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Old October 4th, 2012, 12:06 PM   #1
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FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

I have an early-2008 MBP (pre-unibody) with 4 GB of RAM.

I edited a fairly simple story yesterday using FCPX 10.5 and the computer chugged away a bit. I used optimized media on an eSata external drive (though I did keep my Project saved on my MacBook's internal drive (leftover from FCP7 days).

Anyway, although I know I'm due for an updated computer I'd like to keep using this one for now. The max my comp can take is 6 GB RAM - a 4 and a 2 GB chips. If anyone has done likewise, have you noted a speed upgrade (specifically with memory-intense applications like FCPX)?

Many thanks!
Dave
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Old October 4th, 2012, 12:58 PM   #2
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

First, use Activity Monitor to check your system memory usage while running FCPX and no other program besides the Finder. If less than 10% of your memory is green (free) and most is blue (inactive), getting more memory will help but first make sure you don't have any third party system extensions that you have forgotten about installing.

A friend of mine had installed MacKeeper (against my recommendation) and it would grab almost a third of the RAM, as a background process, at start up. Uninstalling it freed up memory but between leaving Firefox and Entourage open all the time, he had to double his RAM to 4gb anyway. Now his computer is working much better, especially after switching to Chrome as a browser.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 03:33 PM   #3
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

Thanks William. I opened up Activity Monitor while working yesterday and the RAM was maxed (maybe 150MB free, and another 1GB inactive). The vast majority was being used by FCPX (especially when rendering, etc).

I guess I was just wondering if the speed advantages are worth the $80-90 for a 4GB chip. I see most recommend minimum 8GB to run X smoothly.

Cheers.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 03:59 PM   #4
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

6gb is better than what you have right now but it's probable that it will max out again. A new computer is much more expensive then RAM.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 11:27 PM   #5
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

The bottom line is memory right now is really cheap and it does significantly speed things up, and rendering is one of them.

However, using a MacBook Pro for video processing is going to make it work harder than the typical uses. The guys in the Apple store might say it's designed to do video processing but the computer does heat up a lot. I don't know about the early 2008 models but I have a late 2008 2.56 and my vintage, up into 2010, seem to be known for having bad things happen to their circuit boards. Some suggestions:

Back up only data you want to save, and try to keep the computer cool. Exterior cooling fan not running of the USB port.

I have since got a 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 and upgraded it (video card, memory, new hard drive) specifically for FCPX processing with the hopes of keeping the MBP from an early demise. Below is a picture of the OLD video card. Note it has it's own dedicated fan and of course the computer has it's own fan too.

A good no-cost item to help keep things running cooler is to access the cooling fan(s) and fins and clean all the lint out. I've done this on several older computers and it's amazing all the fuzz and "stuff" that restricts the flow of air. In fact, if this hasn't been done I'd put this on a must-do maintenance list. One of them was about 85% blocked and the old one in the picture also had a lot of cooling blockage (before being cleaned).
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Last edited by John Nantz; October 4th, 2012 at 11:33 PM. Reason: Added "clean cooling fan and fins.
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Old October 5th, 2012, 08:04 AM   #6
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

I have had my portables on fan coolers for so long that I forget to tell people to do it. There are hardware monitor programs that will give you readings from the temperature gauges in the computer. Just lifting the back of the laptop off the table (with something as simple as a pencil box) can achieve a 5% cooling during heavy processing. Fan coolers can reduce the heat by 20%. This is very important for the long life of the laptop. For travel, I have a soft cooling pad that wicks the heat very efficiently for about two hours.

Using optimized media does reduce the strain on the computer and the RAM.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 08:06 PM   #7
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

Cheers William. Still not sure whether it's worth it to upgrade one stick to 4GB (ie. if there's any noticeable difference in speed). But I appreciate the time you took to post.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 09:51 PM   #8
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

If you were still using FCP7, I would recommend it but as I said, with FCPX you are not using a great computer for the program. Between the low RAM capacity of the computer, the video card in the laptop is not taking advantage of the OpenGL optimization written into FCPX. My 2010 quadcore laptop runs FCPX efficiently but my 2009 dual quad core MacPro with 16GB of RAM only really started to burn when I upgraded the video card from the stock card. You can edit with FCPX, clearly, but it wasn't designed for heavy duty work on older laptops or iMacs. People have used the MacMini with FCPX as well but it's a slow renderer and it doesn't multitask very well. FCPX is an excellent program but it's been optimized for specific Apple computers so you have a decent reason to be angry or frustrated.
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Old October 9th, 2012, 10:38 AM   #9
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

Cheers William. If only someone was selling an old Mac Pro tower down here for cheap ...

Guess I'll save my centavos and hold out for a 2011+ Macbook Pro.

Thanks again.

Dave
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Old October 11th, 2012, 03:35 PM   #10
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

FCPX - as discussed above you will want the following two things to work and render quickly:

1. As much RAM as possible (I have 12GB but wished I had plunked down a little extra for 16GB)

2. A very fast, current video card (Open CL capable) with as much VRAM as possible.

Note that I didn't mentioned a super blazing fast CPU - that's because the gains there won't be nearly as noticeable as the speed impacts of a fast Open CL video card.

FCPX is Open CL accelerated and you will take a hit on speed without a powerful video card.

YMMV.

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Old October 13th, 2012, 11:13 AM   #11
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

Well I think I'll be soon buying a new MBP (need to get it sent down to Guatemala so no iMac unfortunately ... and they're EXPENSIVE to buy down here).

I've been looking at the 2011 17" MBP as well as the 2010 17" MBP. The 2011 seems to have a superior video card and a faster processor. Both have ability to upgrade to 16GB RAM.

The other option is the 2011 15" MBP with similar specs as 17". Only issue is screen size (I've only used 17" Powerbook/Macbook up till now, though I do normally use a second screen as the "viewer." Also, there's no eSata, which is the connection I use (no usb 3.0 or thunderbolt on my external).

After much debate I think I've decided to edit AVCHD natively rather than convert to Prores on import, so speed is important!!
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Old October 13th, 2012, 02:24 PM   #12
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

It's hard to spend other people's money when you're not sure of the budget.
Getting a base model 15" MBP Retina (but with 16GB RAM) gives you HDMI out for very cheap 2nd monitor options. USB3 drives are very inexpensive. You can get an adaptor that'll add an Express port.

2010 MBP should be out of the question. I wouldn't invest in dying technology (lack of Thunderbolt is going to be a major hinderance to expansion).

Unless you're getting some kind of major price break, 2012 15" MBP (non Retinal) would be better than 2011 17" because of the USB3 ports and inexpensive hard drives. You can use Thunderbolt out, with an inexpensive adaptor, to a monitor. The only advantage a 2011 17" would give you is the screen real estate if you can't hook up to an external monitor. Also note you're locked into that Express port (now gone from new Mac laptops), and I think it's a drawback when it comes to future expansion. Keep in mind that 15" MBPr can give you a lot more screen real estate... if you have good eyesight (really small text/icons it you set for maximum screen real estate).
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Old October 13th, 2012, 05:14 PM   #13
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

eSATA is nice (and I use it on my 2010 17" MacBookPro with an ExpressCard) but unless you are doing a lot of multi-camera switching with four or more cameras or working with uncompressed files (which AVCHD certainly isn't), you can do a lot with FireWire800. Thunderbolt to FW800 adapters are available.
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Last edited by William Hohauser; October 14th, 2012 at 07:18 AM.
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Old October 14th, 2012, 07:33 AM   #14
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

What about using FW800 to edit AVCHD natively using FCPX? If RAM/processor/video card are appropriate can you get by with FW800? Has anyone tried it? It would save me money on the laptop, and probably get me higher resale down here ...

Cheers
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Old October 14th, 2012, 07:52 AM   #15
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Re: FCPX Slow - upgrading RAM to 6 GB worth it on old MBP?

Craig - I agree with what you say.

Problem is that my two editing drives are eSata (not usb 3.0 or thunderbolt). My external monitor is DVI. So if I up to the 2012 macbook pro I'm either upgrading monitor, HDD, etc or buying adapters (thunderbolt to eSata is $200, so 2/3 of the way to a usb 3.0). So a few new drives + new monitor are an extra $500-600 (in the US, add 30-40% down here, so say $800 minimum).

Budget - a guy at Apple HQ has offered me 10% + $100 off a laptop because of some of the problems I've had with mine. I was hoping to spend well under $2K for a replacement laptop (including tax). I still need to get a new camera at some point and that'll be thousands of $s. Man I need to up my rates!!

Thanks guys!
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