Help me decided between Macbook Air + Hackintosh or one tricked-out MBP?
July 19, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I am considering three different approaches to a new setup involving the new line of Apple laptops. I'm looking for the best compromise between portability, longevity, and performance. Help me decide please.

Want the setup to last 5 years
I will be doing image and video editing regularly, but typically from a home office.
I plan to travel a good deal in this time, with possible extended stays in non-US locations
Compactness and simplicity is important.
I can spend $2000 - $2500

Approaches I'm considering:
Macbook Air + a hackintosh in the smallest possible case
MBP 15 inch with a small SSD for the main drive and an Optibay with a larger conventional HD or a Seagate Hybrid
MPB 13 inch with similar modifications

My questions:
Anyone have any experience making a compact hackintosh?
Good / bad experiences with Optibays?
Good / bad experiences with hybrid drives?
How capable is the new 13 inch MBP? If I trick it out, will it go the distance?
Any other modifications that I haven't listed that you'd do?
posted by nímwunnan to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hackintoshes are notoriously difficult to set up and maintain, often suffering annoying hardware issues for lack of good driver support. I wouldnt rely on one for work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

IMHO, go with the new MBP 15"/retina, and get an external drive to store your data while you edit on the MacBook. While I'm still not sold on Lion or FCPX, if I had $2.5k to spend on a mobile editing workstation, I'd go with the new MBP even though they discourage downgrading to 10.8 and using FCP 7(?), even though that's what I've been making money with for years now.

From the article you linked, I'm not sure at all that an Optibay would work with the new MBP, and the tiny experience I had with hybrid drives wants me to wish that they never existed. From my own experience, third party Mac stuff isn't reliable enough to base my business on.
posted by Sphinx at 1:56 PM on July 19, 2012

Forgot to mention -- I've ruled out the Retina. Benchmarks don't look great, and I'm not Ok with the fused-everything, nothing-replacable nature of it.
posted by nímwunnan at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2012

Kind of hard to answer without knowing a little more about what you produce and what applications you use for the work you describe. Can you tell us more about what you do?
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 11:07 PM on July 19, 2012

Anandtech has just posted reviews on the new MacBook Lineup.

My advice: even if you buy a top of the line machine today, it is going to pale in comparison to a mid-range machine in 4-5 years, and it's not going to be that much faster than a midrange machine today. Only buy high-end if you need the best performance you can get right now and are willing to pay a premium for it. Otherwise, save your money and put it towards upgrading sooner.

My next laptop is going to be a Retina MacBook Pro. I don't know what benchmarks you are focusing on, but it's not likely to be significantly slower than the other MacBook Pros upgraded with an SSD, unless you are trying to run games at full resolution. For me, I want a Mac with a 15" screen that is as light as possible. The retina display is a nice bonus.

The Air plus Hackintosh option strikes me as silly unless you want a project.

13" vs 15" is really your call. Friends are quite happy with their optibays, and these days 2.5" ssd drives are pretty reasonable.
posted by Good Brain at 1:46 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention -- I've ruled out the Retina. Benchmarks don't look great, and I'm not Ok with the fused-everything, nothing-replacable nature of it.

Well as long as you've ruled out the Retina, then you should be oka- *record screech*

The future of portable computing is going to be the "fused-everything, nothing-replacable" part. I can't honestly recommend buying a 2008 MacBook, due to several reasons, mainly the 'Superdrive", but the crap HDD's they put in runs a close second.

On casual review, it seems like you're looking for an easy and cheap solution to your current problem. You're not going to find it given your current criteria. "Benchmarks don't look great" Really? Buy a Dell.
posted by Sphinx at 1:53 AM on July 20, 2012

The Golden Rule of Apple is: Never buy the first generation of their stuff, unless you absolutely have to, because there is some awesome feature that is more likely to fail by simple virtue of it being the first of its kind in a mass-produced consumer device.

So I'd rule out the Retina on that basis alone. A screen of that size, in that enclosure, requiring an extra powerful and miniaturized-for-laptop graphics display to drive it — a lot of bits to go wrong, which have been solved more or less with less powerful, but years old technology.

This "rule" is especially applicable if you plan to travel a lot, which will put more stress on whatever portable you buy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:50 PM on July 20, 2012

@Good Brain -- Thanks! Really liked Anandtech's reviews.

@Sphinx -- The easy solution would be to point to the highest-end option and say "I want that one." I'm carefully looking at longevity, modifications, and fixability.

@Blazecock Pileon -- This. I've read a few great analyses of how the Retina is a little too much too soon and not the most stable machine.

Decision -- 15", standard processor speed, high-res screen. The only reason I'm not getting a 13" is screen real estate. Thanks everyone!
posted by nímwunnan at 8:14 PM on July 23, 2012

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