2008 15" MBP - upgrade to SSD or buy modern refurb?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by zgeist, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. zgeist macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2010
    I have a 2008 15" macbook pro, model 4,1. I upgraded the HDD and RAM a long time ago so as it stands the specs are:
    2.4 Core 2 Duo
    4 GB RAM
    500 GB HDD
    GeForce 8600M 256 MB

    I would LOVE to upgrade to a retina model with SSD. But it really irks me that they are not user upgradable at all anymore. It makes me want to buy the top-end model (which I'm sure is why they do it) but that is sooooo expensive.

    So I have two questions:

    1) Would it be worth the time and effort to upgrade my current machine even more?

    All I could do would be to increase the RAM to 6 Gb and install an SSD. Both of those upgrade have caveats - the SSD can only operate at SATA I would have to go where the HDD currently is, meaning I'd have to move the HDD to the optical bay (which uses PATA) since I need the storage. And I've read that since there are only two RAM slots going to 6 Gb (4 + 2) negates any benefit of having matched sticks of RAM (which I currently have).

    2) What, if any, are the drawbacks of buying a refurb machine from apple vs new?

    I've comparison shopped and it seems my cheapest options are refurb from apple, even with the taxes factored in. Macmall with no tax is still more expensive than refurb. Am I missing something?

    Thanks for any and all comments!


    Oh, I found this thread which looked promising for my purposes because it pointed to details about how to enable TRIM support in an older macbook pro, but the links it points to are dead:

  2. ColdCase, Apr 8, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Lots of folks here have refurbs and without issue, they are nicely done.

    I had a 2008 MPB 15inch with SSD upgrade and maxed out RAM, off hand I don't remember how much that was. I replaced it with a current rMPB that blows it away with performance, mobility, battery life.... any rMBP built in 2013 is much better than the 2008.

    Worth it to you is subjective, but there is a significant improvement in look and feel, even for mundane tasks like surfing the web.
  3. zgeist thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2010
    I guess maybe I should say what I use it for:

    At the moment, I mostly use my mac for browsing and family photo editing and some (very little) handbrake stuff. But I do development work on an even older Dell laptop. I've been looking at getting a new windows laptop but have been very disappointed in the quality - even in the high end models. So that got me thinking ... I could splurge on a top-end mac and then just virtualize my windows development environment, thus killing two birds with one stone and sort of justifying the expense... After all, I spend hours on these computers every day. ;-)

    As you can tell, I really want to get a current model - it's just hard to swallow $2800 vs $200...
  4. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I do web development professionally on a 2009 MBP, and it's finally starting to show its age. I would go with a rMBP, as your 2008 MBP just doesn't have the hardware to run complex webpages with the console up, or even the WP emulator.

    I don't know how much an SSD will help, but I can tell you that my 2011 MBA with SSD "feels" faster than my 2009 MBP with 8gb of RAM.

    P.S. Don't get the high end rMBP. It's the equivalent of using a 2.16ghz or 2.33ghz core 2 duo in 2014. Either one is going to be slow, and not worth the $500 premium.
  5. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    Well the question is whether you really need the highest high end model. The CPU upgrade is usually unnecessary, but extra RAM (i.e. 16 GB) and 512 GB storage might be useful since you plan to use virtual machines. That would put you at $2.5k or $2.6k if you grab the higher specced model (including the GPU). Refurbished the latter is available for $2.2k. Note also the base model with 8/256 GB is available for $1.7k.
    I keep hearing that you can find new machines on Ebay priced similar to the refurbs (and without taxes). Probably depends on whether you feel comfortable buying from there.

    As far as the upgradability is concerned: If you get the maximal RAM today you will be fine for many years. Also don't forget that swapping to SSD storage doesn't slow the machine down very much - nothing compared to the beach balls when the OS puts Safari on the slow HDD. Storage wise it is probably nice to have 512 GB on board - any needs beyond that are better served with a large external storage solution in my opinion.

    Concerning the upgrade on the old machine: There is only so much you can do. The new CPUs are so much faster, the modern cooling system on the rMBP is more quiet, you get USB 3 and thunderbolt, faster WiFi, awesome screen... all these things you can not upgrade on the old machine, which in addition has the danger of the 8600M GPU. Also how long does it take you to boot the Dell?

    Do yourself a favour and get the new machine :)
  6. Marty62 macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2010
    Berlin formerly London
    Why not get one of the very last MBP's before the Retina ?

    That's what I have, it's a very powerful quad 2,4 with 8gb Ram and I fitted an
    They can still be found as "refurbs" from Apple at very decent prices.

    Or from other decent refurb vendors.

    That will get around the "no upgrades" rMP issues and not cost the earth.

    I'm sure that I will get another 2-3 years from mine.

  7. accountforit macrumors 6502a

    Jan 22, 2014
    Upgrading your SSD is a waste of money. You will never recoup that cost. Not to mention, there isn't an SSD on the market that can compete with PCIe based flash, so even if you had a sata 3 connection you would still be chasing old tech.

    Sell your current model, and upgrade to the base 15" retina refurb. Thinner, lighter, faster in every way, better display, longer battery life, etc.
  8. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    I had the exact same laptop, and in the summer of 2012 I was wondering the same thing. Back then I opted to get the SSD (they were sort of cheap at that point, $350 for a 512GB Crucial, prices went up shortly after). I'm a data hog and had my laptop set up with that SSD plus a 1TB HDD in the optical bay slot.

    But last fall I realized that laptop is going to cave in sooner rather than later (the screen hinge was not very healthy), and got one of the non-retina refurbished units, with my beefy SSD and HDD replacing the stock storage. If I did not care as much for large data storage, I would go for a retina instead. You can safely ignore the "refurbished" label, it's as good as new.

    On the lower end, these new laptops are not very expensive, but will run circles around your old machine. If you're lucky, you can still sell your old Mac to offset the cost (mine went off for $400 - without the SSD and with nothing in the optical drive bay - which I think is insane, I'd never pay so much for such an old laptop).
  9. zgeist, Apr 9, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014

    zgeist thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2010
    This is a good point. Since it's been so long since I've been computer shopping, I'm not really familiar with the difference between the quad-core processors vs dual-core, etc.

    I do need at least 500Gb storage and a lot of ram for virtual machines. But on the processor end - does it even matter? recommendations?

    Although, looking again at apple's website I guess it doesn't matter - all rMBPs come with quad core...


    Thanks for your responses everyone. I really appreciate your comments. As a work-from-home person it's so hard to find anyone to talk to about this. Most of my friends are not computer workers or tech savvy at all.
  10. Barney63 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 9, 2014
    Bolton, UK.
    The 13" have dual core i5's.

  11. RedRaven571, Apr 9, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014

    RedRaven571 macrumors 65816


    Mar 13, 2009
    My 2 cents: When it comes time to replace my 2008 15" MBP (same specs as you except I maxed out my RAM at 8GB and have a 1TB Seagate hybrid drive), I am planning on getting a 13" since I don't really need the real estate and, if Apple has done away with the non-retina (upgradable) model, I will likely put my $$ into maxing out the RAM. Reasoning, I can always add additional external storage, can't add external RAM.

    In the meantime, my rig does exactly what I need, maybe slower than a quad-core CPU, but doesn't me cost anything either...

    BTW, it is a refurb that I bought used on eBay, best money I ever spent on a computer....

    edit: sorry, mine is a 5,1.
  12. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    And also dual core i7 on the BTO high end 13" rMBP. No quad cores though on 13".

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