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Replacing 2009 Macbook Pro 17" for under $2100
  • My 2009 17" MacBook Pro (3.06Ghz Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 512mb 9600M GT) is on its last legs. It was once the top-end MacBook Pro that money could buy ($2800), but now it can't keep up with 4K material from my GH4, crashes often, and just in general is showing its age. This is happening at a bad time where I've had a lot of expenses recently come up, but I can budget as much as $2100 to replace it.

    I've thought about building a Hackintosh, but the more I think about it, the more I want to have a laptop. I travel a lot, and often work away from home. Really I've built a lifestyle around being able to edit on the go, and I don't want to sacrifice that. And although I am using Premiere and could theoretically switch to Windows, I have invested in other software that is Mac-only. I know that I could afford a much better Windows computer for the same price, but I'm tending to want to stay on a Mac.

    This leaves me just the choice between the different configurations of 2011 (non-Retina), 2012, 2013, and 2014 15" Macbook Pros. I am looking at lightly used, seller refurbished, and manufacturer refurbished options on eBay.

    Basically, here's what I'm wondering: How much better is the 750M (Late 2013) than the 650M graphics card? How much better are both of these than Iris Pro graphics? And how much better are all three than 2011-year Radeon 6750 graphics? How helpful is CUDA when editing in Premiere (which is only supported on the 650M and 750M)?

    How much of a difference does CPU clock speed make for video editing on these quad-core i7 Macbooks? How about the performance differences between Sandy Bridge (Early 2011), Ivy Bridge (Mid 2012), and Haswell (Late 2013)?

    I do plan on getting 16GB of RAM, since it's not user-upgradeable.

    I don't care as much about the hard-drive, since I plan to upgrade to a 1TB SSD a little later, once I have money to spend again and prices have hopefully gone further down. I also don't care about battery life very much.

    Any advice is helpful. Thank you!

  • 14 Replies sorted by
  • Whatever you do, stay away from MacBook Pro 2011 models with AMD (ATI) GPU chips. They're failing all over (look at for example), there are thousands of failed units now and some people are selling them off knowing they may fail.

  • @neokoo Good looking out, thank you.

  • @Sangye,

    I'm still using a 2006 MacBook Pro for my GH4 DCI 4k footage. I transcode all my 4K footage to ProRes 4444 1920x1012 and edit it in Adobe Premiere CC. I also find it easier to edit DCI 4k transcoded to ProRes 4444 4096x2160. You get ridiculously large file sizes but its easier to edit than the native .mov or .mp4.

  • I think I will be updating to a windows PC in the next two to three months. I am looking at this laptop.

  • @bleach551 I've had a MSI GT780DX-406US laptop for the last 2 years. I've used it to edit a feature and will be using it to edit another soon. I've used Premiere Pro CC and footage was 1080P ~90Mbps bitrate, and it moved along pretty quickly when editing. I haven't used it for 4K, so I can't comment there, but I've been very happy. I got mine for $1150, (and bumped it to 16GB), so I always felt the MSI's offer good value. Plus fact that it is laptop is pretty big - I've been able to take laptop and a single hard drive to different locations, to work with different people. BTW, I ordered it from who at the time was $150 cheaper than anyone else, so maybe check there for discount.

  • I've narrowed it down to the two latest generations of rMBP 15". I've decided on 16GB of RAM, and I've decided to not worry about the HDD / SSD for now. Which means that the two variables are:

    650M vs 750M -- I know these aren't very different, except for that the 650M is 1GB, and the 750M is 2GB. How much does that matter for video editing?

    2.3Ghz vs 2.6Ghz vs 2.7Ghz -- How much does this really matter? I imagine that faster clock speeds would make transcoding faster, right? But other than that, any substantial differences for video editing?

  • @matt_gh2,

    Thanks for letting me know. I didn't know if anyone else in the forum actually had any experience with MSI laptops. Hopefully it will be in the next two to three months when i will get this laptop. I have just purchased the GH4, a voigtlander 25, voigtlander 42.5 and in the process of buying the 17.5 so money is a little tight right now.

  • @Sangye,

    I think the biggest difference you will see will be from the amount of RAM, Hard drive speeds, The amount of Graphic card on-board ram, and the total number of cores you have since Adobe premiere is really good at utilizing multiple cores, better than Final Cut Pro 7 I was previously using.

  • @ Sangye, I afraid you could not replace HDD or SSD inside of macbook pro . Do you plan that you will run every think on an external HDD or SSD?

  • @tinbeo,

    I forgot that the newer macbook pros are uni-body, but I always thought their had to be some way to change out the harddrive in those things.

    So if you get a 5200RPM harddrive, you are stuck with it?

  • I was thinking of buying this laptop (the version with hdd) for photo and video. It has a very good ips screen and the latest GT 850.

  • @danyyyel,

    I had put in for an email notification to bhphotovideo for that exact same ASUS laptop. However, after hearing from some posters both here and on other forums about Davinci Resolve 11 not working well or at all with a similarly spec'd ASUS N550Jk laptop, I decided against it. This was mostly due to lack of a minimum of 4Gigs of dedicated ram on the Graphics cards sold with this laptop

    I like the high-end color correction and new NLE editing features of version 11 and with talks of the Cinema DNG recording capabilities of the Atomos Shogun thru HDMI, Davinci Resolve might be a program I might have to look into if the GH4 acquired Cinema DNG output thru HDMI, but that just a rumor.

  • Just an update, I went with a refurbished 15" retina Macbook Pro, from late 2013. Specs are 2.6Ghz i7, 16GB RAM, 750M with 2GB VRAM, and a 1TB SSD. I spent a little extra on the SSD, because what I read is that they used four channel PCI-E for the 15" with 1TB SSD configuration only. The result is that I have faster disk read / write speeds than any other computer ever made, except the ones that use very expensive RAID configurations with 10+ HDDs. Averaging around 980MB/s read, 990MB/s write speeds. This thing is FAST!