Contemplating on what MacBook to get - looking for advice.

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by LuckyKevin, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. LuckyKevin, Jul 30, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011

    LuckyKevin macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2011
    Hey everyone,
    Apart from my new registration on this website I'm somewhat experienced with computers and am posting here for some advice on what MacBook Pro I should buy. I apologize for the lengthy post but I'd more than appretiate anyone's time and help.

    I'm about to start college within the next few weeks and need a new computer, and I've decided on a 13" MacBook Pro.
    My concerns are what specs and hardware I should give my MBP, and I'd love any advice based on the following information.

    During college, I'll be running multiple different engineering applications that will most likely be pretty large.
    I am going to have to purchase Parallels so that I can run Windows on my Mac as most of the engineering software only runs with Windows, so Windows will probably be running good percentage of the time.

    To make use of the new OS X Lion, I'll most likely have multiple desktops open each with a few applications running on them.
    My main tasks I'll be doing on my MBP are school work (Microsoft Office, Powerpoint, engineering software, etc.), web design (Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver), streaming high-definition TV shows and movies, and some gaming. I'm also most likely to have all of these applications open at once.

    My choices come down as follows,
    #1 - MacBook Pro 13" $1,864.00
    2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    8GB Ram
    256GB Solid Slate Drive

    #2 - MacBook Pro 13" $1,579.00
    2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
    8GB Ram
    500GB ATA Drive

    It's either the slightly faster processor i7 or the 256GB SSD that I'm torn on.

    I'm in love with how fast SSD boot and load times and that's why I'm strongly leaning towards option #1 but I'm not sure if it's worth the extra money. Some other benefits of the SSD are a quieter and cooler hard drive and also conserved battery power. The smaller space isn't a problem for me as the most space I know I'll ever need is ~150GB. And as you can see I've opted 8GB of ram in both options.

    To sum it up my main questions are,
    Which option would be more beneficial for me, seeing as I'll be running Parallels a good amount of the time?
    Will Parallels and Windows run faster/smoother/overall better with the SSD (because of faster load times) or with the Intel Core i7?
    Is the 256GB SSD worth the extra few hundred bucks and being stuck with the Intel Core i5?

    Thanks for all and any help and advice!

  2. wordoflife, Jul 31, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011

    wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    You'll notice better performance from the SSD over the processor unless you will be crunching numbers 24/7. even if so, the difference is nominal.

    I would say go with the i2.3ghz, 256GB SSD.

    What you should do, however, is buy RAM from a third party. If you look on Amazon, i've seen an 8GB upgrade for as low as $50-60. With Apple, you are paying $200 for 8GB. Installing it yourself, you are paying ~$60 for 8GB + 4GB (stock from computer). You can even sell the 4GB sticks to bring the overall price of the RAM upgrade even lower than $50. Either way, it's much cheaper and only takes a few minutes to do. Trust me, unless you have no idea what you are doing (such as misaligning the pins when installing the RAM or stabbing the screw driver into the motherboard), you will be fine.

    That being said, the SSD is also cheaper from a third party and is easy to replace. For about $420, you can get an SSD *and* you can keep the stock 320GB drive that comes with the computer. Just throw the stock standard hard drive into a HDD cage and now you have an external drive for free.

    There's honestly no point in overpaying $400 to do something you can do yourself. Not to mention, Apple only gives you the SSD (not the original HDD) and they only give you 8GB of RAM (not the standard 4GB in addition to the 8GB).

    With that said, you can buy a 2.7ghz MBP with 8GB RAM and a 256 SSD in the price range you are looking at provided you do some upgrades yourself. It's honestly not that hard and isn't against Apple's warranty (Apple says that they are "user replaceable"

    I don't have the numbers off the top off my head (if you were to buy a MBP 2.7 and upgrade it yourself) but I know it wont be much more expensive than your first build. you can always do some of the upgrades later

    8GB RAM Amazon :

    SSD 256GB newegg:

    hard drive cage to put the stock 320gb that you pull from the MBP (so you can use it as an external drive):

    total about 1880 before taxes (i know it's off ... but just to give you an idea)
  3. merrickdrfc macrumors 6502


    Jan 8, 2011
  4. SteelWheel macrumors member

    Apr 16, 2008
    Don't know where you are in the US, or how handy you consider yourself to be (personally, I'm all thumbs, so I'm never willing to crack open a laptop--desktops are easy, but that's as far as I go). When I got my mid-2008 MBP, I maxed out the configuration--and then called a funky little store in New York City called Tekserve, which has been in the business of being an exclusively Apple retail store for longer than Apple has been (I live just outside NYC in the burbs, so easy for me to get to), and told them what I wanted. They were able to beat Apple's price easily, since they don't use Apple RAM. In fact, they gave me a credit for the Apple RAM which they removed, and applied that to the cost of the 3rd party RAM which they installed (two 1GB sticks being replaced by two 2GB sticks), gave me a couple of other small "nice guy" discounts, and threw in some screen cleaners and other doodads for free. And they installed the then latest version of Parallels and XP, so I only paid the OEM price for XP.

    This would probably only make sense if you live in the New York area, since Tekserve does do mail order, but sadly does not have free shipping, and would probably be forced to subject to NY sales tax. But if you do, it's worth considering.

    You might also be able to get some similar incremental cost savings (say around 5% or so) by calling MacMall or one of those other online retailers--don't know how much custom configuring they're willing to do, but it can't hurt to ask.

    Good luck. Enjoy college. Wish I was young enough to go to college all over again, knowing what I know now...<feels wistful>....
  5. TheGenerous macrumors 6502a


    Nov 14, 2010
    I'm an Austronaut
    I'll suggest to get the faster processor because that will increase write-read speeds.
  6. lindsbug macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2011
    Be sure and consider buying the AppleCare Protection Plan. My grandparents bought my brother a MB Pro right before he was off to college in August 2009 and in September 2010 (one year out of warranty) his logic board bit the dust. I think he spent $500 on that repair ... good thing he didn't have any money in the computer otherwise; that would have been a double ouch!

    Good luck!
  7. Performa636CD macrumors member

    Dec 12, 2006
    Cair Paravel
    How about option #2, then get an aftermarket 120GB SSD (Crucial, Vertez, Intel, etc.)? And with an external HDD enclosure you'll have an external, 500GB HDD. Should cost roughly the same as option #1.

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