Message from Adam: Listener Stephen sent me this email with some great observations about the effect additional memory has on Rosetta performance in the new Intel systems.
Well, I’ve had my 17-inch iMac Core Duo, for 15 days now. I’ve used in 512 MB, 1 GB, and 1.5 GB memory configurations.
I purchased this machine as pretty much a tower. I always knew I wanted to get an intel Mac as soon as they were released. I had hoped that that would mean I could replace my 12-inch Powerbook 1.5GHZ G4 with something like a 13-inch Mac Book Pro. Of course, Apple did not make a sub-15 pro notebook and may not ever again. Because of this I decided to keep my Powerbook, for I don’t need more power than the 1.5GHZ G4, when not at my desk. Furthermore, at my desk I always have it connected to my Apple Cinema Display, so I have a desktop experience.
However, I still wanted an intel Mac, so I ordered the 17-inch iMac Core Duo. I didn’t get the 20-inch because I wanted to keep my Apple Cinema Display as the main screen, and the new iMac brilliantly supports (finally) DVI output, so my new setup is great.
Well, the first three days or so I had to use the iMac Core Duo with 512MB of memory and it was dreadful. I use quite a few applications at a time with the large amount of screen real estate I have, but even with just Safari, iTunes, Mail, and maybe one or two other small applications the system would really lag with 512 (I was used to 1.25GB on my Powerbook). Furthermore, Rosetta applications were pretty annoying with 512MB. You definitely wanted to have the Rosetta application as the only application running, with 512 MB. Basically, I feel pity for *anyone* who uses the intel machines with 512MB of memory. It doesn’t even begin to work properly unless you use one application at a time (and then have it not be a memory intensive application).
Then I got a 512 stick to add to my iMac. Wow. What a difference. It was finally the fastest Mac I had ever used. 1GB from 512MB was a world of difference. I would say that 1GB is plenty of memory for most users, particularly when using native applications. I can have basically anything intel native I want open, and it handles it with ease (even if I have applications covering both displays). However, when using Rosetta applications you really need to cut back on the amount of applications open. Well, you don’t have to, but if you want the quick performance.
Here is something key I want to point out: When it has enough memory, the iMac Core Duo 1.83 GHZ easily outperforms my 1.5 GHZ Powerbook G4, under Rosetta applications (including Photoshop). Rosetta isn’t that bad at all. If someone is upgrading from a G4, they could certainly get by using Rosetta, for it should still be faster compared to G4, if they have plenty of memory. Toast, EyeTV editing, Photoshop, Word, etc (rosetta applications). are all faster on my iMac Core Duo than my 1.5GHZ G4 Powerbook, if there is memory available for them.
Now I have upgraded to 1.5 GB of memory (returned the 512 stick I got and replaced with 1GB stick). Again, another big step up. Now the Rosetta applications are even more impressive. I must say I’m pretty blown away at how efficient Rosetta is. Yes, you need a *lot* of memory, but if you have these applications really move along. I’ve performed various filters, blurs, etc. side by side in Photoshop, and the intel iMac certainly outperforms my Powerbook G4 1.5 GHZ.
I’m sure 2GB of memory wold help even a little more, under Rosetta applications and allow you to use more of them side by side.
So my recommendation: Any user needs 1GB of memory on these Core Duo machines, they are memory hungry. Furthermore, if someone uses a lot of Rosetta applications and would like to use a couple intensive Rosetta applications simultaneously (along with just about as many intel applications as they want for those aren’t very demanding) then 1.5 GB to 2GB of memory is really what they need, and they’ll be blown away.
I hope people don’t get too put off by the 512 MB stock memory in these systems. It really isn’t sufficient.