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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Using MBP as a desktop

Using MBP as a desktop
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Yakusoya
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Nov 3, 2011, 02:02 AM
 
My PC died recently and have been contemplating using my MBP (15-inch, Early 2008) as my primary computer instead of buying another desktop. I figure it's a good idea since Black Friday is just around the corner. I just have some questions that need to be answered before buying the parts.

1. My MBP is already 3 years old and I haven't used it that much. The battery started dying early on and I can only use the Mac while plugged in. Since I didn't use it that much, I never replaced the battery. Is it a good idea to run MBP with the battery removed and just plugged in to the power all day? I turn it off every night...

2. I've noticed the MBP tends to get very hot when plugged in, especially in the left area by the speakers. I know that you can run it in closed clam shell mode, but would the heat in that area damage the monitor since it's closed?

3. Are there any good recommendations for docks/stands?

4. On a totally unrelated note, I have the defective line of MBP that has the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT. I haven't experienced any of the display problems though so I cannot replace. Would I be better off just spending money on a new MBP in the case that I do need to replace my battery?

Thanks for reading!
     
Big Mac
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Nov 3, 2011, 04:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by Yakusoya View Post
1. My MBP is already 3 years old and I haven't used it that much. The battery started dying early on and I can only use the Mac while plugged in. Since I didn't use it that much, I never replaced the battery. Is it a good idea to run MBP with the battery removed and just plugged in to the power all day? I turn it off every night...
There should be no effect on anything if you take the battery out and just run it plugged in. Previous Apple laptops had a hardware "feature" that would down-clock the CPU if the Mac were being run on AC without a battery, but I strongly believe Apple stopped putting that "feature" in long ago.

2. I've noticed the MBP tends to get very hot when plugged in, especially in the left area by the speakers. I know that you can run it in closed clam shell mode, but would the heat in that area damage the monitor since it's closed?
The MBP was designed to run in clam shell mode, so it shouldn't harm anything. I have the same model family MBP and I've noticed that while sometimes it does get hot, most recently I haven't noticed heat from it when I've used it at all. It may just be that I use that MBP for light usage and nothing that heavy, though. I'll also note that before our first MBP exhibited major signs of 8600M failure, it was running quite hot to the touch and there was an audibly inconsistent fan, which the tech said was directly related to the failing GPU. Also, some people have said that your Mac's video output has to more or less completely fail to get a replacement, but we got ours replaced under warranty before complete failure.

4. On a totally unrelated note, I have the defective line of MBP that has the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT. I haven't experienced any of the display problems though so I cannot replace. Would I be better off just spending money on a new MBP in the case that I do need to replace my battery?!
My family owns two 8600M based MBPs. The first one, purchased new, experienced the defect and had its motherboard replaced. The second one, purchased as a refurb right after the unibody's debut, started exhibiting some of the symptoms a year ago but has since been trouble free. Now you ask whether you should just buy a new MBP because your battery is non-functional, which I have to say is a humorous way to phrase such a question. No, you don't have to buy a new MBP just because you went through a battery. I just bought a third party replacement battery for one of our MBPs from a company called Battery Edge for $50, and so far I'm happy with it, although I haven't done much testing to see what actual battery life is like yet. If you want a new MBP because of heat issues, GPU issues or because you're dissatisfied with battery life and don't want to try replacing it, you can do that. I mean, if you're looking for a reason to spend on computer gear you can pick whichever you like, but none of the reasons you mention are urgently compelling enough to run out and buy a new Mac, IMO.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
Waragainstsleep
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Nov 3, 2011, 05:51 AM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
There should be no effect on anything if you take the battery out and just run it plugged in. Previous Apple laptops had a hardware "feature" that would down-clock the CPU if the Mac were being run on AC without a battery, but I strongly believe Apple stopped putting that "feature" in long ago.
Really I don't recall ever hearing that?

I will disagree slightly on one point here. The pre-unibody MBPs actually tend to run quite a bit cooler with the battery removed. That should work in your favour if anything. I discovered this by accident one day.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
P
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Nov 3, 2011, 07:38 AM
 
As I recall it... Apple used to ship undersized power supplies with some laptops. These power supplies couldn't actually deliver the power required to run the computer at max power. For various reasons, computers only run at the theoretical max power for seconds, and Apple planned to use the battery to cover those peaks - the PSU was large enough to cover the average draw even at 100% load and have some left over for charging. At some point they gave up on this experiment.
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.
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 3, 2011, 04:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by Yakusoya View Post
My PC died recently and have been contemplating using my MBP (15-inch, Early 2008) as my primary computer instead of buying another desktop.
To answer the question about MBP as desktop we need to know in some detail what work you intend and more specs on the existing MBP.

However do note that 2011 MBPs are about 3x as powerful as your current MBP. I own a box (2.33 GHz C2D MBP 17") of similar power to yours as well as a 2011 17" MBP and the performance differences are more than huge. The 2011 box is an absolute joy.

In my case I did not consider the old MBP adequate as a desktop replacement (DTR) box, and used it along with a Mac Pro. The top 2011 MBPs with Thunderbolt, however, are frequently adequate for DTR and that is the way I use mine.

Three years is a reasonable life cycle for your current MBP. If you can I suggest upgrading to one of the top 2011 MBPs, for sure with Solid State Drive (SSD).

I would sell the old MBP and buy a top new MBP and set it up as a 2-display setup using your PC's display. If your PC display is not a glare display get the matte display option on the MBP because even folks who normally do not mind the glare can find the visual difference between glare/matte displays unsettling with a 2-display setup.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Nov 3, 2011 at 04:53 PM. )
     
Yakusoya  (op)
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Nov 4, 2011, 01:26 AM
 
My MBP is pretty much stock early 2008 model. I didn't even add an extra 2GB of RAM (does 4GB of RAM make any difference?) I do design work so mainly work with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. My workplace has given me an early 2011 MBP and yes, the difference is huge! Makes me regret buying mines so early. Unfortunately, I can't use my work one as my personal Mac.

Besides, would people still buy my MBP since it's so old already and not to mention, it is one of those with the NVIDIA?
     
Big Mac
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Nov 4, 2011, 01:35 AM
 
There's a market price for any recent computer in decent condition, and Macs generally hold their value better than PCs. Of course, the price at which someone is willing to buy may be below what you're willing to sell it for.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 4, 2011, 12:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by Yakusoya View Post
My MBP is pretty much stock early 2008 model. I didn't even add an extra 2GB of RAM (does 4GB of RAM make any difference?) I do design work so mainly work with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
Max out RAM. Doubled RAM to 4 GB should make a substantial improvement for CS spps performance; 8 GB would be better if the MBP will take it (check http://eshop.macsales.com/ to find out). Experiment with the memory allocation setting under PS performance preferences to see what optimizes on your workflow. Larger file sizes are more demanding.

Evaluate whether or not you have adequate RAM by looking at the Page Outs number under System Memory on the Activity Monitor app before starting a typical CS work session; recheck after working and if the page outs change (manual calculation of ending page outs number minus starting page outs number) is not zero your workflow is RAM-starved. Ignore page ins, the pie charts and other info in Activity Monitor.

If your test shows that page outs increase at all during operation it is affecting performance, because any page outs are paging to that slow internal drive. You can

• add RAM as feasible

• and/or simply try to run only one app at a time, for sure diligently closing unneeded apps like browsers

• and/or switch 64-bit operation to 32-bit operation (which will make some additional RAM space available). Note that your Mac may already default to 32-bit. See Switching Kernels:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3773%5...4-bit%20kernel

• Replace the boot drive with an SSD and direct CS to use the SSD for scratch. Apps that use scratch (e.g. PS) will speed up a lot. And when you do top out on RAM the paging to SSD is orders of magnitude faster than the current paging to slow 2.5" laptop HDD.

HTH

-Allen Wicks
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Nov 4, 2011 at 12:50 PM. )
     
WiseWeasel
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Nov 4, 2011, 05:59 PM
 
No, a MBP does not make a very good permanent desktop. It's a hassle to deal with the lid and an external monitor. My parents have used a MBP as their desktop, and they're constantly leaving it running because they think closing the lid will put it to sleep (and it usually does), but then wake it up with the external keyboard and mouse, and it stays running with the lid closed for days at a time, which is not good for ventillation, since the keyboard area is used to dissipate heat. Now that their MBP is dying, I've suggested they replace it with a Mac Mini, since they already have a full USB keyboard, mouse and a monitor, and they'll be much better off.

If you need to be setting up a workstation in various locations on a regular basis, then by all means, a MBP is suitable, but otherwise, get a Mac Mini if you already have a nice monitor, or an iMac otherwise, and consider buying an iPad for casual mobile use.
( Last edited by WiseWeasel; Nov 4, 2011 at 06:00 PM. Reason: none of your business)
I like systems, their application excepted. (George Sand, translated from French), "J'aime les systmes, leur application excepte."
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 4, 2011, 07:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by WiseWeasel View Post
No, a MBP does not make a very good permanent desktop. It's a hassle to deal with the lid and an external monitor.
I agree that the engineering and price compromises of a laptop do not make sense if one wants to set up a permanent desktop. However folks using MBPs as DTR boxes do it to gain mobility plus strongish desktop using only one box, seldom to create a permanent desktop unless with legacy hardware being retired from mobile usage.

Two-display usage rocks for any app that has palettes (like Photoshop) or images management (like Aperture) or needs lots of screen real estate (like Excel). My setup for instance sits the 17" 2011 MBP under and in front of a Viewsonic 23" display (top of the MBP display touches the bottom of the Viewsonic display.

It is not a hassle to deal with the lid and external display. The lid is always open. When a single-display app is in use (viewing a video or surfing the net, for instance) you just switch to display mirroring in the menu bar and drop MBP display brightness to zero using the display-dimming keys at the top of the MBP keyboard; bring brightness back up when both displays are needed.

Hooking up the MBP involves just plugging the external display into the Thunderbolt port. That is all there is to it, and the external display powers down when no signal is present. External keyboard and mouse are optional. I have bluetooth externals but usually just use the MBP keyboard as is.

If you need to be setting up a workstation in various locations on a regular basis, then by all means, a MBP is suitable, but otherwise, get a Mac Mini if you already have a nice monitor, or an iMac otherwise, and consider buying an iPad for casual mobile use.
Fair enough. But:

• iMacs require tolerating the glossy display that is ok for most but unacceptable to some.

• Minis are weak for higher end users.

• iPads are like you say only good for casual mobile use. Any substantial usage still requires a laptop.

Note also that the MBP is designed to be run with the lid closed if one chooses to do so. I agree with you however about ventilation and have always left laptop displays open, just dimmed the lappie display to zero when not in use as a secondary display.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Nov 4, 2011 at 09:18 PM. )
     
ibook_steve
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Nov 5, 2011, 09:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by WiseWeasel View Post
No, a MBP does not make a very good permanent desktop. It's a hassle to deal with the lid and an external monitor. My parents have used a MBP as their desktop, and they're constantly leaving it running because they think closing the lid will put it to sleep (and it usually does), but then wake it up with the external keyboard and mouse, and it stays running with the lid closed for days at a time, which is not good for ventillation, since the keyboard area is used to dissipate heat.
Not true. The machine is designed to work in closed lid mode. You don't need to worry about heat dissipation.

Steve
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Mojo
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Nov 12, 2011, 02:28 PM
 
The early 2008 MBP can accept a maximum of 6GB RAM. (MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 15" (08) Specs (Early 2008, MB133LL/A, MacBookPro4,1, A1260, 2198) @ EveryMac.com). RAM is almost always a good investment.

Here are some things to consider if you decide to upgrade to a new MBP:

Unless you have a need for the quad-core CPU and beefed-up graphics in the 15" MBPs, I would go with a 13" MBP. It's more portable and plenty fast compared to your MBP. (I own a 2008 15" MBP and a base model early 2011 13" MBP.) Previous-generation 13" MBPs are going for as low as $929 when refurbs are available at the online Apple store and around $1000 new. Unless you need a 100MHz speed-bump and a larger internal drive the recently discontinued 13" MBP is a terrific deal. And you can run Snow Leopard even though the previous-generation MBP comes with Lion installed. The least expensive current 15" MBP will set you back $1800.

The speed difference between the 2008 MBP and 13" MBP is dramatic.

I don't care for the glassy display so I added a $35 Power Support anti-glare film as soon as I opened the box. The display is comparable in appearance to my 15" MBP. Unlike some other anti-glare films, the PS option does not introduce noticeable artifacts or color-shifts. Glare and reflections are eliminated, making it usable in any lighting.

An option is to add a docking station, particularly if you have multiple external drives, etc.. I've looked at all the currently available docks and this one looks like the best when it comes to build-quality and ease-of-use, but it is also the most expensive: BookEndz Docking Stations.
( Last edited by Mojo; Nov 12, 2011 at 02:42 PM. )
     
SierraDragon
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Nov 14, 2011, 02:21 PM
 
As regards buying 2010 hardware IMO 2011 Sandy Bridge Macs are far superior, not worth saving a few hundred dollars on previous Macs. I also think comparing to one's old hardware is wrong; instead compare among today's choices.

Within 2011 gear you get what you pay for. Particularly as a DTR box by definition driving two displays any of the integrated graphics choices will present lesser (perhaps adequate for your needs, or perhaps not) performance. IMO for DTR the stronger-GPU MBPs make most sense.

HTH

-Allen
     
Mojo
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Nov 14, 2011, 03:46 PM
 
You don't need to spend twice as much money in order to use an external display.

Any of the current and previous-generation 13" MBPs will drive an external monitor just fine via the integrated GPU. Adding RAM will increase the VRAM from 384MB to 512MB, a nice bonus.. I know that 8GB will do the trick but I have not tested an upgrade to 6GB, which isn't much of a savings over going for at least 8GB.

There are advantages to using a quad-core MBP with dual GPUs, but deciding if it is the most cost-effective way to go should be decided based on the needs of the user.
     
Yakusoya  (op)
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:00 AM
 
Thanks for all the replies!

Am looking at some external monitors. Apple's display is over my budget so am looking at other choices. For the resolutions, my MBP's highest rest is only 1440x900. Will there be a problem connecting a 1920x1080 monitor to this MBP?
     
Waragainstsleep
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Nov 18, 2011, 05:39 AM
 
No problem at all. The resolution limit is on the internal display panel. Apple notebooks have been able to run 2560x1600 30" and 2560x1440 27" panels for quite some time now.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
   
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