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View Full Version : [other] Buying New Macbook Pro, Need advice



Laxton14
May 4th, 2008, 06:31 AM
Hi, im starting college this fall and plan to pursue a degree in some sort of programming or technological science, i was wondering which laptop would be the best choice for me.

The 2 options

* 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
* 2GB memory
* 200GB hard drive1
* Double-layer SuperDrive
* NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB
for 1,799

or

* 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
* 2GB memory
* 250GB hard drive1
* Double-layer SuperDrive
* NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 512MB
for 2,299

also..would 4 gigs of ram be overkill or is it needed? (its 180 extra dollars) money is of the essence, but i realize that buying a good computer is essential. any help would be appreciated, thanks

maddojf
May 4th, 2008, 07:20 AM
Bumping the 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz won't give you much of a speed boost, and both the graphics cards are fine for now, but if you get the 512 MB graphics card then you will be able to use the laptop for a longer time without it "feeling" slow. If you are going into programming, then you probably won't need as much performance from you graphics card for "work" type stuff. However, if you go into a field that requires 3-D rendering (I'm in Mechanical Engineering and we do 3-D CAD work), then the higher end graphics card will definitely pay off in the long run.

Also, DO NOT buy the ram from Apple. I have a Macbook Pro 2.6 GHz, 4 GB of RAM, and 512 MB of VRAM. I got mine with the default amount of ram (2 gigs) and then I bought an additional pair of 2 gig sticks from Other World Computing (www.macsales.com). I now have 6 gigs total (4 in my laptop and 2 extra which you could sell on e-bay if you wanted to) for which I paid less than a hundred dollars extra as opposed to the $170 that it would have cost be to get only 4 gigs from Apple.

Similarly, don't pay Apple excessively high upgrade price for the faster hard drive. I did the same thing with the hard drive as I did for the ram, I bought a separate 200 GB 7200 RPM drive with an external firewire 800 enclosure for less than what it would have cost me to upgrade the harddrive through Apple. I then swapped the drives and now I have a 7200 RPM 200 GB drive in my laptop and a portable 200 GB 5400 RPM firewire drive for storage space.

So to sum up, if you will need the extra graphics performance for the type of work you are going to be doing (or if you are a gamer) then it is worth paying the extra because you can't easily upgrade the graphics yourself. For everything else, get the minimum configuration and then buy the upgrades separately, it will save you money and get you extra hardware at the same time.

(Also, as a side note. When you put 4 Gigs of RAM in the laptop, it will only really use a little over 3 Gigs of it because the processors in the Macbook pros are set to run in only 32 bit mode. You could install a 64 Bit linux and get access to all 4 gigs, but XP and OS X don't really use it all. There is still some things that OS X does to utilize the extra 3 quarters of a gig of ram, but it is not the same as accessing all four gigs the real way.)

hajk
May 4th, 2008, 06:33 PM
Mmm... OS X only running in 32-bit mode you say? I just bought a MacBook Pro (4,1) and am running 64-bit Hardy inside a VMware virtual machine. Could VMware do that while itself running in 32-bit mode, albeit on 64-bit hardware? Interesting...

tvtech
May 4th, 2008, 06:37 PM
if your going to go for programming mac is not the answer. I'd say buy a dell xps 1750 it's balls to the wall and currently one of the only laptops with sli graphics technology built in, it's expensive though. other than that go with the precision series you'll get better hardware for less cost than what you'll pay from mac, you'll probably get a longer life out of your box that way, I'd say the precision 6300 is what your looking for or if you want smaller go with the 4300. the hardware bang for the buck is about 1000 dollars cheeper than what you'd pay for a mac. plus if your looking at installing ubuntu who cares if windows comes with it, and you can always just install osx if you really want. mac book pro is a waist of money unless you need final cut. just my opinion of course.

I recently like a day ago purchased the precesion 4300

2.6ghz core duo with 6mb l2 cache
80 gig hd "bought a 320 from newegg"
1920X1200 wuxga dislpay a must for my cad work
nvidia fx 360 512mb 256 dedicated "check the nvidia website the specs for this card outstrip the 8600 gt or gs
8X dual layer dvd/cd burner
2gig ram

all for 1800 bucks.

aysiu
May 4th, 2008, 06:41 PM
For what you're using the computer for, I don't think it makes a difference. Go with the cheaper model.

Laxton14
May 4th, 2008, 07:27 PM
Thanks for all of the replies, they have all been really helpful, but have raised a few new questions

1) why not use mac for programming? is it hard to find necessary software?

2) how hard is it to add ram to a Macbook Pro? is there a high chance of messing it up?

3) will the faster hard drive be very beneficial?

maddojf
May 4th, 2008, 09:13 PM
Adding ram is very easy, all you have to do is take the battery out and remove three screws. I would say there is very little chance of messing your computer up (Apple classifies it as a user upgradeable part). The hard drive, on the other hand, does require that you disassemble the laptop, i.e. remove the keyboard.

I don't know how much difference the faster drive will make because I don't really have anything to compare it to. I have a fast drive in my MacBook Pro (4,1) and a slower drive in my Powerbook G4, but the G4 also has a slower processor and less ram so it is not a good basis for comparison. I think it makes a difference when you are dealing with large files, such as video, and information needs to be written to the hard drive as virtual ram (swap space). The faster drive will allow the computer to get quicker access to the stuff stored in virtual memory (of course adding more ram decreases the need for this).

tvtech
May 5th, 2008, 01:55 AM
if your serious about getting into programming and you actually plan on using this machine for compiling, both processor speed and hardrive speed will be components in this decision. as this is a laptop, you'll probably only use it for development level stuff and leave the heavy compiling to another more powerful system, otherwise your compile times are going to be out of the world. also yes it is very difficult to find most native programs in mac format. Although it is becoming easier programming is much easier in linux and especially windows. it also depends on what platforms you plan on developing for mac/linux take up on the high estimates 7% of the pc market. if your going for game development windows is your platform of choice. graphics editing systems in the semi pro level are common on mac's in the final cut pro system, there are many windows variants of this type of video editing system, and some various somewhat useable linux variants. mac systems have on the high estimates around 4.4% of market share, on low estimates around 2.4%. they're also very difficult to make extensive customizations too. apple really wants you to use their systems to do what they tell you to do with them. it's also one of the reasons why their system work as well as they do because they use very limited hardware specs and a very tightly controlled operating system.


I know it's kind of a ramble but you should check things out. and do some research. dell for my purposes had the best hardware vs. price component, the operating system is ubuntu for myself with windows xp running in vmware for autocad there are check out asus hp etc if your looking for a more extensive list of computers and their compatibility with linux check out linuxlaptops (http://www.linux-laptop.net/)

but... on a cost vs performance scale mac is on the expensive end of things check out comparable hardware specs and you'll find out that you can buy some of the top end mac specs for close to 1000 dollars less from other manufacturers

RAOF
May 5th, 2008, 02:20 AM
If you're going to be using Ubuntu as your development environment (which is probably a good idea; it's a really good development environment) it doesn't matter whether the laptop is a mac or dell or whatever, just as long as the hardware is supported. Of course, this depends somewhat on what you're going to be developing - if you need to develop Windows apps you'll need a windows install at some point ;). In that respect, the mac will be most flexible - you'll be able to have a linux, windows, and mac development environment available. You probably don't care about this, though.

Hard drive speed is nice for compiling, but for small stuff will be largely irrelevant - given enough RAM small (and not-so-small) projects will fit entirely within disc cache. Unless you're going to be working on large projects you really don't need to care very much.

cyberdork33
May 5th, 2008, 03:03 AM
If you're going to be using Ubuntu as your development environment (which is probably a good idea; it's a really good development environment) it doesn't matter whether the laptop is a mac or dell or whatever, just as long as the hardware is supported.and if you wanted fully supported hardware under linux, a mac is probably not the best choice.

Laxton14
May 5th, 2008, 03:26 AM
All of the input is greatly appreciated. I am not quite sure what kind of work im going to do be doing with my new laptop so i think it would be wise to wait and see. I have orientation at my college in about a month and plan to wait and talk to a professor about what degree would best suit me and what kind of work it would entail. I am still relatively new to the who programming scene, but plan to try some self-taught python programming over the summer. Thanks for all of the help and advice.

maddojf
May 5th, 2008, 04:09 PM
You may already know this, but if you do decide to get the mac, then look into getting a student discount. I purchased mine through my university's bookstore and saved a few hundred dollars.

flaggh
May 5th, 2008, 06:31 PM
(Also, as a side note. When you put 4 Gigs of RAM in the laptop, it will only really use a little over 3 Gigs of it because the processors in the Macbook pros are set to run in only 32 bit mode. You could install a 64 Bit linux and get access to all 4 gigs, but XP and OS X don't really use it all. There is still some things that OS X does to utilize the extra 3 quarters of a gig of ram, but it is not the same as accessing all four gigs the real way.)

Actually Leopard is a 64-bit operating system and assuming you are running it on a 64-bit platform such as a Core 2 Duo, it will support more than 4 gigs of RAM, however the application running may not be 64-bit and thus not be able to address more then 4 gigs of RAM.

Laxton14
May 5th, 2008, 07:45 PM
maddojf, yes i was aware that you can get a student discount, it is really useful...thats another couple hundred bucks that can be spent on some software or something

flaggh, are most apps are 64-bit in apple? and do you recommend 2 or 4 gigs?

flaggh
May 5th, 2008, 08:41 PM
flaggh, are most apps are 64-bit in apple? and do you recommend 2 or 4 gigs?

I do not think that most apps are 64-bit, yet. I'm not the best person to ask though since I have hardly any experience using OSX.

As for 2 or 4 gigs, I think the more the merrier. Its a relatively inexpensive upgrade especially if you follow maddojf's advice in avoiding overpriced Apple upgrades.

I don't know how much linux experience you have, but cyberdork33's frequent observation that mac hardware support under linux is not the best is definitely something to consider. When I bought my macbook, I bought a used one a year old because I knew that gave me the best chance of immediate success since there was already plenty of time to crack that egg and I never planned on using OSX as my primary OS. I knew what I was getting into and was up to the challenge. Before you go ahead and consider a mac for linux, spend a few days searching the archives and reading about all the issues people have had. Don't forget to go through the wiki:
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MacBookPro/SantaRosa

cyberdork33
May 5th, 2008, 08:59 PM
I do not think that most apps are 64-bit, yet. I'm not the best person to ask though since I have hardly any experience using OSX.
The other weird thing about it is that you are not on a 64bit kernel. It is an odd situation... The chess game in OSX is a 64bit app!


I don't know how much linux experience you have, but cyberdork33's frequent observation that mac hardware support under linux is not the best is definitely something to consider.
Don't get me wrong, I love my Mac, but if I wanted a dedicated Ubuntu machine, I might consider something else. If you plan to do any programming for OSX, then you pretty much have to get a mac...

phidia
May 5th, 2008, 09:15 PM
I'm going to put my 2 cents in here. I have quite a bit of Mac experiance and have also used linux for over 6 years now.
First I would say don't be fooled by the dollar differences; Macs have features you can not find in peeecee's like slot loading optical drives and backlit keyboards. Also there is a lot of open source software available for OS X (http://www.opensourcemac.org/).
I'm not really trying to start a mac vs peecee war here-tho I know that could happen. I'm only offering an alternate view.
I use linux on desktop AMD peecees and find that I can do everything I want on them, but you did ask about laptops-notebooks and in that area IMO linux does not do as well. I purchased a HP Pavilion laptop and have run ubuntu and other distros on it-but I am very dissatisfied with it. I did a lot of research on the HP laptops too, but not enough. Power management is terrible-battery life is even worst.
I'm not saying with proper research that you can't find a good laptop with linux on it but if that is your goal you might want to consider some of the companies that sell laptops with linux pre-installed and set up.
Even with that though I doubt you will find a model with the features of the Macbook Pros (http://shopper.cnet.com/notebooks/apple-macbook-pro-2007/4014-3121_9-32465634.html#p5) you listed (6 hour battery life and a 15.4" screen & under 6lbs weight)