Looking for a bit of advice on MBP options!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by NoseInABook, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. NoseInABook macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    Pardon me if I'm not very good about using the abbreviations, I haven't seriously looked into a new computer in a very long time.

    I own a MacBook with an aluminum unibody, 2.4 GHz version. Manufactured late 2008, began use in February 2009. It's currently on its second battery, which is operating at 95% after a year. The poor thing still runs decently, but it's breaking down at a steady rate. It tends to "blackscreen" two or three times a day, a state where the hard drive and other elements wake up from sleep, but the screen is unresponsive. That forces me to do a hard restart. I've tried many workarounds/etc, but nothing really works. Another glaring problem is the trackpad "sticks", where it won't pop back up from a depressed position. I attempted to replace it, but the problem wasn't solved, leading me to believe the problem is the unibody itself, which has been dented somewhat. It also tends to run very hot and has a short battery life, despite the high capacity. (TL;DR - Still a decent computer, with many annoyances that are hindering its usefulness. Late 2008 aluminum unibody version.)

    With much regret, I'm looking at replacing my laptop. It has served me well for many years, and I will probably continue to use it for some things.

    The options:

    This model. I can easily purchase and install a higher RAM capacity myself, and it seems like a decent deal. However, I'm not terribly sure of the refurbished store.

    Either of the MPB 13" models. The 2.5 GHz is more within my price range, but at a stretch (and with my student discount), I can plausibly look at the 2.9 GHz version. How serious is the speed difference?

    The 13" 2.5GHz with Retina display is my last option. Again, the price is a bit daunting, but I can bring it down a bit with my small student discount. Are there any glaring differences between this and the 2.5 GHz version without Retina? The only real downside is the limited 128 GB storage, however, I can manage that with a bit of care.

    The computer will be used for some gaming (I tend to play any good game I can afford and get to work on a Mac), paper writing and note taking, photo editing, digital art with a drawing tablet, photo editing... And about everything else. I admit freely that I am not easy on my computers, but I managed to get four years out of this one, so I've come to trust Macs.

    As to the storage issue, I have a 1 TB backup drive, and a couple large capacity flash drives that more portable files can be stored on, so the 128 GB would be manageable, and shouldn't factor very heavily in advice. All models I'm considering are 13", simply for price reasons.

    I'm mainly curious as to what your personal experiences with the different models are, what the main differences and selling points are. (I am not as familiar with the processor and graphic card differences as I'd like to be.) As a college student, I naturally hope for something that will last me another four to five years.

    Tomorrow I'm planning on looking at the models in-store!

    Thank you all for any advice and help. I'm sorry I was so long-winded!
  2. MacKid macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2003
    If you intend to play anything more graphically taxing than Angry Birds and Bejeweled, the 13" Retina MacBook Pro is probably not worth considering. The non-Retina 13" MBPs are solid, offer much better value right now, and Apple's refurbished models are famous for being good-as-new.
  3. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    The nice thing about a non-Retina version is I can buy refurbished, whereas with the Retina version, I have the new update to worry about.

    However, there's an update for normal MBPs looming in June, I believe? That worries me, as I'm not sure I can make it that long without a new computer. My poor mac is going downhill fast.

    Thank you for your input, MacKid. ^.^
  4. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    A refurbished Apple computer is as good as any new computer (if not better).

    In terms of choices, the graphics across the entire 13" MacBook Pro line isn't that good for intensive games. Therefore it will have hard time running games in higher resolution than the regular (non-Retina) MacBook Pro. For day-to-day use, the graphics is more than sufficient to run both the regular and the Retina MacBook Pro displays.

    This brings up another issue: the regular 13" MacBook Pro has a screen resolution of 1280x800 which is pretty low by today's standards. If you don't need the optical drive (as you're considering the rMBP), you should consider a 13" MacBook Air instead. You'll have similar if not better performance (due to the SSD options), be very light and portable, and has excellent battery life. The screen resolution on the 13" MacBook Air is higher and more useful at 1400x900. It should be able to run many games today with lower settings at the default resolution. The drawback is it will not be user upgradeable.

    Finally 13" MacBook Pro with the Retina display is an excellent computer. It takes what makes best of the the 13" MacBook Pro, and makes it better. It's smaller, lighter, has a beautiful and very useful display (which you can scale to 1400x900 and 1680x1050). It has tons are useful things like two Thunderbolt ports, and an HDMI output to a TV. The latter comes in handy if you want to play a movie on a TV without having to hunt for adapters. You also get more RAM by default, and the redesign of the chassis means it runs cooler and quieter. Like the MacBook Air, this computer isn't really user upgradeable (well the SSD is, but it's expensive). The high resolution display also means it won't really play games well unless you run at a lower resolution. Using a lower screen resolution for a game means it won't look very good. But for your photo editing and drawing, the higher resolution display is the best (it has more resolution, better color, and better viewing angles).

    Personally for you use, I wouldn't bother with the regular 13" MacBook Pro. If you're looking to save a bit, get the 13" MacBook Air. If you're willing to go a bit higher, consider the 13" MacBook Pro with the Retina display.
  5. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    The graphics are not incredible, no. However, they are exactly the same thing that I am used to using, and I have no problem continuing along that line. The screen size and resolution on the MBPs are the same as what I currently, and for the last four years, game on.

    The Air is not a very good option for me. The processors are lower power than my current computer, which barely keeps up with the programs I run, and I'm afraid that lowering it might be harmful to my productivity. (Chronic multi-tasker.) However, I will look into it some more. Maybe I'm just being a bit paranoid. ^.^

    I've been a bit slow at re-familiarizing myself with computer workings and terms, so my research hasn't been progressing as fast as I'd like. So I came here. I really do appreciate your help! Thanks!
  6. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    The processors are clocked lower, but they are just as capable as the MacBook Pro. I know many people who are in the same situation having switched from an older 13" MacBook Pro. They are more than satisfied with moving to a MacBook Air.

    I think you could give it as shot. Purchase the 13" MacBook Air from Best Buy or an Apple Store. Use it for a week; if it works out, keep it; if it does not, return it.
  7. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    I'll at least look into it, especially when I head to the local tiny Mac store to look at them tomorrow. However, the price of the 13" Air with the higher end processor (2.0 GHz) and 8 GBs of RAM is fairly high? Compared to the hardware running in the MBP, anyways.

    My last Mac purchased was far from an informed one, so I'm trying to do my best this time to be informed. (More of an "Oh crap, the HP broke. Let's buy a Mac instead. That one looks shiny!" Oh, to not worry about money again. xD)
  8. MacKid macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2003
    Yeah, you can expect an update in four to five months, at which point the 13" rMBPs will be more robust in terms of everyday performance, and especially on the graphics. Their integrated graphics, the Intel HD 4000, can mostly keep up with the huge resolution for driving OS X's basic UI bells and whistles, but seems to bite the dust with even the most casual of games. Here are a couple reviews to help you decide for yourself: Engadget, Gizmodo, AnandTech.

    Keep in mind as you skim those that the complaints about the pricing were made before Apple dropped the price from $1699 to $1499 a few days ago. Still, in terms of value for your money, you'd be paying nearly 50% more (than the refurb you linked) for a generally better day-to-day visual experience and a generally worse time with the graphics.
  9. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    Considering one of my main complaints currently is how hard it is to work within the limits of my current MacBook, I'm probably going to value hardware over visuals and cross off the Retina, it looks like. I'll read those in the morning when I'm more awake, but that is sounding like less and less of a plausible deal.

    The reason I worry about being constrained to only 4GB of RAM is that I'm currently on a machine with 4, as I upgraded it this past summer in prep for college. However, I'm thinking the older processor is also at fault for low speed and lag issues.

    I'll also do more research into the Air line, though they do make me a bit nervous by default. It may just be some misconceptions on my part, as the last time I really looked into them was when they first came out. ^.^

    Thank you for the links to those reviews. I'll give them a good read in the morning. I've read a good twenty or thirty Windows laptop reviews today and my head is still spinning with those, heh. Need a clear head.
  10. MacKid macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2003
    Well, another way to look at purchasing one of the new models instead of restricting yourself to the refurbs: For the same price, you give up the Retina display for an actually livable hard drive and a significantly faster processor.

    The base 13" rMBP would actually be pretty okay were it not for the pitiful 128 GB hard drive. But that's just me.
  11. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    The MBP I prefer is the 2.9 GHz version, which drops in at a little under 1500 with a discount. At that price I can also get the Retina, which does have its ups and downs. Even with the slightly lower processing speeds/etc, it will still be a step up from where I am at currently. The storage might be a problem in the future, but I don't really have the extra 200 to shell out for an upgrade in hard drive. The problem with the Retinas is that, as far as I can tell, they are rather hard to upgrade, hard drive wise?

    The main reason I'm considering the lower end refurb is cost constraints. I'm not exactly sure what my price range will be when it comes down to the line, and that's the bottom of the line version. While it's not my preferred option, (any sane computer lover wants more power, right?) it may end up being a practical one.

    It's probably for the best I have a few weeks to make a decision. Start early, heh.

    Looking at all the options, the sad thing is, almost anything is a step up. Four years changes a lot. xD
  12. MacKid, Feb 19, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013

    MacKid macrumors 6502

    Jan 1, 2003
    If price is a very important decision point, I'd suggest going with the base non-Retina 13" MBP, bumping up the RAM from 4 to 8, and calling it a day. That should be $1199 after the education discount. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, grab that refurbished model and add more RAM yourself. =)
  13. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    That's what the first option entails! ^.^ I figured out that I can put in my own RAM for less than the price, as far as I can tell. It of course depends on the RAM, which I'm still researching a bit.

    Thanks for your help!
  14. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    I would look at the 13" Retina on the refurb store:


    With the extra money you're getting the 8GB of RAM, the 128GB SSD (which is worth about $100 if you wanted to buy one yourself for a non-retina MBP), and of course the screen.

    As far as games go, you can always run them at a lower resolution than the native retina resolution to get better performance.

    The 13" non-retina is a great machine, but I think that the retina is a bit more of a 'deal' at its new refurbished price.

    In day to day activities I think that the SSD will make the biggest difference. If you do get the non-retina 13" I would suggest upgrading to an SSD yourself in the future.
  15. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    The one thing I worry about with the one from the refurb shop is that it isn't up to the latest upgrade. They updated the rMBPs a few days ago, but that one is from 2012, meaning it doesn't have the latest updated processor?
  16. Asuriyan macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2013
    The processors are the same generation, just clocked slightly higher. The differences would be negligible.
  17. NoseInABook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 18, 2013
    Alright, thanks!

    A lot of it looks like it will come down to how much I can spend on the computer. Hopefully soon. Thanks for all your help, guys!
  18. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    As far as I know the processor in the base model 13" RMBP wasn't updated, the new one is still 2.5Ghz.

    If there are any differences between them they will be very minor.

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