as much as possible in the RAM, leading to misleading peak memory usages, so this is not a very good benchmark to base a decision on. –  Gerry May 21 '12 at 20:40
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That cache, though, falls under "inactive" RAM, which does not count as used RAM (at least not by MenuMeters), so the metric is still valid. –  CajunLuke May 21 '12 at 20:51
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At current prices you can upgrade to 8GB RAM for about $56. If you buy it from Other World Computing, they will buy your original RAM back from you for $8. Net cost, $48 not including shipping.

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I've just updated both my Macbook (black, not Pro) and my Mini with Seagate Momentus XT 750GB - Hybrid hard drives at a mere £120 (about $165) a pop. This is a combined conventional + SSD disk with optimizing software. The speed and disk space improvements are fantastic. highly recommended.

Note: If you do a Carbon Copy Cloner swap out using a HD enclosure, note that the Momentus needs full power, one USB worth might not be enough.

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If your swap usage is low, then the SSD would be better. Only if the memory is saturated (swap full), is more memory useful.

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I'd have to say that at 4GB of RAM already, you'd benefit more from a fast SSD.

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I disagree: 4 GB of RAM is no longer a huge amount. If the OP needs 8 or 12 GB of RAM, an SSD will be surprisingly useless. The OP needs to find out how much RAM they're using at peak and base the purchase on that. –  CajunLuke May 21 '12 at 18:29
    
I do agree, my 4GB 13" MBP with SSD feels faster in everyday usage than my 8GB i7 iMac. Calculate in the processor difference speaks even more for SSD. –  Gerry May 21 '12 at 20:41
    
@Gerry Interesting. My 2011 MacBook Air is feels far slower, despite the SSD, than even my 2006 MacBook Pro, which has a slower processor, less RAM, and a spinning drive. I'm becoming convinced that the "benefits" of an SSD are just hype. –  CajunLuke May 21 '12 at 20:49
    
To be fair there are massive differences in SSD performance - some, like OCZ deliver huge improvements, and others are basically fancy USB flash drives with a sata interface. Thus I linked to OWC's which I think are pretty quick for the money. As always the exact area of improvement depends upon the application(s) and overall usage profile. –  da4 May 22 '12 at 15:32
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A few points:

  1. You'll almost never see Active + Wired RAM usage exceed 70% of your total RAM. So don't think you're not maxing it out if you see ~25% "Inactive." If your Page Outs are high after a couple hours of use (eg over 1GB) get more RAM for sure.

  2. RAM is a relatively cheap and easy upgrade. I just got a new MBP and have quickly found 4GB just isn't enough... but I also use Photoshop a fair amount as well.

  3. Some of it boils down to what your current HD is. I have a Hitachi 7k500 in my 2007 MBP, and it's MUCH snappier than this 5200RPM drive Apple is currently shipping in new MBPs. The Hitachi drive is easily 2x faster.

  4. Your system doesn't have dedicated VRAM, so it's using your regular RAM for VRAM. Yet another reason to upgrade the RAM.

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