RAM vs. CPU for Large Word and .pdf Files and 20+ Web Tabs


New member
Jul 15, 2018

I've read every article I can find and am still confused by the RAM vs CPU question. I have an i7 CPU and 12 GB RAM and 512 GB hard drive at the moment, and work as an academic. I work with huge files, mainly Word and .pdfs, which contain text, photos, graphics, and many foreign languages. When I have a huge Word file open (an entire book I am writing, so 300+ pages of this), it often freezes up and I also get an "indexing" message. I have a similar issue with many web tabs open (20+), many of these also containing medieval manuscripts in .pdf form. The computer freezes up, often for so much time that I need to reboot

I am buying a 2018 MacBook Pro at the advice of a colleague who does similar work. I will get the 15 inch because of screen size. Would a bigger CPU or RAM be better if I have the choice? My inclination was to do the i9 CPU with 16GB RAM (and 512 GB SSD). Is this foolish, and I should step down to the i7 CPU and go for the 32GB RAM?

Thanks for the advice.



Mar 31, 2016
My feeling is that more RAM along with the SSD should give you the performance you're looking for -- it seems unlikely that the CPU is the main bottleneck as it doesn't sound like you're doing anything that would require heavy processing -- more than likely, you're using up all your available RAM and then the OS begins swapping some of the stuff you have open in memory to disk, which is a slow operation -- especially if you're currently using a spinning-platter hard drive. I frequently have 100's of browser tabs open (282 right this moment!) at the same time here with 16 GB of memory on an SSD OS drive, and I will sometimes get freezing if my RAM usage gets past a certain point -- I'm probably close to that point right now...

One other suggestion if you're using Chrome... I use an addon called The Great Suspender that will "suspend" tabs after a configurable period of time -- basically it will clear the suspended page and put up a message saying the tab is suspended and then frees up most of the memory the tab content was taking up. If you need to access the info in the tab again, you just click the middle of the page and it reloads the suspended info -- This has reduced my memory footprint greatly and is why I can have so many tabs open at the same time without using up all my memory.

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