Mac upgrade question
March 21, 2015 2:28 PM   Subscribe

My 2011 MacBook Pro seems to be showing its age. I'm on the edge, performance is a little sluggish, but I don't need an upgrade. I am considering switching to a 2014 Mac Mini or holding off another mac development cycle or two. Will the Mac Mini feel like an upgrade? More detailed specs below.

The late 2011 MBP is a 15'' screen 4 core i7 2.2 GHz with 4 GB of memory and 500 GB hard drive. I think this was the high end option at the time.
The late 2014 Mac Mini I'm considering is 2 core i7 3 GHz with 8 GB of memory and 1 TB Fusion drive. This mostly maxes out 2014 Mac Mini options.

I haven't been traveling much lately and the Macbook Pro mostly sits at home plugged into an external monitor etc. I'd keep the laptop around for trips.

I looked at benchmark scores, but what with the different numbers of cores I have trouble understanding how performance will really differ. Expert opinions and anecdotes welcome.

Any other courses I should consider?
posted by pseudonick to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Look into upgrading the RAM. For less than $100 I doubled the RAM in my Late 2008 Macbook Pro last month and it has made a world of difference in performance. I expect to get another two years out of it.
posted by gauche at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have any experience with the Mac Mini, but I second a RAM upgrade, and you might also try swapping out the hard drive.

I have a 2009 MBP 15" 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, which was running INCREDIBLY slowly in 2013. I maxed out the RAM at 8 GB and swapped out the hard drive for a 480GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD. It's made a huge difference — it feels more like a new computer, less like a dinosaur.
posted by dire at 2:46 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, upgrade the RAM and consider putting in an SSD. Those will make a bigger difference than a faster CPU for most common stuff. The newer Crucial SSDs work well in MacBook Pros and are pretty affordable. I have used the MX100 but I think there may be a newer model now (I haven't really been keeping up with it).
posted by primethyme at 2:47 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would keep the 2011 MacBook Pro and install 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. For half the cost of the Mac Mini, you'll experience what may feel like a greater increase in performance and retain the convenience of a laptop.
posted by eschatfische at 2:52 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, double the RAM, replace the hard drive with an SSD. You will see a huge change in performance and for a few hundred bucks have a computer that you can use for quite a while longer.
posted by ssg at 2:53 PM on March 21, 2015

Best answer: Though Apple says they max out at 8GB, I believe you can actually put 16GB in them, and from a 3rd party it's not prohibitively expensive (less than $200). You can't have too much memory.
posted by mr vino at 2:56 PM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Worth pointing out that your Macbook Pro has a fairly decent discrete graphics card and the Mini has integrated graphics. So if you are doing any graphics intensive stuff then, while I don't have the exact benchmarks, the Mini may well be an effective downgrade.
posted by Dext at 2:56 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing the SSD and 8GB ram upgrade. You can probably get a decent 512gb ssd on a deal for ~$180 and 8G ram for ~$60-75

For day to day work, these two additions will put you within comparable performance to the current generation.
posted by palionex at 3:01 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The new mac minis are terrible. Terrible specs, terrible deal. I'm pretty angry at apple for trashing what was an interesting solid machine in the 2012 generation with this new one. What a joke.

If you really are fine with not having a laptop, i'd look in to an imac. And not the 21in model unless you buy the fusion drive(they use terrible, old school 2.5in laptop hard drives that are soooo slowww)

Personally, i think the recommendation to get more ram and an SSD is what you want. with 16gb of ram and a decent SSD(look at samsung evos, look on slickdeals for sales) your machine will very likely outperform my ssd-equipped 2012 model.

That's a real, honest to goodness quad core i7. Go look at benchmarks, CPU performance has barely moved since that generation. It's in-line with a lot of desktop cpus! on the other hand, the new mini uses the same low power wimpy dual core CPU they use in the macbook air. It's a GREAT cpu for a small laptop to sip power and get good battery life... but it's not a high performance chip. The macbook pro still brings a very strong showing from a performance standpoint, even compared to the newest quad core models of the 15in retina. The mini compares in an also ran way to even the new 13in macbook pro.

Either upgrade, or do it like you mean it and buy a midrange imac with a fusion drive. The mini will be a downgrade that you'll hate.

You will be utterly shocked at how fast that machine feels with a quality SSD and a ton of ram. If you haven't used a machine equipped that way stock, or upgraded before... It's life changing star trek fast. Chrome opens in less than a second on my mac, and photoshop takes four. And by four i mean, it's completely 100% open and usable and i can select tools and stuff. I can open every application in the dock(and my dock is CRAMMED, the icons are shirt cuff button sized) in probably 10-12 seconds.
posted by emptythought at 3:05 PM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, you've set me straight. I'm off to amazon to order the RAM and SSD. You guys are great.
posted by pseudonick at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just a follow-up: I had much better luck with Crucial than with Amazon's ram.

By "much better luck" I mean, worked out of the box vs. neither the original nor the replacement worked. YMMV, of course.
posted by gauche at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just to add one more thing that confirms your decision - the more recent chips from Intel are really just not that much faster than a 2011 gen MBP. The emphasis has been on longer battery life. I switched from a 2011 MBP that I put an SSD and RAM into, to a new rMBP, and I didn't really notice a speed improvement - only that the weight is halved and the battery life doubled. It might be faster, but all of the life changing performance improvements are coming from having a good SSD and at least 8 gb of RAM.
posted by wotsac at 4:45 PM on March 21, 2015

Can confirm you can put 16GB RAM in - I've got this coupled with a 512GB SSD and the machine flies along.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:12 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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