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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Going to buy used MBP, would appreciate a bit of advice.

Going to buy used MBP, would appreciate a bit of advice.
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Dec 25, 2013, 05:56 AM
 
I had a 2008 Unibody which later I lent to my younger brother. A great performer that is still running Mavericks great. My only irk about it was fixed on later revisions: a low-res glossy screen. Sure, I would like it to be a bit lighter but that's not saying I found it to be that heavy.

Native Mac OS X 10.7 Lion support is a must. This means any model that came out with either 10.8 or 10.9 is not an option.

So, if I am not mistaken and upon my particular needs, I can go either for the 15" & 17" models as long as they fulfill the requirements listed below which I have broken down into the categories that at this point, I find myself dealing with.

Option A: 15-inch models.

Point 1: Display
Anything from the MBP Mid 2009 to the Retina Mid 2012 should be all-right. The Unibody range came with an (optional) high-res anti-glare display. My Unibody display view-angle was less that stellar. Which panel maker is the best pick and how can be determined if a given MBP includes such a panel or one from any other maker.?
I haven't tested any Retina model though, so I don't have a well formed opinion on it.
> Needs feedback on Retina display, panel makers and how it relates to quality.

Point 2: RAM
Main difference here is that the Mid 2009 and Mid 2010 models top at 8 GB RAM whereas the Early 2011 model can take double the RAM. As reference, my Mac Pro 1,1 runs great with 8 GB RAM, but I guess the internal HDs on it (WD Black Series) are way faster (SSD aside) that those found on the MBPs.
> Needs feedback on how important it might be the RAM ceiling oh these laptops since it is my purpose to stick to Lion as long as possible.

Point 3: Battery
Worth mentioning: 15-inch 2.53 Ghz Mid 2009 model (and onwards) includes an integrated battery instead of a removable one. I read somewhere that Apple charges $179 to replace it. Is that still the case.?
> Needs feedback on how long it usually takes for Apple to replace the battery, if needed.

Point 4: CPUs and GPUs
Quad core easily doubles the performance of dual-core machines.
Not sure how GPU performance translates between chip makers and machines.
> Needs feedback on raw performance and how hot do these laptops run.


Option B: 17-inch models.

Point 1: Display
With all models sharing the same 1920x1200 panel, the only moot point here is, on theory, to avoid a glossy display. Were there were any improvements to the display (panel is elf, coating…) thru the life cycle of the 17" Unibody MBP that I should be aware of.?
> Needs feedback on display improvements. Glossiness of the 'glossy' display.

Point 2: RAM
There is no much to say besides that from the Early 2011 model onwards, the laptops can take up to 16 GBs RAM.

Point 3: Battery
Any 17" Unibody model comes with an integrated battery. So it comes down to bring it to Apple Retail Store in order to replace it once it dies.

Point 4: CPUs and GPUs
Pretty much what has been said for the 15" models.

So, if you have any of these laptops:
- What makes this MBP better than others.?
- Why should I buy this MBP.?
- Why should I avoid this MBP.?

Are there any models/years in past five years that are problematic for any reason.?
I remember there were some issues relating to certain nVidia chips but can't recall either the model nor the year (of the MBP.)

Anything else you'd like to add based on your personal experience will be welcomed.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 10:23 AM
 
FWIW, tight RAM is *much* less of an issue since Mavericks IME.

I assume you have essential software that is incompatible with anything post-10.7?

10.7 may finally be officially and legally run in a virtual machine, so your options may not be as limited as you make them out to be, depending upon your usage.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 11:57 AM
 
Any desktop HDD is going to be way faster than any laptop HDD. 3.5" drives are inherently faster than 2.5" drives. That said, 8 gigs of RAM is pretty decent, and all of the relevant models use DDR3, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

CPUs: Sandy Bridge - that is, from the Early 2011 and on - is the big CPU boost. Even a dual Sandy is a big step up from a dual of anything previous, and the 15" and 17" get quads. Ivy is better battery life and better GPU, but the CPU didn't change much.

GPUs: Not sure how important this is, but the options aren't really that good. First we were stuck with the 9600M GT throughout the 2009 models, and that's a bad bet because of the bump gate thing (Apple had a recall due to faulty GPUs from nVidia, and any used model you get may or may not have been fixed). 2010 models use the oddball 330M. That chip is the desktop GT 220, a very low-end chip that no game was ever optimized for - and it's the first gen of the GPU switching thing, with apparently middling results. To boot, the integrated graphics is the one that Apple scorned Arrandale for in the 13", which should say something about how bad that is. The 2011 models used either the 6490M or the 6750M. 6490M is weak, but the 6750M is not too shabby. You can also fallback to the decent HD 3000 integrated graphics to save on battery. The 2012 models are a real step up here, with the GT 650M as the base model, but unfortunately there is no upgraded model like in the previous generation.

In light of this, I would look at a 2011 model and try to get one with the 6750M graphics. That should still be a solid performer.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 12:07 PM
 
Thank you for your valuable feedback.

RAM scarcity might be less of an issue, but still… I have a Mac mini running Mavericks at hand, and 10.9 takes way more RAM than Lion after a fresh start.

Thing is I want to move all the content on my Mac Pro to the MBP as seamless as possible. I have many software I should pay an upgrade fee to get it working on Mavericks. Be it little things like Mail plug-ins (more on this soon) or the NetBarrier X5 suite which is not supported on Mavericks.

Besides that, I haven't found yet a way to overcome the lack of RSS on Mavericks' Mail app. This is not as trivial as it might sound. I have well over three thousands RSS entries catalogued and labeled with the help of the Mail plug-in 'MailTags' which is indispensable for me. Should I upgrade to Mavericks, I would lost all of these.

There are a couple of things I really like from Mavericks, as opposed to Mountain Lion which didn't offer anything compelling to my needs, but in all honest, I can't upgrade, not yet.

So, I have found a rather nice 2011 17" MBP, but there are two details that keep me from buying it right now:
- It comes with just 4 GB RAM, which I can upgrade.
- Glossy screen which I can't replace, obviously. Don't know how this panel compares to the Unibody 2008 MBP display, I hope quality-wise there was a much needed improvement, though.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 12:14 PM
 
Found the P reply right now. Thank you for such a detailed reply.

What about the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1 GB, is it any better or just the same thing with double the RAM.? The MBP I mentioned on my previous post comes with such GPU.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 12:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
Thank you for your valuable feedback.

RAM scarcity might be less of an issue, but still… I have a Mac mini running Mavericks at hand, and 10.9 takes way more RAM than Lion after a fresh start.
That is a worthless metric. One would HOPE that an efficient system use more RAM at startup, since that is testament to actually using resources available.

In actual use, it has reduced RAM usage of a particular Logic project I had been working on prior to upgrading to a QUARTER of what it needed before (~30GB down to ca 8), while reducing swap size from 25 GB to 90 MEGAbytes.
This is anecdotal, and I never did more thorough testing after that because that single situation completely won me over in one.

Your other concerns, however, carry more weight (though I question the relevance of netBarrier).

The glossy screen on a 2011 17" is not substantially improved over a 2008 unibody MBP.
     
angelmb  (op)
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Dec 25, 2013, 02:41 PM
 
Thank you for lecturing me on how RAM management actually works.

I much prefer NetBarrier X5 to the newer versions that come with a subscription policy model that extends far from the filter definitions and how Intego seems to split and then reunite software features while renaming products just for the sake of confusing people.

Albeit that would be pocket money compared to deal with upgrading Adobe CS5 to CC which I don't intend to.

Aww, pity on the glossiness of the 17" screen.

As silly as it sounds, a major bummer is that the 17" MBP wouldn't fit inside my messenger bag. I can't find the same model suitable for it.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 03:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
Thank you for lecturing me on how RAM management actually works.
I can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but seriously, the RAM management in Mavericks (especially the compressed memory) is some honest-to-God voodoo majick stuff. It's added an extra year of useful production life to my 2011 13" MacBook Pro.

I much prefer NetBarrier X5 to the newer versions that come with a subscription policy model that extends far from the filter definitions and how Intego seems to split and then reunite software features while renaming products just for the sake of confusing people.
I was referring more to the necessity of the product itself.

As silly as it sounds, a major bummer is that the 17" MBP wouldn't fit inside my messenger bag. I can't find the same model suitable for it.
This isn't silly at all, and its lack of portability is, in fact, a trade-off very few people were willing to make — so few, indeed, that Apple shut down the product line entirely.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 05:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
Found the P reply right now. Thank you for such a detailed reply.

What about the AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1 GB, is it any better or just the same thing with double the RAM.? The MBP I mentioned on my previous post comes with such GPU.
The 6770M is the same chip as the 6750M, except clock speed has gone up by 20% - from 600 to 725 MHz. Still not especially powerful - its desktop equivalent is a 6670 underclocked by 10% or so - but an OK card if gaming is a secondary concern. A real step up from integrated graphics, and with drivers that at least let any game run even if you have to dial down the quality and resolution.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Dec 25, 2013, 07:24 PM
 
In grad school, I had a classmate with a 17" MBP (when they were brand new), and she had to use what was essentially a large gym bag to tote the thing around. Every time they've updated the MBP line, I've checked out the new 17" models, and they have always been too big for conventional cases, particularly cases that allow you to carry more than just the computer. The 15" versions, on the other hand, have fit in a huge assortment of bags, cases, carriers, backpacks, etc. For that very reason, I've stuck with checking out 15s when considering replacing my 2006-vintage Core Duo MBP...

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Dec 26, 2013, 03:23 AM
 
I can't tell if you're being sarcastic (…)
No way I was being sarcastic, sorry if my reply brought you to that conclusion. I didn't mean it. I have the most utterly respect for people willing to help people no matter where and how. Taking some minutes of your valuable time to share with us your knowledge is no exception.

I was referring more to the necessity of the product itself.
To me, it does include valuable features. Most people swear by Little Snitch, NetBarrier X5 does the same and then more. Besides the FireWall feature, I use it to protect my personal info, I get an audible (too audible in fact) alert when any info I want to keep on my Mac is 'requested' by the internet, be it my phone number, my iTunes account info… anything I want to keep out of the pry-eyes of the world.

This isn't silly at all, and its lack of portability is, in fact, a trade-off very few people were willing to make — so few, indeed, that Apple shut down the product line entirely.
Thing is, I find the 15" screen a bit on the small size, resolution-wise is OK, but I wish they would inculcate the infinite pool concept to the screen going edge to edge since thank goodness, this is not a touch screen.

But then, while the 17" panel has to be gorgeous to stare at, the laptop chassis is a bit on the big size, no doubt about it.

The 6770M (…) an OK card if gaming is a secondary concern.
Not the case. I am not a computer gamer at all, I just don't fit into the role. So that 6770M is going to be powerful enough for my present needs.
My Mac Pro was upgraded to the AMD Radeon 5770 1 GB RAM that all the gaming-time it has ever seen has been the OpenEmu app I downloaded just out of curiosity.

In grad school, I had a classmate with a 17" MBP (when they were brand new), and she had to use what was essentially a large gym bag to tote the thing around.
I had the 17" PowerBook, portability was certainly not its strongest suit. I certainly don't like the idea of carrying a huge backpack around just cause the laptop is too big for anything else.
     
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Dec 26, 2013, 07:57 AM
 
Just when I thought I have settled on the MBP 17" Late 2011, I find this:

https://discussions.apple.com/thread...=2160&tstart=0

Any idea if these issues might have been solved with the release of the Late 2011 models or are these prone to suffer them as well.?

TIA.
     
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Dec 26, 2013, 08:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
Not the case. I am not a computer gamer at all, I just don't fit into the role. So that 6770M is going to be powerful enough for my present needs.
My Mac Pro was upgraded to the AMD Radeon 5770 1 GB RAM that all the gaming-time it has ever seen has been the OpenEmu app I downloaded just out of curiosity.
For comparison then, that desktop 5770 is about twice the power of the 6770M - that is, with the same quality graphics, you can push about twice as many pixels to the screen per second. It's more complicated than that, obviously, but it's not too far off.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Dec 27, 2013, 03:42 AM
 
So I have the desktop 5770 pushing 4096000 pixels on my Mac Pro & Cinema 30". The 6770M would be pushing 2304000 pixels on the MBP 17" and both come with 1 GB RAM. It sure looks like we have a good balance in there to me.
     
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Dec 27, 2013, 07:14 AM
 
It'll be fine. I used the predecessor of that card in an HTPC a few years back, and it worked well.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Dec 27, 2013, 08:33 AM
 
Thank You Very Much. Deal done. I expect to receive it next week and will report accordingly.

Now I have to sell my Mac Pro & Cinema 30" as I don't like having to deal with more than one computer.
     
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Dec 27, 2013, 07:32 PM
 
Too bad I didn't see this thread earlier. I have an updated 2011 15" (hires display, SSD) I am selling. I just updated from it a month ago, and I'm about to put it on craigslist.
     
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Dec 28, 2013, 12:46 PM
 
exca1ibur: As much as your laptop would fit my needs, please don't loose your sleep on it as I am located in Europe.
     
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Jan 12, 2014, 06:01 AM
 
Upgraded the RAM to 16 GB. Really nice machine, so fast it asks for a SSD.
     
   
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