Hardware question: 15 or 17" MacBook Pro?

Jul 27, 2008 at 11:45pm

Hardware question: 15 or 17" MacBook Pro?

Hello Cyclists,

This subject has been beaten to death in the various Mac-specific forums, but I wanted to get the input of other Max users rather than the general computing population.

I’m currently debating between the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro for Max/MSP/Jitter, Finale and various other standard tools of the soon-to-be composition graduate student, and wanted to hear peoples experience with the two sizes.

I’ll be getting a large-ish LCD for when I’m at home, but having had two 19″ CRT screens for so long, I’m now very used to having two primary windows going at any one time. As my girlfriend has recently started calling me, I’m a Screensize Queen (note: I am male).

Now, for at least the next academic year, I’ll primarily be keeping the laptop at home for work, and porting it around maybe once or twice a week on average; more when I’m getting ready for a live performance. I live near school, to where the system would most often be moved. I’m not a heavy traveler, so I’m not terribly concerned with space on planes and trains, but I’d like to be able to use it wherever possible.

So, I’m caught between the added portability of the 15″ versus the awesomeness of the 17″ display. Since I’ll be using the laptop’s display to dual-screen at home, more screen real estate is useful even with an external display. My concern is mostly the added weight and size of the 17″, and whether I can deal with it during those times I’m out and about with it. Using both in store, the 17″ seemed to make more sense in terms of maintaining my current workflow, but it sure felt heavier and bulkier than the 15″ – there’s only 1.5 pounds difference between the two, but for some reason it feels like much more. Neither have spent time in my backpack, so I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel with either in terms of moving it around.

There’s also the factor of the two extra speakers in the 17″, which would be great to have when I don’t have access to external loudspeakers for rehearsals.

My practical side is saying “Get the 15,” but my functional, screen space needing side is saying the opposite. I want to reconcile them, but they don’t get along. Perhaps some alcohol would help smooth things out, but then they’d both just start crying over having to spend this much money in the first place.

So, please share your thoughts, if you can.

#39022
Jul 28, 2008 at 12:58am

A friend of mine has a 17″ Macbook. He rarely carries it around with him and complains about the weight and size and how cumbersome it can be.

I have a 15″ Macbook Pro. I love it, it’s the perfect size and weight for being on the go, but having computing power. When I’m at home, I plug my 24″ screen into it with a wireless keyboard, so it feels like a workstation, but w/o the size and noise.

I like the 15″ a lot, once in a while wish I had more space, but that goes away when I get hoem and have 24″ of desktop, plus a second screen.

#136816
Jul 28, 2008 at 2:51am

My recommendation is the 17″, based on the fact that you use Finale.
The more music you can see represented on the screen, the more
productive your notation work will be.

The 17″ is on the heavy side, but I would recommend a bag that makes
it eminently portable, the BBP low slung back pack bag available at
the Apple store on-line. I tried three other bags before this one,
and I love it. Very geeky, but incredibly comfortable and easy to
carry, and the bag itself holds a lot of stuff.

On Jul 27, 2008, at 7:45 PM, Duncan Schouten wrote:

>
> Hello Cyclists,
>
> This subject has been beaten to death in the various Mac-specific
> forums, but I wanted to get the input of other Max users rather than
> the general computing population.
>
> I’m currently debating between the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro for Max/
> MSP/Jitter, Finale and various other standard tools of the soon-to-
> be composition graduate student, and wanted to hear peoples
> experience with the two sizes.
>
> I’ll be getting a large-ish LCD for when I’m at home, but having had
> two 19″ CRT screens for so long, I’m now very used to having two
> primary windows going at any one time. As my girlfriend has
> recently started calling me, I’m a Screensize Queen (note: I am male).
>
> Now, for at least the next academic year, I’ll primarily be keeping
> the laptop at home for work, and porting it around maybe once or
> twice a week on average; more when I’m getting ready for a live
> performance. I live near school, to where the system would most
> often be moved. I’m not a heavy traveler, so I’m not terribly
> concerned with space on planes and trains, but I’d like to be able
> to use it wherever possible.
>
> So, I’m caught between the added portability of the 15″ versus the
> awesomeness of the 17″ display. Since I’ll be using the laptop’s
> display to dual-screen at home, more screen real estate is useful
> even with an external display. My concern is mostly the added
> weight and size of the 17″, and whether I can deal with it during
> those times I’m out and about with it. Using both in store, the 17″
> seemed to make more sense in terms of maintaining my current
> workflow, but it sure felt heavier and bulkier than the 15″ –
> there’s only 1.5 pounds difference between the two, but for some
> reason it feels like much more. Neither have spent time in my
> backpack, so I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel with either in
> terms of moving it around.
>
> There’s also the factor of the two extra speakers in the 17″, which
> would be great to have when I don’t have access to external
> loudspeakers for rehearsals.
>
> My practical side is saying “Get the 15,” but my functional, screen
> space needing side is saying the opposite. I want to reconcile
> them, but they don’t get along. Perhaps some alcohol would help
> smooth things out, but then they’d both just start crying over
> having to spend this much money in the first place.
>
> So, please share your thoughts, if you can.

#136817
Jul 28, 2008 at 3:42am

On the backpack front: I had a BBP bag up until a few months ago and found it a disappointment. The design didn’t redistribute the weight as advertised. In fact, I found that loading it up with much more than a 15″ MBP, power supply and my everyday bits and bobs to be almost painful. The padding in the straps broke down quickly, which compounded the problem. The chest strap stitching unravelled early on as well. I would not recommend a BBP unless they made significant design improvements. I have a Timbuk2 backpack — delightfully dubbed the Datadump — and it’s a huge improvement.

#136818
Jul 28, 2008 at 3:51am

Thanks for the thoughts so far, folks. Hopefully more people will chime in in the coming days.

On the pack front (er, back), I’ve been primarily considering the Booq Boa 3L, along with a laptop sleeve for extra protection:

http://www.booqbags.com/s.nl/it.A/id.298/.f?sc=11&category=-111

It’s expensive as all getout, but the large sized one should house a MBP 17 – should I decide to go that route – along with my MOTU 828mkII, some cables and probably a few mics. And, when I’m not performing, it’ll easily handle the binders and textbooks I’m obliged to tote around.

I’ve never had a laptop before, but I can tell you that my current backpack has far too often had the zippers give way, spilling the bag’s contents across the ground. That’s bad enough in dry conditions, but would be catastrophic in any sort of wet weather, especially with a laptop in there, too. So, I’m considering the extra expense of a good pack as a sort of insurance against some potentially much, much larger costs.

#136819
Jul 28, 2008 at 4:01am

I had a 15″ MacBookPro and saw my friends’s 17″ MacBookPro and realized that the weight difference is negligible and should’ve gotten the 17″ to begin with. Due to bad luck, I spilled liquids on my MacBookPro and recently had to get a regular MacBook which I’m extremely happy with. However, if I had to do it all over again, just thinking cost-wise, I would probably still get a 15″ because you can soup it up more and get the proper Apple Care(2 inches and 1.5 lbs is hardly worth several hundred dollars in my opinion). But, if cost is not too much of an issue: yes, go for the 17″, the screen real-estate is awesome(and these days, you can get the Hi-Res kind which gives you even more display(virtually speaking, that is). One added plus, the speakers on the 17″ are ten times louder than any other Mac laptop out there so it’s really great for trying stuff out and demoing it really quickly to others.

#136820
Jul 28, 2008 at 4:05am

. . . and my experience is completely the reverse! Mileage
varies . . .

On Jul 27, 2008, at 11:46 PM, Dan Winckler wrote:

> On the backpack front: I had a BBP bag up until a few months ago and
> found it a disappointment. The design didn’t redistribute the weight
> as advertised. In fact, I found that loading it up with much more
> than a 15″ MBP, power supply and my everyday bits and bobs to be
> almost painful. The padding in the straps broke down quickly, which
> compounded the problem. The chest strap stitching unravelled early
> on as well. I would not recommend a BBP unless they made significant
> design improvements. I have a Timbuk2 backpack — delightfully
> dubbed the Datadump — and it’s a huge improvement.
>
>

#136821
Jul 28, 2008 at 10:53am

I have a 17″ power book since 4 years now, an drecently got a 17″ macbook pro

once you start using a 17″ it’s hard to go back – especially now,
with the new screen (1920×1200) !!!!

carrying it never was a prblem (and I tour quite a lot) – now that I
sometimes use BOTH of them, yes, it begins to be heavy!!!

best

kasper

Kasper T. Toeplitz
noise, composition, bass, computer

http://www.sleazeArt.com

http://www.myspace.com/sleazeart

#136822
Jul 28, 2008 at 11:16am

That’s a key that others have mentioned – it’s not only the larger
display, but you can pay a little extra for the high resolution
display, and if your eyes can handle it, there’s an impressive amount
that will fit on the screen.

On Jul 28, 2008, at 6:53 AM, Kasper T Toeplitz wrote:

> I have a 17″ power book since 4 years now, an drecently got a 17″
> macbook pro
>
> once you start using a 17″ it’s hard to go back – especially now,
> with the new screen (1920×1200) !!!!
>
> carrying it never was a prblem (and I tour quite a lot) – now that I
> sometimes use BOTH of them, yes, it begins to be heavy!!!
>
> best
>
> kasper
> —
> Kasper T. Toeplitz
> noise, composition, bass, computer
> http://www.sleazeArt.com
>
> http://www.myspace.com/sleazeart
>

#136823
Jul 28, 2008 at 11:31am

Duncan Schouten schrieb:
> I’m currently debating between the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro for
> Max/MSP/Jitter, Finale and various other standard tools of the
> soon-to-be composition graduate student, and wanted to hear peoples
> experience with the two sizes.

I don’t know if it would be true for scores, but I am happy to have 12″
over 15″ I had before. For Maxin’ I’d recommend the smaller size, it
forces you to better organisation. If you only need to carry it
occasionally, you’ll have the big screen at home anyway (for scoring).
Just think about how essential the big screen would be if you are not at
home… If its not that essential, go for the small… (Its not that
small by the way… ;-)
The difference in performance (the bigger is faster), is probably less
of a concern, its not a huge difference, and you better spend the money
on more ram…

Stefan


Stefan Tiedje————x——-
–_____———–|————–
–(_|_ —-|—–|—–()——-
– _|_)—-|—–()————–
———-()——–www.ccmix.com

#136824
Jul 28, 2008 at 7:32pm

You’re a brave man, Kasper, and you must have the back and shoulder strength of gods.

Dare I ask how you manage to use -both- in a performance?

Quote: Kasper T Toeplitz wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 06:53
—————————————————-
> I have a 17″ power book since 4 years now, an drecently got a 17″ macbook pro
>
> once you start using a 17″ it’s hard to go back – especially now,
> with the new screen (1920×1200) !!!!
>
> carrying it never was a prblem (and I tour quite a lot) – now that I
> sometimes use BOTH of them, yes, it begins to be heavy!!!

Aye – For me, if I got the 17″, it was almost certainly going to be the Hi-Res version, if for nothing else than the LCD backlighting that comes in them.

Once the forthcoming Macbook Pro revision happens, then both resolutions of the 17″ will be LED, but for the moment it’s only the larger of the two.

Quote: Torture Artist wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 07:16
—————————————————-
> That’s a key that others have mentioned – it’s not only the larger
> display, but you can pay a little extra for the high resolution
> display, and if your eyes can handle it, there’s an impressive amount
> that will fit on the screen.

There’s the rub, isn’t it? I’m honestly not sure which tasks I’ll be doing most often on the go. When using my girlfriend’s 15″ laptop, I’ve often wished for more screen space when doing web development and writing papers, but I’ve never really used Finale or Max on laptops aside from doing presentations. Based on my current working habits, I use a lot of screen space when working in those programs

I know that I can’t personally go smaller than the 15″, if for no other reason than the Macbook Pros having assorted ins/outs that I use, but the Macbook standard doesn’t offer. Plus, the reflections inherent in the glossy screen and I don’t get along terribly well. Believe me, I’d love to be able to use one of those ultra-portable laptops and save the weight on my back, but for what I do – and my deteriorating eyesight – that just won’t do.

I’ll be throwing 4GB of RAM into whatever I decide to get, so it’s really just a matter of determining which screen size works best. It’s times like this that I wish I had friends with these laptops, so I could get a better feel for how portable they are.

The extra speakers in the 17″ are also mighty appealing, given my horrible luck with laptop speakers in the past.

Oi, it’s all too confusing.

Quote: Stefan Tiedje wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 07:31
—————————————————-
> I don’t know if it would be true for scores, but I am happy to have 12″
> over 15″ I had before. For Maxin’ I’d recommend the smaller size, it
> forces you to better organisation. If you only need to carry it
> occasionally, you’ll have the big screen at home anyway (for scoring).
> Just think about how essential the big screen would be if you are not at
> home… If its not that essential, go for the small… (Its not that
> small by the way… ;-)
> The difference in performance (the bigger is faster), is probably less
> of a concern, its not a huge difference, and you better spend the money
> on more ram…
>
> Stefan

#136825
Jul 28, 2008 at 8:47pm

It also seems made of tougher materials. My MacBook has broken down twice in 2 months. I can only imagine the 17″ would offer more space for internal hardware which could only help house it better. But i don’t know much about engineering apple products so that’s just an assumption.

#136826
Jul 28, 2008 at 9:14pm

Unfortunately, MacBook Pro quality has sort of dropped off as of late. For example, the 15″ LED backlit models have had troubles with striping on their displays, and all current models are possibly affected by a defective video card:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=527471

Speculation is that the new revision will bring about a new video card with none of these problems, but nVidia and Apple are keeping tight-lipped about the current situation.

In terms of physical differences, the 17″ definitely runs cooler, due to the increased amount of aluminum casing to serve as a heat sink.

Quote: RabidRaja wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 16:47
—————————————————-
> It also seems made of tougher materials. My MacBook has broken down twice in 2 months. I can only imagine the 17″ would offer more space for internal hardware which could only help house it better. But i don’t know much about engineering apple products so that’s just an assumption.

#136827
Jul 28, 2008 at 10:22pm

>
>
>Dare I ask how you manage to use -both- in a performance?

simple – an adat connection between the 2 (both with RME cards – sync by WC)

actually as stupid as it sounds it’s really handy – obviously more
CPU and the advantage of running PPC and Intel (many plug-ins do not
work on intel, and some max objects do not work well on intel as well
- yeah in those days where you all speak about max 5 I still find it
painful to migrate from PPC to intel!!!)

*******

and yes, you pointed it – on a 17″ the speakers let you do some real
work ( not mixing, for sure, but some real maxing – unless you go too
low)

best

kasper


Kasper T. Toeplitz
noise, composition, bass, computer

http://www.sleazeArt.com

http://www.myspace.com/sleazeart

#136828
Aug 5, 2008 at 8:26pm

Quote: Duncan Schouten wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 15:14
—————————————————-
> Unfortunately, MacBook Pro quality has sort of dropped off as of late. For example, the 15″ LED backlit models have had troubles with striping on their displays, and all current models are possibly affected by a defective video card:
>
> http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=527471
>
> Speculation is that the new revision will bring about a new video card with none of these problems, but nVidia and Apple are keeping tight-lipped about the current situation.
>
> In terms of physical differences, the 17″ definitely runs cooler, due to the increased amount of aluminum casing to serve as a heat sink.
>
> Quote: RabidRaja wrote on Mon, 28 July 2008 16:47
> —————————————————-
> > It also seems made of tougher materials. My MacBook has broken down twice in 2 months. I can only imagine the 17″ would offer more space for internal hardware which could only help house it better. But i don’t know much about engineering apple products so that’s just an assumption.
>
>
>
—————————————————-

I’m a little wary of this graphics problem, but I’d love to get a macbook pro. Does anybody have a fairly new macbook pro with these problems?

#136829
Aug 6, 2008 at 7:10am

Quote: Mike S wrote on Tue, 05 August 2008 16:26
—————————————————-
> I’m a little wary of this graphics problem, but I’d love to get a macbook pro. Does anybody have a fairly new macbook pro with these problems?
—————————————————-

Obviously, I’m not qualified to say much of anything about this, having not yet acquired my MBP, but I can say that the prognosis doesn’t look terribly good as to the 8600 chips’ longevity under heavy graphics use and excessive heat cycling (running the GPU hot, then putting the computer to sleep without giving it time to cool down).

There’s a lot of info to sift through on the potential problems, but the core of it is that nVidia claims that the production defect has been addressed in their most recent production runs. Whether anything has actually been changed is open to debate, since the problem is dependent on time and amount of strain put on the video card. The MacRumors forums are seeing a decent number of people with approximately year-old MBPs coming on with complaints of failing GPUs, so it’s not likely that any problems with the current units will emerge until next summer or so.

At the same time, there’s even more users who aren’t reporting even a single problem with their computers, so it’s entirely possible to live a happy, productive life with your MBP, despite its current issues.

The whole issue, for new users or people looking to upgrade, will soon be skirted with the impending release of a new Macbook and Macbook Pro revision, which will use a new(… or as new as Apple uses), presumably non-defective GPU. Current thought is that the revision will be announced in mid-to-late September, though no one knows for sure when it’s actually happening, and Apple isn’t talking.

Unfortunately for me, it looks like I’ll have to buy one of the current units along with AppleCare and hope for the best. I had hoped to wait until the new models, but if they’re announced mid September and I order right away, getting the box in early October isn’t terribly unlikely, and that effectively means the loss of 1/3 of my fall term productivity time. No can do, there.

P.S. I’m still debating between the 15″ and 17″, though the latter is currently winning out in my head.

#136830
Aug 6, 2008 at 11:07am

Thanks for the info

I think I’ll wait till September to be on the safe side

Good luck with yours!

#136831
Aug 6, 2008 at 6:52pm

Quote: Duncan Schouten wrote on Wed, 06 August 2008 01:10
—————————————————-
> Unfortunately for me, it looks like I’ll have to buy one of the current units along with AppleCare and hope for the best. I had hoped to wait until the new models, but if they’re announced mid September and I order right away, getting the box in early October isn’t terribly unlikely, and that effectively means the loss of 1/3 of my fall term productivity time. No can do, there.
>
> P.S. I’m still debating between the 15″ and 17″, though the latter is currently winning out in my head.
—————————————————-

You could also rent one until the new ones come out perhaps? I didn’t really check the pricing, though:

http://www.computerrentals.com/products/Mac/MacBook_Pro/MacBook_Pro_rentals.php

http://www.innovativerental.com/products/computer/mac/macbookprorentals.php

http://www.rentfusion.com/Macbook-Rentals/macbook-rentals.asp

found doing a yahoo-search of “rental macbook pro”

#136832
Aug 7, 2008 at 11:54am

When I wanted to get a laptop, a friend suggested the 12 or 13″ – MacBook Pro didn’t come that small, but I took the hint and got a 15″. Personally, I find it far better due to portability than the other machines that are larger. This one fits in a rucksack and if you wanted a bigger screen, you could just get a separate one at your main place of work.

I also think the dimensions are better for long-term durability. I’ve never felt it would have been better to have a larger screen. And spec-wise, they seem pretty close to be just about negligible. Go for the fifteen.

#136833
Aug 10, 2008 at 9:30pm

Quote: RabidRaja wrote on Wed, 06 August 2008 14:52

> You could also rent one until the new ones come out perhaps? I didn’t really check the pricing, though:
>
> http://www.computerrentals.com/products/Mac/MacBook_Pro/MacBook_Pro_rentals.php
>
> http://www.innovativerental.com/products/computer/mac/macbookprorentals.php
>
> http://www.rentfusion.com/Macbook-Rentals/macbook-rentals.asp
>
> found doing a yahoo-search of “rental macbook pro”
—————————————————-

Sorry for missing this, RR. I looked into rentals a bit more, and the pricing is pretty prohibitive – Usually something like $500+ per month, which would really limit the system I could purchase once the time comes.

The 15/17″ battle continues unabated in my head, unfortunately. Every time I think I’ve settled my mind, some other factor comes floating in to disrupt it. Right now, I really want the speakers from the 17″, but would prefer the 15″ footprint and weight.

My conclusion? Apparently, it’s buy neither and continue feeling horribly stressed about it.

#136834

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