HDD (fast CPU) vs. SSD (slow CPU) advice

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Sunday Ironfoot, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. Sunday Ironfoot macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2011
    A work colleague wants a 2.7GHz MacBook Pro with a 5400rpm HDD, but I said go for a 2.3GHz CPU with a 128GB SSD as it'll be a lot faster.

    The 2.7GHz CPU is an i7, but the 2.3GHz is an i5. The i5 + SSD is £1200, but the i7 + HDD comes to £1300. Both have same RAM and GPU. These are 2011 13" MacBook Pro's.

    Am I giving right advice?
  2. Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    No, because the HDD is upgradeable whereas the CPU is not. The HDD is indeed rather slow, but at least he'll be able to change it later on, so it'd be fine for now.
  3. Sunday Ironfoot thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2011
    She's unlikely to ever consider upgrading the hard drive.
  4. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    In that case going the SSD route is for almost any usage the better idea.
    The i7 offers nothing really good. It only saves some noticeable time in long encoding sessions and stuff but if you do that too often you wouldn't buy a 13" anyway. In everyday use nobody can feel the difference in speed.
    The HDD offers more space though. If I didn't have my SSD in the optibay and a HDD in the notebook too it wouldn't work. At least I cannot do with 128 GB alone and my SSD is 170. OSX + Windows partition take some space.

    If she uses it only like the average joe would and OSX only 128GB should be fine and it is definitely a lot faster.
  5. Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    Honestly, since SSD's are still rated at a very high (currency)/GB, I think she'll eventually want to upgrade the hard drive anyway due to the lack of storage.
  6. bigjobby macrumors 65816

    Apr 7, 2010
    London, UK
    If she doesn't need the raw CPU power, then get the i5. If she needs HD space then the 5400 rpm (or 7200rpm). It all depends on the ACTUAL user requirements rather than spec for spec's sake. For me, 128GB is just too small and too impractical to even consider. Horses for courses I guess.
  7. TheRdungeon macrumors 6502

    Jul 21, 2011
    If she's not really into computers she'll most likely be very confused as to why all her data doesn't fit on the i5's drive (if she has a lot)
  8. Sunday Ironfoot thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2011
    She's a regular, normal computer user, not an tech geek/nerd like us, and likely to recoil in horror at the mere suggestion of opening up her Mac to fiddle about with the insides, or even asking someone else to.

    I've put it to her that the 128 SSD will 'feel' a lot faster (in boot up time, application loading, and general usage), but that she'll have to make the decision as to whether 128GB will be enough for the lifetime of the machine, and weigh that up against having a much bigger (and much slower) HDD.
  9. Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    If she really doesn't want to replace anything at all in her MBP now or in the future, I'd say the speed gain of the SSD doesn't hold up against the size of the HDD. It will really save her a lot of headaches later on, as that 128GB is filled sooner than you think. Also, while it might 'feel' a little faster, it will be hardly noticeable in regular use other than applications starting up more quickly (Apple branded SSD's aren't that fast). Really, in this case I'd save her the trouble and recommend the HDD.
  10. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I always choose the fastest components that I cannot upgrade and then in the future if my budget will allow upgrade those user replaceable components. To that end, I recommend the faster cpu over the SSD
  11. sweetbrat macrumors 65816


    Jun 17, 2009
    Redford, MI
    I completely agree. I think that in the long run, the HDD will cause less hassle for her. If she gets the SSD, it will fill up quickly. Then she's left to either upgrade to a larger SSD (and the horror of having someone open up her computer) or the hassle of managing her files with some on an external HDD and some on the SSD. If you're looking to give her advice based on which will be easiest for her over a long period of time, go with the HDD.
  12. gullySn0wCat macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2010
    If she's never going to upgrade it or consider that, then why not get an MBA?
  13. mark28 macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2010
    The real question is ..... is 128 gb enough?

    To put things in perspective, you got iPod Touch and iPad with 64 gb SSD's.
  14. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    the ssd would definitely cause the greater speed increase in day to day tasks

    It's more a question of if 128 gb is enough for that individual's usage. If not, you also have to factor in the price of an external hard drive.
  15. fibrizo macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2009
    In terms of daily use, the SSD will provide far more improvement in perceived performance than the cpu upgrade.

    For example a 2.7ghz processor will not make your computer boot 20% faster or applications launch 20% faster (and the vast majority of the time we spend waiting for the computer is probably here on modern machines) The SSD however will probably improve both of those things by at least 50%.

    An example is the 2010 macbook airs. It never felt really slow to me even with a 1.6ghz core 2 duo, when I already owned a 2.4ghz c2d 13inch mbp... and a 2.3ghz 13 i5 macbook pro. Even the new 1.6ghz i5 11 inch air I have feels faster in daily use than my 2.3ghz 13 inch i5 mbp... which is by cpu clock speed 40% faster. On most things we do on these computers, the CPU is idle alot. (it would be interesting if we measured the % of time the cpu spent idle on a day to day basis for different users)

    Obviously they've made it so that you can upgrade the hard drive, which I don't hesitate to do, but would never say ask my mom or my wife to do. They just want a machine that works, no fiddling. Also if they ever have an issue, they can take it to apple and have them deal with it, which is best when the machine is in stock config if they replace parts. (I always put the stock drive and memory in if I take mine to the store)

    The argument for the CPU upgrade is mostly for a power user. (one who would care enough to upgrade the drives etc, get optibay etc etc.) I can only think of one real reason to get the 2.7, and that is if you do alot of encoding and processing that takes hours on end. You might save a bit of time there if you are one that likes to sit and watch it encode and not do something else. Realistically, by the time we get to the point where the 2.3ghz proc won't cut it compared to a 2.7ghz proc of the same core design, the 2.7 is going to be junk anyways compared to what can be purchased then.

    The main downside of an SSD is the size. Then again I know my mom and wife have never filled up 80gbs worth of stuff. Obviously alot of people do use alot more space, but it's person dependant.

    If this person doesn't use a ton of space, then they will benefit far more on a daily basis from an SSD than a cpu upgrade.
  16. spencers macrumors 68020


    Sep 20, 2004
    The HDD is always the limiting factor in computers.

    You'll notice a significant improvement by going with an SSD.
  17. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    There are a lot of comments here about running out of disk space...

    What does she use the computer for? Because for many users, 128GB is more than enough space.

    If all she does is word processing, email, and web browsing, then 128GB will be just fine. Both my parents use their computers for such, and they've got maybe ~5GB used in addition to the OS. Even my computer, on which I have a 20GB iTunes library, Adobe CS4, etc. installed, 128GB is usable.

    I would only worry about disk space if she has a huge/uncompressed music library, or downloads a lot of video content, or takes lots of RAW photos. If it's for average Word, Outlook, and internet use, there's not a lot of data being saved...
  18. Sunday Ironfoot thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2011
    I did suggest this to her, and she was tempted, but I think she's having trouble letting go of the optical drive (she wants to watch DVD's on the go, so external drive is out of the question), so needs something from the Pro range.

    I bought a 13" MBA which I bought into work which I think has tempted her to switch to a Mac :) Thing is, I can't get over how fast this thing feels even though it only has a 1.7GHz i5, and I'm convinced that's mainly down to the SSD. My 2.6GHz Windows 7 work laptop feels like swimming though treacle by comparison.

    Seriously, go SSD, or go home!:D
  19. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    there's a lot of factors that go into speed of a CPU beyond clock speed (ghz). For one, the manufacturing process (32 nm vs 45nm etc) is key because the smaller the manufacturing process, the more transistors that you can put on the CPU per the same area. Generally, newer computers can get away with lower clock speeds and still feel faster because they are made with small transistors in the CPU. The SSD plays a role in overall system speed, but it's not necessarily the only factor at play.

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