[REVIEW] Quick tuning session for your new Macbook Pro
So you’ve finally bought a 13, 15 or 17 inch fruity powerhouse, you spend at least 100 to a 1000 worth on Apple upgrade options, and I bet you’re loving it right? Amen to that!
But how about we take a different approach, and actually reason from a perspective of a guy/girl who isn’t interested in blowing all his/her hard earned bucks to get a Mac that gets at least the same performance gains for much less? Yes we definitely can… but I’m not happy with ‘only’ that, and prefer to shell out a couple of that hard earned cash and build a machine that surpasses the standard Apple upgrade parts, leaving them well in the dust.
Fist step, go to an Apple store or order your machine online, but DON’T (for the love of god) select any of the options*. Only the CPU is the thing you can’t upgrade yourself, so unless you really have faith the <usually> 200$ price tag is going to speed up you getting extra work done, don’t go for it.
*You will notice they’re options by their exuberant price tag.
Second… wait until your order gets commanded to one of the fruity people in China responsible for manufacturing your new electronic wife. If you visited an Apple store, chances are high you already took ‘her’ home.
LET’S DO THIS
Right now, I presume you have your new darling in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you booted the notebook for first use or not, but I tend to open the box with one hand, holding the Philips screwdriver in the other.
Disassembly of the notebook is fairly easy, you flip it over and notice there are a couple of screws top, left, right and bottom, spread out a bit like a stitch pattern. You might want to write down or put the screws in the order you removed them for reassembly afterwards. So now you have a clear view on the internal parts of your new tree plucked fruit.
SUPERCHARGE LIKE YOU MEAN IT
There are 3 things I like to do with this particular machine (which, in my case is a 17inch model, but that doesn’t really matter here). First I want the optical bay removed to make space to hold the stock 750GB drive. Second I need a bloody fast SSD with proper TRIM features that’s guaranteed to work clutter free with OSX Lion.
Third, I wish to upgrade my DDR RAM from the default 4GB to 8GB without breaking the bank.
So we do some shopping:
- MCE’s OptiBay Drive kit http://www.mcetech.com/optibay/
- OWC’s Mercury Pro SSD http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Mercury_Extreme_Pro_6G/
- OWC’s 8GB kit (4GBx2) http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/Apple_MacBook_MacBook_Pro/Upgrade/DDR3_1333MHz_SDRAM
At present time (2011-2012) you should get these 3 items for less than 600$. It might seem like quite the expensive upgrade, but hold back and let me explain why exactly these parts.
MCE Technologies produces a very interesting solution to remove the optical disk station from your Macbook to fit almost any of the commercial 2,5inch hard drives where the SuperDrive was located. Nice to be able to increase your notebook’s internal capacity(up to 2TB) (2x1TB). But do pay attention you are buying the low profile edition if you purchase the 1TB 2,5inch drives, as the high ones won’t fit the housing. (Same issue with PS3). So do check out the MCE OptiBay if you are interested in capacity expansion. It even comes with an external housing, so you can reuse the SuperDrive you just removed and put it in a USB2.0 driven enclosure. Nothing goes to waste.
OWC DDR RAM, a wise choice. For less than 50 bucks you are getting the exact same speed in memory that would otherwise have cost you 200 if you AppleStore’d it.
You can go up to 16GB, but for now the 8GB kit is still the best value for money product OWC offers. You can recoup some money if you send back your original 4GB Apple DDR RAM sticks. In our case we reused that to upgrade an iMac (which has 4 slots instead of the 2 slots in MBP).
Third, and most notorious upgrade part is of course the SSD. Many things have been written about SSD benefits, so we’re not going to bore you to death with technicalities. Instead we’ll focus on what you get for your bucks.
Apple’s default hard drives usually come in 5400 RPM, if you upgraded you can choose a 7200 or SSD model. A very general speed W/R categorization would look like:
- 5400 RPM: 70 up to 110 MB/Sec (average)
- 7200 RPM: 100 up to 150 MB/Sec (average)
- SSD (Apple): 240 MB/Sec (average)
Apple tends to stick to 3G SATA speeds, where the new machines all can handle 6G speeds. So this is where OWC is a knight in shining armor. Their Mercury Pro (6G) is rated at 559MB/Sec Read and 527MB/Sec Write speeds, in real life it will give you up to 510MB/Sec in a Macbook Pro notebook of current generation.
by anchoring the SuperDrive on USB-bay, we gained access to space that will fit our original 750GB 5400RPM hard drive. The location of the Apple hard drive is now occupied by the OWC Mercury Pro 6G SSD. Changing your boot experience from pleasure boat to luxury yacht. RAM-wise you can get a great deal by getting the OWC upgrade kits.
You can get upgrade parts for any Macbook (even AIR’s), so don’t hesitate to give both MCE and OWC a look to check if you intend to upgrade. The Mercury Pro is based on SandForce technology, still world’s speed and reliability leader in SSD technology development.
Although the whole procedure is fairly easy and only requires some screws to be removed, I would not recommend anyone doing this if they feel uncomfortable with these super tiny wire/screw/things. Better to let some upgrade professional handle it instead of potentially ruining 3k worth of hardware.