Which MBP to replace my late-2011 15" MBP?

jon08

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Nov 14, 2008
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I'm slowly getting really fed-up with constant tinkering around with my late-2011 MBP with a faulty GPU and forcing it to run on Intel graphics, so I'm considering getting a replacement for it in the near future. Possibly before the end of this year, but we'll see.

I cannot afford a new one so I've been considering getting a cheap one that would still last me for a couple of years before I can eventually get an iMac.

So I'd like to ask for your advice: which generation POST-2011 15" was the best / most reliable / not-prone-to-dying MBP?

I know that these 2011 MBP's were notorious for their failing GPU, and I read somewhere that even 2012 and early-2013 MBP's were part of the 'logic board replacement' program, so I'd assume it's best to stay away from those and look for at least 2014 and later MBP's?

But what about 2014 and later? Was any of the later generations also affected by any hardware defects? I believe one of the later generations had monitor problems and whatnot? Anything else I should be aware of?

Please advise.

Basically I'd just like your advice on which year MBP's are a good choice and which years is it best to stay away from (eg. 2011 with tendency for GPU failures etc).

PS.: I think I'd only go for 15", so 13" is a no-go for me.
 
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cmaier

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Jul 25, 2007
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I'm slowly getting really fed-up with constant tinkering around with my late-2011 MBP with a faulty GPU and forcing it to run on Intel graphics, so I'm considering getting a replacement for it in the near future. Possibly before the end of this year, but we'll see.

I cannot afford a new one so I've been considering getting a cheap one that would still last me for a couple of years before I can eventually get an iMac.

So I'd like to ask for your advice: which generation POST-2011 15" was the best / most reliable / not-prone-to-dying MBP?

I know that these 2011 MBP's were notorious for their failing GPU, and I read somewhere that even 2012 and early-2013 MBP's were part of the 'logic board replacement' program, so I'd assume it's best to stay away from those and look for at least 2014 and later MBP's?

But what about 2014 and later? Was any of the later generations also affected by any hardware defects? I believe one of the later generations had monitor problems and whatnot? Anything else I should be aware of?

Please advise.

Basically I'd just like your advice on which year MBP's are a good choice and which years is it best to stay away from (eg. 2011 with tendency for GPU failures etc).

PS.: I think I'd only go for 15", so 13" is a no-go for me.
Yes. I have a 2014MBP that is still going strong (battery beginning to swell, though). I’d go with 2014 or 2015. Late 2016 and you get stuck with touchbar and terrible keyboard. (I have a late 2016 that I still use, and it “works” but the keyboard keeps getting messed up.)
 
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jon08

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Thanks for your reply. According to this guy the mid-2015 with dual graphics would be the best value for a used MBP in 2020... so I guess this is it?

This same guy recommended late-2013 MBP last year...
 
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cmaier

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Jul 25, 2007
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Thanks for your reply. According to this guy the mid-2015 with dual graphics would be the best value for MBP in 2020... so I guess this is it?

This same guy recommended late-2013 MBP last year...
Yeah, I think mid 2015 is maybe the best value out there. And thanks to Intel being awful lately, it’s not really that much slower for most things than a current machine.
 

jon08

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Now that I think of it, wasn’t mid-2015 MBP also involved in that anti-reflective coating issue?
 

Nbd1790

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Jan 2, 2017
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I purchased as 2015 model (2.8 i7 / 16gb / 1tb SSD) along with dual graphics. Had a new battery in it, paid about $1000 for it a year ago. Best decision I've made. Had a 2018 15 inch for a while, but couldn't get used to the keyboard / no physical escape key.

If you're looking to save A LOT of money from buying new, this is probably the best bang for the buck. Haven't had any issues concerning the anti reflective coating.
 

velocityg4

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Now that I think of it, wasn’t mid-2015 MBP also involved in that anti-reflective coating issue?
If you get one with the issue. You can just scrub off the coating. There's all sorts of methods you can find for removing the coating. Then you have pristine glass. Which you can leave as is or put on glare reducing screen protector.

I'd get the 2015 as it has the latest GPU available without the faulty keyboard. It's also an AMD Radeon where the prior models are nVidia GeForce. Which Apple probably wants to end support on. So, they can focus on Metal support for AMD, Intel and upcoming ARM graphics.
 

nick9191

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Feb 17, 2008
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My then employer bought about 20 of the mid 2014 15" model. Both the 2.2ghz quad core variant (2.2ghz quad core i7, 16GB RAM, Intel Iris Pro 5200 and 256GB SSD) and the higher end 2.5ghz variant with the 650M graphics and 512GB storage.

We did have a few problem units, but by and large I think they were a stable bunch. I sadly sold mine last year (2.2ghz variant) but it was a much loved computer and mine never had a single issue with it.

If you can't get the 2015 variation with the AMD graphics then I'd avoid the Nvidia ones and just go for one of the Iris Pro variants like I had. The graphics are pretty old anyway and since everything has moved to Metal, the Nvidia graphics really won't be of much use unless you plan on keeping software of the era on it or using Bootcamp. Plus as you've painfully experienced, discrete graphics are just one more thing to go wrong.
 

jon08

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Thanks for the replies so far, folks.

My next question would be: when buying these old MBP's (5+ yrs old) - is it risky to buy a dual-GPU one? Would it be safer to buy one with an Intel GPU only?
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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Now that I think of it, wasn’t mid-2015 MBP also involved in that anti-reflective coating issue?
Yes. Pretty much anything from 2012 is susceptible. Just don't get obsessive about having a clean screen.

Having said that, I like my 2019 16" MB over my 2015 15" MBP. And my 2015 15" over my 2018 15".
 

velocityg4

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Dec 19, 2004
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Thanks for the replies so far, folks.

My next question would be: when buying these old MBP's (5+ yrs old) - is it risky to buy a dual-GPU one? Would it be safer to buy one with an Intel GPU only?
If only that there are fewer points of failure. It is safer. It all depends on the model as some are known for somewhat flaky GPU. Discrete GPU as a whole have a much poorer reliability track record than CPU. As the failure rate of a CPU itself. Outside of external forces causing damage is nearly non existent.
 

jon08

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If only that there are fewer points of failure. It is safer. It all depends on the model as some are known for somewhat flaky GPU. Discrete GPU as a whole have a much poorer reliability track record than CPU. As the failure rate of a CPU itself. Outside of external forces causing damage is nearly non existent.
But without discrete GPU I wouldn’t be able to hook MBP to an external monitor, right?
 

aangvento

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Aug 18, 2020
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OP, eveey single macbook has some stupid design flaw that you cannot understand how it got past testing phase, if there is one. 2011 has the crazy dying GPU. 2012-2013 have bad gpus in some models too, but late 2012 and 2013 are more stable than others. 2014 is a pretty safe bet, once it's design flaws exist but are not prominent. 2015s have rhe same problem that late 2013 to 2015 have: you break the back-light cable by just opening the computer up and closing it. It is justade in a way that stress the cabe when ir doesn't need to. 2015 15" isn't allowed in planes because of potential explosive battery, even after a recall for battery replacement from apple. 2015 models have dying original SSDs. 2016-2019 are just a mess with the butterfly keyboard and truthfully not worth your money if you are on a budget because you will have to replace the keyboard often, most likely, what leaves you with the most recent one with dire overheaying problems and quite expensive.

Understand that they all have problems, you need to get one where rhe problem isn't a deal breaker. Not all machines are perfect, no matter what the company tells you. I would personally recommend a 2015 13" model, because the SSD problem should be easy to sort out, the cable is easy to replace and it has the fancy new trackpad "force touch", the one without a physical click button. I would suggest you staying away from dual GPUs unless you really need them, because they might prevent you from patching the notebook for a more recent operational system later when it's not supported if you plan to keep it for more than just 2 years or so. Even if we don't know how long they will keep intel macbooks up to date with the most recent OS.

Good luck on your search, OP!
 

aangvento

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Aug 18, 2020
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But without discrete GPU I wouldn’t be able to hook MBP to an external monitor, right?
Also, no. You can still hook it to an external monitor. A dGPU only makes it beefier, stronger to drive grafics. If you are not using a 4k monitor I am quite sure anything more recent can run a FHD screen with ease. Any retine screen has a high native resolution than FHD, 1080p. And an HDMI or thunderbolt 3 can easily handle the data traffic, so you should be in the safe.

People use macbook airs all the time for that.
 

jon08

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OP, eveey single macbook has some stupid design flaw that you cannot understand how it got past testing phase, if there is one. 2011 has the crazy dying GPU. 2012-2013 have bad gpus in some models too, but late 2012 and 2013 are more stable than others. 2014 is a pretty safe bet, once it's design flaws exist but are not prominent. 2015s have rhe same problem that late 2013 to 2015 have: you break the back-light cable by just opening the computer up and closing it. It is justade in a way that stress the cabe when ir doesn't need to. 2015 15" isn't allowed in planes because of potential explosive battery, even after a recall for battery replacement from apple. 2015 models have dying original SSDs. 2016-2019 are just a mess with the butterfly keyboard and truthfully not worth your money if you are on a budget because you will have to replace the keyboard often, most likely, what leaves you with the most recent one with dire overheaying problems and quite expensive.

Understand that they all have problems, you need to get one where rhe problem isn't a deal breaker. Not all machines are perfect, no matter what the company tells you. I would personally recommend a 2015 13" model, because the SSD problem should be easy to sort out, the cable is easy to replace and it has the fancy new trackpad "force touch", the one without a physical click button. I would suggest you staying away from dual GPUs unless you really need them, because they might prevent you from patching the notebook for a more recent operational system later when it's not supported if you plan to keep it for more than just 2 years or so. Even if we don't know how long they will keep intel macbooks up to date with the most recent OS.

Good luck on your search, OP!
Wow, that certainly doesn't sound promising - so many issues with these MBPs! Since I live in Europe it's also more difficult to get a bargain on Macs than it is in the states.

Would 700 EUR be a reasonable deal for the following MBP?

Macbook Pro 15 Mid-2014
i7 2,5GHz/16GB/256GB SSD/Nvidia 2GB BTO
Condition: like new, battery 188 cycles

It does have a discrete GPU (Nvidia) tho, so I'm not sure if I should take a risk here or not??
Would be fun to do some gaming every now and then but then I don't want to end up with another "late-2011 MBP" if the GPU fails a year or two from now!

Also, how difficult is it to replace a SSD in these MBPs? And what are the caveats?
 

aangvento

macrumors member
Aug 18, 2020
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Wow, that certainly doesn't sound promising - so many issues with these MBPs! Since I live in Europe it's also more difficult to get a bargain on Macs than it is in the states.

Would 700 EUR be a reasonable deal for the following MBP?

Macbook Pro 15 Mid-2014
i7 2,5GHz/16GB/256GB SSD/Nvidia 2GB BTO
Condition: like new, battery 188 cycles

It does have a discrete GPU (Nvidia) tho, so I'm not sure if I should take a risk here or not??
Would be fun to do some gaming every now and then but then I don't want to end up with another "late-2011 MBP" if the GPU fails a year or two from now!

Also, how difficult is it to replace a SSD in these MBPs? And what are the caveats?
That does sound like a good price. It is a bit more expensive than what you could get in the US, but if it has the right keyboard/lets you not have to deal with customs/you don't need to save every euro, it is not a bad deal at all really.

The 2014 are the most stable models. I would still recommend you to get a 2015 15" for the trackpad, if it is around the same price. No one will ever open your bag, open the laptop, and search up the serial number to know you are with a prohibited one. And you can get the battery replaced by apple for free. Here's a link for that:


Ther 2014 is a stable one and this price is around what you would pay in the market.

However, if you don't need it NOW, you should probably wait a bit. Quarantine has made prices sore higher than ever, and any news on new macbooks or ARM processors that might come out in September should lower the prices of used ones.

Also, I would personally recommend you get a 13". You might spend as little as half the price if you find a good deal, for a nice 15 with 8Gb (base model). It should get you through the day just fine. Especially if you plan on buying an imac: This laptop will be a laptop, not a powerhouse; it doesn't need to be super powerful. And graphics have not aged well. Your graphics will be quite slower than a powerhouse laptop from other brands, and there's the problem that new versions of MacOS might not have drivers for NVIDIA chips and you are just out of luck: Will have to patch to update and disable the chip, basically making it useless. If you want a powerhouse laptop that will play games or work with heavy software like CAD, yous should go for a brand new windows gaming PC. The graphics card will blow any macbooks that are not 16" (the gaming ones will likely be as good or a tad better than the 16"), or have a good keyboard (not between 2016-19).
 

iapplerandomthings

macrumors newbie
Feb 10, 2016
17
2
With a Late 2013 15' Retina, you should be fine.

You will notice and increase of CPU and GPU performance without having the graphics problems. Also, battery life is so much better.

MBP 15' from late 2013 to mid 2015 are almost identically, all of them use the same 4th gen i7 processor.
 

jon08

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Nov 14, 2008
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Ahh.. looks like I was too indecisive, as the above 2014 MBP has been sold now... :(

Thanks for your suggestion, but somehow I feel like going from 15” to 13” would be a downgrade.. 13” just doesn’t feel as comfortable to work on imo. While 15” is reasonable, I think.

By the way, how difficult is it to replace SSD in these 2013-2015 models? What are the caveats?

Also, how many more years do you think they will be compatible with the future macOS? Looks like Big Sur supports late-2013 MBP and up. Quite possibly next OS won’t support the 2013 models anymore? Once they no longer support the 2013 models, does that mean that all 2014 and 2015 models are out as well? (Since they use the same CPU?)
 

aangvento

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Aug 18, 2020
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The way that MacBooks pro are priced, @jon08 , is this: 13" is your day to day lightweight. Not super light, not workstation neither. Just a normal laptop. 16" or 15" are the powerhouses. They are the real pro laptops Apple sells. You should aim to get a 15 or 16" if you need the performance, not the screen by itself. from 13 to 15 you won't get a big difference, and there's an argument to be made that, with the difference, you can more than buy a 4k 27" monitor to use when working at home, and enjoy the lighter and smaller 13" while away. Which is already overkill for most professional work that isn't picture sensitive (not artist work).

To replace an SSD, as long as you have the right SSD, it is pretty much super easy. Opo the back pannel out, unscrew the SSD, pull it out, put new one in, screw it in place and put back pannel inside again. Extremally easy to find guides on google to replace it physically and how to put your data into the new one.

I am almost sure that they will not be supporting the 13" in the one after Big Sur. I doubt they will be making the next one ARM only, and they might also cup 2014 out. But 2014, while sharing the model number with late 2013, has a lot of new features a stronger processor. It also has a higher base ram (8Gb), So I think it is safe for another one new OS after BS. They do not use the exact same CPU. early 2013 uses a 3th gen CPU, late 2013 and 2014 use a 4th gen CPU, and 2015 uses a 5th gen CPU. the 15" 2015 does use a 4th gen CPU tho. Even if it was launched later.
 

giv-as-a-ciggy-kent

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Feb 22, 2020
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In my non-professional opinion a 2014 model with 16GB of ram would be best, followed by a 2015 model. Haptic touchpad I don't personally like and supposedly is a little more prone to failure.

13" is a nice size but runs hotter and is not as comfortable to use, depending on your needs. Speakers are worse too.
 

jon08

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The way that MacBooks pro are priced, @jon08 , is this: 13" is your day to day lightweight. Not super light, not workstation neither. Just a normal laptop. 16" or 15" are the powerhouses. They are the real pro laptops Apple sells. You should aim to get a 15 or 16" if you need the performance, not the screen by itself. from 13 to 15 you won't get a big difference, and there's an argument to be made that, with the difference, you can more than buy a 4k 27" monitor to use when working at home, and enjoy the lighter and smaller 13" while away. Which is already overkill for most professional work that isn't picture sensitive (not artist work).

To replace an SSD, as long as you have the right SSD, it is pretty much super easy. Opo the back pannel out, unscrew the SSD, pull it out, put new one in, screw it in place and put back pannel inside again. Extremally easy to find guides on google to replace it physically and how to put your data into the new one.

I am almost sure that they will not be supporting the 13" in the one after Big Sur. I doubt they will be making the next one ARM only, and they might also cup 2014 out. But 2014, while sharing the model number with late 2013, has a lot of new features a stronger processor. It also has a higher base ram (8Gb), So I think it is safe for another one new OS after BS. They do not use the exact same CPU. early 2013 uses a 3th gen CPU, late 2013 and 2014 use a 4th gen CPU, and 2015 uses a 5th gen CPU. the 15" 2015 does use a 4th gen CPU tho. Even if it was launched later.
Thanks for your thoughts. The thing is, here in EU these used 2013-2015 MBP's are mostly selling for cca. 700-1000 EUR - both 13" and 15", so basically there is not much price difference (on avg. cca 100 EUR, or sometimes none - depends on how lucky you get). Previously I had my MBP hooked to a 23" monitor at home but in the place I moved to now I don't have enough room for a work desk, so whenever I use my current MBP I use it in my lap. The late-2011 15" MBP indeed starts to feel a bit heavy (and warm/hot) on the knees after some use, but its screen size makes it more comfortable to work on than, say, my 14" Lenovo X1 carbon (although it's considerably more lightweight), which is my company's laptop. And that's just 1" difference. Now I imagine the 13" MBP would feel even less comfortable to work with in terms of screen real estate/resolution, wouldn't it? Or does the retina display and different resolution than non-Apple laptop make it feel different from a Windows laptop? I'm surely planning a trip to an Apple reseller to see and try the 13" in person, though.

As for the weight, these 2013-2015 15" MBPs seem to have shaved off cca. 0.5kg, which is not too bad. (Though any laptop starts to feel a bit heavy on one's knees after an hour or so of use, doesn't it? :) ). But to they also get as hot as the 2011 models? I'm assuming my 2011 MBP may be getting hotter also due to the faulty GPU and questionable cooling? Dunno.
 

aangvento

macrumors member
Aug 18, 2020
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They... do get hotter. Retina macbooks have worse thermal solutions than the unibodies because they are thiner. They will get hotter under heavy load but until 2017-2016 territory, you should be fine. Shoudlnt burn you unless theres something wrong with it

I do recomend you opening it uo and using a brush to clean the fans when you buy one tho! Will help a LOT with thermals.

And if 13" and 15" are about the same price, go for 15" as a rule of thumb. More performance. More screen!

And yes, please rest the screen out before buying to see the difference. The most recent models have a really similar screen (same screen different body)
 

MacTinkerer2011Fan-Pun

macrumors newbie
Aug 23, 2020
11
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If you want a 15" I would get a Mid 2012 Non-Retina. They don't have the GPU problem and you can upgrade the hard drive, ram and you can change the CD drive for hard drive. I think the later ones have hard drives with proprietary connectors and then the even later ones have hard drives soldered to the board. Also the late ones have hardly any ports.

You can actually get the 2011 machines to be stable and trouble free. I'm using a MBP 2011 17" with Sierra (High Sierra will run hot and probably killed most of the 2011 MBP). Everyone blames it on the GPU but you have an I7 Processor mounted next to the Radeon GPU on the same heat sink, also the Radeon GPU is located between the CPU and the fins so it probably gets heat from the CPU as well. Also there are a number of coils in the vicinity so I think its Apples design fault as usual.

Anyway have you seen the solution here, it works better than dosdude1s. https://gist.github.com/cdleon

I've been using his method and now my OSX Sierra is as update as its ever going to be I shouldn't need to tinker.

The thing is most of Apples products have problems and these machines are really fast unless you have particularly demanding applications.

My opinion is persevere or get a 2012 model (non retina though as the retinas had problems e.g. dead pixels). You'd want to redo the thermal paste on the processor and GPU though and install Macs fan control and set control based on CPU proximity for both fans with start turn on at 50deg and max at 70deg ish because all Apples computers run too hot, I'd rather buy new fans in a few years than have it overheat.

13" versions don't have graphics problems but the 2011/2012s tend to have only dual core i5 processors effectively where as larger machines have i7 quad cores.

I also run Macs fan control as they run too hot. Also I wouldn't be going beyond Sierra on these old Macs.

It's a shame because Apple have such great OS and software whereas they have so many design problems.

I keep a 13" 2012 spare because they are so reliable but I prefer my 17" 2011, its much faster. I may get a 15" 2012 at some point but I don't really need better graphics as I just do music.

Watch out for firmware passwords by the way, I bought a 13" 2012 with a firmware password by mistake once, luckily the seller came up with the password else I wouldn't have been able to change the disk drive or go in to system recovery. You can test for firmware passwords by pressing alt at boot or trying to go into system recover cmnd+R, neither of which a firmware password protected machine will let you do.

I suggest if you want a Mac to last a good few years then there is going to be some basic tinkering and maintenance, like thermal paste and fan control.

Finally I'd say if you want to get anything other than 2012 you will need to look up all the historic problems with retinas, butterfly keyboards, overheating, video cable breakages due to too short cables, failing overheating tantalum capacitors etc and try to find a model that doesn't have a known problem. Also have a look into the way the SSDs connect and when they started soldering the SSDs to the board.

Maybe I'm a bit pessimistic, I've probably seen too many Rossman videos..
 
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jon08

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@MacTinkerer2011Fan-Pun thanks for a long reply. I don't think I'd go with anything before late-2013, as I'd like my "new" MBP to run the latest macOS (Big Sur). Sadly, a lot of later generations (post-2012) have also been plagued by various problems indeed, but so far I haven't been able to find a comprehensive list with all defects and potential issues of each model year-by-year. If someone has it, please do post it here.

If I manage to 'fix' my current late-2011 MBP using the link you provided above so that I wouldn't need to bring it back to live on each restart/shut down, I may postpone the purchase of a MBP for a while though.
 
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