2.2Ghz vs. 2.4 Ghz. Can it possibly be worth an extra $500?
December 19, 2007 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Macbook Pro question: 2.2Ghz vs. 2.4 Ghz. Can it possibly be worth an extra $500?

I'm an art director/graphic designer who is about to purchase a 15" Macbook Pro, for personal and professional use.

I'm familiar with Macs. I want to max out the thing with 4 gigs of RAM for Photoshop and various other Adobe CS3 apps. But now that I go to the Apple store online, I'm presented with a choice of a 2.2 Ghz model and a 2.4Ghz model.

I don't want to cheap out on this, but it's a major purchase for me. There's a $500 price difference. I remember hearing years back that the processor speed wasn't that important for graphic design apps, but wanted to check with the AskMeFi minds before I hit 'buy.' Again, I heard this years back before the Intel processors.

Also, eventually I want to buy a 20" display to use with this machine when I'm at home. Will the processor speed help out/hinder this?

Thanks for your help. I'll be making the purchase tomorrow with a 10% off deal through my office... But the .2Ghz difference is my last question.
posted by jeff-o-matic to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also- forgot to ask - Opinions- Glossy or matte? I'm leaning towards glossy, because things just look a little sharper, with richer blacks. My boss is a big fan of the glossy (he has one) but I kind of like my old Powerbook's matte screen. BTW, I'll probably never use it outside or in bright glare conditions. Any opinions on this choice?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2007

Not really... the 2.4 has more standard vram, but the 2.2 is more than capable of driving your 20" external display.

And do NOT buy your RAM from Apple. Apple has an insane markup on RAM.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:02 PM on December 19, 2007

No, it's not going to be enough of a difference to matter much if it's increasing the cost of the laptop by 15 or 20%. Also, you may want to wait until the middle of January (Macworld), they might update the whole line and you'd get the processor increase for free. It's only a few weeks away.

I like matte screens, I hate reflections. If you have windows behind you while you work avoid glossy, otherwise it's not likely to matter.
posted by voidcontext at 8:02 PM on December 19, 2007

Oh didn't see your followup -- matte, definitely matte. The glossy is nice to show off but it's difficult to get dialed in for color.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:03 PM on December 19, 2007

I have a shiny screened laptop (for work), and a matt Macbook Pro (for home). My work laptop (all Windows stuff aside) irritates the shit out of me with any sort of light source behind - I can see it as clear as day in my monitor, but not what is being displayed on it. I rarely have an issues with my Macbook.

I'd never get a shiny effect one again.
posted by Brockles at 8:09 PM on December 19, 2007

First off, never buy RAM through Apple you can get it much cheaper anywhere else and it is simple to install.

Your looking at a 10% processor speed increase for 25% more price, you get more drive space an video RAM but I wouldn't spend the extra cash.

If you plan on working on this machine a lot,and aren't going to be carrying it around alot, think about the 17". The extra screen space is really nice. Otherwise save your money and get a 24" monitor. Most 20" monitors are 1600x1050 (same as the 17"mbp), which is nice but IMHO a little short for a desktop.
posted by IronSurfer at 8:09 PM on December 19, 2007

On Matte vs. Glossy:

This was a big decision for me as well but I went with the glossy and I'm happy with it. The Apple glossy is not like the "candy" screens I've seen on many windows laptops.
posted by IronSurfer at 8:13 PM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies, keep the opinions coming!

Also, on the RAM issue, I'm aware of the price thing, but I've read in several places that the new MBPs are finicky about specific RAM, and that 3rd party RAM voids the Apple Care warranty as well. I'm comfortable doing the install myself (did it years ago on the machine I'm using now).

If someone can point me to a reputable RAM dealer and specific models of RAM, I'd very much appreciate it. I've cruised arount the net for RAM and many dealers seem extremely cheesy/shady.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:14 PM on December 19, 2007

3rd party RAM does not violate the warranty. Just keep the original memory, and in case you have a problem and they try to accuse the 3rd party RAM, swap in the original RAM and you're good to go. If you get memory from a reputable source you're likely buying the same stuff apple is putting inside anyways (Samsung, for one, if I remember my own). And instead of paying $800 you're paying $200. Enough of a difference to buy a giant 24" screen from Dell with the money saved.

I like OWC for RAM purchases.
posted by voidcontext at 8:20 PM on December 19, 2007

Try here: https://eshop.macsales.com/

I upgraded from 512M to 2Gb a few weeks ago. I bought matched Ram as follows:

Quantity: 1 OWC53DDR2MICP2G, $67.99 each
2.0GB KIT (1GB x 2 Matched Pair) Micron Original PC2-5300 DDR2 667MHz SO-DIMM 200 Pin Memory

Ridiculously easy install. Blindingly fast straight afterwards. To prove compatibility and lack of finickyness? On Saturday, I replaced my hard drive with a 250Gb one and installed Leopard on it. Not one peep of anything out of the ordinary. Even installing the hard drive was easy.
posted by Brockles at 8:21 PM on December 19, 2007

Thirding OWC for RAM -- as an added benefit they also have a trade-in rebate program for "used" RAM (details are on the website).
posted by nathan_teske at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2007

I'm a very satisfied repeat customer of crucial.com for memory.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:34 PM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I'm convinced. I'll go for the 2.2Ghz, and get the OWC 4G RAM kit.

I'm still torn on the matte vs. glossy thing.

But I still welcome more opinions one way or the other. Still another 12 hours or so before I click 'Buy'

Thanks all for your input.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:35 PM on December 19, 2007

If you're that torn on the matte vs glossy issue, go to an Apple store and look at them in person.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:36 PM on December 19, 2007

The matte vs glossy thing is like a religious war amongst Macheads, so I second the suggestion that you see for yourself. I have a glossy Macbook Pro, and I work all day with graphics-intensive science. Never bothered me.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:43 PM on December 19, 2007

Get your RAM here. $69.99 will get you all 4 GB. I have had the same OCZ memory in my MacBook Pro 2.2 for a few months and it's been working like a champ.

The really big difference between the 2.2 and the 2.4 is not the processor speed but the amount of video memory. It's 128 MB in the 2.2 and 256 MB in the 2.4. This really matters if you do a lot of video gaming or high-end 3d modeling. For CS3 you really won't see a difference. I'd get the 2.2.

And between matte and glossy, I prefer matte. I've owned a MacBook which was glossy and a MacBook Pro which is matte, and the matte wins by a longshot. If it were a desktop that you could park in one place and not worry about lights behind you, glossy might work, but for a laptop you'll be using in multiple places with varying lighting, the matte wins. I've also read in several places that color rendition is much better on the mattes than the glossies, but I can't say this with firsthand experience.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:50 PM on December 19, 2007

posted by R. Mutt at 9:02 PM on December 19, 2007

I spent about 15 minutes at an Apple store side-by-siding the glossy and matte. It took me about 30 seconds to decide that the glossy reflections would quickly drive me batshit; I spent the other 14.5 minutes trying (and failing) to figure out why a couple of my sane and reasonable friends prefer the glossy screen. The glossy's blacks are a little blacker and contrary to what nathan_teske says, I hear that the color fidelity of the glossy screen is slightly better, but otherwise it's pretty clearly a matter of personal taste.

Another RAM vendor that I've used with satisfaction (along with OWC and crucial.com, which are both fine) is The Chip Merchant.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:03 PM on December 19, 2007

It's not worth the extra $500 IMO; it's not that big a bump.

Personally I'm pretty strongly against the shiny screens. It's not just in high-glare or outdoor conditions that they become annoying, it's pretty much anything except for total darkness. Even if you're just in a dark room with a light source (TV, lamp, candle, doesn't matter) over your shoulder, you'll get a reflection on your screen. Drives me insane. I had to use one for a while and I was close to going out and getting one of those screen hoods like the NFL referees have on their video monitors. Never again.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:11 PM on December 19, 2007

Nthing, mostly. IAAMMBPO.*

(1) The speed difference is immaterial. Spend the $ on RAM or HD or something.
(2) Don't bundle Apple RAM. Overpriced and non-special. OWC and Crucial are endorsed.
(3) Processor speed will not affect external display.
(4) Matte. A thousand times matte. (Glossy looks better for movies and games, only.)

(*multiple MPB owner)
posted by rokusan at 9:19 PM on December 19, 2007

There is virtually no chance that you will be unsatisfied day to day with a matte screen, and a small but significant chance that you will be annoyed daily by the glossy screen. To me, if you aren't sure which you'd like, then the default choice should be matte.
posted by voidcontext at 9:20 PM on December 19, 2007

Get the 2.2Ghz. You're not likely to notice the difference.

Nthing the cautions about glossy screens; they're beautiful in a dark room, but if you can't precisely control the lighting (and the whole idea of a laptop is to move it around, meaning you probably can't), you should stick with a matte screen for safety. A matte screen will ALWAYS work; a glossy screen will usually work. It'll look better sometimes, but will be nearly unusable at others.

Also Nthing not to buy RAM from Apple. The best source I know for computer hardware is Newegg; they're not the absolute cheapest, but are very cheap and have very solid customer service. They have a specific Mac memory section. These 2GB modules will work fine, and will cost you $50 each, total of $100. They're even Kingston, which is a Tier-1 memory brand.

Make sure you get the Macbooks that say they can go to 4gb. Not all Macbooks can; many are limited in their chipset to just 2. If you get one of those, it doesn't matter how much you plug in, the system will only see 2GB.
posted by Malor at 10:27 PM on December 19, 2007

I have the MBP you're thinking about, and do graphics and web work (RAW processing, HTMLery, general shenanigans, etc) with it.

I say: 2.2, matte, 4GB RAM (but not from Apple), and the fastest hard drive you can afford. Ideally, you'd have a 7200rpm internal drive, and then another 7200rpm attached via FW800 set up as your scratch disk; I find the single biggest bottleneck in PS work at the moment is hard drive speed, as I went with the base 5400rpm model.

Other than that, happy buying and be sure to budget for a case and a tablet/mouse if you haven't already.
posted by heeeraldo at 11:25 PM on December 19, 2007

Matte, matte, matte. Apple chose the gloss finish for the "consumer" lines and the matte finish for the "pro" lines very deliberately. Glossy presents really well -- high contrast and rich saturation -- which translates to a great initial "wow" factor. But lord help you if you want to calibrate one for any level of consistency. If you're doing design work, especially for print, there's only one way to go.

On the other hand, you could go either way on the processor/video card decision and be happy. Because you can never upgrade those two things later, I tend to buy higher than I think I need in those two regards specifically, and that usually bears out in my favor. Software's minimum requirements on processor speed and video ram are constantly inching upward, and there's a slim possibility that some software you want down the line will have requirements that fall squarely between the two models. That is, it will improve your computer's useful life by a small amount. On the other hand, for 95% of what most of us do on our computers there wouldn't be an appreciable day-to-day difference. For your purposes, the ram upgrade you're looking at will be your biggest help.
posted by churl at 11:37 PM on December 19, 2007

$500 for a 200mhz bump in this day and age is a waste of money in my opinion, and glossy screens sell well because they show well, but they can get annoying very quickly.

I strongly advise you buy the best tool for your dollar and needs, rather than the best looking or fastest machine, and so get the 2.2 with matte (or wait the few weeks as mentioned earlier.) And yeah, get your RAM cheap elsewhere.
posted by davejay at 12:28 AM on December 20, 2007

Oh, and if you REALLY need correct color representation, you'll buy an external CRT instead of LCD, one with a calibration tool. Anything less will be more trouble than it's worth.
posted by davejay at 12:29 AM on December 20, 2007

I just bought a mbp this week (knowing full well January will come and screw me). I could not countenance the $500 bump, so I split the difference and went with the 7200rpm, slightly-larger drive.
posted by yerfatma at 5:57 AM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks again, all.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:07 AM on December 20, 2007

I only upgrade CPUs when its either double the mhz or close to double the mhz. The idea that a human can tell the difference between 2.2 and 2.4 mhz is ludicrious. Unless youre doing batch processing all night, then youre not really making a difference.

The price difference exists because of how chip makers market their products. There's a high premium on the newest stuff and the stuff right below that gets a significant discount.

Take that 500 and put it in the bank and buy a new laptop in 18 months with it that will probably be a quad-core monster.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:56 AM on December 20, 2007

Jeff-o-matic, how did ordering it go?
posted by voidcontext at 7:30 PM on December 20, 2007

Um, I think Apple is reading MetaFilter and all our bitching about RAM pricing.

I've ordered two Macs (two different orders) from the Apple store in the last two weeks. Both were from the discount-cheapass refurb daily sale page, which is one of my favorite places on the web. With the sale items, you can only get the posted config, no Build-to-Order customizing. Fine, I'm a geek, I'll add my own RAM and such later, right?

Well, in each case, the Mac arrived with double the RAM specified (from 512 to 1Gb in the first case, from 1Gb to 2Gb in the second). No extra charges, no explanations. When I log in now to look at the "completed" orders to see if I am going insane, there it is in the specs: more RAM than was in the sales receipts I printed out earlier. I wish I knew where to send my thank-you card.

If this is some kind of stealthy holiday bonus, all I can say is: Pretty sweet, Apple!
posted by rokusan at 10:44 AM on December 21, 2007

Response by poster: Update from the new machine:

Everything went fine. I ordered the 2.4GHz model (I'm a mild gaming nerd, and wanted the extra VRAM just in case) with 2G RAM. Because I ordered it just before Xmas, I got free expedited shipping, and it was in my building lobby the next afternoon.

I ordered the 4 Gig RAM set from Newegg for about $140... just got it today and have successfully installed it. I could have saved a bunch more with the slower processor, but it would have bugged me that I did that. Besides, I saved $550 on RAM, right.

One tip I'm sure many of you have heard before... you have to push the RAM chips in really hard, so that you can barely see any more of the contacts. It's a little unnerving for a layperson to do to their $3000 investment, but it's the only way it works. FYI, I didn't shove forcefully enough the first pass through, and the machine wouldn't boot... just a flashing light at the opening latch. Now everything is fine.

One last thing. The light sensing feature that controls the keyboard and screen brightness is utter crap. After having my machine dim off and on in a seeming random fashion, I finally dug around the internet and found a shareware program called Lab Tick, which allows you to manually control the brightness of the keyboard. And I shut off te auto screen dimming in preferences.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2007

Response by poster: One more thing--- You NEED NEED NEED a #00 (that's zero-zero) Philips head screwdriver to open the memory panel. Borrow or buy one. I got one at an Ace Hardware, a set with other tiny head sizes, for $10. These are the smallest screws I've ever seen in my life.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:54 PM on December 28, 2007

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