Pimp my drive?
August 29, 2007 8:47 AM   Subscribe

MacUserFilter: Help me figure out which configuration I need for my new MacBook Pro.

I am going to be getting a new 15" MacBook Pro to replace my aging Powerbook. I have already decided to get the 2.4GHz chip, and I will probably just order additional memory elsewhere (since Apple's prices are outrageous). However, there are a few options I can't decide on:

1. There are 3 possible hard drive configurations: 160GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm; 200GB Serial ATA Drive @ 4200 rpm [Add $90]; 160GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm [Add $135] (education prices)

I have a couple of external hard drives that I use for backup and extra storage, so I don't think the extra space is a necessity. So if my choice is between the two 160GB drives, is the faster drive worth the price? What does a faster drive allow you to do?

I am an academic, so my main use is for word processing and data analysis (TAMS Analyzer), but I also do occasional work in Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and some light video editing (Quicktime Pro or iMovie). And of course, lots of email and web browsing/downloading/etc. I do like to be able to have multiple apps open at once when I'm working.

2. Apple now offers a glossy screen option. I've seen these in the stores, and while they are very glossy, I can't help but think that that is more of a drawback--wouldn't it be subject to a lot of glare? Or is there some advantage to a glossy screen that I'm not aware of?

I'll probably need to use this laptop for 3 or 4 years, so I want to make the best possible choices now (and yes, I will be getting Applecare).

posted by DiscourseMarker to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i got the same laptop you are looking at. i got the bigger hard drive with slower RPM because I need to be mobile and can't bring my external HDDs with me. the problem isn't that the drive can't do disk intensive tasks like rendering etc., its that it takes longer. i do all those things, but having all my media with me outweighs longer processing times.

all the other things you talk about - multiple apps, data analysis - are all RAM intensive, so load up. all other things being equal, i'd pick the middle of the road 5400 RPM drive for you given your circumstances.

IMHO glossy screen is cool for movies and surfing the web, but i wouldn't get that option on a 'working' computer. the constant screen glare would get old when i have to stare at the screen all day long, with excel and word open.
posted by uaudio at 8:58 AM on August 29, 2007

Or is there some advantage to a glossy screen that I'm not aware of?

It's a personal preference. I think that colors look richer on a glossy screen and I find the relatively dull and grainy appearance of a matte screen more tiring than any glare. YMMV.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2007

From what you've said, I'd go with the 5400 or 7200 RPM drives. It doesn't seem like the extra 40 GB will really matter that much to you. However, over the course of your laptop's lifetime, the money for the speedier hard drive might be worth it, even if you don't expect to be doing much that's disk intensive all that often.

I wouldn't really consider the 200 GB drive at all. If you really need the extra space, I'd just get a cheap 60 or 80 GB external drive. They sell nice, small USB-powered ones these days.

I have a non-glossy screen on my Rev. A MBP, but have used one with a glossy screen for a short period of time. I wasn't very annoyed with it, even in direct light. The extra color saturation does make things look nice (if you're not doing hardcore color-intensive photo work? I dunno.), but I personally would pick a matte screen given the choice. I think that's more of a personal preference though.
posted by sparkletone at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: Here's a pretty good set of benchmarks of various notebook drives and another It doesn't really get to the one issue that I think is most important here, which is how much overall performance is dependent on disk cache performance. It's inevitable that you will hit the cache sometimes, and that's where the faster drive will mostly pay for itself, a few seconds at a time, many times a day.

I hate watching the spinning pizza of doom, so I'd probably splash out on the faster drive.

Re: glossy screens. Someone smart (forget who) here on AskMe made the point that glossy screens strongly reflect light from one angle, but not from others, whereas matte screens diffusely reflect light from any angle. Which is an interesting point. I'm still skeptical of them myself.
posted by adamrice at 9:19 AM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: As someone who does image work for a living, I suggest going for the matte screen. Glossy screens exaggerate the saturation of colors as well as the contrast. And the glare issue is a concern as well.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2007

The faster rpms make a big difference. I'd suggest the 160gig with 7200 rpm. Much of what you do won't care but when you want it, you'll really appreciate it. And after a while when asking your machine to sort through a pretty full drive, that speed is well worth the extra bucks. I'm glad I spent the extra. RPMs can be as a good an investment, if not better, than extra RAM.

I've had MacBook Pros with both gloss and matte screens and while I notice dirt much more on the gloss screen, I think I still prefer its clarity.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2007

Best answer: 5400 vs 7200
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:14 AM on August 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Faster drive and matte screen it is!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2007

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