What should I replace my 17" MacBook Pro with?
January 31, 2018 5:21 AM   Subscribe

I have a 2011 MacBook Pro (i.e. the latest model before apple stopped manufacturing them). It's logicboard went kaput and the repair place I brought it to says that it would be as expensive as a new laptop to replace and that the replacement would likely also fail. I don't care about expense but I do care about reliability. What should I replace it with or should I fix it?

I am only interested in a laptop. I'm a graphic designer and screen real estate is important to me. I also watch tv/movies on my laptop as I don't have a TV. I am willing to throw money at this problem.
My options as I see them are:
    Buy a new 15" apple laptop and deal with the smaller screen size
    Buy a 17" non-apple laptop and install OS X on it
    Buy a "new" 17" apple laptop from eBay and hope it lasts for a while
    Pay someone else to install a new logicboarf in this laptop
Which option would you recommend and why? Is there a better option I'm not thinking of?
posted by (Over) Thinking to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is physical screen size or effective screen real estate most important to you? According to this your 17" MacBook Pro supports resolutions up to 1920 by 1200, which is the same native resolution as the current 15" MBP.

Judging by the options you laid out, sticking with Apple software seems to be important to you, so I'd lean toward buying a new 15" MBP.
posted by AndrewInDC at 5:49 AM on January 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

In particular, putting OSX on a non-apple 17" laptop is probably going to be more trouble than it's worth by a wide, wide margin -- and doing so would put you outside Apple's generally excellent support.

I'd buy the nicest level of 15" rMBP you can afford. ABSOLUTELY get AppleCare; there are rumors of some ugly keyboard faults with this generation, so you want to be totally covered.

For additional screen space at home or in your office, you might also consider getting a good-sized monitor to run as well. I used to work on a 15" paired with a 17" monitor, and had them side by side on my desk so I had effectively one giant workspace.

When I last upgraded, though, I did the math and realized the Thunderbolt Display gave me more square inches of screen than my old 15" + the outboard monitor, so I use that with my current laptop when I'm in my office.
posted by uberchet at 5:55 AM on January 31, 2018

Pay someone else to install a new logicboarf in this laptop

Not a great idea, for the reasons given by the current repair place.

Buy a 17" non-apple laptop and install OS X on it

I'd be hesitant to go down the Hackintosh route on this one, but it's possible. Be prepared for headaches and heartbreak.

Buy a "new" 17" apple laptop from eBay and hope it lasts for a while

A quick look at eBay suggests they're running $600-$800, which is reasonably high stakes in order to roll the dice on an eBay special, with the possibility of ending up in the same situation.

Buy a new 15" apple laptop and deal with the smaller screen size

Probably the simplest option. Maybe a reconditioned 2015?

1920 by 1200, which is the same native resolution as the current 15" MBP

The Retina display native resolution is 2880x1800. You're probably thinking of the largest supported scaled resolution.
posted by zamboni at 6:09 AM on January 31, 2018

Yup, I misread the tech specs page. In any case, it certainly doesn't seem like a downgrade in screen real estate.
posted by AndrewInDC at 6:19 AM on January 31, 2018

I bought a reconditioned 15" Macbook Pro last year and basically am committed to buying used or refurb Macs for the foreseeable future - my iMac is 5 years old and is just now showing signs of needing a GPU upgrade to keep up with my work. Refurb has been great for keeping costs down but still getting the Mac quality I expect.
posted by annathea at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2018

I wouldn't repair a 2011 Macbook Pro at this point, and I agree with previous commenters that a 15" Pro and a secondary monitor is probably a good solution for your needs.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:29 AM on January 31, 2018

I'd also recommend a "new" 15" MacBook Pro and an external display for you. The shift to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports is a little painful since you're either going to need to choose from a limited number of native TB3 displays or invest in adapters (or a Thunderbolt dock). On the other hand they still sell the 2015 non-TouchBar MBP, and that has an HDMI port and two TB2 ports that support native Mini DisplayPort output. That maybe gives you a few more options on the display side, but it also feels a little like a dead end. On the third hand, I'm still happy with the performance of my 2015 13" MacBook Pro, so it could be less of a dead end than face value would indicate. I honestly didn't realize it was nearly three years old.

Real advice: go shopping for an external display you like for size, resolution, color accuracy, and so on, and then buy whichever Mac has the right port to connect to it without forcing you to buy a $50 adapter from Apple.
posted by fedward at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2018

For all practical purposes, there are no reliable logic boards out there for this model of MacBook Pro. Along with the 15" model of this era, there was a massive repair extension program that last for three years beyond purchase date replacing logic boards for widespread video issues. This demand is why replacements are so expensive.

Replacing logic boards on those models after REP coverage ended was such a crapshoot that I eventually began flat out refusing customers who insisted on repair through third party suppliers. Do not repair this machine. Get something newer.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:32 AM on January 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Have you gone and sat in front of a 15" MBP w/ Retina display? The reason I ask is because once I started using Retina displays I'd never want to go back to non-retina, even with a larger screen. FWIW, I do design and it was an welcome switch.
posted by homesickness at 9:06 AM on January 31, 2018

Best answer: I had exactly the same issue last year and I was very reluctant to give up the 17" screen. I was willing to switch to Windows, but I couldn't find a high quality 17" laptop that wasn't a gaming tank.

I ended up going with a new 15" MBP and am pretty happy with it - I got used to the smaller display fairly quickly.
posted by ripley_ at 9:26 AM on January 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do you object to using an external monitor? Because you get a lot of bang for your buck with a small laptop and big screen, and if you spend a lot of your time at the same desk, you can get a much better ergonomic setup. I recommend what I'm using myself, which is the best 13" MacBook Pro I could afford and a 27" external monitor, with separate keyboard and trackpad, and a laptop stand.

There are a lot of complaints about the keyboard on the current MacBook Pro; using an external keyboard would save wear and tear on it. The alternative would be to buy one from the previous generation, which ran through 2015. A 13" MacBook Pro plus an OK 27" monitor and all other peripherals would cost slightly more than a 15"MBP with an equivalent configuration.
posted by adamrice at 11:52 AM on January 31, 2018

My 2011 MBP (15") has had its logic board replaced three times. This was done by Apple for free all three times, the most recent of which was Nov 2016. Is there a chance that Apple will do this repair for you for free?
posted by actionstations at 12:07 PM on January 31, 2018

Is there a chance that Apple will do this repair for you for free?

Your repairs were probably done under the MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues.
The program covers affected MacBook Pro models until December 31, 2016 or four years from its original date of sale, whichever provides longer coverage for you. The following models are no longer eligible for this program: MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2011), MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2011).
posted by zamboni at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2018

Response by poster: An external monitor would be lovely, but is absolutely not workable for me with my current setup, which I am not changing. I hear all of you and will probably just get the 15". I have always bought refurb + AppleCare, so I'll do that this time, too. Thank you all!
posted by (Over) Thinking at 1:11 PM on January 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

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