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I am trying to run a recent build of MAME on a Mac Mini from 2012 (MacMini6,1) that has 8GB of RAM installed in it (2x4G) and an SSD. I've found that under Mojave, MAME runs but slows down on a regular basis. I used to run the same games on an older MacPro3,1 (2008) which had zero problems with slowdown, albeit it did have a dedicated GPU.

I'm a bit surprised that I'm seeing such poor performance on the Mini, given that its CPU is faster in pretty much every benchmark in comparison to the Mac Pro's Xeon; the only exception is when you look at heavy multithreading performance and 8 cores will simply beat out the Mini's 2 cores (4 threads).

So trying to figure out what might be the issue here I'm thinking that perhaps it is due to the shared system RAM that gets used by the Intel Graphics 4000? Before I drop $70 on a RAM upgrade for this old mini, I'm curious if that would even make a difference. I know it won't increase VRAM (and that is not the desire), but does the integrated graphics RAM usage fight with system RAM/SWAP/Compression/etc.? FWIW, I am not really running anything else on the Mini when observing this sluggishness. Otherwise, the box seems fast enough for basic tasks.

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  • You can measure memory contention quite easily. Are you able to collect vm_stat 60 and activity monitor data from when it’s fast and when it’s slow?
    – bmike
    Apr 28, 2021 at 18:55
  • @bmike after a test run collecting vm_stat in 5 second intervals, I can see copy-on-write faults somewhat corresponding to the slowness; goes zero to 131 alternating, the 131's being where it is slowing down.
    – bjb
    Apr 28, 2021 at 19:49
  • How is page in rate? Adding ram is generally pointless if you don’t have swap in that’s high and can’t control it otherwise.
    – bmike
    Apr 28, 2021 at 20:01

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TL;DR - yes, it will.

I ran a few tests on the Mac back when I originally posted this question. Looking at vm_stat and other metrics didn't really suggest that there was a lack of memory, especially since it seemed like I had plenty of headroom. But given that at the time the 16GB upgrade was around $70, I just left it alone and used a different machine for MAME.

Fast-forward to March 2023 and the price of the 16GB upgrade is now around $25 on Amazon. MAME not being the priority here, but it was a cheap enough upgrade to see if I could get a little more life out of this machine that has been running Monterey, albeit slowly. While the machine is still not a speed demon, it is definitely not having as much trouble as it was on 8GB.

So MAME? Yes, the games which would regularly hiccup are now smooth. It was never clear what the memory contention was with only 8GB, but it certainly seems to be cleared up with 16GB.

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