Buying advice MacBook/MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Patriks7, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. Patriks7 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    So to start off, I want to warn you guys that this is my first post so don't kill me if I screw something up :p

    So.. Last year for Christmas, I got a white MacBook (2.2, 4GB RAM, 250GB HDD).. I was really happy with it and all, especially it being my first Mac.. But now I decided to upgrade to either the new MacBook or MacBook Pro 15".. What I would want to know is which one I should buy.. My main usage will be for school and also some gaming.. The specs I'm looking at right now are the high-end MacBook with 4GB RAM and a 7200 HDD and both of the MacBook Pro's with 4GB and again with 7200 HDD.. So my main concerns are the following.. Is the 9600M GT a really big jump from the 9400M (especially since there is a 256MB and 512MB 9600)? I'm not planning on heavy gaming, but I do sometimes use programs like Photoshop and stuff.. And also, is the difference between the 256MB and 512MB 9600 big? Also, battery life is somewhat important as I use it in school.. I don't do anything big in school unless I have my current MacBook plugged in, so it will mainly be typing notes and looking at sites :p (I ask this especially because I read that the processors have different watt usages)
    Well that's all I can think of now, so hopefully you guys can help me :D
  2. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    The 9600 is quite a bit faster, barefeats did some testing of the two and compared them here if you want to take a look.
  3. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Thanks a lot!
    I also just remembered, that I read that the MacBook Pro has problems with the new DisplayPort adapters, while the MacBook doesn't.. This is also important to me as I just got a new display, which I really don't feel like selling as its really good, and I do quite a few presentations in school on the projectors (Keynote just kills Powerpoint :p)
    Could someone confirm this for me please?
  4. ChrisN macrumors 65816


    Aug 27, 2007
    Demarest, NJ
    I think the base MBP is fine, the jump from 256-512 isn't that big and you could always upgrade the RAM and HDD by yourself and it's cheaper than apple.

    edit- you could go for a refurb MBP if you plan on using other monitors.
  5. TopGear300 macrumors regular


    Jun 21, 2007
    The pro is better for the gaming aspect but you should be aware that the new MBP actually has both the graphics cards and since you said battery life is important, you will be using the 9400m most of the time. YOu have to go to the settings and restart everytime you want to jump from the 9400 to the 9600. Now this might be a good thing for you or a bad thing... depends on how you look at it. As you know the MacBook only comes with the 9400m but it is the same as the one that goes in the MBP. Best of luck :D
  6. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    I know that the MacBook Pro has both of them. Does anyone know how different the battery life will be between the MBP running the 9400 and the MB? Since the MBP has a different processor (if I'm not wrong, the consumption is 10 watts difference, but I have no idea how that plays in the role of battery life) and also doesn't the bigger screen take more power?
    So far I am looking more at the base MBP if the 256MB and 512MB 9600 isn't such a big difference (after all I won't be trying to run Crysis :D) I always buy RAM from other places as they tend to be cheaper and I am also looking at getting the 7200 RPM 500GB HDD from Seagate. BTW will it be running fine with 6GB of RAM? Cause I remember reading here that it had problems with 8GB (don't know how that played out, can't find the post..)

    Forget the 6GB RAM, too expensive for me at the moment :p And looking at the HDD now, is there a big difference between 5400 and 7200 RPM? I've only had 5400 RPM HDDs so far, so I have no idea what the difference is.
  7. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Hmm. I just read a post that said vRam will have effect on usage with external monitors. Will I be good with 256 MB if I have a 26" Samsung with 1920x1200 resolution?
  8. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Damn. The last few days I looked at more posts which made me decide to go for a 2.53 but now I'm undecided again :\ It's hard to decide if I need the extra processing power if I have a PS3 and I'm not really a big PC gamer. On the other hand, the 2.53 might be more future proof, but yet again the 2.4 should have better battery life and be cooler.
    Anybody here who could give me more insight on the battery, heat and performance? Price wise I'm also looking more at the 2.4 as with all the extra things I want with it, it comes around 2,700$ (!) while the 2.53 at around 3,100$. But if the 2.53 should last me longer (I don't want it more than 3 or 4 years anyway) I would go for the higher price.
  9. nope7308 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    First, let me briefly say three things:
    1) There is no such thing as 'futureproofing'.
    2) For $3,000+, it should cook you breakfast.
    3) I've owned both machines, so here is my honest, unbiased, analysis.

    With the 2.53Ghz model, you get the following (over the base 2.4 model):
    - Slightly faster processor
    - Double vRAM (128 bit)
    - Double CPU cache
    - Double RAM
    - Bigger HD

    Now, because the 9600 is a 128 bit card, some have said that it is incapable of using all 512MB of vRAM. I'm not sure if anyone reached a definitive conclusion, but if this is true, then it would not be a significant improvement over the 256MB of vRAM on the base model. The processor speed is only slightly faster, so the double CPU cache will probably make more of a difference (still minimal). Everything else can be upgraded by the user. I'm not saying that the 2.53Ghz model is not worth the money, but you're really paying for user upgradeable parts. That is, based on the parts that you cannot change (9600, CPU), there isn't much performance improvement. You could upgrade the base model to similar specs yourself, saving a few dollars, but that decision comes down to personal preference.

    I think the 9400 is capable of driving your 26" monitor, but don't quote me on it. If it can, then I would recommend going with a 2.4Ghz MB and here's why:
    - Cost (you are a student, after all)
    - Size/Weight (MB feels much lighter than the MBP and is easier to carry around)
    - Longer battery life (anecdotal, but the MB seemed to last much longer - 1.5h from my experience)
    - Performance (identical to the base MBP when using 9400 - barefeats)
    - External monitor (your monitor will offset the poor vertical viewing angles of the MB screen)

    I've done my research on both machines and the MBP has an edge in three distinct respects:
    - nVidia 9600
    - Better Screen
    - Additional Ports

    Since you didn't mention anything about firewire, I assume it's not an issue. Therefore, your decision should come down to (1) gaming, and (2) screen quality. I think screen quality can be offset by your external monitor, so let's focus on gaming. Hands down, the MBP is better. However, the 9400 can still play most games reasonably well. I managed to get 45fps in COD4 with base settings, so I think that's pretty good for a portable notebook. That said, I don't think gaming should be a selling point for either machine. The fact is, anyone half-serious about gaming knows that a desktop machine is a much better choice. The MBP is a mobile powerhouse, but it is still not optimized for gaming. IMO, the MB can handle casual gaming and if you want anything more than that, well, you should be investing in an Xbox, PS3, or desktop machine.

    To recap, the only significant advantage I would give the MBP over the MB (given your situation) would be gaming capability. But you also need to put things in perspective. When you're in school, which is more important... size/portability/batter life, or gaming potential? I would like to think that you'll be running around campus more often than sitting at home playing games :p

    Seriously, though, I owned both machines and I'm very happy with the MB. The MBP was too heavy/bulky, I didn't need FW, and I rarely used the 9600 since it was so hard on battery life (and heat). Again, it comes down to personal choice, but I think the MB is the best fit for college/university students. If you have any questions, just let me know.

    Sorry for the book and good luck with the decision.
  10. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Thanks for the comparison nope7308!
    I was thinking at first about the MacBook but I changed my mind a bit later. As you can see in my signature, I have a late 07 MacBook. I can't say I'm complaining about it, but sometimes it seems kind of slow. I was avoiding the MacBook due to its graphics. Like I said I'm not much of a gamer, but I do play games once in a while, especially strategies like Warcraft 3 and Rise of Nations. My MacBook can play them fine at lower graphics, but once I get into a bigger fight or something it starts lagging. There are some games I want to try as well (ie Test Drive Unlimited and World in Conflict) and I'm not sure a 9400M could handle them. My current MacBook doesn't have problems running the 26" monitor as long as I don't run an HD movie on it, so I guess the 9400 would have no problems.
    I guess that the only thing that would make me go "Pro" would be the 9600, Expresscard, and as you said the better screen and also the fact that it's my only computer. The portability would make me go for the MacBook, because I had a 15" PC before and it wasn't too portable, but from what I've seen, the Pro is pretty small and portable for the screen size. The weight wouldn't be a big problem either, as from specs the Pro is only about .25 KG heavier than my MacBook, and I find it to be way too light already (and I'm a pretty strong guy aswell:rolleyes:). And of course the battery would be nice, but I saw some people reporting about 4 hours on their Pro's which is more than enough for me and I'm never far from a charger. But the cost is a bit of a different thing (even though my parents are paying for it) as I would probably be swapping a MacBook out earlier than a Pro if it'll be cheaper.
    I think I'll go find all the accessories I would buy for the MacBook (case, Applecare, and other stuff) and will see what the price difference will be. But like I know myself, I will probably be deciding right on spot anyway :D.
    I would also appreciate if you could report more on how you like your MacBook and how it is with some light gaming. This is a really hard decision for me now as I will not be getting another computer for at least 3 or 4 years.
  11. nope7308 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    The real-world difference is much greater than what appears on paper. Yes, the MBP is only 1lb heavier, but it feels much bigger. Keep in mind that backpacks/messenger bags are often stuffed with textbooks as well as a computer - it all adds up! I noticed a big difference in portability when I picked up the MB, and I hit the gym on a regular basis.

    Concerning size, the new MBP dwarfs older models. After doing a side-by-side comparison, the new MBP made a 15" Powerbook G4 look like a MB. Again, on paper the difference may seem minimal, but it in real-world use it feels a lot bigger. In fact, I found that the new MBP felt more like a 16.4" notebook - but again, that's anecdotal.

    Unfortunately, I don't use the MB for gaming so I can't really comment on this. I would speculate that the MB can handle most new games just fine on low settings, and most old games on high settings. I've heard that the 9400 can run WoW just fine with max settings, so you can use that as a reference point (but look into it). I would also avoid a 'gaming comparison' between the Alu MB and the 'Old' MB - they really are a world apart when it comes to graphics performance.

    Concerning battery life, those who experienced 4 hours were undoubtedly using the integrated 9400. So, if you want longer battery life, you will still be limited in graphics performance. Additionally, I've found that battery life is still better on the MB, even when the MBP is running the integrated 9400.

    You should be mindful of the extras. Generally speaking, you will pay a bit more for AppleCare and accessories. If you do decide to go with the MBP, I've heard that you can get a student developer discount. Essentially, you pay $99 to join and you get a one time discount on a new Apple machine. I heard that it can bring the price of a MBP down to the price of a MB, so you should definitely look into that.

    In terms of performance (graphics aside), the two machines are identical. I'm also not sure why you would want 6GB of RAM because that's complete overkill 99% of the time. You're better off spending that money on a faster HDD and removing the 5400rpm bottleneck.

    Like I said, the MBP has an advantage in three respects:
    - Graphics (9600)
    - Additional Ports
    - Screen quality

    By the same token, however, the MB has an advantage in three respects:
    - Size/weight
    - Battery life
    - Cost

    Again, the 'best' machine is the one that suits your needs. Personally, I wouldn't put too much weight on the screen quality because (1) you have an external monitor, and (2) the MB screen is still better than most. I'm not sure why you want/need an expresscard, but you need to ask yourself if that justifies the additional cost. Same thing goes for gaming. Also, don't be hung up on this 3-4 year lifespan - I assure you that both computers will last equally as long.

    My $0.02:
    You have a perfectly good - powerful - MB that has given you no issues. Keep it. Spend $1,000 on a custom desktop that will grossly outperform the MBP in gaming, and use the MB for homework (it has all the power and portability you need). You already have an external monitor and a keyboard/mouse can be had for cheap.

    I hate to say it, but there really is no good reason to replace your MB. I'm sure whoever bought it for you spent a pretty penny, so help them get their money's worth. :)

    Hope that helped.
  12. brop52 macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2007
    Buy Applecare on ebay. You will pay less than $125 and no tax. I paid $79 in November with the cash back, seller cash back, and ebay coupon.
  13. DOUGHNUT macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2006
    since you already have a PS3, you really don't have to worry too much about gaming on your notebook. Generally, PC exclusives run fairly well even on mid-low spec'd machines. it is only when you get to PC ports that are not scaled properly you run into major performance issues (like GTA IV for ex). you'll appreciate the added portability of the MacBook especially since you are using it in school, and will probably carry it around on a day to day basis and you probably won't even use the 9600m mode all that much anyway since battery life is important for you. definitely save your money and get the MacBook.
  14. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    That actually really helped a lot and I think that was the best comparison between the two! Should definitely be made as a sticky for people wondering the same ;) I was really thinking myself about making a custom desktop, I was even one step from ordering the parts, but I ended not doing so because it really limits me as I travel too much to even get any real use out of it. But since I have my PS3 I will most likely go the MacBook root. I will go to a store and compare them there next to each other a couple times before, but most stores I go to they have them without batteries and refuse to put them in :eek: so I cant really compare the weight.
    And I was also thinking lately about keeping my MacBook for some longer time, but the graphics really don't cut it if I have a small lan party with friends. (I will also get that person his money's worth, as my dad bought it and I will be giving it to him :p Until recently I haven't managed to convince him to get any sort of computer until I convinced my mom to get a MacBook as well last year. Seriously, how can people live without computers?! :confused: :D)
    BTW that 99$ developer discount thing, do you know if it counts for college or highschool students? Because I read somewhere it's only for college and I can't find anything on Apple's site. Unluckily I'm still 1 year short of college :mad:
    But luckily I still have about 3 weeks to decide. By then I will definitely go to a store and compare them carefully, and maybe ask if I can compare a game or two :p
  15. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Also another question.
    What kind of gaming can I expect on a MacBook? I saw some benchmarks, but that doesn't really answer my question as I don't really play PC games.
  16. svndmvn Guest

    Nov 6, 2007
    there are some threads about this on this forum, either in the gaming section and/or in the alu macbook owners' thread. you can also look it up on youtube, it looks to me like the new macbooks are suitable for whoever looks for something really portable and wants to play once in a while, most games will be decent even on the 2.0GHz since games aren't really processor power hogs, and 2GBs will be fine, with boot camp.
  17. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Upgrading after 13 months (in a recession)? Are you sure about that?
  18. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Thanks svndmvn. I know this was discussed before, but I couldn't really find any games that I'm interested in these forums. And I can't compare the ones given as the only games I ever played on a PC would be Age of Empires 2, Warcraft 3 and Rise of Nations, which all were on pretty low settings on my MacBook. And it's kind of bugging me now, because I sometimes end up at a friends house or something and the only thing we can play are those 3 games mentioned before :\ (I'm not saying they are bad, but they are just boring after such a long time :p)
    And fa8362, if you'd care to read the whole thing, you would know that I'm giving my current Mac to my dad, so it's practically the same thing as him buying it for himself, just that he doesn't need the graphics so it will be going to me :p.
  19. nope7308 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    In your case, there is no justification for a new computer. The only reasons you have given for a new Mac are (1) gaming, and (2) LAN parties. Presently, you're in high school, so this is what I would advise:
    - Deal with the poor graphics of the MB until you graduate.
    - Buy an Alu MB when you go to university/college, and give the previous one to your father. This way, you will maximize the life of the machine when you need it most.
    - If you're serious about gaming, build a custom desktop for half the price of a MBP, and use the MB for school work.

    I don't mean to judge, but you need to get your priorities straight. Gaming should not be your primary reason for buying a notebook computer, especially when you're in high school. I know you may think differently, but that's the truth. Right now, you should be saving for tuition, books, rent, food, etc. and worrying less about the quality of your entertainment. At the end of the day, gaming is a luxury. Work comes first, play comes second.

    Oddly enough, my brother tried to run the same argument by my parents (he's also in high school). I promptly gave him a 5 year old Dell desktop. Yes, he has difficulty playing games on it, but it still allows him to do his homework (and really, that's what's most important). If he wants to play games, he can play on my father's desktop.

    And the developer discount is only for college/university students. Why? The answer is simple - no high school kid needs a MBP. I know you're father is paying for the machine, but you really shouldn't throw money away like that.
  20. Patriks7 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2008
    Yeah looks like I need to give it some more thought before I go to New York. Thanks a lot for your help!
  21. nope7308 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    No problem. If it helps, pretend you're buying the machine with your own money :)

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