MBP with or without super drive?
February 4, 2014 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth it to buy a MBP without a super drive?

What is the major bonus (besides less mass/weight) of the MBP model without the super drive? Simple pro/con lists preferred and desired. (Looking at refurbished 2012 and 2013 MBP models).

In your opinion, which is better and why?

posted by simulacra to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
The pro, as you note, is that you save the mass and the size. The con is that you don't have an optical drive.

The riposte is that I use the optical drive two or three times a year, and it's never an emergency. If you need it for some reason, you can get the external USB superdrive.

It's like when floppies were phased out with the iMac. If you need it, you can get it, and it seems scary at first, but you don't need it, and you probably won't get it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2014

If losing it saves on weight, why bother with it? Get an external drive for when you need it, which will be approximately never. You'll be OK without it.
posted by jsturgill at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2014

The ones with the superdrive have built in ethernet. The ones without are thinner and there isn't actually room for one, so you need an adapter.

Also, you get two mini displayport/thunderbolt ports with the newer non-optical drive.

Unless you are watching movies on DVD, you don't need a drive. You can always get an external one later.
posted by bensherman at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've have the one with no optical drive since October of 2012 and I've missed having it a total of 0 times.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:37 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

My MBP is kind of heavy to lug around. If you are going to do a lot of that then try to save weight where you can, your back will thank you in the long run.
posted by 0 answers at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2014

I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed to use the optical drive on my 2011 MBP over the past couple of years. My next laptop won't have one.

I would probably favour the 2013 Retina MBP over the 2012, because the internals are better at powering the display in an efficient way; as bensherman says, you're also giving up the ethernet and FW800 ports because they cramp the style of the thin body. I've used the ethernet port on my MBP more than the FW800 port more than the optical drive, but if you're going to be using a wired connection, that might be more of an annoyance than lacking an optical drive.

The non-retina / optical MBPs from 2012 and especially 2013 don't have the same hardware improvements as the retina versions: the base CPU is a generation behind the current crop. They do have larger drive capacities with spinning disks, and upgradeable RAM.

So, for the retina MBP:

Pro: much better display, current-generation components, USB3, faster all round, better battery life.
Con: can't upgrade RAM and storage, SSD storage is more expensive / lower capacity.

The non-retina MBP is the sore thumb in the product lineup. It's as specialised a purchase as a Mac Pro, and I'd only buy it for very specific needs that include regular use of the optical drive and ethernet, and non-negotiable reliance upon more than 256GB of internal storage.
posted by holgate at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2014

I use this beautiful and perfectly functional superdrive, which is less than a third of the Apple version's price.
posted by kalapierson at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2014

Pretty soon you won't even be able to buy a Mac with a DVD drive. That's one thing to consider, aside from the numerous differences between both models and the fact that the MBP with the DVD drive hasn't been updated since 2012 and is just waiting to be killed off.
posted by signondiego at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2014

I work in IT, and I also use my MacBook as my main machine for doing audio/video/photography stuff. From producing/recording/composing music to designing shirts and weird photography projects and stuff.

The screen on the retina MacBook Pro is almost the nicest screen I've ever seen. Barring viewing very very dark things full screen in which the blacks can look kinda blue(at which, worth noting, the old one was actually worse) it's just goddamn mind blowing. It's also super light, has better battery life, it's quieter, and more powerful since the DVD drive model is stuck a generation back in CPUs and is horrendously overpriced now.

If you buy the DVD drive model, you're buying a machine from 2012 using 2012 parts, instead of one from the tail end of 2013.

As for the DVD drive itself, I went on newegg and searched "external DVD" and bought the cheapest one. I think it was... $25? It works fine. I also bought the FireWire adapter, once again, works fine. You might not even need either of those. I don't carry the USB drive around unless I plan on needing it, and I quite often just throw stuff on a flash drive and burn it using some random desktop around me or something. Oh, and I've NEVER gone "DAMMIT I NEED AN ETHERNET PORT". I have a super crappy netbook just for doing net diagnostics and stuff. And, a $3 USB Ethernet adapter works fine.

So yea, overall I'd never buy the older one. The only way I'd consider it is if mine got stolen and I wanted a new Mac laptop, but could get Oneida the old ones for REALLY cheap. Like <$500. Everything just feels nicer and more refined and futuristic on the new ones, it's like the iPhone 4/4s vs the 5 or something. It's a major redesign.

EDIT: get the 2013 also. I have the 2012 and it has some minor dumb bugs they still haven't sorted. I love it overall, but I bet the 2013 doesn't have them(little stuff like a couple minor graphics driver issues, and a weird thing with the fans randomly going full speed when waking from sleep like every couple months). It also has quieter fans. And the 2012 already had very quiet ones... Oh, and OVER AN HOUR more battery life.
posted by emptythought at 12:03 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only reason to get the DVD version is if you're very price sensitive or plan to put a lot of storage in it yourself. The SSD in the retina version is user-replaceable, but it's a lot more work than the older version, which is pretty much just 16 screws to pull off the back panel and replace the drive under a bracket. The newer version requires newer, more specialized and expensive SSDs and is much more involved, though iFixit still rates it only "moderate".

But as holgate says, the DVD version is only for a few very specific uses, and occasional access to DVD ripping/burning isn't one of them. Otherwise the reduced glare and increased resolution of the screen, the extra battery life, and reduced weight make it no contest. That's leaving aside that it has a newer generation of processor and is therefore more likely to be supported by Apple for longer. We have one of each at home, so I've had ample opportunity to compare.
posted by wnissen at 12:17 PM on February 4, 2014

I got an external SuperDrive even I switched to the MacBook Air in 2009. I have literally never used it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2014

My 2013 MBP is a lot thinner/lighter than my fiance's (2011?) and I think the lack of optical drive is a huge contributor to that. I've had the computer for a few months and I didn't even realize I didn't have a CD drive until I wanted to read the disc after I got an MRI. There are a couple extra computers around the house with optical drives so I was able to just rip the content and move it on to my MBP with a flash drive. Otherwise I would probably pick up an external drive.

TLDR: not a big deal.
posted by radioamy at 2:48 PM on February 4, 2014

super drive SuperDrive. Typos!!!
posted by simulacra at 7:43 PM on February 4, 2014

The only reason to get the DVD version is if you're very price sensitive

And if price is an issue, but internal storage less so, a refurb MacBook Air enters the equation.
posted by holgate at 9:05 PM on February 4, 2014

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