Which MacBook Pro 13" Upgrades Are Worth It?

wiiupc

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Dec 23, 2016
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I'm a mechanical engineering student in Canada who needs a new laptop mostly for general usage, and in the near future, for some demanding software such as MATLAB, SolidWorks, CATIA, ANSYS, etc. in Parallels. I've decided that I want to get the new 2016 MacBook Pro 13" with a TouchBar (money is not really an issue since my parents are paying for it), but I'm having a really tough time deciding which upgrades to get, because I don't want to waste money on things I wouldn't use. I want this laptop to last the rest of my B.Sc. (approximately 4 years). So far I'm thinking of getting 512 GB of SSD storage and 16 GB of ram; however, I'm unsure of whether or not upgrading the CPU from the base i5 (2.9 GHz - making the laptop with the upgraded ram $2789) to the upgraded i5 (3.1 GHz - an additional $120) or i7 (3.3 GHz - an additional $360) is worth it. The Apple website says that they are all dual core processors, and I've read that since there is no change in the number of cores, the change in performance is not as big, but I've also read that the upgraded CPU will increase battery life, which is very important to me. Please help.
 

velocityg4

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Nov 21, 2006
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The CPU upgrades won't make much of a difference. If a dual core 2.9Ghz i5 is not fast enough a 3.1Ghz i7 won't make much difference. RAM is definitely worth it. That will make the biggest difference in useful life. That's usually the first upgrade a computer needs. As it cannot be done after the fact. It is best to do it now.

As for the SSD. That all depends on your storage needs. It's not as if you will have to carry every project from every class you ever worked on from now until the end of college. Old files, if you keep them for reference purposes, can be archived to an external drive. Your main need for storage beyond 256GB will be for personal reasons, such as multi-media. Not course work. So if you think 256GB is not enough then get 512GB. Otherwise just get a 1TB or 2TB external.

Don't forget a backup drive. It is recommended that a Time Machine Backup drive be double the total capacity of all drives being backed up.

Speaking of backups. As you will use Parallels. Remove the Parallels virtual drive from the TM Backup. TM can't backup the individual files so it will try to perform a massive backup every hours. Quickly filling the backup drive due to its file history and you'll be plagued with messages about the backup disk being full. Setup a separate backup within the VM. Partition your backup drive so that Parallels has a small partition to backup to.

Speaking of Parallels. Be prepared to have to fork over money every time a new version of OS X is released. They release a new version with each new OS X and don't support the old version in the new OS X. Boot camp is cheaper and faster but less convenient. Also running Parrallels on battery will kill battery life. As you now have two OSes and all their services eating up system resources. Parallels also greatly increases RAM usage.
 

velocityg4

Distinguished
Nov 21, 2006
500
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19,310
104
The CPU upgrades won't make much of a difference. If a dual core 2.9Ghz i5 is not fast enough a 3.1Ghz i7 won't make much difference. RAM is definitely worth it. That will make the biggest difference in useful life. That's usually the first upgrade a computer needs. As it cannot be done after the fact. It is best to do it now.

As for the SSD. That all depends on your storage needs. It's not as if you will have to carry every project from every class you ever worked on from now until the end of college. Old files, if you keep them for reference purposes, can be archived to an external drive. Your main need for storage beyond 256GB will be for personal reasons, such as multi-media. Not course work. So if you think 256GB is not enough then get 512GB. Otherwise just get a 1TB or 2TB external.

Don't forget a backup drive. It is recommended that a Time Machine Backup drive be double the total capacity of all drives being backed up.

Speaking of backups. As you will use Parallels. Remove the Parallels virtual drive from the TM Backup. TM can't backup the individual files so it will try to perform a massive backup every hours. Quickly filling the backup drive due to its file history and you'll be plagued with messages about the backup disk being full. Setup a separate backup within the VM. Partition your backup drive so that Parallels has a small partition to backup to.

Speaking of Parallels. Be prepared to have to fork over money every time a new version of OS X is released. They release a new version with each new OS X and don't support the old version in the new OS X. Boot camp is cheaper and faster but less convenient. Also running Parrallels on battery will kill battery life. As you now have two OSes and all their services eating up system resources. Parallels also greatly increases RAM usage.
 
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