Drawbacks of the 128gb MacBook Pro?

MetalClock

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 25, 2017
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I'm thinking of getting a 128gb MacBook Pro 13 inch screen. I know the 256gb is the better option but I can only afford the 128 right now, so few questions.

  1. How much of a drawback is the 128gb hard drive? I use photoshop a lot, and I'll hopefully be able to do a bit of 2d Unity game dev, although mostly I just use Scrivener to do writing.
  2. I don't think it's possible to upgrade the 128gb hard drive on the latest models, so is there any way to mitigate any issues? Would using a memory stick help?
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,095
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If the 128gb is all you can afford and your only option, buy it.
With time, you'll find suitable "workarounds" for the limited space.
 

Gjwilly

macrumors 68030
May 1, 2011
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SF Bay Area
Besides less space, the smaller drives have slower performance than the larger ones.
Don't know if you'll tell the difference in your daily use though.
 

jerryk

macrumors 603
Nov 3, 2011
5,683
2,840
SF Bay Area
The 128gb is my only option currently. So the 128gb is completely unusable even with a memory stick plugged in?
The best USB memory stick in can read and write around 100 MB/sec. This is 15 to 30 times slower than the system's internal drive.

I would suggest getting a refurbished unit with more storage, instead of a new one. Or if that is too much, look at used units.
 
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throAU

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Feb 13, 2012
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I'm thinking of getting a 128gb MacBook Pro 13 inch screen. I know the 256gb is the better option but I can only afford the 128 right now, so few questions.

  1. How much of a drawback is the 128gb hard drive? I use photoshop a lot, and I'll hopefully be able to do a bit of 2d Unity game dev, although mostly I just use Scrivener to do writing.
  2. I don't think it's possible to upgrade the 128gb hard drive on the latest models, so is there any way to mitigate any issues? Would using a memory stick help?
128 GB is massively limiting. You won't have free space to keep media on it, the development tools for Xcode alone take several gigabytes.

XCODE alone is 9.9 GB or more (i haven't downloaded all the documentation, etc.)
Your projects will take space
Game libraries like unity will take space.

I would go no less than 256 bare minimum for a development machine and that will be tight.


If your budget is limited to 128 GB macbook pro price, for your use case i'd drop to a Macbook Air with as much space as you can afford. You will have a far less painful experience dealing with the Macbook Air trade-offs (inferior screen mostly) vs. the 128 GB storage capacity starvation on a development machine.

In terms of processing power, speed, etc. the Air is roughly on Par with the 13" Pro.
 
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ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
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I'm thinking of getting a 128gb MacBook Pro 13 inch screen. I know the 256gb is the better option but I can only afford the 128 right now, so few questions.

  1. How much of a drawback is the 128gb hard drive? I use photoshop a lot, and I'll hopefully be able to do a bit of 2d Unity game dev, although mostly I just use Scrivener to do writing.
  2. I don't think it's possible to upgrade the 128gb hard drive on the latest models, so is there any way to mitigate any issues? Would using a memory stick help?
With the MacBook Air and the 2015 MacBook Pro, IMO 128 GB was not nearly a big a deal because you could add 256 GB internal flash storage using a product called the Transcend JetDrive Lite, which sits flush inside the SD card slot. While not as fast as the SSD, it was a great option for media storage.

With the 2016-, because there is no SD card slot, there are no options like this and so storage expansion must be external. The 128 GB SSD is removable, but there are no 3rd party upgrades that I know of and there may never be. Even if there were, you would likely spend much more doing the upgrade than you would saving for a little while to purchase the 256 GB size.

From a longevity perspective, the 128 GB SSD likely has slower write speeds (which will not be noticeable for most use), and will probably have a shorter lifespan than a larger size (partly because so much of the SSD will be filled, accelerating wear) - but as SSDs last so long, this is probably a moot point. If you allow the SSD to become too full, performance may degrade to a point where you begin to notice the effects.

If you are OK with using an external SSD with the computer, then 128 GB probably isn't that big of a deal. But, if you are highly mobile or do not like hooking up a hard drive to the system every time you use it, 256 is arguably worth the investment. If you plan to keep the computer for a long time, 256+ is arguably even more important - especially considering how large uncompressed photos can be (which I am guessing you likely work with). After a while, it could get very annoying to have to plug an external hard drive in just so you can listen to your music...
 
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AFEPPL

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I've used a 128GB for 4years, still going, still less than 50% full.
You can get a adapter to fit a microSD card into the slot (fits flush) and you can get those for £70/200GB - no external connections.
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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I've used a 128GB for 4years, still going still less than 50% full.
You can get a adapter to fit a microSD card into the slot (fits flush) and you can get those for £70/200GB - no external connections.
No SD card slot in 2016 and later models
 

Ace2617

macrumors regular
Mar 16, 2016
161
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Why is the refurbished (2016) 256GB not an option?
I agree with this, OP. If possible, it may be worth looking into. Considering that iPhones are now offered with up to 256 GB, it really sucks that 128 is still included in a base level Mac. 128 GB on a new Mac won't be enough. You could go external for additional space, but as others have said, it will be slower. Refurbished or lightly used is a good option, as you could get more space for less money. Just a thought. If not, just get the 128 GB and then buy external storage once you need it.
 

throAU

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Feb 13, 2012
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I've used a 128GB for 4years, still going, still less than 50% full.
You can get a adapter to fit a microSD card into the slot (fits flush) and you can get those for £70/200GB - no external connections.
Are you a developer?

SD flash is about 10x slower than the internal SSD storage.
 

AFEPPL

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Sep 30, 2014
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Xcode will run fine on any mac, it's not a really performance heavy application.
You're 100% correct, SD cards are much slower but it provides an option - assuming you have an SDXC slot
 

throAU

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Feb 13, 2012
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Xcode will run fine on any mac, it's not a really performance heavy application.
You're 100% correct, SD cards are much slower but it provides an option - assuming you have an SDXC slot
The question though is why screw around with crappy low performance storage instead of just buying the correct tool for the job in the first place? :)

I swear, seems like half of the Macrumors community are hell bent on buying way below the ideal spec in some sort of justification for apple under-provisioning resources on the machines they sell.

Why make your life more difficult than it needs to be, when you can spend the same money and get something that will work faster, be useful for longer and actually do the job you're wanting the machine for?

Also xcode "loading" and running with real world projects are two entirely different things. Firing up Xcode and declaring "runs fine!" is in no way representative of using for actual work.
 
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AFEPPL

macrumors 68030
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I'm with you.
But if people have a budget, they are just looking for ways and advise to maximise what they can get for it.

In a perfect world everyone would get the biggest most powerful every 6 months.
I'd get rMB too over MBA every time
 

Matt Leaf

macrumors 6502
Feb 5, 2012
296
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I have a 128 gb Macbook Air. Currently 30gb free. Granted, there isn't much lying around on it.

I think its definitely doable if you make use of some cloud services for data storage, and use online services such as Spotify and whatnot instead of hard files in Apple Music for eg.

The real question is if you think 128gb is enough for all your apps. If it isn't, well, yeah.
 

throAU

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Feb 13, 2012
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Perth, Western Australia
That's pretty much why i suggested dropping to the Air and spending the money on storage instead of the display.

If you have a budget that will only buy a 128 GB macbook pro retina and are planning to do development, IMHO, that money is far better spent on the storage in an MBA. You could even get a 256 GB air for less than as 128 GB retina if i'm not mistaken.

Yes the screen sucks, but it is usable, and won't result in you having to slow down all your compiles, lose local time machine backups of your work, store all your work on crappy cheap flash that is far more prone to failure (SD flash is built down to a far lower price/quality than SSD flash) and in general just waste a heap of time playing storage administrator.

And that's coming from me. I hate the MBA screen. Really hate (i've posted regarding my hatred for it plenty here in the past). It is TN and thus in my eyes garbage. But, even so, i'd much rather take the additional storage to not have to constantly play storage administrator... if the alternative was only 128 GB in a macbook pro.

(i'm a display snob. it's not bad for a TN screen, but i've been spoiled. if it's all your budget will allow to have better spec in everything else that will impact your work, picking the MBA is the best choice, IMHO).
 

Toutou

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2015
673
957
Prague, Czech Republic
I would go no less than 256 bare minimum for a development machine and that will be tight.
Mine is a 128 GB Pro. Xcode, IntelliJ IDEA with the full Android SDK, Affinity Photo with some RAW files always on the machine, several games and such. 33 gigs free as of now.

How much of a drawback is the 128gb hard drive? I use photoshop a lot, and I'll hopefully be able to do a bit of 2d Unity game dev, although mostly I just use Scrivener to do writing.
It's inconvenient if you're a multimedia person (that Photoshop thing could be a problem) but okay for a developer or a writer.
 

T-Bob

macrumors 6502a
Oct 23, 2013
611
308
I'd still pick the MacBook over the MBA, not just because the MBA is such an old design but because its my experience as well. Had the rMB 2016 m5/512 and would still be using it if not for the new MBPs. But yes also a display snob, so would pick the display and other advantages like footprint and weight, 0 noise over the MBA.

But that's me. MBAs are cheaper, but I'm not sure if their processing power is better than core M unless you get the top spec cpu, last I looked in 2016 the m5 was keeping up or beating a lot of MBA configs.

Also need to consider if one usb C port would be an issue, like do you always attach stuff to your machine, stuff that can't be split up. Was never a problem for me, but yeah.

The new MBPs are definitely more expensive. I got the same spec as I did in 2013 (i5/16GB ram/512) and Moore's law was not on my side this time ;)
 

Sterkenburg

macrumors 6502
Oct 27, 2016
418
355
I second the suggestions to either look for a refurbished 2016 with 256GB or consider the rMB (MBA is also an option, but the screen is ridiculously outdated and I personally couldn't stand it anymore). Living with 128GB is doable using cloud storage and external drives, but you will likely run out of space eventually, and having to constantly micro-manage the space on your drive is definitely not a fun way to use a computer...
 

Nilhum

macrumors regular
Dec 20, 2016
199
270
Why not just wait a month or two until you can afford the 256 GB or higher. Do you need the MacBook immediately? If not, just wait and save up a bit more. This way you don't need to get the refurbished either. Otherwise, you will have a $1300 laptop with storage always being an issue. Storage you can never upgrade and that you will have to live with for a few years. Just wait and save to buy a higher storage option or it will affect you for 4+ years.
 
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