Purchasing strategy for New MacBookPro (with bonus iPhone problem)
February 25, 2011 11:48 PM   Subscribe

The new MacBookPros just came out, and just in time, as I have encountered an issue with my iPhone 3GS (constantly disconnects from the 3G network) that, obnoxiously, seems to require me to upgrade my computer (a June '04 12" Powerbook G4 1.33ghz, OS 10.4.11).* My question is whether, as a long-term investment, it makes more sense to buy the 2.7ghz 13" MBP vs. the $300 cheaper 2.3ghz.

There have been questions like this in the past, but my query concerns the latest revisions and has a slightly different angle.

As evidenced by the fact I'm still basically happy with a 6.5 year old laptop, I'm not a power user-- web, academic papers, the occasional conversion of a movie for the iPhone (I want a MacBookPro vs. a MacBook because I have firewire-only peripherals). I'd prefer to wait and make sure the new models don't have some major flaw, or even for the new version of OSX, but it seems like I don't have a choice any longer. Unlike this Asker, however, I don't really want to deal with the hassle of re-selling my laptop annually-- at some point I came under the impression that the most cost-effective strategy for computer purchases was to buy the fastest processor and largest hard drive you could afford and use them until they were completely obsolete. Therefore, my initial instinct is to aim for another laptop that will still be viable 6.5 years later.

Is this a reasonable purchase strategy in this day and age? With an original price of $1899, my G4 has cost me approximately $300/year. Obviously it's not possible to predict the future, but would the extra 300mhz have a reasonable chance of getting me an extra year of usability from a 2011 MBP and thus be worth the $300 extra?

*The bonus iPhone issue is that I can't try to fix the problem by "restoring" the iPhone because I can't do this without updating to iOS 4.2/iTunes to v10 which I can't do because of the old OS. I can't extract the SHSH files with TinyUmbrella and try to restore by reverting to iOS 4.0.1, because of the old OS, and it doesn't even matter whether it's a hardware vs a software problem with the phone because I couldn't update a $49 replacement 3GS to iOS 4.0.2... because of the old OS. If there's some solution I'm overlooking here (other than installing OS10.5 on the G4, which doesn't seem to be worth the $120 it would cost on Ebay and would slow down my machine even further), I'm all ears.
posted by neko75 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Re: upgrading the iPhone, I bet if you got the right personGenius at an Apple Store, they'd do it on the spot.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:54 PM on February 25, 2011

You get a not insubstantial performance boost between models, as well as a larger hard drive. Seems like a decent deal, but it depends on what you're using the computer for, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 AM on February 26, 2011

I'm not totally sure what you're asking about, but if you want to share my personal theory about buying Apple, price points and longetivity, you go middle of the road. Avoid fancy options and don't get seduced into shelling out major bucks for the fastest processor speed. Buy the minimum number of memory sticks from Apple and go third-party for the rest.

Having said that, I've owned a number of MBP's and have always been the most satisfied with the 15". I'm currently on my 3rd year of MBP 5.1 and no signs of slowing down. If I was looking to refresh and wanted to make a cost-effective decision, i would get the 15" 2.0 at $1,799. Piece of cake.

The i7 performance is supposedly really ripping compared even to the i5. Obviously you'll see the impact of this mostly in video/audio/graphics/hyperthreading apps. If you look at the 15" they are sporting quad-core i7's, where as with the 13" you are choosing b/w dual-core i5 and dual-core i7.
posted by phaedon at 12:36 AM on February 26, 2011

I very much doubt that that difference in processor speed will ever be a limiting factor in what you can do with the machine. I'd spend the $300 on getting some awesome software, now you'll have a machine that it runs on.

I have a similar purchasing strategy to you, and in 2009 bought a MacBook Pro to replace a G4 tower that had lasted me 10 years. I paid a bit extra to get the discrete graphics card (not an option on the 13") but didn't go for the top rated CPU, and have no regrets.
posted by nowonmai at 1:33 AM on February 26, 2011

get the cheap one unless you'll be rendering 24/7. I fail to see how a failing iphone could ever force you to change you computer though.
posted by 3mendo at 2:17 AM on February 26, 2011

If you're looking to run the computer into the ground, a difference like that isn't massive. You'd be looking for something that would define a clear cut-off point, like back when Apple went from PPC to Intel, you knew it would be a good idea to spend a little bit more and get the Intel version because you knew they would at some point drop the PPC architecture. If anything though, I'd not bother too much about the processor and spend the extra on having more RAM added. Nothing slams on the anchors like running out of RAM.
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:51 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not to derail, as I know this isn't exactly your question, but have you tried using a different cable to sync your iPhone with? The phone itself might have gone screwy, but it's possible that the cable is causing these problems, and if so it's a much cheaper fix than buying a new machine!

I had this once with a friend who'd just switched to a Mac. Loved the machine, but was turning the air blue because the free iPod nano that came with it was failing to sync (seemingly at random). I took one look at the cable, and noticed it was very oddly shaped. Turns out he'd bought a spare cable from eBay, and the regular cable worked flawlessly. Not quite the same thing, but I have had official Apple cables go weird for me on occasion, so it's worth trying if you haven't already.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 6:25 AM on February 26, 2011

Obviously it's not possible to predict the future, but would the extra 300mhz have a reasonable chance of getting me an extra year of usability from a 2011 MBP and thus be worth the $300 extra?

Given what you've said, I would say... maybe (but not for the reason you're saying).

First, you've already done the first best thing and chosen the MacBook Pro line over the MacBook. That will eek you out an extra usable year or two right there.

These are both quad-core processors and that's the biggest gain. That extra mhz in the top end model is likely far less important given your usage, not now or 5 years down the line.

The bigger hard drive in the top end model is also a non-issue right now. You'll be able to buy a bigger, faster hard drive in the next 5 years that will be less than the $300 extra you're spending now.

The biggest difference between these two models in the dedicated GPU, the AMD Radeon HD 6490M with 256MB GDDR5 (low end) vs the AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB GDDR5 (high end). This is something you will not be able to replace later on, so you're better off thinking about this now. Given how Apple makes everything graphically intensive (like OS upgrades!) this might help you in the 5 year timeline and may make the last year of ownership more bearable.

Also: I am not a Genius. I am not your Genius. (har!)
posted by mazola at 7:08 AM on February 26, 2011

this is kind of a sideline comment but: i recently upgraded from a 2007 MBP to the (previous) latest model of 13" MBP -- i'm a viual designer working in 3D, photoshop, the usual processor-hog stuff. i've been totally happy with the machine, and i expect to keep it chugging for a decent number of years.

purchasing on the cheap: if you have a microcenter nearby (scroll down; add to cart to get pricing), you can add open box stock to your cart via their website and then pick it up in-store. there's a substantial price difference once an apple object's been opened. this means, in my case, i got a 13" MBP for $800. this one's box had been opened, and that's it. everything else, mint.

also! i am not a microcenter spokesbastard. just cheap. :)
posted by patricking at 7:58 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Spending $250 on the "128 GB Solid State Disk" will provide a much greater performance boost than the difference in cpu speed.

If 128 GB is too little space for you, I'd keep the $300 safe for 2-3 years, and you'll probably be able to get 512 GB for $250 at that time.

cpu speed did matter a lot in old days, but today it doesn't matter that much. A SSD is much more important.
posted by flif at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2011

Rather than concentrate on the differences I'd suggest considering what is identical:
  • Identical operating system
  • Identical apps - iTunes, mail, iPhoto, etc
  • Identical body
  • Identical screen
  • Identical battery
  • Identical connections
  • Identical touchpad
Apple's marketing department ensure that they sell a computer at every ~$300 price point. But given what you have told us then - with the possible exception of the GPU that mazola mentioned - you'd probably never notice any difference between these two computers in real-world use.

And if you can't identify why the more expensive model would be better for you right now I can't possibly see why it would increase the machine's useful life for you.

Buy the cheaper one, and if you like having a few apps running at the same time (or if the money is just burning a hole in your pocket) get extra RAM as dougrayrankin suggests. $240 from Apple at time of order, or much cheaper - and very easy to install - from third parties. More RAM can provide a very noticeable real-world difference once you've got a few things running at once.
posted by puffmoike at 7:19 AM on February 27, 2011

I just ordered a new one and for the first time in my history of buying macs, I decided not to get the fastest. My reasoning was simply that I don't do anything on the laptop that needs that power and I'd rather have a cooler and hopefully quieter machine.

Another way to look at it is the faster machine is, at best, 10% faster for very specific workloads.
posted by chairface at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2011

Oops. I swore I closed that underline. Dagnabit.
posted by chairface at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2011

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