How much RAM do you really need?

We have had some questions, why we don’t sell the 4GB Raspberry Pi version in our online shop. The reason is simple: It’s quite expensive and it doesn’t add any value for audio-related applications in our opinion.
The Raspberry Pi Zero and A+ come with 512MB RAM and they still work just fine as music players. But how much memory do you really need?

Let’s just have a look at a running HiFiBerryOS installation. While many distributions have one or two music players running, HiFiBerryOS comes with six!

  • mpd
  • squeezelite
  • shairport-sync
  • bluetoothd/blues-alsa
  • spotifyd
  • raat (for Roon)

You would think that 6 players wil require a lot of memory – but let’s just have a look:

cat /proc/meminfo | head -3
MemTotal:         923944 kB
MemFree:          730536 kB
MemAvailable:     788428 kB

What does this show? MemTotal is the total amount of memory. The total memory is 1GB, but it does show only a bit more than 900MB. The reason for this is simple: The graphics card also uses some of the memory that isn’t available for applications at all. MemFree is a bit more than 700MB. This means that all players and all the other stuff that’s running in the background are just using around 200MB RAM. But wait, MemAvailable is even higher? Do the players use even less memory? Yes! The difference between MemFree and MemAvailable are basically cached disk data. If the system is low on memory it will clear these. This might slow down the system a bit. However, the system is far from a low-memory situation.

Are there use cases for the 4GB version? Definitely! We don’t say that the Pi4 with 4GB RAM is useless. There are defeinitely applications that will work better with 4GB RAM or won’t even work with less. Audio players are not in this category in our opinion.

October 13, 2019

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