1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

Summary: Is a 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?I've just finished reading Jason O"Grady's MacBook Air post and I have to admit that I'm left confused and dazed by the post.

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Is a 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?

I've just finished reading Jason O"Grady's MacBook Air post and I have to admit that I'm left confused and dazed by the post.

After using the MacBook Air intensely since it arrived in February, I am beginning to feel the limitations of its pokey 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. I knew what I was getting into going in, but I was convinced that I could make it work. Initially the tradeoff of less CPU and RAM was worth shaving two pounds off my daily notebook heft but as I use the MBA more and more I’m increasingly frustrated by its molasses-like performance.

A 1.6GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM pokey?  Shesh, it shouldn't be.  That kind of spec should deliver even a Vista user with a decent experience, so the fact that it collapses under the weight of the Mac OS is a little hard to accept.  After all, it's not like Jason is trying to do anything that unrealistic with the system (thought Parallels might be pushing it - I wouldn't try running VMware Workstation on such a low spec system): 

Take my morning routine, for example. Every weekday I launch Flock and open a bookmark of 14 sites in tabs, then I launch NetNewsWire, then Adium, then Mail. This process easily pegs both processors and sometimes make Flock totally unresponsive for several minutes. I sometimes have to force quit and re-launch Flock to get it working again and have to wait a few minutes for everything to refresh. 

Again, that "totally unresponsive for several minutes" stuff just doesn't sound right.  Sure, some unresponsiveness is to be expected, but not lasting minutes.  Opening 14 tabs is fringe, but not that fringe, and I've pushed Vista notebooks which cost a fraction of the price of the MacBook Air (and with roughly the same spec) harder than this without seeing these kinds of issues at play.  If the MacBook Air really isn't up to web browsing and email, then maybe this system should ship with a Vista Capable (or should that be Vista Incapable) sticker on it.

So now I'm left wondering.  Is there something wrong with Jason's MacBook Air, is this a driver or software issue, or is this a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about dropping nearly $2K on a machine that ends up being described as pokey?

Thoughts?

Topics: Software, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Processors, Windows

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43 comments
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  • You are being mean

    [i]If the MacBook Air really isn?t up to web browsing and email, then maybe this system should ship with a Vista Capable (or should that be Vista Incapable) sticker on it.[/i]

    Mean, but absolutely hilarious!!!! :)

    Maybe [url=http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=399] Ed Bott can work some of his magic [/url] on Jason's MBA too?
    NonZealot
  • RE: 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

    There's definitely something very wrong going on, either its
    some hardware/driver issues or he's got some weird junk
    running. I myself am on 10.5 on a Powerbook G4 1.67Ghz
    with 1.5GB of memory. The OS is extremely quick and
    responsive (a massive leap from even 10.4 in terms of performance) and I'm a hardcore multitasked.
    LoneWolf367
  • what is the spec on you mac mini...

    and is it capable of doing what Jason is trying to do without
    incedent? i'm kinda thinking that there is something wrong
    with his MBA... doesn't sound right.
    doctorSpoc
  • It's the 4200RPM HDD

    Think about it: Jason is asking the same kind of hard drive you'd find in an iPod to do many more times the work it would in a media player. Firefox in particular is notorious for heavy disk access.

    I'll bet that trying this on the SSD model (even with 1.6GHz) would produce infinitely better results.
    jonfingas
    • I agree. HDD, nothing to do with CPU or RAM

      Yep that behaviour is to do with HDD. Even with a more regular speed HDD you'd be waiting a minute or more for 14 tabs plus Outlook, Adium etc to load all at once. All of that has to be loaded off the HDD, hundreds of files need to be accessed.

      Nothing to do with CPU speed or anything to do with RAM - he'd have the same problem with 1Gb or 4Gb.

      I'm surprised, Adrian, that you didn't figure that out. :P
      james.faction
      • ...

        Concur on the hard drive. I have a (yes it's not a Mac) Toshiba Satellite 2.4GHz Celeron that originally had an 80GB 5400RPM drive, it was sluggish and drove me batsh*t crazy. Upgraded to an 80GB 7200RPM drive and noticed a significant performance gain. Good call! ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • + that Flock is a real RAM-hog, and so is VMWare

        I bet his Mac started to swap out to VM like crazy with such a
        crazy usage!
        Mikael_z
    • The SSD isn't much faster, even in Apple's own tests.

      So it's going to take a 5400 RPM drive or a newer, faster version of the SSD to make this MacBook Air fly.
      nix_hed
  • RE: 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

    Yeah as i've commented in Jason's blog aswell, he seems to have unreasonable expectations and standards of measurement.

    On vista Try opening 14 tabs at ONCE, not in a row. Immediately after, not waiting for the browser/processor to catch up, open Outlook and whatever Netnewswire and Adium is aswell. And not from the start menu (as i know just loading the start menu could skew this), from the quicklaunch bar. I bet Vista will get a HUGE brainfreeze even on a monster PC. I know mine does when i just try to load IE with 4 tabs and outlook simultaneously, and it's no sloth.

    I feel Stating 2gb of ram as pokey is pretty bizarre as i do resource intensive Graphic Design on an iMac with 1gb of ram with little or no problems.

    Also note that he seems to be basing performance expectations on comparisons with a Macbook Pro, which i also found to be pretty bizarre.

    http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-11408-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=45964&messageID=849522&start=-1
    theoxygenthief
    • Not slow at all..

      I tried your suggestion on my M1530 (Dell) with 7200rpm HDD, 2.2 Duo and 4gb - it flew thru with no hesitation.....
      rhonin
      • here too...

        Tried very similar on my Macbook Pro 2 year old model, Core Duo 2ghz, 2gb of ram, 7200rpm hard drive, OSX 10.5.2... it doesnt hesitate at all, let alone minutes. I bet its something to do with a slow 4200 rpm drive, along with Flock... something might be a bit off software wise, especially if it crashes or has to be killed and restarted.
        doh123
  • Could be overheating

    I have read articles where people are having similar problems and the suspect culprit is overheating. I thought Apple shipped an update to the system management control to resolve the problem.

    http://www.informationweek.com/software/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=206903040
    Question everything
  • Toshiba; 1.7Ghz, 2GB RAM, Vista Business

    I've got a Toshiba Satellite Pro A100 with 1.7Ghz and 2GBs of RAM. It's got Vista Business. I opened 25 tabs in Firefox and then Flock. Other than the web browser being unresponsive (didn't freeze or anything just was slow to respond) the system itself was snappy and responsive as usual.

    No idea why Mac OS would even tie let alone underperform Vista in this regard. I'm not saying the OS is better and that's why this is surprising. It's just, usually, Mac OS has not alot of bloatware running in the background like poor Windows PCs have.
    Lawnmower233
    • it doesn't...

      OSX doesnt underperform in that regard to Vista... the Macbook Air is just a slow peice'o'crap because of its 4200rpm hard drive mainly. Use a decent Mac and it works fine.

      Still hope Apple discontinues the MacBook Air soon.
      doh123
  • Compromise

    I am not familiar with the MBA specifically, but notebooks in general have to make compromises to be thin and light, not to mention run off of batteries. I have had many notebooks over the years, and have always been disappointed in their performance compared to their specs. A desktop with similar specs to a notebook will always seem to be quite a bit faster. The MBA probably has many compromises in its design to achieve its status as the thinnest and lightest.

    Before I get flamed, I am not criticizing the MBA. Any notebook involves tradeoffs, and it is up to the buyer to decide which best fits their needs. Personally, I would rather carry a couple more pounds and have a better performing machine, but I can see applications for the MBA. The last few notebooks I set up for my users were the huge 17" screened behemoths. Somewhere in between is a better compromise for most of us.
    itpro_z
  • RE: 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

    No problem running VMWare workstation on a 1.66 Ghz, 4 GB RAM, WinXP-machine. I have a 7200 RPM disk (Thinkpad X60s)
    MattiasW
  • HDD Flock

    Flock is horrible. It locks up on beefy desktops, so I dumped it.

    The HDD in the AIR is very slow. I am surprised Apple was nto embarassed to use it given their affinity for performance and techno-sexy hardware.
    srobtjones@...
    • Yeah

      A 1.8" 4200rpm drive is not exactly known for "performance".
      Stuka
  • RE: 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM not enough for Mac OS X?!?!

    That's what I'm talking about! You two should go outside and fight it out over the macbook air. Whoever wins can come back and blog for the MBA and will be declared the winner. Then we will believe your word over theirs.
    Loverock Davidson
  • Its Flock

    After checking out Flock earlier, it will bring my MacBook (2.2Ghz, 2GB) to a crawl. RAM usage sky rockets, as does CPU time. This app has some serious issue. I a somewhat heavy user of Final Cut Express, and this system runs it like a champ. Jason needs to ditch Flock.
    Stuka