Advice: Mac Pro or C2D MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by speekez, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. speekez macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
    Okay, the time has come to upgrade from my trusty blue & white G3 tower and CRT monitor. I've hit the upgrade ceiling on my G3 and the CRT is a space hog and no longer sharp. I'm torn between upgrading to either:

    1) A Mac Pro tower with a desktop 20/23" LCD screen (no room for a 30") OR
    2) A 17" MacBook Pro, possibly with an additional external desktop LCD screen for photo work.

    I work in graphic design and I'm on the path to doing a lot of photographic work, with Aperture as an option. I work mostly at home and don't travel much with my gear. But I'm trying to plan ahead, and a portable might come in handy traveling to potential clients and showing them work. The smaller footprint of a MacBook Pro at home is also attractive. For color work, I'll need an external monitor regardless if I go with tower or laptop.

    Anyway, I'd just like to hear from other owners.. perhaps those who have sworn off towers and moved exclusively to laptops... is it fast enough for your work? What is your work? Or, tower owners chime in and say why you prefer it over a portable. If you have any recommended configurations, I'd love to hear that as well.

  2. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    Take a test drive on the new 24" iMac running Aperture.

    The work you do does require one or two large HD displays.

    You also need the extra storage and security of knowing that
    the majority of your most important data is safe at home.

    For portable needs, I think the base MacBook Pro will cover you as long as you configure it with 2 GB RAM.

    So really I'm recommending the 24" iMac and a MacBook Pro over a Mac Pro Tower.

    If you do not require a portable immediately, then hold off for the Penryn
    45 nm laptops later next year.
  3. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
  4. mopppish macrumors 6502

    Nov 27, 2005
    I would think that it makes very little sense to get the MBP AND the imac. The MBP has essentially the same CPU as even the 24" imac, so there's little to no performance difference. It would make more sense to get the MBP and an exceptionally nice external display for home/office work. It would cost a bit less than getting both computers and you'd have comparable processing power either way.
  5. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    A well equipped MacBook Pro and a 23" Cinema display with a good fast
    external back-up drive would cover your needs, but when you compare
    that configuration to the 24" iMac and the base MBP, you're really not that far apart.

    I also recommended getting the iMac now as a primary workstation and waiting for the 45 nm Penryn processor laptops if the need for portability
    is not too pressing at the moment.

    A Mac Pro with the 23" ACD would be the ultimate primary workstation,
    but properly configured, you're well over $3000.00 with the display.

    Then if you add the base Mac Book Pro, with 2 GB RAM you're almost hitting another $2000.00 before you buy any pro software.
  6. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
    I went from a loaded Mac Pro with 2GB RAM, and a bunch of internals to a 15" MacBook Pro C2D 2.33 and a couple externals. I'm pretty happy with it. Oblivion and Call of Duty 2 run a little worse than the Mac Pro with the x1900XT, but overall, I'm happy I did it. It's REALLY nice to have portability. It cost me a lot less to get similar performance in my video editing and Motion graphics apps, and I'm portable now. I can edit an entire project on the plane, whereas before obviously, I couldn't.
  7. islandman macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2006
    I'd go with the MBP and an external monitor, personally. Having a tower is nice, but the horsepower of the MBP is exceptional now. I personally opted for a MBP and I love it. I got it with 2GB of RAM, and Aperture runs great on it. I also run XP and Photoshop CS2 on that (via Bootcamp).
  8. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
    Hi gang

    You folks have been most helpful. Reading your comments and rolling things over in my head, I broke things down to get my thoughts straight:

    1) Footprint (Mac Pro tower takes up a lot more room than a MacBook Pro portable, and my place isn't big)
    2) Portability (even if there is the remote chance I want to travel with a computer, MacBookPro wins here)
    3) Speed (Mac Pro is "faster", but from what you folks are saying a MacBook Pro with at least 2GB RAM should fit my Aperture & Photoshop needs. I'm not encoding video or playing games much.)
    4) Expansion (I can add drives to either, albeit externally on the Macbook Pro. I can still add up to 3GB on the portable, again probably enough for my needs)
    5) External monitor (both can be used with external monitor, but used with a laptop I'll also have a nice palette monitor)

    Well, looks like I'm leaning toward the MacBook Pro. Sounds like it is plenty fast for my needs. I can then pick up a 23" ACD or the equivalent for those times when I am doing photo retouching and color work.
  9. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    I realize that you're not prepared to wait that long, but thought you might want to know what's just around the corner.

    Knowing that you are just now upgrading from your G3 B&W, it's clear that
    you buy for the long haul.

    I'm the same way so when you're spending this kind of money, it's best to
    know all you can.

    "The 45 nm generation, named P1266, will bring "Penryn," a Merom-shrink that delivers 3 to 6 MByte of cache to the mobile processor platform. A derivate of Penryn will be the desktop processor "Yorkfield." As flagship for Intel's desktop series, Yorkfield will integrate 8 physical cores and 12 MByte of cache. The processor is scheduled for prototyping in the third quarter of 2006 and is likely to be released sometime in 2008."
  10. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
    Thanks for the heads up FFTT. As someone who bought their G3, only to have the G4 released a week later, I've since learned my lesson and no longer purchase items without first seeing what is on the "horizon". I certainly do try to buy for the long haul. But then again, I've been waiting a while to upgrade now... I sat out the G4, was going to get the G5 but then heard about Intel, I sat out the Revision A Intels, and now here we are. I'm not sure if I'm ready to hold out another year or so, but thanks for showing me what my potential options are.
  11. jaguarx macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2003
    I'm moving from a Powerbook to a Mac Pro, reasons are simple: I don't move enough the make the premium on laptop hardware worth while and the expansion capability is so much better. The 3GB RAM limit in the MBP is what really put me off, Photoshop can use that alone and Aperture is RAM hungry as well, while it's enough for now it won't be anywhere near optimal in a year or two. With the MP I can just shove in another 4GB as it gets cheaper over time. The other is being able to have huge storage space without external drives, I can cheaply put over 1TB in the MP which with RAW files the size they are is a nice thought.

    There will likely be new MPs somewhere between now and Jan, but possibly as late as April. Footprint wise, is space under your desk at that much of a premium?? If you have an external monitor and kb&mouse I find a laptop takes *more* space if you want to use the screen on it as well.
  12. R.R.Mac macrumors regular


    Sep 16, 2006
    Guildford, England
    i think it depends what you would be using it for. the Mac Pro is great and you can upgrade it at any time really. so if you need more memory or hard disk space it is easy to upgrade. the con is that you have to have a box and you cannot move it.

    The Mac Book Pro is good but i would not rely on the battery life. The battery life of it is about 3 hours. If you would be using it as a desktop that would be ok because you would have the charger in but for long journeys in the plane/train etc i would not recogmend it. The SOUND on the macbook Pro is pretty poor :( whilst the Mac Pro is great.

    Really in all truth i would recogmend the Mac Pro because it is so much better and it is easier and cheaper to upgrade if needed and is much more powerful and more relyable. If used for films i would get the Mac Pro.

    In all honestly if you want a laptop get a good battery life consumtion. The order in my opinion goes

    iBook G4
    Macbook Pro
  13. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    A properly configured MacBook Pro should serve you well and if you go for the Apple 23" display or Dell 24" display, you'll be all set if you decide to add a Mac Pro later to your studio.
  14. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 21, 2003
    If you are considering the Mac Book Pro, always a good choice, then the 15 is the way to go. A lot of places you will present your work may have a monitor or projector you can connect to. The board room at my office does. Our graphic artist shows up at meetings with a 17 Macbook and it really gets in the way on a large table with people sitting around and papers etc. It is difficult to move the 17 around for everyone to view the screen. The 15 would be a better choice there. It connects easily to the large flat panel monitor so the 15 would work as well there too. Spec wise the 15/17 don't offer differences other than the 7200 HD. But other research shows that not to be a big deal? If portability is really not a factor than ditch the portable plans. I find if you have the chance to be portable than you will use it. That being the case it is much easier to lug the 15 around than the 17. I take my 15 Macbook around all over. It is much easier to take on the plane than the 17.
  15. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    For features and portable processing, the MacBook Pro rules, but I'm still thinking about picking up a late model 12" PowerBook for UBER portability.

    Lots of people would like to see a full featured 12"-13" MBP

    I'm not worried about screen real estate since I have my Dell 2405 here at home.
  16. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 21, 2003
    I agree with that statement about the need for a 12/13 inch full featured portable. I would like to have a 12 MBP for the road!!
  17. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
    Decisons, decisions. One nice thing about a Mac Pro is that I could slap my current 120GB hard drive from my G3 into it I suspect. I could also probably take the DVD drive I installed into my G3 and put it into the Mac Pro and have two optical drives.

    Space is at a so-so premium. We have a one bedroom apartment, and I'm not a big fan of lots of computer hardware in the living room, which is where it will need to go. Regardless, I'll have to buy an external monitor anyway to set up and the design of the Apple Cinema Displays are clean enough so as not to be an eyesore in the living room. For a desk, perhaps I could get some sort of a cabinent unit that conceals the Mac Pro tower inside, something with an open back for ventilation.

    A laptop and external dispay might actually take up more deskspace surface, as one poster suggested, whereas a tower can be hidden below a desk.

    This debate was less of an issue before I discovered I'll need an external display for any serious photo work. But looking more closely at laptop displays and talking to folks, I can see I'll need one.

    I've always had a tower. We'll see. And yes, I think there is possible talk of new towers by January.
  18. jaguarx macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2003
    I doubt you can use the 120GB, it'll be PATA, MP drives need to be SATA. Guess you might be able to put it in the spare optical bay and it *should* work but for the price of HDDs that size these days you may as well get a couple of nice new fast WD/Seagate drives.
  19. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    You've got a tough decision mostly deciding between raw horsepower of a QUAD Xeon desktop workstation and the portability of the MBP using the mobile C2D processor.

    If you're buying for the long haul, the Mac Pro gives you everything you
    need in a professional workstation. Performance, storage, expansion, dual
    disc burning and F/W 800 to name a few.

    However, the Mac Pros are the most likely to be upgraded to 8 Core
    within a matter of months not years.

    I doubt Apple will drop the 2.66 Mac Pro Quad from the line-up, but
    they could drop the price considerably if it becomes the entry level
    Mac Pro.

    I bought my Beige G3 mini tower for $2709.00 in December,
    three months before the B&W's were released.

    When you consider what you're getting now for that kind of money
    the decision isn't all that difficult.

    Given that you're buying a new display either way, the more difficult
    decision still rests with where you want to put your money for immediate
    needs and for the long haul.

    If your business is generating enough income from improved workflow,
    then my guess is that it won't be long before you end up with both.
  20. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003
    thanks for chiming in all. FFTT, thanks for sympathizing with my adventure. I'm glad I'm thinking things through.

    Because I am just starting out in photography as a business venture, I probably shouldn't let "having a portable to go visit clients with" dictate my buying decisions. Rather, my buying decision should be based more on a machine that can process files (RAW) fast and a good LCD screen for color work. Yes, a MBP with an external LCD can do this, but a MacPro can do it faster. I'm not the type who travels much with a computer, I'm not the type who wants to work in Starbucks on my computer, or in bed. As sexy as laptops are, I've always been a tower guy and they have served me well in the long haul. My G3 is testament to that.

    And, if space is such a concern at home, a Mac Pro with an external screen will probably take up less space than a MBP, a screen, and the external Firewire drives I'll need to add to it down the line for expandabilty.
  21. point665 macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2004
    I wanted to give my input on this, although I didnt read all of the posts...

    I bought a G3 iBook 800 Combo when it was new back years ago... I bought it because I figured it would be good to have a portable machine for meetings, etc. Because the iBook was faster than my previous machine it became the primary machine. However as I often traveled around with it I often said it would be nice to have a desktop when coming home so I dont need to hook up anything and can just go on it... I ended up setting a old G3 PM for this duty but because it was slower than the iBook I still ended up using the iBook. Back in Feburary of 2005 I was doing large scale graphics (full size, upclose advertisements and pretty high resolution - meaning PSB format was being used and file sizes were in gigs)... the iBook was still going strong but it was just taking too long to work with these files and I ended up buying a Powermac G5 (knock on wood but this is my favorite machine, Ive had two of them now). The iBook then ended up sitting around for a while and it only saw use while traveling.

    Due to school right now and not wanting to bring the G5 here, my iBook is what I use daily... still does its job fine and is a good machine (for example when Halo came out for mac specs said my machine wouldnt run it, but it played it fine, beat the whole game on it...). Ive thought of giving the iBook to my family and purchasing a newer MacBook, but I really dont use a portable that much and I fear it would compete with the G5 a bit too much.

    To sum it up, personally I wouldnt buy a portable unless you really do need it... And I hope my next purchase is a desktop rather then a portable. I find it much more comfortable to do my work on a desktop designed for the job...

    I see alot of people buying MacBook Pros and such, spending alot of money on RAM when they only surf the web or use Word, its like "Hey, my iBook from way back can do that too" and most of these people are first time mac users.

    Edit: I was trying to say this eariler in the post but... Coming home and having your desktop fully setup, not having to position it on the desk or plug in cables, display is at the correct angle, etc... is a really nice plus, especially if you get a comfortable desk (to fit your working style, I prefer L shaped desks...) and a good chair (I think a good chair is a pretty important part because you spend hours here and you dont want something where your constantly feeling uncomfortable)...
  22. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    If you have a tower at home for all your heavy lifting, then you'll only
    need a notebook for showing off your work, doing presentations, keeping track of appointments and clients and checking your e-mail.

    All that could be done very easily with a MacBook.

    One other thing you need to keep in mind is your software and upgrade budget.

    Providing you already have CS2, you're still going to need funds for the
    upgrade to CS3 when it becomes available.

    CS3 should absolutely scream on a Mac Pro.

    Fortunately Aperture is already universal binary, but it's still not cheap.

    Eventually, you'll want to bring your tower up to 4 GB RAM ( 4 X 1GB )

    All this and any extra photography gear that you still need.

    I saved $700.00 waiting for my G5 tower to drop to closeout pricing.
    The wait was not easy, but well worth it in the long run.

    6 weeks earlier my best friend paid $2299.00

    I bought mine new for $1599.00 after the $100.00 rebate.

    I'm glad you're taking the time to think things through.
  23. speekez thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 19, 2003

    The scales are tilting toward a tower. If that's the case, I'll probably wait until after Christmas to do said purchase, as I won't be doing any work between now and the New Year. Perhaps then, the new releases will come out, and I can select to purchase the older model at close out price or the new one. I can look into monitors in the meantime. I also want to start looking into some photography gear, as Canon is having a nice rebate sale up until Jan 15th I believe.

    FFTT, do you own one of the Apple Cinema Displays? I'm inclined to the 23" size.

    It's been a while since I bought RAM, so I have one question. For example, on the Apple site, they sell 4GB of at 4 x 1GB. Does that mean they will be sending me four 1GB sticks that will occupy 4 of the 8 slots on the Mac Pro. I know this is pretty remedial, but I just wanted to clarify.

    Also, can anyone recommend a webpage that I can familiar myself with the new types of hard drives (SATA, etc)... as my 120GB from my G3 is from the ULTRA ATA days. Cheers!

  24. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    After all this time, I know how hard it is to hang in there just a bit longer, but you're not in the position to upgrade every 2 -3 years, so it's best to know all your options once the Dual Quads are released.
    A price drop on the 2.66 GHz MacPro could help you buy half of your RAM.

    When I bought my G5 tower, a Dual Dual Core PCI-e tower was still a dream machine. Now a Dual Quad Core will soon be a reality, so painful as it may be, time is on your side.

    When I was looking at the earlier 23" ACD's they were having pink hue issues and some uneven color problems and were much more expensive than they are today.
    Since my primary use was audio and I wanted a large display, I opted for the Dell 2405 which ran me less than $800.00 shipped back then, so I could
    have literally purchased 2 Dell 24" displays for the price of one 23" ACD back then.

    Now the 23" ACD is much improved and Dell offers the 2407 which has mixed reviews depending on who you ask.

    Lots of people like the Dells, but the 23" ACD is hard to resist especially for
    color correction and it's still hands down the best looking display on the market.
    There are numerous comparison threads here in these forums.

    I can't imagine working on anything smaller now.

    The prices for Mac Pro compatible FB ECC RAM DIMMS has plenty of professionals wheeping, so you're not alone.

    If you configure your system with 4 GB, then it's best to use 4 matched 1 GB DIMMS.

    The prices for single 2 GB DIMMS are insane and I doubt you'll need more than 4 GB total for quite some time. has a great article about selecting RAM and about selecting
    storage and boot drives.

    You can now buy 7200 RPM Seagate 250 GB SATA drives @$100.00 or less each or go for a Western Digital 10K RPM Raptor as your boot drive with a larger 7200 RPM drive for storage.

    I'm not the one to ask about RAID, but these guys know.
  25. Boxer macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2006
    Overland Park Kansas
    Now, I would say Mac Pro. I have heard way too many bad things about the new updated C2D MBP. Just go with the Pro. Unless you need a lappy. Then take the chance.

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