Help: Should I replace my laptop or upgrade?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rocknpop, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. rocknpop macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2009
    I am considering upgrading my laptop because it is running significantly slower than it used to. I have a MacBook Pro mid 2009, core 2 duo 2.53Ghz, version 5,5 with 4GB of RAM. My main use of the laptop is for recording and processing music using ProTools 11. However, simple tasks seem to be resource taxing and slowing down the laptop. I plan to do a fresh install of Yosemite, but wanted to know if this planned upgrade is better than buying a new MacBook. Will I notice the upgraded difference?

    1) upgrading my RAM from 4GB to 8GB ($100)
    2) upgrading my HD from the stock 5400 rpm to this SSD by OWC: ($140)
    Total: ~$240 vs upgrading to a new machine i5 or better.
  2. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    Yes, you'll definitely notice the difference.

    Whether that's enough of an upgrade to meet your expectations is a different story. If you're using this computer in a professional capacity where time is money, then I think you should absolutely consider taking the money and investing in a new computer as soon as practical.
  3. rocknpop thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Thanks for the reply. I'm using it solely as a hobby, but if like for the laptop to run smoothly. Right now some of the most basic tasks seem to make the laptop struggle or at lest it has a noticeable delay. I'm hoping that a fresh clean install of Yosemite and the upgrades mentioned help the computers performance. However, I'm not sure about what I should be comparing when it comes to CPU + RAM + HD speeds between these computers. For example, what exactly is the benefit of having an i5 processor with stock HD and stock RAM vs. the upgraded '09 core 2 duo? Better phrased - at which level of specifications would an i5 be better than the upgraded '09 mentioned?
  4. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2006
    A400M Base
    my guess it this..

    Since my computer is only marginally younger, I will tell you this:

    I think the CPU is not the big question, whether you buy a Macbook Air or a Macbook Pro is. But assuming, you go with the right kind of machine, a Macbook Pro, I will tell you, the new machine will be a good chunk faster then your old 09' model.
    However, upgrading your existing machine will make a significant step forward in speed as well. Depending on your use of programs, you may be easily be happy for another two years.
    I did go the upgrade route and I am very happy with my decision, because a new machine in my category cost me 2,7 k. So two years longer "shelve live" converts to a big saving for me.

  5. meson macrumors regular

    Apr 29, 2014
    Your machine will still perform well with the upgrades. However, it is an older system now, and you never know when something might fail. The biggest issue you have right now is the HDD. My personal opinion is that all versions of OS X after Snow Leopard are sluggish on a spinning HD. They just cache so much information, and have so many background processes running that the HDD is constantly reading and writing. Install Snow Leopard, and it will seem like a new machine, but Snow Leopard is no longer supported. The mid 2012 13" machine I bought new in April running Mavericks felt significantly slower than my old 2008 MacBook running Snow Leopard.

    Swapping out the HDD for an SSD was a game changer. I now have the machine I wanted at a price that fit a very tight budget.

    The i5 processors are much more efficient than the old Core2Duos, but they don't really shine without the SSD.

    Your machine has a SATA II connection which will effectively cap an SSD's read/write speed at ~250MB/s, which is about 2-3 times the read/write speed of a typical laptop hard drive. This is very noticeable. The non-retina MBP with SATA III can readwrite up to ~500MB/s. The proprietary blade SSDs used in the retina machines are even faster at 750-1000MB/s.

    If you are running Mavericks or Yosemite, check your ram pressure at various points in your work load. If the pressure goes to yellow or red, you can benefit from more ram. With the audio work, 8GB of ram is likely to help a bit.

    If I were you, I would look hard at a 13" retina machine with an i5 processor, 8GB or ram, and a 256GB HDD. If you start bumping the processor and ram from there, you quickly find that the base 15" is only a hundred or two dollars more, and would be a much better buy at $2k than any 13" machine at $1800 in my opinion.
  6. rocknpop thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Thank you for the thoughtful response. This is the kind of information I'm looking for (empirical information that supports the upgrade or not).

    Can you please expand on the HDD speeds and how this affects performance as well as the benefit of i5 vs i7? I honestly think that just buying the basic 13in:
    2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
    4GB 1600MHz memory (I'd upgrade to 8GB, -$99)
    500GB 5400-rpm hard drive1 ( I'd upgrade to SSD, $150)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000
    Built-in battery, 7h
    Total price ~$1,350 minus the salvage value of what I have ~$450. Out of pocket ~$900 vs. a $250 upgrade to the old one. Worth the $650?

  7. meson, Jan 11, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2015

    meson macrumors regular

    Apr 29, 2014
    The machine you are looking at is a great machine. It's what I have now, and it's plenty for what I ask of it. At the time I bought mine, the difference between it after upgrades and a similarly equipped retina machine with the dongles and such I would have needed was something like $700. Now the difference is much smaller, but the ability to buy a machine on a tight budget and upgrade to the specs you want/need as the funds become available is a big draw. The retina machines are not upgradable, short of finding a used SSD on eBay.

    It used to be that our machines were limited primarily by the amount of ram available, as we would ask them to handle more data than could store in ram and that would lead to continuous reading/writing from the hard drive which is much much slower than reading and writing to ram. Now we can get machines with enough ram for many users (a few would like/need more and always will). Now, the biggest bottleneck is reading and writing from the hard drive, as things can be read into ram and processed faster than the drive can write the new data and read in the next info needed.

    The hard drive speeds set how fast your machine can read data into memory and how fast it can write new data to the hard drive. The higher the speed, the shorter the time it takes to do something. The easiest times to see how the disk speed affects your work is during the machine startup and application launching. A machine that takes about a minute to startup with a spinning hard drive may take 15 seconds to start with an SSD. There are some applications that take a long time to load, i.e. a lot of time to read data from the disk. When you put them on an SSD, they launch almost instantly. Applications like Adobe PhotoShop and Mathematica come to mind here.

    Apple currently uses 2 interfaces for hard drives. One is SATA that has been around for quite a while now. SATA comes in 3 varieties, I, II, and III. With each generation, the speed doubled. SATA I is 1.5Gb/s, SATA II 3Gb/s, and SATA III 6Gb/s. These correlate to roughly 125MB/s, 250MB/s, and 500MB/s (The fastest SATA III drives deliver speeds of ~550MB/s). The other interface is PCIe that is capable of delivering even faster speeds.

    If you can make it to an Apple Store, Best Buy or other retailer to play with the machines, try restarting the retina and non-retina machines, launch some apps, and you will see the differences that the SSD makes.

    As far as i5 vs. i7, in the 13" model, all of the processors are dual core, and the performance gains, particularly in your day to day usage will be minimal. The differences are that the i7 is a little faster and has a larger cache, but the price for the upgrade is pretty steep to gain a few percent in performance (most of it coming from the difference in clock speed, though the cache sizes affect it a bit). Once you start bumping up the specs of the 13" machine, you start getting closer to the price tag of the base 15" model that comes with a quad core processor that can perform more work quicker.

    It's not like we are in a time like the 90s and early 2000s where even an idle computer was using something like 30%-50% of the processing power. Now, our machines idle while only using a few percent of the processing power, and are capable of performing the tasks we ask of them much quicker.

    I know things are kind of simplified here, but hopefully it explains some of the biggest differences.

    If you absolutely do not have the money for a new machine, the upgrades will breath new life into your current machine, and it will feel completely new, and you may have an old machine that will keep ticking for years, or one that could die tomorrow. That is the biggest drawback to upgrading the old. If you can get $450 out of your current machine, the price difference of $650 becomes much more manageable. My biggest problem is I run the machines until they die (or get killed by my kids), so they aren't worth much afterwards, so I'm always on the hook for the full price tag.
  8. rocknpop thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Thanks, guys. I decided to go with the 240GB SSD drive and 8GB RAM kit from OWC. I will keep Snow Leopard in one partition and Yosemite in the other partition. Total cost to upgrade will be $252. :D
  9. OneMike macrumors 603


    Oct 19, 2005
    Not bad. Personally I'd have probably went with a crucial drive as I've done in the past off amazon for about $100 and shopped around for the ram. Likely would've saved a bit.

    Overall though great upgrades and I think you'll see a big difference.
  10. rocknpop thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Hi Mike,
    Yeah, I looked at the crucial, but I needed to have Trim support for the SSD. I wanted the easiest option. And, I think OWC specializes in mac products and have a 30 day money back guarantee no-questions asked in case it fails (which I'm sure it won't).

    The RAM was another OWC item that I could have gotten $10 cheaper on Amazon (I have prime too, so I would have received it quicker), but again, wanted to play it on the safe side with components from one distributor.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing how it performs!
  11. marlon bishop macrumors member

    Jan 4, 2012
    I could have gone that route, but i upgraded to a whole new macbook pro Retina
  12. SarcasticJoe macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2013
    Did something similar to my 2011 machine back in 2013 and I because of the dramatic effect I don't plan on replacing it in the near future. It's fast enough for the things I use it for and for everything else I have a custom built desktop which is much faster and was much cheaper than going for a new Macbook. Even after I factor in what I'd get if I had sold my current Macbook.

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