I need another laptop to last 7 yrs
February 9, 2015 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I know I want a Mac and not a PC. I'm fairly sure I want a MacBook Pro and not an Air. Help?

This Mac is well and truly dead-ish. Well, on the way which is why I want to sort this out before it dies entirely. Backups, etc. are fine so I'm not concerned about losing data. A laptop lasting nearly 7 years is wonderful and I know I made the right decision switching to a Mac back then.

It's a 2008 model: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (15.4-inch) with an upgrade from 2GB to 4 of RAM per my previous question. It owes me nothing and that's why I don't really want to spend money to fix it. Cause of Death? Probably the latest Firefox release. I can no longer stream videos and if more than four tabs open, it crawls to the speed of useless. Chrome won't even run at all on it and the keyboard is dying letter by letter.

How I use it: glorified web and social media terminal. Most times I have only Firefox and Echofon running. Now that I've switched to Google Docs I won't even need the iWorks suite I previously did when finishing my thesis. I do have one additional use of the purchase I bought for my iPad so I can access those and assume they'll run on any modern Mac. I don't really care about being able to stream as I'm contemplating a Fire Stick anyway as 32" TV > laptop.

I've looked through the Mac Store and I'm a bit lost. It looks like the 2.5 GHz model (I do not care about retina display) would be fine. I know not to pay Apple prices for memory but how do I know if the memory there is further upgradeable? I'm assuming if 4g isn't enough now, it won't be on the new machine either. Always thought I "needed" a 15" screen, but now that I'm used to the iPad mini, I know 13 will be fine.

I don't think the Air is the right machine for me as storage seems too limited and by the time you buy Super Drive, it's not much/any cheaper. Re: storage, while I intend to prune between machines, I have a significant amount of photos and music and don't want to be hampered by storage out of the gate.

Am I thinking in the right direction? On the radar so don't worry about: AppleCare (I'll get it). Education discount (I'm eligible). Thanks!

TL;DR: new mac laptop. Pro or Air.
posted by TravellingCari to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I love my 15" Retina (2.2 i7). It's actually my second within the year (switched jobs; both employer-provided).

Beyond form factor (the non-Retina models look like concrete blocks to me now), I think it's insane to get a non-SSD computer. In fact, you could probably get a couple more years of life out of your machine with an OWC upgrade kit.
posted by supercres at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2015

If portability isn't a big need, go with the Pro. The Air and the Retina models do not allow for user-serviceable RAM upgrades.

OTTH, the retina display is really, really nice.
posted by General Malaise at 9:34 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Even if you have no interest at all in the Retina display, that's the model you should be looking at. It's a wonder that the non-Retina model is still being sold through Apple, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it gone entirely this year.

You say you want your new laptop to last 7 years? Then, as mentioned by supercres, it'd be crazy to get one that doesn't have a SSD.
posted by signondiego at 9:35 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

You can't upgrade the RAM on any model past 2011-2012 because it's not clipped onto the board anymore, so you have to pay their prices if you want to max it out (and you should if you want it to last several years.)
posted by michaelh at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2015

The non-Retina MBP is just this side of abandoned these days and I'm honestly not sure why they still sell it. Sure, the RAM is "upgradable" but not far enough, and the built-in optical drive is not really worth it.

I have a 2012 Air that has no problems with heavier use than what you mention here, with the help of some external storage. You may also find that you don't miss the optical drive; I can't remember the last time I used my SuperDrive.
posted by dorque at 9:43 AM on February 9, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all re: memory. I wasn't aware of that change.

Stupid question: all the models on the site seem to talk about flash HD. What do I need to look for to see if it's SSD or not. Will do more reading on the retina display

Supercres: that's good to know, thanks. The dying keyboard is a pain even though I can pair it to my iPad bluetooth keyboard so I don't think I'm going to upgrade the machine.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2015

flash HD is SSD, and it's your only choice on the Air and retina MBP models.

You most definitely want it, Yosemite is tuned for SSD speeds and feels sluggish on even 7200Rpm platter drive.

I've been buying my users the 13" Retina MBP with 16Gb of RAM and 256Gb SSD drive, it's a really, really solid laptop, although you absolutely need to make provisions for storing your pictures/music/video in the cloud or on external storage.
posted by Oktober at 9:51 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Flash HD" is synonymous with "SSD."

If you want longevity, I'll add to the chorus of "skip the non-retina model." It's not about the screen, just that it's more like "a weird last gasp of the previous generation," and for barely any more money you can get a much newer faster better lighter model; if you to be rocking this laptop for a long time, you definitely want one of the newest ones.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2015

All of the hardware-supportin' people I know say that Mac build quality has gone downhill since they switched to non-user-upgradeable bits. In your shoes I'd buy from the refurb store, non-retina MBP, maxed on processor - and then I would max RAM and install SSD myself.

Retina screens are nice, i'd buy one to future-proof my machine b/c you are going to need that pixel density in the 5-year outlook for sure. But you sound like you want maximum bang for buck, hence my refurb store recommendation.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Along Bruno's recommendation, I think that MBPs are in a weird transitional time. If you can wait a couple of years, the retina issues and affordable SSD size will be to where you don't have to make a meaningful tradeoff anymore (as happened to mechanical drives and regular screens.) I also have some concerns about ARM architecture and what comes after OSX and whether Apple's engineering team can cut it.

My 2008 bit it last year, I went with a cheap refurb 2009 from a 3rd-party partner and swapped in my SSD from the 2008, and it's going strong. I do more with it than you do, and I am sure I can use it until at least 2017 if I need to unless some hardware breaks. By that time, I'll have a much better sense of what kind of laptop I should get to last into the 2020s.
posted by michaelh at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks Oktober on SSD info. I have both an external HD and Cloud storage and both are regularly backed up to weekly so I'm covered on that front.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:09 AM on February 9, 2015

The Mac rumor sites are suggesting that a 12-inch Macbook Air with retina display will be coming out in Q1. Assume that the current Airs will have a price cut.
posted by matildaben at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2015

FWIW The problems you have with speed may be the first signs of hard drive problems. Run disk utility, you may have some bad directory issues.
posted by Gungho at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar spot (right down to the exact same laptop year and configuration - for a minute I thought I posted a question and then got amnesia). I'm going with a Pro because of the option to upgrade to a 1T hard drive (mostly for photo storage). If I didn't want that, I'd seriously consider the Air since it weighs practically nothing and I drag my laptop to work and school and back every day. And I'm with you on the 13' being sufficient. Again, I'd go with that if I wasn't mostly futzing around with photos as my primary activity after school work. (Okay, cards on table, I also watch Netflix a lot, too, dammit.)

My husband mentioned something similar to what matildaben said re: rumors of an update coming out but for the Pro. Not that there would be a significant change to the new ones but the "old" models would show a price cut. I'm going to wait it out a bit and see if more info regarding that comes to light.

I don't think the Air is the right machine for me as storage seems too limited and by the time you buy Super Drive, it's not much/any cheaper.

Maybe I'm misreading your comment but did you see that none of the new models, Pro or Air, have a CD drive in them any more?

Is it bad form to piggyback a question regarding the processor options? Can anyone say if it's worthwhile to upgrade to the 2.8GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7? $270 seems like a lot for 0.6GHz more, what? Processing speed? Power? (Obviously, I don't know what that means in practical terms. Thanks and disregard if this is derailing.)
posted by Beti at 11:31 AM on February 9, 2015

If you enjoy the iPad mini you may already be accustomed to a Retina display.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all!

To answer a few questions through here and MeMail.

-7 year thing is not an exact, it's just as long as this one has lasted (nearly, April). And I'd imagine that Macs have gotten more not less durable since then. I do not know if I can get another year or more out of this, but a refurb might be an option until they stabilize.

-Portability not an/the issue. I can't recall the last time my laptop left the house other than a visit to the Genius Bar because a) battery is awful and b) iPad mini. I think I had the last non retina one there, but not positive. I would get a desktop but I don't have the room in my apartment.

Maybe I'm misreading your comment but did you see that none of the new models, Pro or Air, have a CD drive in them any more?

I actually hadn't. Thanks!

FWIW The problems you have with speed may be the first signs of hard drive problems. Run disk utility, you may have some bad directory issues.

I suspect the same. Also because files keep landing in lost+found when I try to do an update. That's part of why I've been even more religious with the backups. I didn't realize the space could be tied in, so thanks for that heads up.

Going to do some more research. Thanks all, really appreciate the input.
posted by TravellingCari at 12:26 PM on February 9, 2015

Rocking a refurb i7 duo MacBook Pro with 16 GB, large ssd, and fusion drive swapped out of the optical drive. I do not miss the retina display and if I really want one I would just get an external monitor. I chose a 2012 refurb so I could do all those upgrades and be able to buy AppleCare.
posted by jadepearl at 8:39 PM on February 9, 2015

Some speed bumps coming in a week or so.

posted by Gungho at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: thanks Gungho!

I did a lot of reading this weekend. I think the current plan is to hope this laptop crawls through the next few months. It won't be years, but maybe it will make it to the next MBPs so the current ones come down a bit. I'll also keep an eye on the refurbs as they're slim pickings right now. You've all sold me on the retina. I managed to clear 5gb more which is making it a bit less cranky

In the mean time if it dies for good, I have access to a crappy pc netbook which will do at least what I need to do on this one for the rare thing the iPad won't.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:09 AM on February 17, 2015

Response by poster: No best answers as they were all helpful.
A friend talked me through why I don't really need a Pro (she's right, I don't) and I was all set between a July 2014 Air and the then-new ones, and then the announcement hit. The Air with 500 GB HD and 8 GB RAM is about the same price after the education discount (ignoring AppleCare as that's an add on to any) so I think I'm going with that. Huge help, I hope not to ask about a laptop before 2022 :)
posted by TravellingCari at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2015

Response by poster: so I got my new toy last night and it's AMAZING. I haven't done much with it but it's the simple things like: a whopping SIX tabs open without the pinwheel of death. And I love Yosemite. Thanks all for your help and steering me in the right direction.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:17 AM on April 21, 2015

Response by poster: About a month in, I still love the new one. The Air keyboard (or just a new keyboard maybe?) takes some getting used to but down sizing from 15 -> 13 has been no issue. I'm glad I didn't get an 11 though. THanks again all.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:04 PM on May 15, 2015

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