MBPR 256GB vs. 512GB for college student? (possibly CS major)

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by bcoffeecat, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. bcoffeecat macrumors newbie

    Aug 7, 2010
    I'm an incoming college freshman, undeclared major but thinking about computer science or MechE.

    I have the cash for a MBPR with 256GB, which costs $2000 after a student discount; is 256GB generally enough for 4 years of college?

    My music library isn't huge - under 14GB - and I'm not planning on storing any videos or games on my laptop. I will have programs like Photoshop and Lightroom and InDesign installed, and I do own a 10.2MP DSLR; my current photo library is 50GB.

    I know one option is to get a portable USB 3.0 external hard drive - but I'd like to avoid having to have an external hard drive attached to my laptop as much as possible.

    The current jump to 512GB is a ridiculous $600 and pretty much out of my budget. I understand that 3rd party SSDs that fit the MBPR may be available in the future; how long do you think it'll take for these to be available? And I'm not sure how upgrading SSD on a MBPR would work; would I have to just purchase an additional 256GB, or would I have to buy 512GB?

    Another option I've been thinking about is a 13" Macbook Air, fully specced out with 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, which also comes out to $2000. I'd prefer the MBPR for the high-res display, larger screen, and more powerful processer and graphics, but this MBA would have 512GB.

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. stevelam macrumors 65816

    Nov 4, 2010
    i wouldn't pay $600 just to get an extra 256gb of space and slight bump in specs.

    eventually the SSD will probably be user-upgradeable but thats not for sure yet (whenever OWC comes out with a custom sized SSD and provided its actually accessible on tear down)

    also, 256gb is generally MORE than enough for college, especially if you don't store a ton of movies and such. if i made it through college doing CS as well as multimedia design using a 160gb drive running a 2008 macbook, i don't see why either of your options would be an issue.

    since your main issue is just storing photos, honestly i think an external solution would be best unless you absolutely need those photos with you at all times. just leave the drive in your dorm room/wherever and dock it when you need to.

    your alternative is just to get the regular 15" mbp, take out the optical disc drive, and install a secondary hard drive in there for all the space you need.
  3. InlawBiker macrumors 6502

    Apr 6, 2007
    Personally I think for your stated needs and budget that 256g would be fine. If you want to add movies or an extensive music library then you can always get an external drive. In which case speed doesn't matter too much anyway.

    Since the rMBP can't be upgraded then I can see why folks are worried about it, but for an additional $600... no way, not unless you REALLY need it. I think they spec'd the entry level rMBP just right for most people's needs.
  4. mattonthemoon macrumors regular


    Feb 25, 2007
    Toronto, ON
    I think you'll be fine, and with USB 3.0 HDD speeds around 90MB/s it's very practical to store stuff on external drives.
  5. zurichuk macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2011
    I'd go for 256 and use the difference for a backup external or 2 to ensure that you don't lose everything at a crucial stage. Too many people forget backups.
  6. maratus macrumors 6502a


    Jun 12, 2009
    Well, 256Gb is still plenty... unless you plan to store FullHD movies, an Aperture library with 45Mb RAW files or VM images with lots of software installed.
    And the worst case is having an NTFS BootCamp partition which you obliged to keep at a reasonable size. 64Gb dedicated to Windows will reduce your HFS partition down to 192Gb which doesn't sound that good anymore. Add your photo and iTunes libraries, and you're left with 128Gb for general use...

    One possible solution is to get a SD - microSD adapter with built-in USB port. You can cut USB port (so that it won't stick out) and 64Gb MicroSDXC should be enough for iTunes and other not-so-important stuff. 128Gb MicroSDXC are coming soon as well. You may not want to store your photo library on MicroSDXC card due to speed issues, but that's just my guess. New Sandisk 64$ should be pretty fast actually, just don't buy cheap cards. And Sandisk is only 90$ iirc, good deal.

    P.S. I thought CS stands for Counter-Strike major :eek:
  7. stevelam macrumors 65816

    Nov 4, 2010
    i know you don't store a lot of music, but i've moved EVERY single song I have onto google music (20,000 song limit for now), which is free and you can stream any time from your mac/iphone etc etc. that may save you some space.
  8. heloise macrumors member

    Jun 20, 2012
    I'm going to be a sophomore in college and I just got the RMBP. I went with the 512 but that's only because I wasn't paying for it. I was coming from a MBA with 120 gigs and I rarely ran into space concerns there. The 256 would probably be fine and you can always get a cheap external.
  9. Collin789 macrumors regular


    Mar 29, 2011
    Greensboro, NC
    I think 256 might be enough. My one suggestion would be to get an external HDD for your pictures though. Unless you just always have to have them with you.
  10. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    That won't work in the Retina MBP. You could put it in a USB 3 or Thunderbolt controller and use it as an external though.

    To the the OP: I don't really see justification to go with more than 256GB internal drive just for college stuff. If for some reason you end up needing more space down the line for specific things (like large amounts of video) you can just get an external to keep in your backpack or on your desk.
  11. beamer8912 macrumors 65816

    May 30, 2009
    Any 3rd party SSDs will cost quite a bit themselves. I'd just go for an external drive.

    I really hope the $2k you plan on spending isn't your entire savings.
  12. edk99 macrumors 6502a

    May 27, 2009
    I wouldn't count to much on 3rd party solutions as they will be expensive. Right now OWC has a 480gb SSD for the 2011 MBA and it is $800. http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/SSDAPE6G480/

    That makes the $600 for the jump to a 2.6 processor and 512gb ssd look pretty good deal.

    But if anything I would maybe max the RAM out to 16gb. You will not be able to extend that like you could extend the hard drive space by adding an external hard drive.
  13. bcoffeecat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 7, 2010
    Thanks for the advice, everyone! I think I'll stick with the 256GB version and get one of these as an external hard drive.

    No worries, it isn't. I've just been working a little extra over the summer to save up for a new laptop.

    I know this topic has been discussed ad infinitum on MacRumors; I don't think as a college student I'll be able to fully utilize 16GB of RAM on my laptop anyways. The heaviest-duty computing work I currently do is running Photoshop and Lightroom and InDesign simultaneously, with a bunch of Chrome tabs open. Unless some of you have experienced otherwise...

    (on second thought, I'll running Windows via Parallels sometimes for engineering work; will 8GB of RAM be enough in that case?)
  14. v654321 macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2011
    Vilvoorde, Belgium
    Though I'm working already for a little over 11 years, I wish I had all these machines while studying!

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