Saturday 09 November 2002

Gasp… iBook prices plummeted!

Commenting on my plan not to buy an iBook or an eMac, Dave Rogers alerted me to the rumors that Apple was about to announce “new iBooks with a minor uptick in the processor speeds and a price reduction” of US$200 (AU$354). It’s a long time since I’ve had a Macintosh but my residual cynicism about Apple Australia led me to believe that the price cut wouldn’t be anything like AU$354 by the time the computers landed down under.

I was right about the price cut but wrong about Apple Australia. The iBook model that would have cost me AU$4014 a week ago (with a spare battery and another AC adapter plus an extra 128MB of RAM) now costs AU$3359. That’s AU$655 cheaper! And the latest model has a faster chip (800MHz instead of 700MHz), bigger hard drive (30MB rather than 20MB), and twice as much VRAM (32MB). What a pity I don’t need a new iBook.

I am curious about one thing though… would I be better off not buying an extra 128MB of RAM, or should I splurge and not buy an extra 256MB? I like RAM (and so does Windows 2000) so I have 288MB in my ThinkPad and 768MB in my desktop PC. My instinct tells me that, even though it’s UNIX under the hood, Mac OS X needs a shitload of RAM to run well. How much should one have in a hypothetical iBook?

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Conventional wisdom is more is definitely better. It seems there ought to be a point of diminishing returns, though. I have 384MB in my iBook and 512MB in my iMac - that's not enough of a difference to really notice a difference in my experience. X runs quite well on either machine (400MHz on the iMav/500Mhz on the iBook). I'm not sure if you would see a greater difference between 256MB and 384MB, but I'd be conservative and probably opt for a 256MB upgrade. And you'll probably save money if you do it yourself, it's pretty easy.

Posted by dave rogers on 10 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I'd splurge. I agree with Dave that there is a law of diminishing returns with RAM, but if you're going to do anything memory intensive (Photoshop chews memory) it's always nice to not have to swap stuff back and forth to the harddrive.

Posted by John on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Buy as much memory as you can afford. Jaguar is significantly more memory-intensive than previous versions of the OS. I have 128MB on my iMac and Jaguar is noticeably slower than 10.1, despite speed optimizations made in the Finder. I will be upgrading my memory as soon as I get some extra income.

Posted by Mark on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

More RAM is better. OS X is a RAM hog. I've got 1.1 GB in my G4 733/QS desktop, and that seems about enough. I doubt you can cram that much into an iBook, but anything less than 512 MB is suboptimal in my experience, so you'll probably want to not buy at least that much. 128 MB definitely does not cut it.

Good luck not coming over from the dark side!

Posted by ralph on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

The more, the better. I upgraded my iBook (500 MHz) to the maximum 640 MB of RAM, which is, alas, only just enough to run OS X smoothly. No use upgrading to 256 or 384 MB; it just isn't fast enough. Why they're shipping iBooks with 128 MB is beyond me.

Posted by Horst on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I asked my husband, who specs out and upgrades all our Macs, and who was back in the day a certfied Apple tech. He says a couple of things after looking at the prices at the Australian Apple store.

1. If you're not using Classic much, 384MB should be sufficient for your needs. I find my TiBook (500 MHz, 384 MB RAM) is a little slow sometimes with Photoshop, but I only work with small files. If you're a heavy Photoshop user, more is always better.

2. If you're comfortable with messing around with your computer's innards, he suggests you look at for memory, buy it there--it's cheaper--and install it yourself.

3. He doesn't say, but I will note, that he has 1.25GB memory in his desktop (dual 450MHz).

Hope that helps your fantasizing.

Posted by Ginger on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Every time I read about someone unhappy with their iBook's speed, it's because they haven't maxed out the RAM.

I have the max, and I have no complaints (and I've been using Macs as long as there have been Macs!).

Posted by Pascale Soleil on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

OK, I'm starting to get the picture. Mac OS X needs a shitload of RAM to run acceptably. Sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. (It kind of worries me that the consensus on the minimum amount of RAM equates to the maximum you can fit in the iBook.)

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I realize that you're not getting the iBook, and you've stated you rcase with regard to the RAM, but I couldn’t reist the urge to put my oar in.

One thing to recall is that the iBook is running with a G3 chip, not a G4, and you might want to [not] throw in extra RAM to help the processor gain whatever advantages it can working with X.

Another factor involves both Photoshop (which I haven't run under X) and Classic. I agree with Ginger that the extent to which one uses Classic should make a difference in how much RAM one installs. I'll say this much—running Photoshop 5 under Classic clogs my momeory's arteries (TiBook 667, 512MB). But I have no speed or memory problems any other time, and my son Nate (he of the Ninja turtle web page) runs his iBook comfortably with 256MB.

Posted by AKMA on 11 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

I'm impressed. You seem to be making progress in NOT buying a Mac.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 12 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

When I bought my iBook, I had them drop the HD down from 15 to 20 gigs (since 15 was enough for a portable) and add 128 MB RAM = 256. The switcheroo equaled out and I got a lot more for the same money, I think.

The main reason (other than the fact that I like to be stared at by passers-by) that I bought my iBook was because of it's size and weight. This thing goes EVERYWHERE with me...

Posted by Ryan on 17 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

P.S. I'm upgrading the RAM for christmas -- 256 is workable, but not nearly enough.

Posted by Ryan on 17 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

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