2011 17" MBP, 2009 MacPro, or 2015 15" MBP ?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Hitrate, Mar 28, 2018.

  1. Hitrate macrumors 6502


    Mar 25, 2009
    Howdy y'all,

    I'm pretty torn between these three (four) options, and maybe I'm even missing a fifth option that would be even better...

    The issue is this:

    I run multiple AU's, virtual instruments & effects live with live tracking meaning I háve to hear the effects in as real time as possible (within my limited budget of 900-1500 bucks preferably less) I know there are lots of DSP options, but I aim to firstly do as much as possible via the computers own CPU.

    My gear currently is: Saffire Pro 24 DSP, early 2011 15" 2.2Ghz MBP with 16gb ram, 500 gb samsung evo.

    Contemplating between upgrading from the mac I have, for which I now have a buyer and found the perfect used one:

    17" 2.5 Ghz late 2011 with 500gb ssd, 16gb ram. (It'll give me a slight boost in speed compared to the one I have now, and hopefully with slightly less noisy fans at full speed (??) and it'll give me more USB's, more potential battery life when lid is closed if I wanna take it out and about, and potential to do so without hawling screen etc along like if was to buy the mac pro...


    There's a similarly (or cheaper priced) good deal on a

    Early 2009 Mac Pro 128 GB SSD og 1000 GB HDD.
    3,33Mhz Intel Xeon 6-core Processor W3680, 16 GB, Geforce 120 512 mb (he wants more if he's gonna include the Sapphire RX 560 4GB)
    No screen, keyboard, mouse.

    That would give me some more speed, but in real world scenario I dunno how much with what I have to do...(Ableton Live mostly but also LPX, Reaper, Mainstage)

    OR I could:

    Add more money and find a good deal on a 2.5 or 2.8 ghz 15" from mid 2015 ? (problem is, that might be a lot more money, so I'm mostly leaning towards the 17" also due to the potential of taking it out for gigs and events..)

    Basically I've come to the conclusion that the PreSonus Quantum or Quantum 2 thunderbolt 2 interface is the best bang for the buck for me, and claims very efficient RTL from what I've researched.... So the point of the upgrade is to not loose to much money, but equally important get something that's faster and running more smooth with my added devices such as sound card, Ableton Push, beatstep, midi keyboard, mic's etc.

    I'm basically seeking some advice on whats best to do in my situation, cause I'm afraid I will be dissapointed with the speed of for instance that 2015 (or 2014?) top spec'ed one I was talking about, but I also may be dissapointed in the speed of a Mac Pro or even the 17"...With the 17" I know what I'm getting into cause I've had two 15" macbook pro's and the one I have now is not comfortable at anything under 128 buffer size.

    Ideally I wanna run things smooth with 32 buffer size, but I'd be happy for now with a 17" for instance being able to run at 64 with the Quantum and have decent RTL.... I'm a plugin ***** so I do tend to pile on tracks and many plugins on each track....

    Any advice greatly appreciated
  2. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    The 2011 MBP's have Sandy Bridge CPU's. The W3680 is a Westmere, an older generation internal architecture. The W3680 in a Mac Pro is a good CPU (I run one) but against the Sandy Bridge, single threaded, I bet it's a bit slower, even with the clock rate differential. You will get more cores / threads out of the W3680, not sure if that helps you since I don't know anything about the apps you are running.

    I'd worry about the 2011 GPU dying, the 2011 MBP's are famous for GPU problems. The 17" MBP you list should be about a 10-20% performance boost over what you have (10% at boost, 20% base frequency). I don't know why the 17" would be any quieter, CPU TDP is the same.

    If you were getting the 2011 at under $500 I'd say give it a shot and plan on buying new in a year. If it's closer to $1000, hmm. Maybe look for a late 2013 if you can find a good deal, otherwise I'd consider buying new or 2017/2018 refurb and get a significant speed boost. The 2015 is kind of in the middle although if you hate dongles / hubs, it's the newest you can go before the switch to USB-C connectors.
  3. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Although the 2011 17" MBP is a great machine, and still a workhorse today, it does suffer from a "sudden GPU death" problem. Very well documented.

    I've had mine from new, and it died after 3-4 years (and was quickly repaired for free under an Apple program) so that was no huge problem for me - now its still going strong (fingers crossed). However the free repair program is long gone - and having had the repair in the past doesn't mean it won't happen again - so if one of these machines dies now it will be landfill - or a hunt to find a new mainboard on eBay.

    Not necessarily a deal-breaker (lack of economic repair options is always a danger with 7 year old computing kit), but something to be aware of.

    Not giving up my 17"-er any time soon, but if I didn't already have it I'm not sure I'd spend money on such an old model.

    Other limitations you'll be aware of from the 15" - no USB 3 (not an issue for most USB midi/audio interfaces) and only one (combined) Thunderbolt/DisplayPort (only an issue if you want an external display and a Thunderbolt device that doesn't have a through connection) - I doubt that the minor CPU bump will give you a night-and-day speed increase, or if the fan will be significantly quieter.
  4. Hitrate, Mar 28, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018

    Hitrate thread starter macrumors 6502


    Mar 25, 2009
    I'm not sure what you mean by no usb 3? The 17" I'm looking at has two usb 3 via the express thingy, and the 2015 15" has two usb 3 ports.... The sound card I'm aiming to invest in is thunderbolt 2, but I don't assume there's much difference between hooking it up to a tb1 device versus a tb2 device ...(??)

    I hear ya about the whole repair thing. I've wasted way too much time with replacing the mobo on mine...luckily it's been running smooth since 2015 now..but maybe I should get rid of it to this buyer I have now, her deadline is this sunday so maybe I should get the local mac pro 3.33 one I found which will be roughly same price as the one i'm selling... or get the 17" and keep a machine at risk of not working in the long run....ya hmm I guess the mac pro should be a no brainer for now then, but one big drawback is the lack of thunderbolt opportunities...That would have helped, but I'd have to invest 5 times as much to get a used trash can, and imac...forget about it...So that only leaves the 14/15/16/17 macs...as much as I really really want that 17" cause it's got 5 (!) usb ports...perfect for all my gear....it'd be a perfect companion for the push - roughly same size, and I could easier go gig with it....but on the other hand I've HATED the noise of the fans on my 15" and ya it probably won't be much better even though the seller sweet talks the heck out of it in those regards as well :D

    So ya, I guess the only thing that hasn't been resolved is the whole "thermal throttling" or in my case it'll affect the audio when the system is under heavy load and and things get too hot and the system slows itself down - that's what I want to avoid at all cost LOL, so obviously I'm aiming at as fast a system as possible...so I that regard it would make sense not to invest in that Mac Pro either...I'm a bit worried about those 12 cored ones, since the audio has to pass through two cpu's it might delay things...and as far as I can read getting an equivalent 3.46 x5690 or whatever it's called, wouldn't be any significant change...and I guess the whole bay has to be replaced for it to become 12 core anyway right?
  5. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    As I said, unless the apps you run take good advantage of multi-threading, I think it unlikely that the Mac Pro will be much faster than what you have, and it might even be a bit slower. It's hard to say whether the clock rate advantage of the W3680 outweighs the IPC and architecture improvements in the sandy bridge processors.

    There's certainly no point in going to dual CPU's unless your apps multi-thread well. Dual CPU's won't slow anything down (the data doesn't "pass through" both sequentially, it's more like having multiple workers available to operate on a common pool of data) but single thread performance is no better on a dual CPU machine than the equivalent single CPU machine. and yes, you have to replace more than just the CPU board to switch from single to dual, at least on the 2009's (not sure about the 2010's).

    As much as I like the Mac Pro, in your situation and needing a machine asap, I'd either get that 17" and start saving for its replacement, or just bite the bullet, stop screwing around with old hardware, and buy a brand new rMBP which will be faster and quieter and should last you for years. I think that buying new (or recent refurb, if you can find one suitable) is the value option in the long run.
  6. Hitrate thread starter macrumors 6502


    Mar 25, 2009
    Aight got ya, fyi that 17” is already bid higher than the already huge reserve so people want it, but ya not the smartest with the risk of the mobo failing, so I’m gonna forget about it. Thanks again I’ll see what I do but will aim for a newer one given that speed is what I’m looking for, not failing old hardware :) thx

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