Buying new laptop - lots of questions!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Degrassi, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. Degrassi macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2012
    Hi all,

    In 2008 (!!) my friend sold me a used macbook, one of the white ones. I was studying photography at the time and we learned on macs, so it fit my needs and I jumped on it because it was a good price.

    These are the specs:
    Model Name: MacBook
    Model Identifier: MacBook2,1
    Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processor Speed: 1.83 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 1
    Total Number Of Cores: 2
    L2 Cache: 2 MB
    Memory: 2 GB
    Bus Speed: 667 MHz

    The thing has been amazing - traveled around the world, been my TV/phone/computer/entertainment, help up absurdly well, and never given me any trouble. But it's also old, slow, and I'm looking to buy a new one.

    I'm living in the UK at present, but am in Canada for a week to visit family. I'm thinking now would be the wisest time to buy, because if I wait till I'm back in England I'll wind up paying almost double.

    The thing is, I grabbed this one pretty much on a whim, and now that I'm going to be investing in a new one I hardly know what to look for or what questions to ask.

    The one I have now, I mainly use for photoshop and internet browsing. I'm thinking of buying a 13 inch Macbook pro, with extra RAM because everything I've read says that's the most important thing to upgrade.

    The most important thing to me is a computer that will last for ages, and get the job done. I want to invest in this, and have a nice solid computer for the next 5 years. I sometimes bring it with me, but usually I keep it on my desk at home.

    But yeah, I'm at a total loss. Help?
  2. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    Anything new will feel like a huge upgrade coming from what you have now, but there are a few things to think about.

    What are your priorities? A powerful workstation or portability? The Macbook Air is really a pretty capable machine that is remarkably lightweight. If you don't need maximum processing power, you really only give up the optical drive and some ports. The difference between having your current Macbook in your bag and an Air will astound you.

    If you want something more powerful, and can swing it, I'd go for a retina MBP. Too bad the 13" isn't available yet, as that will be the perfect laptop once available.

    Anyhow, it's considerably more expensive than the standard MBP, but for a computer that will last for years, it's going to feel considerably more modern 5 years on than the standard model will. That screen resolution is going to be a big thing, and the fact that it comes with a SSD equalizes the price differential somewhat.

    That said, if it's too expensive, go with a MBP with the most RAM you can afford AND a SSD. Extra RAM is only important up to the point that you have enough. If 8 gigs is enough (ie. you are never using more than that) then 16 gigs will make no performance difference. The SSD on the other hand is the biggest performance boost you can get in a laptop, bar none. I wouldn't consider owning one today without one.
  3. Degrassi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2012
    Thanks so much for your reply. What does the SSD do that makes it so much better?
  4. radiohed macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2007
    Portland, ME
    SSD drives are much faster and less prone to failure. Consider the Air for sure. They are very capable and fast yet very portable. :D
  5. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Photoshop and internet browsing are what I currently use my MBP for so perhaps I can help out here. I feel that a 13'' screen is plenty for Photoshop - sure, there are times that you may want extra screen space but in my opinion that is more of a luxury than a "requirement." I believe your model is a 13'', so you must be rather familiar with working on such a display.

    Upgrading your RAM is something you are going to want to do yourself. It's rather inexpensive (less than $50 for 8GB) if you purchase it and install it as opposed to getting the upgrade straight from Apple. This will not void your warranty either as RAM is user-serviceable hardware. I currently use 4GB for Photoshop, it runs smoothly - mainly you are going to want to upgrade your HDD to a SSD to see improvements with applications like Photoshop - both in launch speed and opening files. However, again these things are not necessarily "required," they are just nice to have - I run CS5 on 4GB and 5400RPM and it runs smoothly.

    Good luck with your decision, my advice is to go with the baseline 13'' MBP. You can upgrade the RAM and HDD yourself later on if that is what you would like to do.


    I really enjoyed coming across this, it's very few and far between when you see such pride taken in this stuff - most people seem to upgrade whenever possible and toss aside their old models or flip them for cash. It's great that you see it as more than that.
  6. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    Platter drives have been the slowest component in computers for years, by orders of magnitude. 2.5" laptop drives are especially slow as the platter is smaller and therefore can hold less data per rotation. In any form you are still relying on the modern equivalent of a digital high speed turntable. A SSD has read, write, and access speeds many times that of a mechanical drive and will make everything you do much faster. Once used to the speed of a SSD, it is very difficult to even use a computer without one - it literally feels like something is wrong.
  7. Degrassi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2012
    Aw, thanks! I really don't have enough money to toss anything aside,e specially computers! Plus, you know, I kind of get attached to these things.

    Is it possible to upgrade to SSD later on, or do you have to do that when you buy the laptop?

    And is it easy to put in extra RAM? Could you theoretically take it to the store later to have them put it in? Even if you say it's super easy, it's nice to know there's help if I'm unsure...
  8. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    The regular MBP still uses a standard drive and RAM that are upgradeable at a future point. The Retina MBP however has the RAM soldered to the board and is not upgradeable. The SSD in the RMBP is also proprietary and not easily upgraded.
  9. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    It's possible for sure, you can use the stock hard drive that comes with the laptop for as long as you want and upgrade later on if you would like to. It's also very simple to upgrade RAM (as well as the hard drive), you just have to unscrew the back of the laptop, pull back a couple of tabs, and gently lift out the old RAM and replace it.

    There are dozens of videos on YouTube and written guides (would recommend videos) on the internet that will show you how to upgrade these components. Just search "2012 13'' macbook pro ram upgrade" or something to that effect and you should be able to find some helpful aid.

    I believe that you can take your computer to Apple and have them do the upgrades, but that will most likely cost you quite a bit. It's very simple as I said however, just make sure your computer is off before opening up the back and messing with parts.

    I wouldn't burden yourself with thoughts of upgrading and what not - my advice is to simply purchase a base model now from Apple ($1,199.00) and be happy. You can always upgrade later on.

    Good luck and take care. :)
  10. Degrassi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2012
    Thanks! Is there anything at all I should look to get customized or changed straight away? Is there anything (other than RAM) that's important to have more than the base model for?
  11. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Not on the 13'' MacBook Pro, no. It's important to consider upgrading components directly from Apple in models such as the 15'' rMBP where the RAM (amongst other parts) is soldered onto the Logic Board in order to save space and account for a thinner laptop.

    There is one component on the 13'' MacBook Pro that cannot be upgraded with aftermarket hardware that is offered as an upgrade directly from Apple which is the processor. In the older 13'' models there was an option for it - in other words if you were looking to purchase a 2.4 GHz model, there would be an option to select a 2.66 GHz for a couple extra hundred dollars before you check out. Looking at these 2012 13'' models though, it looks like they are no longer configurable in that sense and instead they simply offer the $1,199 model which is 2.5 GHz and the $1,499 model which is 2.9 GHz. The more expensive model also comes with 4 more GB of RAM and a larger hard drive.

    In this case, I would strongly advise you to go for the 2.5 GHz model. You will save money and it's arguable that you will even notice the .4 GHz difference, even if one is i5 and the other is i7 technology. With the 2.5 GHz model, you will have 4GB RAM and a 500 GB 5400 RPM hard drive which you could always upgrade later on like we've discussed before.

    There are no other components in the case of the 13'' MBP that you would want to upgrade straight away besides the processor as that cannot be upgraded via aftermarket - but again I would suggest the base model.
  12. BanjoBanker macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2006
    Mt Brook, AL
    If Photoshop is going to be your primary tool, go for the i7 at 1,499. You will be happier longer with the extra RAM and larger hard drive, you are future proofing on the upfront so to speak. Plus, if you decide at some point to go with an SSD, you can put the 500 Gb drive in an enclosure and have a nice external storage device.
  13. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    What's the performance difference between the 2.5 GHz i5 and the 2.9 GHz i7? I would imagine not a very noticeable amount - especially with Photoshop, a SSD is going to help you much more before a small processor upgrade.

    It's not worth $300 in my opinion.
  14. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'd say max ram due to current pricing then on to ssd if a large enough one is affordable. You're right in that a lot of stuff isn't necessarily that cpu intensive. Some of it is, but that program moves around chunks of data more than anything. My 2011 macbook pro flies through it with dozens of layers and alpha channels or vector paths on practically everything. Sometimes they have both.
  15. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    The configurable 8GB RAM upgrade for the 2.5 GHz i5 MacBook Pro is an extra $100 onto the price, which is more than double the price of 8GB which is about $40 these days. The lowest capacity SSD (128GB) adds $200 to the price and I have seen a SSD that size go for as low as $90 on a sale, it's around $110 or so regularly depending on the brand - you're spending about double there too.

    I would still go for the base 13'' model and upgrade the user serviceable parts later on if need be via aftermarket hardware.
  16. Bauer24 macrumors regular

    May 18, 2009
    Vancouver, BC
    If you don't need a DVD drive, go with a 13" Macbook Air with 8 GB ram and the 128GB SSD drive. You could also grab a refurb with 256 GB SSD.

    If you do need a DVD drive, go with Dark Void's suggestion of the base 13" Pro, and then upgrade the RAM and SSD later.

    The best upgrade you can make is the SSD. The $300 to go from 2.5 to 2.9 Ghz is not worth it and that money is better spent on SSD/RAM upgrades.

    But again, that's if you need DVD burner. If you don't, the Air is the best option.
  17. thekev, Sep 7, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012

    thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I wasn't suggesting buying these things as CTO. They are entirely viable as after market upgrades as long as you're careful not to strip any screws. Also when I said if a large enough one is affordable, I allowed for the possibility that a 128GB version may not be large enough.
  18. saud0488 macrumors 6502

    Aug 18, 2011
    Do yourself a favor and DO NOT get the retina macbook. Nothing supports retina yet and likely won't for a while (until the prices drop anyways).

    The current 15 inch ones are incredible. I have a 13 inch mbp and the lack of dedicated graphics really sucks.

    Don't spend the extra money on a SSD from Apple. SSD prices are falling extremely fast and you can get a 256 GB one for less than 150 now. Good ones too, like OCX and Samsung.


    Oh and yeah get the 8GB ram as well. It's REALLY hard to strip the screws...I've never done it. If I'm not mistaken Best Buy had an 8gb ram kit that works great with macbooks for around 40 bucks this past week. Not hard to get for that price.
  19. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Oh, I'm sorry - I misinterpreted your post.

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