Building a Macbook to last # of years

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Socket2me, Jan 20, 2016.

  1. Socket2me macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2016
    Hi all,

    Long time listener, first time caller.

    I am looking to buying a Macbook that will need to last me about 5 years without becoming insufferably slow. I'm not very tech-savvy.

    The highest my budget will go is €1500/£1200 area.

    I had been looking at purchasing the 13" MBP from mid 2015, and upgrading the RAM to 16GB (I have been told that this would extend the life of the computer by a couple of years).

    I have an external drive so was planning to go for the 128gb storage, upgrading it to 256GB would be just too out of my price range.

    Could I get some advice as to whether I am on the right lines or not?
  2. McScooby, Jan 20, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016

    McScooby macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2005
    The Paps of Glenn Close, Scotland.
    Buy from Apple Refurb Store, assuming you're in the UK, you could even push it to 15" - £1,309.

    Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.2GHz Quad-core Intel i7 with Retina Display
    Originally released July 2014
    15.4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 2880x1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch
    16GB of 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM

    256GB Flash Storage
    720p FaceTime HD Camera
    Intel Iris Pro Graphics
    Pay by Paypal Credit in full (not Apple offer), get 4mths at 0%APR via Paypal

    But for reference, I got a 2012 13' MBP refurb last year for £759, chucked in a Sammy 850 Pro 1TB SSD & 16GB RAM, total spend = £1200 This'll easily last 5years, but maybe wait for Skylake refresh around March for prices to drop & specs increase.
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    What is your intended usage?

    Upgrading ram, to 16GB may not be needed, and while you cannot add ram after the fact, you may find that your needs ar such that 8GB is more then enough for now and the foreseeable future.

    I think you'd be better off not upgrading the ram, and upgrading the storage. Will you be taking your external storage with you when you take your laptop? I think 128GB of storage is too small for today's needs and if you're looking to future proof, it may be a bit small.
  4. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    1) Don't be afraid to end up with 16 gigs RAM. Things change over time and usually with respect to OS and apps gobbling up more resources. This is especially true if you have multiple applications open and one or two are intensive. As well, though there is a "compression scheme" with respect to memory, having the head room you never touch is a good thing. However, if you do decide on 8 gigs, it will work but there may be instances where things get a touch slow (depending on how intensive your apps are).

    2) 128gigs internal storage - honestly, I think that is cutting it close given that you don't know what tomorrow brings in the way of the OS and apps. 256 seems to be a good start. Either way, if you get a laptop that has USB3 and TB1 or 2, you can always get external storage via 2.5" drive or thumbdrive (or hybrid such as OWC offers).

    No matter what one gets you have the risk of buyer's remorse as some other offering comes up that looks "better." Don't fret as it is really all about getting the most out of what you have and being productive.
  5. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    For reference, My daughter is still using her 2011 MBA with 4GB memory and El Cap installed. 4GB was the max available at that time. I did replace the SSD, from 250 to an OWC 480GB module - she likes to keep videos on her system. And the battery gave out after over 1000 cycles.
    It seems that later Mac OSs are continuously reading/writing to disk. Systems with HDDs can minimize this a bit with memory, but SSD IO is faster, and does not seem to manifest the performance issues that HDDs do. I'm sure her memory is swapping, but for her usage (university work, papers, presentations, web, email, video consumption) it works just fine. My recommendation based on this is to prioritize disk to at least 250GB over extra memory. I know, a little counter-thinking. As suggested above, Apple Refurb's can be good choices, too.
  6. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    RAM is not the consideration it once was. I know you said you're not very technical, but I'll try anyway...

    When a computer has insufficient RAM, it uses the hard disk to substitute for RAM. Since hard disk is much slower than RAM, that can badly hurt performance. Therefore, conventional wisdom is to buy a lot of RAM.

    However, there are basically two kinds of hard disk today - conventional spinning magnetic hard drives (HDD), and solid-state storage (Flash memory or SSD). Solid-State storage is roughly 5 times faster than HDD (sometimes even faster), so the speed penalty if/when you run short of RAM is dramatically lower when you have solid-state storage.

    New, current-model MacBooks, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro all have Flash storage (some of the refurbished models may have HDDs - read the specs carefully).

    As others have noted, the 128GB of Flash storage that is the minimum MacBook Air configuration can be inadequate. When comparing 128GB Flash to 8GB RAM... 128GB Flash will be more likely to have a negative impact on your computing over the next 5 years than 8GB RAM will. If it was me, I'd spend the extra $$ on Flash.
  7. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    ApfelKuchen, I appreciated your comment though we are not completely eye to eye on some of your points.

    RAM is always faster in actual speed and function speed than SSD. There is absolutely no doubt that an SSD is the first thing one can do to speed up a typical computer (when it has a standard drive). However, the amount of RAM for headroom based on OS and apps works a bit differently than a linear function of scratch storage writing or temp file. With RAM we are many times faster in item in and item out than trying to arbitrate several apps and OS competing for drive space. When multiple apps want RAM and its not in larger quantities, some apps simply don't load all and "wait" or write to the disk as it were. If people worked with only one app open at a time, your statement has value, those that use many apps at a time are better served by having at least the 8 gigs of RAM (long discussed as what should be the minimum for OSX by tech professionals) and having more means less arbitration required to write to a drive (in many cases).

    However, assuming 8 gigs RAM and SSD is in the computer, most people would be very happy....The rule for more RAM still applies for lots of apps open and more so for content creation type apps (like the RAM whore, Adobe).
  8. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    This is the great thing about Apple computers; most of them will easily last 5 years without becoming insufferably slow. This (as others have posted) depends on the configuration of your machine and what you do with it. You might not be tech savvy, but what is it that you do with a computer? If you have minimal usage that requires mostly media consumption and not too much crunching of data and/or heavy processing tasks, then you're fine to go with a MacBook Air. I wouldn't recommend it, but it would be ok.

    My recommendation is to go with the mid 2012 cMBP that Apple is still manufacturing and selling. Yes, it is the 3rd generation dual core i5, but it still performs very well. Yes it is heavier than the retina and still has the superdrive but the fact that it has the superdrive is one of the fantastic things about the machine that many people over use as a reason to dismiss it as older and semi-obsolete technology. However, many of those same people will have overlooked the fact that the superdrive connects via the 2nd SATA port. The new retina models only have 1 connection to the LB and that is the PCIe 2.0 slot that the flash-based SSD is connected to. The interesting thing to note is that the PCIe 2.0 (new Macs)and SATA 3 (which the cMBP has) have the same data transfer cap and potential. Sadly, the retina MBP has already met it's potential due to the limitation of the single connection to the LB.

    The cMBP has 2 connections and therefore more potential as a machine that could easily last as long as 10 years.

    A point was made previously that SSDs are faster than spinning HDDs and therefore using the SWAP wouldn't be as detrimental to the system. However, that is inaccurate simply due to SSDs (or any drive connected via PCIe 2.0/SATA 3) being considerably slower than RAM.

    My recommendation is to purchase the 13" non-retina MBP and upgrade the RAM to 16GB, replace the existing HDD with a good SSD, AND replace the superdrive with another SSD. Once you do that, format the drives using disk utility and create a RAID so that the computer sees 2 drives as one. Now you have a machine with 16GB RAM and the equivalent data transfer speed of PCIe 3.0.

    The only thing that the cMBP cannot do which the rMBP can is support 4K video due to the Intel Iris Pro Graphics. On the other hand, the rMBP comes up short in many ways depending on your uses which would then require the purchase of accessories: an external superdrive (possibly), an ethernet adapter, and a firewire adapter. That machine would also never be able to transfer data at more than PCIe 2.0 speeds and would never match the potential of the cMBP. For my money, I would go with the cMBP until Apple updates their lineup to include PCIe 3.0, but even then I would still most likely go with the machine that could do the additional things without requiring the use of adapters and additional accessories.

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