MacBook Pro i5 vs i7 -- Prius body with Lamborghini guts
January 22, 2013 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Which one to get: Macbook Pro i5 duo core, i7 duo core or i7 quad core

Mr. Jadepearl has decided that my evil aura should not be near the house desktop machine that is also the media server so, I must get a laptop.

I want a refurb and wonder which to choose: i5 duo core, i7 duo core or i7 quad core. No retina display due to upgrade issues.

Now, I don't think that I push machines that hard but I am intolerant of lag on either my software or hardware. I do normal things: surf, research, use Adobe CS for class and only occasionally need to convert file types. I want a refurb so I can do the following:
  • max out the ram to 16GB
  • swapout the hard drive to a SSD
  • swapout the optical drive to a hybrid SSD
I will have this machine for 4 years and assume that I will be selling it so I want that happy confluence of price, performance and resell value.

Yes, I plan to get Apple Care. Yes, it will be the upgradable 2012 model. Yes, I plan to have a larger monitor (two preferred). Yes, I will be using an external hard drive for back-up as well as holding my 3TB of entertainment.

I have read all the other what macbook Pro threads but they are slightly old or the uses were not close to mine.

So hope me.
posted by jadepearl to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What's the price difference? If it's $200 between the i5-dual and the i7-quad, I'd get the quad. Any more than that and I doubt it would be worth it. You'd never get anywhere close to your money back when you sell it, and for normal usage I doubt you'd notice much of a difference. Even the i3 is pretty darn quick.
posted by gjc at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: If you're not doing a lot of heavy lifting like video encoding or photo processing, the quad will be wasted. Hell, mine sits idle 90% of the time (but it does save me minutes when I am pushing it).

Consider swapping the internal HDD over to the optical bay, adding an SSD, and then using OSX's "Fusion Drive" to meld them together.

I got my optical bay HDD sled from iFixit, btw. Good people.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:48 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: The biggest limiting factor is the drive i/o, which you are already planning on dealing with. Things to be (possibly) aware of:

On my mid 2010 MBP I cannot bootcamp unless I can load the media from the optical slot which i no longer have an optical drive in. Check the 2012 models ability to boot and install windows from a usb key if this is something you need.

Battery life will be impacted by having two hard drives in the device.

On some models the optical drive does not offer full SATA interconnect speeds/bandwidth, check it out before spending money on speedy SATA drives that aren't supported for their full interface speed.

I'd get the i7 quad personally, but you won't be using it all that much. 4 years on a laptop and hoping to have resale value is quite some time, I'd load it up personally.
posted by iamabot at 9:09 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: The quad-core i7 is a beast. I need a new machine, but am definitely holding out until I can afford a quad-core CPU, as they put the duals to shame. Not quite twice the throughput, but close. Who knows what apps will require them in the mid-term future, so you'd be staving off obsolescence a good bit, I'd think.

And yeah, immediate speed bang-for-the-buck, add an SSD drive. You could do the after-market thing by replacing the DVD drive with a caddy & SSD rather than buying from Apple if you're good at reading instructions & wielding a small screwdriver.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: I had the 2010 model with the optical drive swapped out for a secondary hard drive, great setup. I quite miss it for my new (though blazingly fast) 15" retina model.

Personally, I would go i7 unless the price is prohibitive. I'm of the opinion that an extra $200 now will help you when you get to year 3 or 4 with this laptop.

My only tips - I wouldn't bother with a hybrid drive over a standard drive in the second slot, I don't think you'll see enough performance boost considering a SSD as your primary anyway. As recommended above, buy the SSD and move the existing drive, put that money toward the extra performance.

I wouldn't recommend the Fusion Drive setup though. I haven't tried it myself, but for the time being prefer the separation between system and data drives. There were some initial issues with Fusion Drive being used on non-standard setups, I think it has been sorted out, but just be aware of that.

You'll also need a Mini DisplayPort adapter unless you have a Thunderbolt display.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: You use Adobe CS for class, what class? Is it an elective, or core to your course of study?

Not that the answers matter all that much if you are getting a larger-screen models. Near as I can tell, the only CPU option going back to early 2011 on the 15" Macbook Pro has been quad-core i7 CPUs. One thing is for certain, all of the 15" Macbook Pro refurbs Apple is offering right now are quad core.

My general advice is not to spend money for a faster CPU unless you *know* exactly how a 15-20% performance improvement on some (CPU) intensive tasks is going to make your life better. The money is better spent on maxing the RAM, using an SSD, which you already plan to do, or upgrading the whole machine sooner.

Which brings me to the idea that the resale value in four years should be influencing your choice of CPU. It really shouldn't. In four years, packed with RAM and an SSD, the machine is likely to be a competent everyday machine for web browsing, watching video, listening to music, writing email, etc and a marginally faster CPU isn't really going to make much difference as to what it is good for. I also doubt it is going to be worth all that much. I am certain that the money you save with a slower CPU will be more than the added resale value with a faster CPU four years hence.
posted by Good Brain at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: I had a quad MBP a year and a half ago for reasonably heavy web development work, and didn't think it was worth it, nor that it made much of a difference.
posted by rhizome at 12:06 PM on January 22, 2013

I'm also of the opinion that if it's only a couple hundred bucks, get the fire breather.

Regarding Fusion Drive, it's actually difficult to NOT make an internal SSD and spinning disc a Fusion drive. Disk Utility, while running from the recovery partition, really, really wants to make these two disks into a Fusion drive. This needs some love by Apple, because at the moment, it requires terminal commands to keep them separate.
posted by tomierna at 12:11 PM on January 22, 2013

Response by poster: Folks, you are all correct! With $200 bucks being the barrier point raised by you, I went ahead with the i7 duo-core. Jumping to the quad-core even at 15% discount was closer to $500 (yow!). Now comes the shopping for all the internal gear.

I assume that this is the shopping list:

1) iFixit tool kit;
2) crucial m4 SSD 256GB (no caddy needed for install);
3) sabrent enclosure for original HDD with USB 3.0;
4) vantec optical drive enclosure with USB 3.0;
5) Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s 32 MB Cache 2.5 Inch SSD Hybrid Drive
6) 16 GB RAM (err...crucial, corsair vengeance or OWC? I need some help on this one)

If people have further input, that would be lovely.
posted by jadepearl at 8:28 AM on January 23, 2013

Best answer: From that list, here is my advice:

I purchased this caddy to replace the optical drive. A steal at less than $15, and the only tool you need is a Phillips #00 screwdriver (assuming it is the same screwset as the previous model).

The Crucial SSD should be fine.

HDD enclosure is fine.

You do not want that Vantec optical drive enclosure. As far as I can tell from looking online, those are only for 5.25 bay drives. If you want to put your slot loading DVD drive from the Macbook into an enclosure, you need one like these. You may not be able to get a USB 3.0 enclosure for this, though realistically I don't think it will matter for that drive.

I'm a proponent of OWC for Mac memory. Great service, I've ordered over a dozen sticks for various systems and no issues whatsoever, and always a good price.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:50 AM on January 23, 2013

Best answer: I've bought a lot of RAM from OWC over the years. I've had a couple bad sticks, but all it takes is a phone call & the words "I ran memtest and..." to instigate a speedy RMA. Their customer service is great.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:54 AM on January 23, 2013

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