MB v. MBP: what don't I know that I should?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by luchak, Mar 2, 2008.

  1. luchak macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2008
    Yup, that's right, I'm stuck on the Eternal Question: Macbook or Macbook Pro? I'm pretty well acquainted with the differences in specs (graphics card, screen size, keyboard, multitouch, matte screen option, processor choices, ports, expresscard slot, etc.) -- but this has not helped me resolve my dilemma. What are some things I might not know that could help me make up my mind? Things that I wouldn't realize until after I'd owned a laptop for a while?

    A little bit about what I'm looking for, in case it helps:
    My current Mac is a last-generation 17" Powerbook G4 1.67GHz (bought in Nov. 2005 ... terrible timing), and for about six months I've felt like it's just too poky for my needs: web browsing tends to feel quite slow, though maybe that's because I only have 1.5 GB of RAM, and Reason and Live are both maxing out their CPU meters on a regular basis.

    What do I do with my laptop?
    - browse the web, take care of email, etc.
    - make music. Reason, Ableton Live, that sort of thing. Occasionally ChucK or Max/MSP. Can be very CPU hungry.
    - write software. Bits 'n pieces of Python, C++, Java/Processing, etc. Usually big batch processing data mining kind of stuff. Occasionally I foray into slightly game-like territory, but nothing that the Radeon Mobile 9700 in my PB won't easily keep up with. (Is the X3100 a big step down from that? I hope not.)
    - transcode videos for iPod use. (minor)

    I like having screen real estate, but I hate carrying around a huge monster laptop. 1280x800 is acceptable, but at the low end of what I'm willing to consider. The 15" MBP is a little larger than I'd like, but it's enough of an improvement from the 17" that I won't complain. I'm worried that I'll grow to hate the MB keyboard. I don't mind it now, but I've never used it for more than 5 minutes at a time.

    And, finally, it would be nice to be able to play Spore when it comes out, even at low quality settings. The game does enough different things that I'm curious about that I'd really like to poke at it and see how Will Wright 'n friends have put their world together. This is neither a deal-maker nor a deal-breaker, though.

    So ... any thoughts? Any pearls of wisdom that might make my decision a little simpler?
  2. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    If you can afford the Pro without Stretching your budget then get that it will last longer and will play games better. I think if you already have a powerbook then you should get the PRO that way your getting an upgraded Powerbook where as the Macbook can be a downgrade in certain things.
  3. Kovacs macrumors newbie

    Sep 27, 2007
    Oslo, Norway
    You can use a MacBook for your purposes...but I doubt it would feel that much like an upgrade from your G4 PB.

    I've used an MBP since it first came out, using both Live and Reason, and it's a brilliant machine for music production. Don't forget that you get more screen estate as well!

    In general I'd say the MBP is built for your purposes. :)
  4. kjr39 macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2004
    I always considered myself a hog on computer resources. But, I have been really happy with my MB. When I replace it, I'll replace it with another MB instead of a MBP.

    I see nothing there that you list that would require a Pro.
  5. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    This is absolute nonsense. The latest MacBooks use the same 2.4GHz Penryn processors as the MacBook Pro and since the poster says he won't be using the graphics chip, there is no perceivable advantage to spending extra money on the MacBook Pro. MacBook Pro would be complete and utter overkill and a great waste of money for what you want it to do.

    The MacBook is a great computer in my opinion and is definitely a better design than the Pro. I love the size of mine - it's pretty much perfect. I had a 15" MacBook Pro before and found it too large.

    The X3100 is a step UP from the Radeon Mobile 9700 in many respects. Certainly games which worked on the Radeon Mobile 9700 will work just fine on the MacBook. I'd say anything released in 2004 or before will be fine, but games newer than that might a bit more challenging for the computer. I've played Half Life 2 and GTA San Andreas on my MacBook just fine.

    My opinion: Go for the black MacBook.
  6. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada

    What's the point of getting the Black MacBook? That thing is such a waste of money The guy said he wanted to play Spore the MacBook Pro is far better for that. He would miss his dedicated card then I'm sure and what about the Aluminum Plastic is a downgrade too. It's not really a better design Because you think it is. The Pro is much more sturdy and better built. Get the Pro and enjoy it.
  7. soccerjoe5 macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2008
    From notebookreview's apple section "Mac Switcher's Guide":

    MacBook Pro advantages over the MacBook:

    * Larger screen: 15.4-inch and 17-inch vs. the 13.3-inch MacBook.

    * Higher screen resolution: 1440x900 on the 15.4-inch, 1680x1050 & optional 1920x1200 on the 17-inch, compared to 1280x800 on the MacBook.

    * LED backlighting: The 15.4-inch MacBook Pro uses LED-backlighting, allowing the screen to be even brighter and reach full brightness immediately (previous backlighting methods required a few minutes to reach true full brightness), consume less energy and be environmentally friendly. The 17-inch MacBook Pro currently does not have this feature, as 17-inch LED-backlit displays are not available in the market yet.

    * Graphics card: The MacBook Pro has the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT DDR3, amongst the best available graphics card in the 15.4-inch category. This will be useful in gaming and graphics-intensive applications. The MacBook uses an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100.

    * Backlit keyboard: The MacBook Pro has a backlit keyboard, useful for working in the dark. Also, it has an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the keyboard's brightness and the screen brightness. The MacBook does not have either of these features (backlit keyboard or ambient light sensor).

    * ExpressCard slot: The MacBook Pro has an ExpressCard/34 slot. The MacBook does not.

    * Thinner case: The MacBook Pro is measured at exactly 1.0 inches thick (2.59 cm), while the MacBook is slightly thicker at 1.08 inches (2.75 cm).

    * SuperDrive: All MacBook Pros feature the SuperDrive optical drive, meaning it can burn and read CDs and DVDs. The base model MacBook has a Combo Drive (read and burn CDs, read DVDs only). The middle and high-end model MacBooks also feature a SuperDrive.

    * Design: This is pure personal preference, but most will agree the design of the MacBook Pro is much sleeker and aesthetically sharper than the MacBook.

    MacBook advantages over the MacBook Pro:

    * Cheaper price: The MacBook is approximately $800-900 US less than the MacBook Pro.

    * Thicker and stronger case: The MacBook has a thicker and stronger casing than the MacBook Pro does, which will be helpful in bumps or accidental impact on a hard surface.

    * Smaller dimensions: The MacBook is a 13.3-inch notebook, so it will be easier to carry around in terms of fitting into backpacks and bags.

    * Easy to upgrade: Upgrading the RAM and the hard drive in the MacBook is easier than upgrading RAM in the MacBook Pro (upgrading the hard drive in the MBP voids the warranty).

    * Lighter weight: The MacBook weighs less than the MacBook Pro, at 5.1 lbs (2.31 kg). Whether this is an advantage in favour of the MacBook is argueable, as the MacBook Pro's 5.4 lbs (2.45 kg) and 6.8 lbs (3.08 kg) is very light for its categories, while the MacBook is heavy for its category. However, all in all the MacBook is still lighter than the MacBook Pro. For those who absolutely need the lightest Mac notebook, even if its a few ounces' difference, the MacBook weighs the least.
  8. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    Upgrading the Hard Drive in the Pro does NOT void the Warranty
  9. velocityg4 macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    I would say get the Macbook Pro. The timelines on your Audio programs will seem quite limited compared to that 17 inch Powerbook you are use to, due to the lower resolution of the Macbook. If you are use to programming with lots of code that smaller screen will also make less information available and multiple open windows can be a pain as well. Further that X3100 will be a big downgrade to a Radeon 9700 when you play your games.

    Though my experience is somewhat different for games, since I game in Windows on a dedicated PC and do everything else in Mac OS X. I would say it also illustrates the GPU gap better. Basically I had a Windows gaming machine similar to my sig but with a Radeon 9600 Pro (much slower than the 9700) with an Athlon 64 CPU and 512MB RAM. I then upgraded to a Core 2 Duo with 1GB RAM and the built in X3100 GPU. Even though the other parts where far superior to the Athlon system that GPU made games unplayable ,literally.

    One game in particular was Age of Empires 3, now this game has modest specs and my Athlon 64 with the 9600 Pro could run it at Medium settings (1024x768, no AA, all texture settings at medium and visual effects on). But on the much faster Core 2 Duo I would set everything to minimum and turn off every effect that could be turned off and as soon as a ship battle would start the game would chug to a near halt. People talk of frames per second in gaming but I was getting about five frames per minute, no exaggeration.

    Though not all games are as severely degraded, that much faster Core 2 Duo could not come close to matching the Athlon 64 due to the GPU gap. Since I could not afford a better video card I returned the Core 2 Duo and upgraded the Athlon 64 to a Radeon X800Pro (flashed to an X800XT) with 1GB RAM and can still play all the games that interest me. My original intention was to wait to buy a GPU for the Core 2 Duo, but the downgrade was too much to bear.

    So to sum it up if you game get a Mac with a dedicated GPU even the first revision Macbook Pro would stomp the Macbook in that arena.

    Before anyone says that I am being extreme I play older games: The Sims 2, Age of Empires 3, Rome Total War, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, X-Men Legends, Doom 3 and Sim City 4. And I am perfectly happy running at medium settings, since I never noticed too much of a diffence between 1280x1024 with 2xAA and 1600x1200 with 8/16x AA. But minimum settings on 3 year old games with a modern system is unacceptable.

    Both PC's ran Windows XP Home with all the latest drivers and updates available. Both of their msconfig and services.msc programs where edited to minimize performance degradation by stopping the loading of unneeded programs.
  10. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    Do you really think it's worth spending hundreds of dollars for a performance boost in a single game? From what I've seen of Spore, it seems to be a more CPU intensive game. If they're releasing it on Mac in the first place, they know that a lot of their potential customers won't have the latest graphics chips. Many comparisons suggest that the X3100 in the MacBook now is almost on a par with the X1600 ATi chips which shipped in the original MacBook Pros.

    Having used both a MacBook Pro and a MacBook for extensive periods, I can definitely say that the MacBook keyboard alone is worth getting the MacBook for. It's so much more comfortable to type on it's unbelievable.
  11. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    The X3100 isn't that good it's name sounds Powerful but it's pretty weak not to mention the Guy gets Higher Resolution with the Pro He said he does sound with Timelines the Resolution will make a difference. He gets an LED Screen once again Much better than the MacBooks screen. The MacBooks Keyboard isn't that great I think i would like the Pro's much better, better yet it's also has a backlight.
  12. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    Are you sure that this MacBook you tried the game on was an X3100 model? The X3100 chips were not introduced to the MacBook line at the same time as the Core 2 Duo - they were only released in November 2007.
  13. luchak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2008
    Thanks for the replies so far, everyone! They've given me something to think about. I don't know if I should have included the Spore comment: it's worth a little to me not to worry about being able to give the game a spin, but it's not worth several hundred dollars to guarantee I'll be able to play something I'm not even sure I'll like. (Except, possibly, in the balance with other concerns.)

    neiltc13 and kjr, thanks for the personal perspectives. I think I may agree with you here on notebook size, neiltc13. I have a 12" Thinkpad for work use; the screen resolution is awful but I love the size. I dunno about paying an extra $100 for the black case, though. I might check out picking up a white one and replacing the HD myself.

    Techguy172, I do worry about graphics sometimes, but I don't do a lot of video work or gaming. (A little, but not much.) Are there other reasons I should be concerned about what the Macbook has to offer, or are those the two problem areas?

    Also, has anyone made the jump from a late-model G4 Powerbook to a non-Pro Macbook? Any potentially useful lessons learned there?
  14. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    The Resolution does make a difference but More what I think is you will miss some of the Powerbooks features if you go Macbook But it's all about how high your expectations are and how feature Picky you are the Pro offers some nice "goodies" Think of it this way the Macbook is VW and the Pro is an Audi the VW is cute and get's the job dones but doesn't have any goodies in it. The Audi is more sophisticated and includes the goodies while getting the Job done faster and easier.

    So I would get the Pro because you already have the Powerbook and you may see yourself going back to it just because there is features you miss.
  15. luchak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 2, 2008
    neiltc13: The Macbook keyboard is better to type on? Interesting ... I was scared that it would become horrible to use after a while.

    velocityg4: Thanks for the data points on gaming. I've also heard some more positive experiences, but those are good cautionary notes to keep in mind. I'm still torn about screen size -- the 17" screen is nice for timelines and code, but it's hopeless on airplanes. (What I really want out of life is a laptop with a screen larger than the case.) I'm considering picking up an external monitor, since I've become used to having two at work, but of course I can't take that with me on the road....
  16. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    Love the 15" led screen on the MBP. Much sharper and nicer than what I was expecting from reading the specs.

    Keyboard seems fine to me.

    Aluminum, thin and expensive looks are great.

    Speakers are terrific. That is a real unexpected bonus.

    My 2.4 version has the limited touch-pad, two-finger scrolling is all, but is the most used feature for me.

    Really fast, from my perspective. Web pages, applications, document are indeed snappy, almost instant. No experience with exotic games or mapping DNA.

    Certainly a huge upgrade for me. I went into my local independent Apple retailer expecting to get a MB or, as a stretch, the MBA. Instead, I got an huge discount on a brand new 2.4 MBP and am very happy.

    You know, it is 2008 and they are all good now.
  17. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    Get a MBP. I got a Macbook the other day and well, don't think about playing Spore on it.

    I was hoping the MB would at least do WoW acceptably, but I'm afraid it doesn't unless acceptable means 25 fps tops at the lowest resolution and settings without much happening on the screen . :p

    The screen also sucks specifically the viewing angle. It seems like there's a very specific spot you have to sit in to make the screen look its best. Outside of that the screen is too dark or too white (it changes quite dramatically with a small shift in movement.) It doesn't help that's a tiny screen too (but I knew that going in of course.) Even at its best, I don't think the screen is that great. Maybe for a laptop of this size and price it is, but compared to my iMac? Nope.

    Also during WoW the fan kicks in big time and is quite noisy. The disc drive is noisy too and seems pretty slow. The sound also just isn't that great.

    I guess that's what I get for thinking this thing was going to replace my old Core Duo iMac. I think the MBP would do a much better job of doing that. You get the better gpu, better sound, bigger and nicer screen from what I've seen, and that nice aluminum build. I hope it's quieter too, but I can't comment on that.

    So my Macbook is going back and I'll probably get a MBP or I might just stick to the iMac lineup.

    Also if you have a powerful desktop and just want a really portable laptop (a true 2nd computer) then I would consider the Macbook Air. I thought it was a bit of croc when announced, but I've changed my mind after playing around with it at the store a few times. I really like it. The screen seems nicer than the Macbook. IT's really quiet. The build, of course, is unbelievable. I may just stick with the iMac and go to the Air when I get the dough for a 2nd computer.
  18. soccerjoe5 macrumors regular

    Feb 3, 2008
    when you DIY yeah it does
  19. gothamm macrumors 6502a

    Nov 18, 2007
    i'd say you buy the "previous generation" macbook pro. Its on sale at the apple store. $1499 with student discount.
  20. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    No it doesn't Look around the Forums
  21. velocityg4 macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    As I tried to allude to in my post the comparison was based specifically upon hardware, desktop Core 2 Duo with X3100 and Athlon 64 with Radeon 9600 Pro. The Core 2 Duo was a desktop machine that was meant to be an interim replacement for my Athlon gaming PC. While I waited to buy a good video card for it. However the performance was far too low on this desktop to tide me over so I returned it after finding an exceedingly good deal on a Radeon X800 for my aging Athlon.

    Since then I have not found any current games interesting enough to warrant replacing my Athlon. Perhaps when Sims 3 and Knights of the Old Republic 3 (please Lucas Arts) are released I will then upgrade to a Core 2/3 Quadro and GeForce 9x00/10x000 or whatever the current hardware is in 2009.

    I do suppose experience varies based upon games played this was but my experience with an integrated GPU. As for screen size I think you may find the 15 inch Macbook Pro to be far more maneuverable than the 17" when traveling. As an added bonus for less than the $300 price difference between the top 15" Macbook Pro and the base 17" you can get a nice 20" to 22" HDCP compliant, widescreen LCD with good customer reviews of of Newegg.com. Or step up to a 24" HDCP Widescreen for $400 to $500, possibly with the base Macbook Pro.

    Personally I would choose the base 15" Macbook Pro and pair it with either a 20" or a 24" screen. This setup should cover your needs as described in your original and subsequent posts rather admirably.
  22. Killyp macrumors 68040


    Jun 14, 2006
    Get the MacBook Pro.

    I have used both for audio editing (the MacBook is my father's) and the Pro is definitely streets ahead in terms of how quickly you can get about complex projects with many windows open etc...
  23. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    Well the macbook screens are horrible. Not because they are glossy, but because they are *&%. Don't know if that matters to you or not. :eek:
  24. skye12 macrumors 65816


    Nov 11, 2006
    Austin, Tx
    FYI-New 17" MBP's have the new LED HD screens available as a $100 option.

    Keep seeing posts saying they are not available in 17".
  25. highjumppudding macrumors 6502


    Mar 1, 2008

    Go with a MacBook. It is more than enough to meet your initial post. Enjoy!

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