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Which Mac laptop to buy now?

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I may go the re-furbished route as money is an issue but if this were your only tool. (meaning no tower at home jusy extra monitors) what would you buy? I am a design builder and spend lots of time elsewhere needing the laptop and prefer the ease of having myself totally mobile.

Thank you all especially for support as I struggled through using a dinosaur with VW 11 and a crippled PC with limited capability.


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I've been using a 15" MacBook Pro for years. No desktop. No other computer.

I'm on the road more than I'm home. It's small enough to carry around and has enough screen real estate if you need to work without an exterior monitor. For serious work I carry a keyboard and mouse so I can have the numeric keypad.

There are usually two choices of processor speed and video card memory. I always opt for the more expensive option (I don't want to be waiting for a render thinking, "Why didn't I get the faster computer!?"). I keep them for 3 or 4 years.

I haven't tried the re-furbished route yet, but several of my friends have and they're very happy with their machines. I may try that next time.

If you still intend to run v11, you may have problems. It won't run on the current operating system. You would need 12.5.3, 2008 or 2009. Or downgrade the OS.

Best of luck


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typically, downgrading the OS is not an option.

Recent machines usually will not boot with an OS version prior to the one that they shipped with(i.e. 10.5.6 vs 10.5.7), and especially not a prior OS (i.e. tiger vs leopard)...


I have been using a Macbook Pro (mid 2009 @ 2.66GHZ 4GB RAM stock config)

with 2009 and have had great usability...

Edited by dtheory
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And now that new Macbook Pro's have been released. There are a lot of positive reviews appearing, especially the new 13'. I have certainly been thinking about that as a complement to the 24' iMac. A tad small screen, but very small, capable, light, and relatively cheap. With Firewire 800 and being able to hold 8GB of RAM, it should do very nicely for years to come.

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I just got my (first) Mac a week ago (see my specs below) and i can already tell you i don't ever want a PC again, (not to start up the age old fight but it IS my first Mac so i am an objective critic, unfortunately i cannot compare Macs though which was the original question).

I tested rendering a file i had problems with (not enough memory) on my previous laptop (HP compaq nw8440, which cannot be considered old yet), and it rendered with no problems and much faster with the MacBook Pro. I also work with ArchiCAD and that works fine too. The Mac starts up much (itself and programs) faster than my Compaq.

Edited by Vincent C
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Just a note on the HP compaq nw8440.

All sport older processors which are significantly slower than are found in current Macbook Pro's (could be as much as a full ghz).


Since all rendering modes other than OpenGL are highly processor dependent, it is unlikely that the improved rendering times are a function of the operating system.

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Michelle was asking which Mac laptop to buy.

IMHO it is like Goldilocks

-the 13" screen is too small to draw on every day.

-the 17" is glorious to draw on, but it's a lot to haul around.

-the 15" is in the "just right" range of screen size-to-portability ratio.

-if you don't need portability, those big iMacs are amazing. And I know several architects who are happily using Mac Minis.

4 GB of RAM is preferable. If you do get a refirb and it doesn't have 4 GB of RAM, it is cheap and easy to upgrade it. (Although I've been running 2 GB in my 15" MBP for 2 years. I just haven't gotten around to doing the upgrade)

But this all assumes running VW 12.5.3 or above.

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Yep...a 24' iMac is my daily drive (both at work and home), but I would really like MacBook Pro 13' for the in between times. If it had a little more grunt to cope with what I do, I might be inclined to buy it and an external display, and do away with everything else. Certainly the price point allow for this. A 13' and a 24' Apple Display. Nice. For the average user (not doing too much rendering or video editing), I think that it would be more than enough (which is pretty much everyone these days).

I used to have a 17" and a 15" Powerbook, loved the size and resolution of 17" (the current MacBook Pro 17" resolution is about the same as a 24" iMac - superfine and lovely). I didn't like the 15" size. If I had a 17", it would be my main machine, but a 13" is more of a backup for the 24" iMac.

Of all the refurbs I have seen, I have never been able to see the difference between it and a new model, so go for it. What ever you do go for though, I would encourage you to go for something with Firewire. If you ever have to back up a hard drive, you will know what I mean. Firewire is great for future proofing. I am glad Apple put it back on the MacBook Pro 13".

As all of the MacBook Pro's are pretty powerful these days, it might be better to for a cheaper MacBook Pro, and invest in a new version of VW. With the new selection tools, it would speed up your work far more than a slightly faster MBP, and that positions you nicely for the Snow Leopard OS update coming soon (at least the next version of VW should take care of this - VW 2010 due out around September)

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Quite right Troy! I bought the 15" but would have preferred the 13" if it would have had the same specs (I do alot of rendering and 3D modeling), i have an external 24" screen at work and a 22" at home and an extra keyboard with numberpad, for 'normal' draughting the 13" Macbook Pro should be sufficient for a while to come.......on a side note i privately have a 17" Acer laptop and that was actually fine for draughting on without a larger external screen being necessary, but quite a handfull to lug around.

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Hi Vincent. The only pity might be the processor speed or the video card. But for real portability it is a winner. My wife has a 12" PowerBook, and loves it. The thing that amazes me is the 13" MBP is lighter than her PB, so I might have her convinced that there is something that can replace her pride and joy.

With the 17' setup, I just used to have it on a stand with a USB keyboard for ergonomics and extra number keys. Also the great thing with having the laptop with the same resolution as the external monitor, is that all of the VW palettes are in the same place, and a drawings script palettes are in the same place on both and need no time to resize when switching between both that comes from having VW working environments with different screen resolutions.

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While the new mac book sounds delightful with all its speed etc I am hesitant to sign up for a warranty that will not honor replacing the battery after a year.(its built-in). So after a year if battery goes you no longer have a lap top or a leg to stand on getting it repaired.

As horrid as Dell is they will send someone out to fix your computer and/ or fed ex parts. With Mac (ok maybe they do not break as much) they take the computer away.."3-5 days average" (what does that actually mean?- well for me it means my tiny biz is closed!)

Help I am ready to pull the trigger one way or the other and scared to death.

Here's what I think I want:

15", 4G Ram, 512 video card

THANKS to all who answered previously!


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please disregard the last note..after several calls to Apple it was clarified the new mac book pro warranty will replace the battery after a year should it be defective (with the 3 year care program).

My big dilemma now is the hard drive- do I really need to make it a 7200 rpm? my choice is 500G with 5400 rpm (standard off the shelf) or swap (custom) to 320G with a 7200 rpm. For me 320G is ridiculous space anyway so I'm not feeling cheated with a smaller HD

They do not run any hotter so the apple engineer told me.

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Unless your machine is short of memory in which case a lot of virtual memory (disc) paging activity will occur, then once an application is up and running, then hard disc speed will not have too much of an impact on speed of the application unless by nature it loads a lot of information continuously from disc - which does not happen when rendering as everything is in memory.

The benefit of a 5400 disc over 7200 is likely to be cooler running and longer battery life. The disadvantage is slightly longer OS and application load times. But check the power consumption of each disc option as specifications can vary between models so this is only a rule of thumb.

For a laptop that will be run on battery, I would likely go 5400, but for a desktop, I would go 7200 or faster.

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