MBP 17" 2.4GHz: Another good deal/bad deal question (sort of urgent)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Abhorred, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. Abhorred macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    To give a bit of background: I'm currently without a computer that does what I need it to do (mostly work with audio - pretty critical for a computer music composer). My current desktop is functional, but only in terms of basic things like internet and word processing. I've been in the market for a MBP, but have been trying to hold out for the refresh. Barring that, I was going to buy a refurb 15" 2.6GHz/200GB@7200 system and throw in 4GB of RAM. Along with this, I need to purchase Office 2008 Home and Student (long story, but just trust me when I say "need"). In what I do, processing power and hard drive speed are pretty damned important, so the maxed out system actually had a functional purpose. All said, I had budgeted about $2985 (Canadian dollars) to cover these items, taxes in. I had previously considered a 17", but mostly ruled it out for cost concerns.

    BUT - I've now found a used 17" 2.4GHz (Santa Rosa/Merom), 4GB of RAM, 160GB @ 5400 hard drive, 8600 GPU with 256M of video memory with apparently good running temperatures, Office 2008 installed, along with Tiger, Leopard and XP discs, for about $1000 less. Warranty expires next month, but it still qualifies for Applecare (which I currently have, and am just waiting for a system to apply it to). I'd have to purchase a 7200rpm hard drive - either 200, 250 or 320GB - and have it installed, which will probably set me back about $300 or so. So, the basic difference is about $700 between the systems.

    My biggest concern, aside from the fact that I don't really know its history and usage patterns, is that this system's GPU falls squarely in the batch of problematic cards, and I'd be losing a full year of coverage for it. The seller claims that he's never had any graphics glitches, but it's hard to feel too confident in that particular run of GPUs. As well, I'm concerned that the smaller video memory might make it difficult to smoothly run graphics intensive programs on external monitors (either my current 27" or potentially 2 27"s via a Matrox DualHead2Go)

    So, what would you do, bearing in mind that if I don't get this I'm potentially looking at several more weeks of lack of a functioning system?
  2. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    The older 17" are great machines and I wouldn't worry too much about the video cards.
  3. maccam macrumors 6502a


    Feb 18, 2007

    That MacBook Pro will be fine (it might have been stolen but it will not effect
    you), otherwise you could go with the 15" model you won't need more then that for audio.

    And I know what you mean when you say "I NEED Microsoft office" :rolleyes:
    (Word runs circles around AppleWorks).
  4. Abhorred thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I doubt it's stolen, given how much info the seller was able to provide about it. The price is in line with what one would expect for a previous-generation system, after all.

    Ultimately, I'm just trying to figure out whether losing a year of warranty coverage and some amount of processing power is worth $700. Bluh..
  5. Macrimonious macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2008
    I think it depends what $700 dollars means to you.

    Is it worth it to wait until September, get the latest and greatest, and get peace of mind/full warranty? If you can wait, I would.
  6. winninganthem macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2008
    Eh well, there's something about a brand *new* computer that excites me :p. The idea knowing that it's completely yours is kinda poetic to me for some reason haha. For that, I'd spend the extra money.

    But moving away from my sentimental crap and talking technical terms, if you have the money, go get the high end system. Personally if I can get the system brand new for a decent price, I'll go and do that.
  7. Abhorred thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    At this point, it's looking pretty much like I'll end up buying this one, assuming that the seller gets back to me later today. I couldn't go into lots of details in my first post, as that would have taken up too much space, but I essentially need a strong laptop starting, uh, about four months ago - waiting for the refresh is technically possible, but it means jeopardizing a number of projects I had lined up at the time my computer crapped out, which I can't really do. If I purchase one of the current new/reburb models, it'll take a huge depreciation hit once the refresh happens, though this older one will probably hold its value better, having already gone through it's major price drops. Furthermore, if I don't buy one literally today, I won't have another shot for a few more weeks, as I'll be going on a vacation/road trip until early September. At that point, buying a new one makes even less sense, given it's proximity to the refresh, and means I've lost another two+ weeks of work.

    As such, I'm looking at this one as a tester and a stopgap. I'll put Applecare on it, giving it warranty until the end of August 2010, and the system will give me a chance to at least do my work while waiting out the refresh and its initial hiccups. Should I decide that I want either the current Penryn generation or the new models at that point, maybe around Christmas, I can resell the old one for probably less total loss than I'd take on reselling one of the current models. As well, a closer look at the figures puts the used one at a difference of about $1100 to my current budget without replacing the hard drive, or about $950 with a new hard drive. Yes, I lose a year of warranty, some speed, multi-touch and a free printer (which I really needed, given that mine outright died a few weeks ago), but those figures are hard to overlook for a, erm, currently "paid-employment impaired" student.

    Plus, with this one I can really find out whether a 17" fits my portability needs, which I haven't been able to do otherwise. The 15"/17" debate has all been theoretical for me, thus far, which is hardly acceptable information in a major purchasing decision.

    It's not an ideal situation, but my approach is that this will almost certainly be better in the long run than either buying the current model at new/refurb cost or waiting out the refresh and risking a lot of the things I've worked for.

    Am I self-justifying a potentially poor purchasing decision? Probably. But I'm looking at the projects I've got lined up, and see that I just can't risk waiting until October or later to get up and running. Sigh.
  8. AppleGuy1980 macrumors member

    Jun 7, 2008
    There is a third choice. Buy a refurb of the last generation from Apple. That way you can know the history of the machine (or at least know that Apple guarantees it), and get a full three years of warranty. If your theory that the older systems will hold value better after the new release is correct (I don't necessarily agree, but we'll go it with it), then you're also covering yourself there. Right now, there's a system that sounds like what you want in the Refurb store: 2.6 Ghz, 15", 200 gb hd at 7200 RPM: http://store.apple.com/us/product/FB513LL/A. I suggest you check it out. It's 18% savings off the cost of a new one, and you get peace of mind since you're buying directly from Apple.
  9. Abhorred thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I'm mostly basing my statement of older generation models holding their value based on trends I've observed on public shopping sites (eBay, Craigslist, etc.). On there, the current Rev. E (Penryn, 2.5/2.6) models often go used for about $500-600 less than new, usually around $2000. The Rev. D (Merom, 2.2/2.4) go for around $1700-$2000, moreso if they're warrantied and carry extras (RAM, software, hard drive, etc.). The Rev. C (2.16/2.33) often sell for $1400-1600. Now, these types of figures may not hold on through a major refresh, but the relative uniformity of used price ranges certainly indicates some patterning.

    The 15" you mentioned would have been the one I got, actually, although at Canadian prices of $2399+tax, or around $2710 taxes in. Add a copy of Office 2008 and 4GB of RAM, and we arrive at my earlier figure of about $2985 for the package. But, as I said, I wouldn't be able to get it in hand until the beginning of September, if not a bit later. It's strong on my list of options, but time is a factor in my case.

    A refurb system closer in spec to the one sold locally is here for $1899USD ($1999CAD): http://store.apple.com/us/product/FA897LL/A

    Factor in the aforementioned extra costs, and it's about $2540, or about $660 more than used. On the obvious upside - it's new and fully warrantied. Believe me, I wish that was an option for me... Since I haven't bought the used one, maybe it still is. But there are a lot of extenuating circumstances surrounding this, and it's not a clear cut decision.
  10. macdot macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2005
    The 17" screen is amazing. Hard to believe it's a laptop.
  11. Abhorred thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 15, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Well, for better or for worse, she's mine now. It turned out to be in excellent condition, and cared for very well. The owner's been running the fans at 3000rpm through SMC pretty much consistently, and making sure that everything's working as it should. It's not been smoked around, dropped, or even moved all that often. I have a nice, legal copy of XP Pro with it, too, which is a great bonus.

    The screen does have some noticeable back-light bleeding, but there are no dead pixels, the trackpad and keyboard are really clean, and the casing only has a few small scuffs and scratches. The battery is currently displaying 97% health after 63 cycles. For a year old, $1875 machine, I'd say it's doing pretty good for itself.

    It's not perfect, but it'll get me through the next few months cheaper than a rental... Most importantly, I have it now and can get back to work. Plus, I have a bit of time to get used to OSX before the heavy work of my projects comes up in a few weeks. Even cooler, it turned out to be owned by an acquaintance of my guitar teacher (and guitar tech, too), so the sale was probably pretty reliable.

    I guess I've officially come, kicking and screaming, into the Mac world.
  12. patrickmacrumor macrumors regular

    Jun 24, 2008
    It's yours now. Enjoy it !

    Sometimes, when you come here for advice, you end up with more information which will make your decision even harder to make :D At the end of the day, you have to decide what is best for you. I won't say it is a good decision nor will I say it's a bad decision. The best part is the AppleCare Protection Plan. Don't forget to register your computer before the end of the 360 days.
  13. kntgsp macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2004
    They are great machines, but as for the video card.....

    Of all the cards announced to have high failure rates, the 8600 was the highest. Whether or not the Apple variants have failure rates equal to those outside of the Apple machines is uncertain, but it certainly is the weakest GPU on the market in terms of reliability.

    Just saying it should be taken into account.

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