Is there any reason for me to break the bank for the 2.4GHz intel c2duo macbook pro?
July 5, 2007 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Is there any good reason for me to get a macbook pro with the 2.4GHz intel core 2 duo processor, as opposed to the cheaper model one step down?

I have been saving up for a macbook pro for about a year. I have enough to get either the model with the 2.4GHz intel core 2 duo processor or the less expensive model with the 2.2GHz processor. Money is tight, however, and I'd just as soon save some cash and get the cheaper model.

I want to make sure I'm not setting myself up for disappointment down the road...

I am purchasing a macbook pro as opposed to a macbook for a variety of reasons: 1) I don't anticipate buying another laptop for at least four years, so I want something close to top-of-the-line; 2) I am learning the adobe creative suite as a hobby, and I plan to spend a lot of time with InDesign and Photoshop open--so I want a system that can handle them smoothly; 3) I don't have a TV, so the 15 inch screen is great for watching dvds; 4) after too many years with an old shitty laptop, I want something that will give me as little trouble as possible.

Besides running the adobe programs, my work on the computer will be relatively light. I do a lot of word processing and internet browsing. I've got quite a bit of music (125GB worth), which makes itunes impossible to use on my current computer, but I plan on using it frequently on the macbook pro.

Given the uses I will be putting the computer to, is there any good reason for me to pay for the higher-end model? Will adobe and/or itunes be a pain with the slightly slower processor?

Thanks a lot.
posted by scarylarry to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As far as I know--and my computer expertise is relatively stale--Photoshop and similar applications are served far better by an increase in RAM than an increase in processor speed. I imagine it would be faster with the better processor, but the difference in speed may not be noticeable, and it may be far less noticeable than a difference created by an increase in RAM.
posted by jckll at 8:51 AM on July 5, 2007

I work in a place where everyone uses Macs. This is anecdotal, but I've heard from several people here that Adobe Creative Suite 2 was really slow on the new Intel Macs - slower even than it was on their older, less powerful machines.. Creative Suite 3 is supposed to fix that.

I'd agree with cklennon. Put as much RAM in the thing as possible.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:58 AM on July 5, 2007

CS3 is intel native, CS2 is not. CS2 runs pretty so-so, but I wouldn't call it "really slow". And yeah, you probably won't notice the difference between 2.4 and 2.2 Ghz. RAM is a better place to spend some extra cash. Buy it elsewhere and install it yourself. Apple jacks you on RAM.
posted by chunking express at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2007

A 0.2 GHz difference in processor speed will barely be noticeable. Spend the money on RAM instead.
I installed CS3 on this MacBook Pro last week, and subjectively it seems one million times faster than CS2, which was awful.
posted by nowonmai at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2007

On an Intel mac, its simply not fair to compare the performance between CS3 and CS2. CS3 is a native Intel application, CS2 is emulated.

Having said that, I agree with everyone else's suggestion to improve the RAM.

If it helps, I used to have the original Core Duo MBP; I had a (warranty) replacement and received a C2D. It isn't noticeably faster by any means.
posted by neilkod at 10:06 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers, everybody. With this new info in mind, let me rephrase my question:

The computer I am planning to get will come with 2GB RAM. Given my intentions for the machine, is it really a good idea to max it out to 4GB RAM--or will I be okay with 2GB? Again, I have the money to max it out, but it would be nice to save a little, too.

I will be using CS2 for now, unfortunately.
posted by scarylarry at 10:23 AM on July 5, 2007

Just throwing in that you should get the extended warranty on the mac. It's one of the few extended warranties that people say is actually useful. It'll run you a few hundred dollars and will cover your shiny new laptop for 3 years.

If you don't want to pony up the cash now, you can get it any time during the first year (while under the default warranty).

I have a one generation old MBP, and I'm extremely happy with it. Be sure to pick up CS3 when it comes to photoshop and such, since it is intel native and will run faster. CS2 isn't slow, it's just not blazing fast. Be sure to get at least 2 gigs of ram, possibly 3 if you're going to be doing heavy duty photo editing.
posted by cschneid at 10:26 AM on July 5, 2007

The other difference between the models is that the more expensive model has twice as much video memory. Of course, that really only matters for certain 3D apps (like the latest games). I don't think it makes any difference for the apps you are planning on using.
posted by Good Brain at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2007

If you are planning on running Photoshop and InDesign to do real work on a regular basis, I recommend maxing out the RAM. If the CS work is only casual, then you might be able to get by.

In general, maxing out a computer's RAM is always worthwhile. It definitely does make a bigger difference than the bump in processor speed would. But that is also something that can be added later on down the road.

CS2 on Intel Mac was not pleasant. I have a dual 2.5GHz Mac Pro. It ran slower than on a G5 for sure and Illustrator would crash frequently.

I think you might have a problem with loading 125GB iTunes library on the 160GB hard drive and still having plenty of space for the system to operate. For one thing, that "160GB" drive is only around 148GB formatted capacity.
posted by daser at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2007

seconding the extended warranty (applecare), worth every penny if lets say yr optical drive conks out at day 367 of ownership.
also you can save some cash buy NOT buying the RAM from Apple but buying third party RAM.
posted by ShawnString at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2007

Also note that your computer won't be able to address all 4 gigs of memory if you do max it out, so it may not be worthwhile upgrading if you already have 2 gigs -- which is a lot. I think it's always best to have as much RAM as you can get, but I am pretty sure 2 gigs will serve you just fine.
posted by chunking express at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2007


Actually the new MBPs with the Santa Rosa chipset can address 4 GB of RAM.

This alone makes it worth paying a bit of extra money for the newer model. 2GB is barely minimum, imho, if you are a multitasker and want to run any of the Adobe CS3 apps at the same time that you are running Safari.Camino, etc etc etc.
posted by melorama at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2007

If you decide to max out the RAM, don't do it through You can save a substantial amount by ordering RAM from a reputable supplier (I've had good experiences with RAM from Crucial). It doesn't take much to upgrade the RAM yourself, and your new Macbook Pro will come with directions in the user manual.
posted by jcruden at 12:00 PM on July 5, 2007

If I were in your shoes I'd go with the 2.2GHz model and upgrade the drive to a 250 GB model myself*. Prices start at just about what Apple charges for the 200GB, though I would try and find a few reviews to see if the Western Digital or Samsung are preferred. With the size of your music collection alone that's a worthwhile upgrade. An external drive for backup is a good idea as well, if you don't have one already.

I'd also stick with the 2GB RAM for now. Upgrade that if and when the computer is a bit long in the tooth or you need extra performance. If you see lots of page-outs, listed under System Memory in the Activity Monitor, then you need more RAM.

Note, on the Apple Store right now there are a couple refurbished models (glossy and normal screen) with a 2.33GHz processor and a 256MB card for the same price as the new 2.2/128. The card is a different model, however, so I don't know if it's directly comparable.

*I've no idea how easy a job this is on the MacBook Pro and whether or not the average user can do it.
posted by 6550 at 12:01 PM on July 5, 2007

Actually the new MBPs with the Santa Rosa chipset can address 4 GB of RAM.

Very cool, I had no idea.

I have 2 gigs in my iMac and get by just fight running light room and other junk. Normally I am firmly in the camp of people who think you should buy as much RAM as you can cram into your computer, but in this case I'm sure scarylarry could get by with 2gigs for quite some time.

Anyway, If you have the option, make sure the 2 gigs is on one chip, so that you don't need to throw away any RAM to upgrade to 4gigs. (MBP should have 2 slots for RAM, so if you get two 1gig RAM chips, you'll need to toss both to upgrade to 4 gigs.)
posted by chunking express at 12:04 PM on July 5, 2007

Installing a new hard drive in a MBP is not for the faint of heart -- unless you're very comfortable working with laptop hardware I wouldn't try it myself.

As far as RAM goes, I've been fine with 2 GB in my MBP, and I run a fairly heavy workload including a lot of programs in Rosetta, which eat a ton of RAM. I'd say start with 2 and if you're getting a lot of pageouts (you can hear this happening...the disk will make noise when you switch between applications) then you can always add more.
posted by myeviltwin at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2007

I'll second the suggestion to NOT purchase the RAM upgrade from Apple.

I am also on the verge of purchasing the 2.2GHz MBP (hence my earlier question), and if I remember correctly the upgrade from 2GB to 4GB is $750, which is just outrageous.

Buy the RAM yourself, and then find a guide to install it, I believe had done a guide showing you how to do this.

Actually here is the link from Lifehacker. It seems it was for the previous generation of MBP though, but I'm sure you'll be able to find what you need.
posted by althanis at 1:27 PM on July 5, 2007

If you need more hard drive space, you can probably get a large external drive (300GB+) plus an enclosure for $150 or so.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2007

A point of reference: I'm using a previous-model C2D MBP: 2.16GHz, 2GB RAM. I'm currently running Ps, Ai & Dw, plus 7/8 smaller apps including 1 which requires Rosetta. Memory usage is currently 1.92GB and the disc is swapping like mad whenever I switch apps.

My advice would be to try and live with 2GB but keep the upgrade in mind - you may need it sooner than you think. And, yeah, forget about the 2.4GHz - you won't notice the boost at all.
posted by blag at 3:04 PM on July 5, 2007

... if I remember correctly the upgrade from 2GB to 4GB is $750 ...
Mein gott! I just bought 2GB for my MacBook from a local 3rd-party supplier, and it cost me AU$190. I didn't even consider looking at Apple's prices, though IIRC the upgrade cost from 512MB to 2GB was ~AU$300.

I've found running CS3 (native Intel) + Word 2004 (non-native) together to be OK, but I don't do any heavy lifting with either.

Nth-ing the suggestions to buy the 2.2GHz version with minimum RAM, but with the HDD size you want (the MBs are easy to change; the MBPs not so). Buy 2GB of decent 3rd-party RAM, and if you decide in a year's time you want 4GB it'll be cheaper then anyway.
posted by Pinback at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2007

chunking express: "If you have the option, make sure the 2 gigs is on one chip"

Actually, I think that paired RAM gives you much better performance.

You can get 2x2GB of RAM for your MBP for about $250 at Amazon (and elsewhere). No idea if it's worth it, but I will probably spring for it when I buy my MBP this summer. just to be safe.
posted by misterbrandt at 4:34 PM on July 5, 2007

Paired RAM gives you a negligible performance boost. I think it's the sort of thing you'd never notice. I think having two 1 gig chips, and having to toss them later to upgrade would suck.
posted by chunking express at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2007

This may not be entirely relevant, but just make sure that you want the MBP as opposed to the regular macbook... My macbook pro is around a year old, and make no mistake, I love it, but it has a battery life that definitely did not meet my expectations. A lot of friends at college have the regular macbooks, and they're getting battery lives of 3 hours +, while my macbook pro (admittedly depending on what I'm doing) gets anywhere from 90 minutes to 120. I think it's probably the larger screen. Anyways, just a heads-up, if you don't think you'll be unplugging it much, then go for it.
posted by cybertaur1 at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2007

Interesting, my MBP is from the generation that came out last fall and I can get an hour of hard core gaming type usage, and several hours out of web browsing with a slightly dimmed screen, so I think it really varies on use model.
posted by cschneid at 1:31 PM on July 6, 2007

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