Refurb Late 2011 17" MBP or New 2012 15" MBP Advice Please!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by sodaburst, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. sodaburst, Aug 27, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012

    sodaburst macrumors newbie

    Aug 26, 2012
    Here's my dilemma. . . .sorry in advance for the long post but I would really appreciate some feedback on this decision before I part from my $$$.

    I'm a heavy computer user and am replacing an extremely old computer that will just barely play YouTube videos. Had a Mac originally, then went Windows based PC, and am now rejoining the fold.

    I am a part-time teacher/sub and will be carrying this pc to work often. Plus, I am hoping to acquire some freelance work (online tutoring, instructional technology, writing, editing, graphic design, web design) on the side. Aside from standard use (MS Office + web) I am going to be using this machine for video editing, for both teaching and for freelance work. If Mac had upgraded the 17" MBP, my decision would have been an easy one. However . . . Now I am really torn between a late 2011, 17" Refurb MBP (from Apple) OR a new 2012, 15" MBP (basic, not retina).

    In short, the decision really boils down to new computer at a loss of $500, loss of 1.6 inches of quality screen real-estate, but upgrades (like processor, video card, USB, and bluetooth speed) if I go with the new 15" MBP VS. a $500 savings, a larger screen and a well needed extra USB port (I hate laptop trackpads), but potential problems with a refurb., and non-upgradeable features, if I go with the 17" Refurb MBP.

    Worth considering . . . I will have to purchase (or obtain) a laptop cooling stand, and a lot of software along with this purchase like MS Office, Parallels, and such. Also, I will likely buy a Mac keyboard and a USB hub to create a desktop docking station of sorts for when I work at home, and I do have a 22" Acer monitor that would get me by, but it will likely be a long while before I can afford a decent quality large monitor.

    I posted the links and the different specs. below but I would welcome any input on refurbished Macs, mobility of the 17", dock-ability of the MBP for home use, value of the upgrades and anything I might be overlooking. Also, is it worth upgrading to a 7200rpm HD or do they get too hot in a laptop? And can someone educate me on the difference btw. a Express Card slot 3/4 and a SDxc Card Slot?

    This is a huge investment for me right now and I hope to keep this as my main computer for 5-7 years. TIA for your responses.

    The differences boil down to:

    17" Refurb (from Apple site) $2159.00
    Oct. 2011 Model
    larger screen
    6.6 lbs (1 lb heavier than 15")
    2.5 ghz processor
    3 USB ports (2.0)
    4gb Ram (I'd upgrade to 8gb at least)
    Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
    Express Card slot 3/4
    Raedon HD 6770M graphics card

    15" New MBP - $2600.00
    June 2012 Model
    smaller screen
    1680x1050 resolution (this is the upgrade option)
    5.6 lbs (1 lb lighter than 17")
    2.7 ghz processor (3.7 turbo boost)
    2 USB ports (3.0)
    8gb ram
    SDxc Card Slot
    Bluetooth 4.0
    GeForce GT 650M graphics card
  2. GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    17" all the way.

    -larger higher res screen
    -better speakers
    -additional USB port
    -USB 3.0, eSATA, etc expandability via Expresscard

    I have that 17" and bought it as a refurb, no problems whatsoever. I've traveled the world with it as a field video producer and I love the 17". The extra 1lb in weight is negligible, but the extra screen space is so much nicer than the 15" resolution. And especially if you're editing video, that extra real estate is hugely advantageous. There's nothing like getting into your hotel room halfway across the globe, sitting down at the desk and opening the 17" MacBook Pro. That huge screen makes you forget that you're on a laptop. Makes me feel at home.

    Definitely get a 7200rpm drive, but you won't be able to order one through the refurb site. I would do what I did, put an SSD in your HDD bay, and a 750GB 7200RPM or 5400RPM 1TB drive in your optical bay. Superior speed+huge capacity = awesomesauce.
  3. sodaburst thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 26, 2012
    OK, so you'd go 17" despite the upgrades. How'd you manage to get the 17" with USB 3.0? I thought the 3.0 was only available with the 2012 models.
  4. GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    Absolutely. I used a retina for a couple weeks and didn't notice any processor or GPU advantage in day-to-day editing over my 17". There are a few ExpressCard 34 cards that support USB 3.0.
  5. iainzx macrumors newbie

    Apr 15, 2009
    I've just bought the last of the 2011 17" MBP's it was the november 2011 edition. I bought it stock with 4 mb ram and a hard drive. I swapped them both out for 16 mb ram and 512gb SSD both from crucial memory, this thing is now seriously fast, it's about as instant on as it gets. I suspect these upgrades would make it as fast as any 2012 MBP out there, bar the top of the range retina. Then there's the bigger screen it's not retina but it's as good as non retina gets and ive not come across a notebook that can beat it inc the standard 15" MBP. The 17" has better resolution I might be wrong but I think it's better than HD quality. So I'd say 17" all the way and you won't be disappointed and as someone has pointed out if you need a mad amount of on board storage rip out he DVD and fit a high capacity HD as well
  6. Bauer24 macrumors regular

    May 18, 2009
    Vancouver, BC
    To be honest, I wouldn't get the 17". I would get the 15" if I were in your shoes. You say you will be bringing this back and forth to work, so I'm assuming that means to a school or something similar. You say you also will do freelance stuff with it, so I guess that means meetings at client offices, coffee shops, libraries, living room, dining room, etc.

    Trust me, you are not going to prefer to carry the 17" around more than the 15".

    You also don't have to spend that much on the 15". It is absolutely NOT worth it to spend the money to upgrade from 2.6 to 2.7. Don't do it. Get the hi-res screen definitely. Grab some aftermarket ram, get an optibay later if you feel you need more space - but forget the CPU upgrade.

    Also, the screen will be perfectly fine - it's definitely smaller in real estate than the 1920x1080 in the 17", but it's absolutely a reasonable tradeoff for the benefits of a lighter and more modern machine (Ivy vs Sandy), etc.
  7. SiriusFlash macrumors newbie

    Jun 4, 2012
    Because you are a teacher, you should be able to get the education pricing discount on the 2012 15" model. If I'm not mistaken, the prices you listed are at full retail and the discount would drop you down closer to the price of the refurbished 17", if the money is a deciding factor. Also, the upgraded CPU (2.6 to 2.7) is not worth the amount to upgrade; the difference in everyday use would be nominal. I hope that helps.
  8. GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    See, I don't understand this. It's an extra pound. It's the equivalent to carrying around a water bottle. For that water bottle you get a better machine in almost every way. I've carried my 17" in my pack for years while traveling around the world, walking, flying, driving, etc and never noticed the difference between the 10 17"s I've owned and the 7 15"ers.
  9. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    The 2011 models don't work reliably with an 6G SSD in the ODD bay. Just another consideration moving forward with SSD capacity increasing and prices plummeting.

    I'd go 2012 15", esp as you have a bigger screen for docking. But that's just me.
  10. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Either one. If you're budget conscious you don't really need to worry about the best cpu spec either. The differences aren't that great. Express 34 is totally different from SD. SD takes a type of flash memory cards. Express 34 slots are used mostly for expanding ports. The problem is that you can't find that many Express 34 slots for Macs now. Apple has only offered the express 34 on the 17" since 2008 or 2009. This year it went away as they dropped the 17". Many cards never made it to a stable lion version, so your selection of cards may be a bit lower than expected. You can find a couple eSATA cards, usb3 cards (but probably none with fully stable drivers), and various other things. These things are made on thin margins, and they likely lack a large R&D budget for OSX drivers. As far as I'm concerned, such things are a dead market on the Mac.
  11. vpro macrumors 65816


    Jun 8, 2012
    typo on mac store?


    does the 25.ghz i7 quad core come with 6MB shared L3 cache or is it 8MB shared L3, because I am getting mixed findings based on my google searches, please help.

    on the online mac store

    the glossy 17 are always being returned or always popping back up but that one anti-glare 17 inch 2.5ghz has been there so long and also

    you can order up to 158 or more of them


  12. Bauer24 macrumors regular

    May 18, 2009
    Vancouver, BC

    Except that it's more than a 1 lb in reality because a bigger machine means a bigger overall case or pack is required to hold it which increases weight even further. Not only that, it's certainly NOT a better machine in almost every way. In fact, pretty much only the screen real estate is better.

    The 15" has a better CPU, better RAM, better video and better I/O.
  13. GoreVidal macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2011
    Personal preference, but having alternated between both over the last 6 years, I completely disagree
  14. jefbond macrumors member

    Aug 27, 2012
    Some answers and my recommendation

    The 2.3 and 2.6GHz i7 have 6MB cache, and the 2.7 has 8MB cache. When looking at any detailed specs on any Apple product, I highly recommend looking at MacTracker ( ) or link to iOS version and link to Mac version. (Apparently their website is down at the moment, but great app, and updated after every Mac/iOS device release).
    • As for ExpressCard 34, GoreVidal is right; there are not many that you can find these days. And on top of that, these devices are usually pricey.
    • I would definitely recommend 8GB of RAM, either way. If you go with the 17" I would highly recommend installing two 4GB dimms in replacement of the 2x2GB it comes with, especially for video editing any anything with parallels. You will definitely notice a difference. I can guarantee that with what you're planning on doing with it you will realize it's too easy to use up just 4GB of RAM. This is why Macs nowadays, along with many other PCs, are starting to come with 8GB standard. Also, Apple only sells (sold with the 2011) these two with up to 8GB of RAM, but just so you are aware for future upgradability, they both support up to 16GB of RAM.
    • Definitely shop Apple's education store, whether you go 17" or 15". I didn't look at the 17" (and yes, refurbished is eligible), but the 15" spec'ed out the way you list it above (which I think you also forgot to mention it's with the 7200RPM HDD to get you to that price) would make it be $2359, almost $240 in savings. I also recommend to look into doing this for your other accessories, too. Not all, but some accessories you will be able to get at an educational discount from Apple.

    Now as for my recommendations:
    • Definitely go with at least 8GB RAM, no questions asked. If you don't get it from Apple, I highly recommend Very good prices and great service.
    • As for 2 vs 3 USB ports, you could always get a cheap USB hub if you really needed the extra 1+ ports.
    • I would not worry at all about something going wrong about refurbished if you buy directly from Apple. They do a fantastic job making sure everything is up to par with these, and they not only come with the same 1-year warranty just like new ones do, but they're also eligible for AppleCare, too (which you also get a significant education discount on).
    • Here's the benchmarks among these processors to help you see the difference:
      • 2011 2.4: 10566
      • 2011 2.5: 10707
      • 2012 2.3: 10841
      • 2012 2.6: 11893
      • 2012 2.7: 12291
    • Adding/upgrading to an SSD makes a HUGE improvement in performance. I've done this with a couple MBP's (in optibay, removing optical disc drive) and Mac mini. Granted, it can be pricey. I recommend that if you do consider this, maybe to do it later down the road as the prices for SSDs are starting to drop.
    • Speakers are basically the same, and you won't notice much if any difference with bluetooth.
    • The RAM in the 15" is 1600MHz vs 1333 in the 17", so it's faster at the same storage amount.
    • A 7200 RPM drive is definitely worth it, especially while dealing with video editing, and I would doubt you would notice a difference in battery life and definitely not of any extra heat in the computer.
    • CPU and video card improvements along with the faster RAM in the 15" are definitely my recommendation.
    • Personally, I would recommend going with the new 15". Even though the 17" obviously is larger, I think that the performance of the machine will make more of a difference for you with the CPU-intensive tasks you say you will be doing. On top of that, by going with the faster one, it will last you longer since you say you wish to own this new computer for 5-7 years. 17", personally, is also pretty bulky and not nearly as easy to fit in a backpack. Granted, everyone's got their own opinion on this.

    I could write a bunch more, but I think this should give you a decent idea of what you should do. Hope this helps!
  15. Aaron from KY macrumors member

    Aug 4, 2010
    Northern Kentucky
    Why not go refurb 15" 2011? There's only about a 20% difference in overall performance between the 2011 and 2012 models. Why not get the 2.3GHz early 2011 Hi-res anti-glare 15" for $1679 and use the money saved to upgrade to 16GB RAM from and a sweet 512GB Samsung or 480GB Intel SSD? You would have a killer fast computer, that would be maxed out and you can focus on your work. Especially since you're using an external monitor, 15" should suffice. And there really aren't any problems with refurbs, they have the same warranty as new and might be better than new, since they've been double checked(once when they left the factory and again when they were refurbed).

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