Best MacBook Pro for a matriculating law student?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by diphthongdon, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. diphthongdon macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2011
    Hi, all:

    I'm buying a new MBP for law school, and would like to tap all you intelligent macrumors users for a recommendation on which one to get. Let me start my inquiry by telling you exactly what I'll be using this shiny new machine for:

    Obviously, my primary activities with this machine are going to be very light on computing intensity--just word-processing, and surfing the web, for both research and recreation. Other than that, I will be slinging TV, streaming MLB.TV and Netflix, etc., and possibly outputting such content onto an HDTV or external monitor. I may also do some casual gaming through steam, and maybe some Starcraft 2, but nothing crazy--no Crysis on more-detail-than-real-life.

    So, not heavy usage at all. Now, the candidates:

    I'm considering the low-end MBP 13 or the low-end MBP 15 (although I could be convinced to buy the high-end MBP 13 if someone gave a very good reason. Not so with the MBP 15--it's simply out of my price range!) My dilemma is a classic one: I'm wondering if the bang of the MBP 15 is really worth my buck, given my admittedly light usage. Despite this skepticism, I'm drawn to the MBP 15 for two reasons: 1) discrete graphics; 2) higher resolution screen. Regarding discrete graphics, I've had a MBP 13 with integrated graphics in the past, and felt that the machine worked a little too hard while gaming and streaming video (although you can feel free to call me out on the second claim, as I don't actually know whether streaming video is GPU or CPU intensive). Regarding the high resolution screen, I frequently get headaches from eyestrain after long periods of computer work, which I do quite frequently, and the luxury of a high resolution screen isn't lost on me--moving from iPhone 3g to iPhone 4 was really quite excellent. (At this point you might be able to deduce why the high-end MBP 13 doesn't appeal to me. Despite having a faster processor, it's hindered by underwhelming integrated graphics and that same-old screen.)

    So, any thoughts? Do I need the MBP 15, or will the 13 be enough with the HD3000? Thanks for your thoughts, all.

    PS: one last question! Any chance that Apple offers the iPad on discount as part of it's back-to-school sale? An iPod isn't really enough to convince me to keep going on without a computer until June, but an iPad just might be.
  2. evaporateddwarf macrumors regular

    Jan 26, 2010
    If not for the games, I would say actually go snag a MBA.
  3. diphthongdon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2011
    Thanks, but I'm not so interested in the MBA. The pricing is a bit too rich for my taste, and I found the core 2 duo Macbook that I had for some of college to be pretty incapable of performing even the modest tasks that I asked of it. You can chalk some of that insufficiency up to older chip architecture and a regular HD as opposed to an SSD, but I still feel that the MBA would err heavily on the side of underpowered, even for me. Besides, I'm as much a proponent of moving past antiquated physical media as the next guy, but I'm still in school, still go to the library, and still need an optical drive to do what I do. I don't like that I need it, but I do, and carrying around a MBA and its optical drive at all times seems to defeat the purpose of having a MBA in the first place.

    All the same, I'm assuming from your response that you think that the MBP 13 is more than enough in terms of processing and graphics power. Can anyone that's seen the hi-res MBP screens attest to their quality? Is that alone worth the price difference?
  4. DarwinOSX macrumors 65816

    Nov 3, 2009
    Theres a number of Mac/Law sites out there. I would ask there as well.
  5. MacVibe macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2009
  6. Buck987 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 16, 2010
  7. Chiefo macrumors newbie

    Mar 27, 2008
    Current law student here.

    The only computer I currently own is an early 2007 MBP. At the time, it was the "mid range" model. I opted for the matte display.

    My reasons for purchasing at the time:

    1) 15" screen with matte display. As it is my only computer, the potential increased eye strain from a 13" was a concern. The matte display, in my opinion, performs better in a wide variety of lighting conditions...such as different classrooms, outdoors, coffee shops, etc. For someone who can't always control the lighting conditions in which they find themselves, the matte display seemed the better option.

    2) Delayed obsolescence. My MBP can play Starcraft 2, which was surprising to me. I also watch HD video, push video to my HDTV, and am able to watch ESPN3 on the computer when the need arises. In sum, opting for a discrete graphics card, as well as the increased processing power and RAM, means my computer isn't useless yet. This is key for me, because it is hard to justify the additional student loans to buy a new laptop.

    3) Practical considerations.
    a.) If you're planning on using your laptop in the classroom, it can be difficult to find the space on your desk surface for the laptop and casebook. However, the 13" provides little more than a negligible increase in available space.
    b.) As forward-thinking as a MBA might be, I think it lacks the long-term power needed to delay its obsolescence. If I were not in school, I would consider an MBA more seriously. However, it would be hard to justify a new purchase every ~2 years. That said, I also still find a Superdrive useful from time to time. At this point, the only thing I could foresee abandoning a Superdrive for would be SSD, which is prohibitively expensive right now.

    If this machine died on me tomorrow, I would walk into the Apple store and buy the exact equivalent - the mid range 15" with the matte display - and expect another ~4 years of useful service.

    If you don't mind me asking, what school are you headed to?

    Best of luck. Law school is a big commitment, in terms of hard work and opportunity cost, but is a rewarding experience if your heart is in it.
  8. Luba macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2009
    Sounds like this will be your only Mac, so I would go for the low end 15 for the screen and rez. The extra power could show its benefits in gaming too. It's definitely heavier to carry so that's the only drawback, besides the price.

    If the current MBA were around I'd probably get a 13 MBA Ultimate as I have a desktop Mac, and the few times I need an optical I would "borrow" the desktop's or actually borrow somebody's PC/Mac. The handy dandy lightness of the MBA is great, and it has higher rez over the regular 13. So IMO, 15 screen size, rez, and power is worth the extra weight over the 13 MBP, but not over the 13 MBA.
  9. snouter macrumors 6502a

    May 26, 2009
    I think the 13 MacBook/Pro is out because of the 1280x800 screen.

    Ideal would be a 15" with the 1680x1050 screen.

    Should be a lot of 2010 i5 Models for sale by people looking to trade up the 1011 quad core, which you really don't need. You need screen real estate to write those papers and read those cases.
  10. diphthongdon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2011
    I like this idea. I'll keep a watchful eye on ebay, and maybe on the refurb portion of the apple site, although the value proposition there seems a bit weak.
  11. diphthongdon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2011
    Chiefo--thanks for the tips. I'm leaning your way, as you can probably tell. It's really just a matter of stomaching the cost.

    Regarding which school and so forth, I will gladly message you, but I'm always wary about posting those sorts of details publicly. Is there a way to do this?
  12. MacAztec macrumors 68040


    Oct 28, 2001
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    I'm curious: What does a law student need to do on their computer? Editing documents, reading, databases, etc.?

    I don't see how a 13"MBA won't suit your needs.

    I am finishing College on my 2006 MBP, and I study Engineering. I've done designs, run VMs, Mathematica, etc., and I've rarely wished I had a faster computer...
  13. Rhyalus macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2011
    MBP 13.3 is fine - but you should get an SSD for extended battery life and speed.

    You will like the portability of the 13.3 (weight is 4.5 lb and the foot print is small).

    The 1280x800 res made me nervous at first, but it is light years better than a netbook 10". I use Google Chrome as a web browswer which gives a bit more screen real estate. Video streams beautifully (tested with Silverlight and Flash) - Netflix looks fine.

    In my humble opinion, when you consider a laptop in the 15" realm, you now want to look at other vendors (like Sony, Toshiba, etc.). The price / value equation is clearer on the 13.3.

    For $1199 without the SSD, you can't go wrong I think.

  14. diphthongdon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 3, 2011
    I can't speak for all law students as to what their computing needs might be, but you'll see a fairly precise description of what I'll be using the computer for in my original post. You can add VMing and light database work to that list, although I don't think working with databases will add too much strain to any of the computers we are discussing--I doubt I'll be editing anything or even running particularly complex queries. Certainly not on my own machine.

    Congrats on finishing your B.S. I have no doubt that it's more computing-intensive than law school, and I even agree with you that a MBA would suit most of my needs. However, I still need some convincing that it is the right computer to buy. Paying more for an antiquated processor and no optical drive is hard for me to stomach, even with the SSD, the nicer screen, and the portability. (The fact of the matter is that a weight difference of a few ounces isn't meaningful when I'm lugging around torts.) The other big strike against the MBA, at least in my book, is that it really won't fulfill all of my needs. Most, but not all. Too many very slightly cut corners. If you can assure me otherwise, I'm happy to listen--I'm far from intransigent on this point.

    Thanks for the tip, Rhyalus. I'm strongly considering an SSD. Would you recommend the stock SSDs that apple offers, or am I better off getting one elsewhere? What might be good buy? I am considering purchasing Applecare, so that remains a concern if I do end up buying something after-market, since Applecare won't be an option, but if there is a viable insurance alternative, then I'd like to know about it. Actually installing the SSD doesn't concern me--I've done this before on three apple laptops.
  15. Naimfan macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2003
    I'd suggest sticking to a new machine (says the law school graduate). They will be longer lasting, and will keep up better with future software. Note the difference in benchmarks--the base 13" is on par with, if it doesn't exceed, the performance of the top end MBP from the prior generation. Offhand, I can't think of a time when that has happened.

    Also, as far as used machines from eBay or Craigslist go, I'd stay away for the moment. People are asking as much for their older machines as you can buy a brand new, and MUCH faster one, for. The base 15" is substantially faster than the prior top of the line, and you can get it for $1699 with student discount. I wouldn't bother considering the upper end 13"--too much for not enough relative to the base model.

    All that said, I think you have to go and try both the base 13" and the base 15" to see which screen size you prefer. I personally think the weight differential is negligible, but I sometimes wish I had the 15" for more screen space. Then again, I think the 13" has the perfect form factor, so that's what I bought.

    Good luck in school, and just remember that as uncomfortable as a prof may make you, they're not shooting real bullets at you. ;)
  16. Rhyalus macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2011
    I am not an expert on SSD drives by a longshot, but just looking at the prices at, the 128GB average around $250 USD, and the 256GB drives are around $500.

    Therefore, my initial reaction would be that sticking with what Apple sells is not a bad deal, and you get the benefit of ongoing support and not having to unscrew the 37 screws on the bottom of the case. :eek:

    If you really need more hard drive space, stick with the 340GB stock HD. You should still get a min of 5 hours of battery time assuming that this is enough.

  17. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    Other than the gaming thing, the OP seems like the poster child for the 13" Air. Sure, the extra weight isn't a ton, but if you are already loaded down with other things then every pound counts.
  18. lorax3 macrumors regular


    Jun 25, 2007
    Get the 13". You don't need the extra space, the portability will REALLY come in handy.

    Get the low end i5 13". It will do everything you need, and can always upgrade after you graduate. I would go for the Air if it was an "i" series.

    What do you call a lawyer who is also an alligator?

    .... A litigator!

    Ha. The little jokes help me when I'm studying for the BAR exam. ;)

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