Replace innard of Macbook 2012 or buy new?
December 21, 2017 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I water-fried the logic board of my mid-2012 Macbook Pro 2012 (when I took it apart, all other parts looked fine). It had slowed down over the last 5 years, but worked okay enough. Is it smarter to invest in a brand new machine or to pay the $800 Apple quotes me to replace the logicboard?

I don' know much about computers or Apple, and I keep seeing 2012s being sold for less than $800 online. Can anyone recommend the newer models/say anything about the 15" Macbook Pros out now? If I don't use the disc drive, should I get an Air?

I use it for research, film editing, streaming, playing film files (mkv/avi, not discs). I am notorious for opening a million internet windows at once.

What is the smarter thing to do/What is the better investment of my money in the long run? And can I transfer my harddrive data from my old laptop to my new one, if I buy new? Thanks.
posted by Kombucha3452 to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The MacBook Air is a great machine (I own a 2010 13" and a 2012 11") but they are way outdated and the lack of a Retina display hurts. I'd recommend not buying a new one and going with a MacBook/MacBook Pro.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:18 PM on December 21, 2017

I would buy a new machine. I agree with the previous poster that the MacBook Air has not been significantly updated in some time. If you are coming from a 15" MacBook Pro, the difference in screen size is also a consideration (though the supported resolution is actually the same as your 2012 MBP).

FWIW, none of Apple's laptops contain an optical disc drive at this point, so that's no longer a differentiating factor. You can buy an external disc drive if you want one. That, in part, means that a similarly-sized new MPB will be over a pound lighter than your current laptop.

You don't say whether you use a lot of peripherals. A significant difference in the new MacBook Pros is that they use USB-C ports for, well, everything. This is backwards compatible with older USB devices, but you may need an adapter or hub.
posted by AndrewInDC at 2:27 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I don't use the disc drive, should I get an Air?

Your fried machine is one of the last Macbooks ever made to have an optical drive.

Can anyone recommend the newer models/say anything about the 15" Macbook Pros out now

I have one with a touch bar (a bar of touchscreen instead the row of function keys) and I wish it just had the physical buttons. I'm sure there's someone who prefers the touch bar, but I haven't ever met them.

I don't have any problem with the USB-C side of things - I actually prefer it. I usually use the machine at a desk with an external monitor, and with the new ones I can use a dock type thing to do power, video, USB, and sound through just one connection. (On my previous MBP I had to plug/unplug like 4 things each time I went somewhere or returned, which was certainly doable, but this is nicer). I do carry around a few cheap USB-C -> USB-A adaptors in my backpack, though.
posted by aubilenon at 2:34 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't spend $800 to fix a 5-year old computer nearing the end of its life cycle. Especially for your use case, some of which is light, but the film-editing and many tabs of a browser, require more muscle power. I recommend against a MacBook Air, because it's very long in the tooth at this point, hasn't gotten upgrades in a while and is looking like it will be subsetted sooner rather than later. I also can't recommend the standard MacBook because it's wildly underpowered, and probably is less capable than you current machine.

Now, like AndrewinDC mentioned (and on preview, adbilenon), none of the currently shipping Macs have optical drives.

Personally, I think getting a new MacBook Pro is probably the best investment, but:

The new MacBooks are controversial. First, they only come with USB-C ports, some of which are Thunderbolt 3. So, you may need some dongles/dock to use your old peripherals or even just plug in your phone or external display. There's a Touch Bar on certain models, and only the ones with TBs have four USB-C ports (the others have two), which is annoying. The keyboard is a new design that is very, very shallow, and for several people I know, it's a dealbreaker.

What I'd do, if you can, is go to some retail outlet, like an Apple Store or Best Buy, and try out the keyboard. If you need USB-A (the normal kind) ports, add a dock or dongles to the price conversation. If the new MBPro is not something you can really swing, getting a 2015 MBPro refurbished is an option, and may be the best for you. Good luck. Either way, top out the onboard RAM to 16GB, because you can't add more later.
posted by General Malaise at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you feel comfortable spending the money, I recommend an Apple refurbished 2015 MBP. Apple does a nice job with these and I think you can get AppleCare if you are concerned about it not being new. Some call it the best laptop ever made. Glad I bought one just as the USB-C models were released!
posted by exogenous at 4:44 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Spend the money you save getting a refurbished MBP on upgrading the RAM in it; 8GB isn't a ton for video editing (or a trillion chrome tabs).
posted by el io at 11:22 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I still like my 2012 MBP and would probably pay to repair it. I don't find it underpowered, it's around a 2.6 or 2.7gHz i7 with nvidia graphics.

But I've maxed out the RAM (16 gigs I think) and and have replaced both the original hard drive and the SuperDrive with large SSDs. If you aren't holding on to in order to be able to do stuff like that to it (or for the discrete GPU) then you'll probably be happier with a newer machine.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:21 AM on December 22, 2017

I have a 2011 MacBook Pro which has needed two logic boards replaced (no accidents, they just went bad). At this point, my machine is almost 7 years old and, although still powerful, it’s pretty long in the tooth and slower than I like. If my machine needed an out-of-warranty $800 fix, that would be $800 spent only to get back the speed of a 7-year-old machine. In my opinion, your $800 would be much better spent going towards a more recent machine.

That said, I don't really like the current lineup of MacBook Pro’s—there has been a constant push to make everything thinner at the cost of its abilities. I can kinda see getting rid of the optical drive (although I still use mine a ton for ripping DVDs), but getting rid of things like the SD Card slot and requiring a dongle to download photos from your dSLR is just asinine.

A MacBook Pro is supposed to be the powerful "do everything" machine, but to me it's like Apple’s saying
"Look, we made Superman 12% lighter! ...but if you want him to fly or use x-ray-vision, well, now you have to buy (and not lose) one of these $40 external dongles.
We’re making the laptop smaller by making it less powerful and still calling it "Pro" and charging a premium!"
The glitzy TouchBar seems like a $400 add-on that no one wants—and customers seem to miss the "you can press without having to look" tangible keys that got removed.

Finally, I feel that the new thinner "Butterfly" keyboards are not as comfortable to use (I liken then to typing on postage stamps), and worse yet they appear to have a horrible rate of breaking. Again, a MacBook Pro should be the machine you can take anywhere and get your job done, but now it can be rendered almost useless by a single speck of dust or bread crumb? That's a flawed design.

I think the current non-TouchBar 15" MacBook Pro on the Apple website has the old (good) "Scissor" keyboard. If so, I would get one of those, but if it does have the flawed Butterfly keyboard, I would instead look around for an earlier refurbished one with a reliable scissor keyboard.
posted by blueberry at 12:25 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Buy a new one - it’ll be more performant, the drives and processor will be faster, and the battery life will be better with the newer, more energy efficient processors. Video files are only getting bigger as the world moves to 4K.

Get a SuperDrive if you need it.

Go to the Apple store and try the newer keyboards. If you don’t like them, then buy an iMac. I don’t think it’s very forward thinking to buy a used computer for editing video because video files are getting so big now.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:21 AM on December 22, 2017

I would like to add that my 2016 Macbook has the butterfly keyboard and I like it! Key travel is lower, but the action is much tighter feeling. When I go back to using the old style MacBook Pro keyboard that my wife has on her 2015 MacBook Pro, my fingers feel like they are wobbly and way too high in the air. I have no problems typing quickly on the newer butterfly keyboard, and I haven’t had any catastrophic dust isssues either. If you are worried about that, get a warranty.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:30 AM on December 22, 2017

Don’t get a MacBook Air because it doesn’t have a retina screen. No matter any other aspect, not having a retina screen should be a dealbreaker because you are editing video and need to see it on a retina screen.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:34 AM on December 22, 2017

I don’t think it’s very forward thinking to buy a used computer for editing video because video files are getting so big now.

Storage-wise a 2012 MBP is probably the best machine you can have, because you can upgrade the drives, swapping them out as capacity increases. At least while the 2.5" form factor for laptop hard drives sticks around. I have 2TB of internal SSD, and could have more. I/O might not be as quick as on recent models, I don't recall the SATA version, but if you really need more speed you could RAID them. And disk latency never been a problem for me.

That said, everyone I know in filmmaking and video who works on a Macbook instead of Pro uses external project drives. Stacks of them.

I can see the Retina display making the difference, if you need to work on 4K video.

Otherwise, I'd look carefully at assumptions that the newer model must be that much faster or more powerful -- architecture hasn't changed that much recently and the recent CPU breakthroughs haven't hit the laptop market yet.

So the current Macbooks have more experience oriented bells and whistles, weigh less and run cooler and longer, but in my opinion just aren't the same kind of workhorses with all the slimmed and soldered parts.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:47 AM on December 22, 2017

I'm not the only one who was thinking this way while it was still being sold:

Vice/Motherboard, Jan 2016: The 2012 Non-Retina MacBook Pro Is Still the Best Laptop Apple Sells

Cult of Mac, Jan 2016: Why is Apple’s ancient 2012 MacBook Pro still so popular?

Tech Radar, Feb 2016: Why you should buy the 2012 MacBook Pro in 2016

Alternatively, Marco Arment (of Twitter) prefers the 2012-2015 model -- if you do decide you want Retina but not all the current smartbar dongle business.

MacRumors, Nov. 2017: Marco Arment Argues the 2012—2015 MacBook Pro is 'Best Laptop That Has Ever Existed'
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:55 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might look into getting that mobo repaired rather than replaced at Apple's extortionate rates.
posted by flabdablet at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2017

Also, keep in mind that the GPU in the 15" MBP 2012 may support 4K, just not on the internal display. I'm not entirely sure. If it requires Thunderbolt2, I think that's late 2013 onwards.

Relatedly, some of the logic board failures in the MBP 2012 were due to overheating issues with that GPU. Apple's official extended coverage for that problem has ended, but it might be worth bringing up with them if you never got the fix.

(I never did, mine seems to withstand the temps and I'd rather not have my GPU downclocked.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:30 AM on December 22, 2017

I can confirm that it’s not until the 2013 MBPs that they started supporting 4K
posted by aubilenon at 9:44 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Note: I stopped by an Apple Store to look at the "current" non-TouchBar 15" MacBook Pros—they do have the good "Scissor" keyboards.
posted by blueberry at 10:36 PM on January 2, 2018

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