New computer, a Mac of course

I’m in the process of deciding between the highest end MacBook Pro 15’ and the MBP 17’. I have never needed a top-end Mac before (have had Macs since 1985), but this time around I’m going for it. I will be doing a lot of video conversion and editing. The two machines can be ordered with the Intel Core i7 chip (you can select this as an option for the 17’) and get basically the same configuration.

My concern is the weight and size of the 17’. But I wonder if the screen size for the 15’ will be enough and if there is something beneficial about the 17’ that the 15’ doesn’t have (what is an Express card anyway??).

Anyone have any thoughts about the two options? Thanks!


ExpressCard slot is useful if you want to add hardware to your laptop. Most common uses are cellular Internet modems and digital camera flash card readers.

It always used to be that you could save significant amount of money by putting RAM and a bigger hard drive in yourself, rather than upgrading them with Apple. I know it always used to be not too difficult to replace either on a macbook or macbook pro, but with the caveat that I haven’t put RAM in a macbook in about 6 months.

It’s quite easy to upgrade your hard drive and RAM with the MBPs. Both of these components are accessible from within the battery chamber and don’t even require a screwdriver to get to.

Thanks, but I’m not interested in upgrading my existing MacBook. I need a lot more power ‘under the hood’ and it’s going to be a MacBook Pro. Just wondering which one to get. There is a local store I can go to in order to get a feel for the bigger machines. My last two Macs were a 13’ iBook and a 13’ MacBook (Intel). So this is a big jump for me, size-wise, either way!

I had the original MacBook Pro 15" for over four years and loved it. A couple of months ago I replaced it with the 17" model and I love that even more.

The 15" wasn’t too small to use Scrivener on, but the 17" is clearly better able to fit more onto a screen – although you do have to do some fiddling with zoom settings and font sizes to overcome the small but very clear default fonts.

I don’t find it too bulky or heavy, but then I’m not carrying it around much – it’s basically my ‘downstairs’ computer for when I’m getting the disapproving looks for spending too much time on the ‘upstairs’ Mac Pro…

YMMV of course, but I’m really pleased I bought the larger version.


David, thanks, that’s great feedback. I am wondering about doing video on the 15’ versus the 17’. I definitely am sensitive to weight and portability, but I also think the extra screen real estate could be pretty important. My external monitor is 17’ and I get so much more visibility. And of course, more space for writing as well.

Oops, just realized I was using ’ instead of " for the size. 17 feet. That would be a pretty darn big screen, eh??

Well, the new Nvidia 330M graphics card is said to be significantly more powerful than the 320M, so go for that if you can. For counting from 1 to ten million in the fastest time, the Intel i7 CPU in the 17" is going to be better than the Intel Core 2 Duo offered in the 15" (which roughly translated means that for encoding and other heavy duty tasks you want the i7 as opposed to the core duo).

If you want the ultimate in Apple horsepower for real sweaty grunt work, the optimal solution would be a Mac Pro for the heavy lifting combined with a laptop for mobile use, (the Nehalem quad cores and Westmere hex-cores are bl**dy awesome - I speak from experience) but if you are dead set on laptop only, I’d go for the Intel i7 17" model.

Also, it’s cheaper to buy RAM and HDs from non-Apple sources, although you will have to factor in the cost of buying the default Apple offerings on that front. I really love Apple hardware but why they have to slap customers in the face with their high RAM and HD costs, I have no idea.

Just my humble opinion.


I’ve owned all three sizes of laptop: 13, 15, 17, and the sweet spot for portability, footprint, and screen size is the 15: travels well and you can watch a movie or write in Scriv with a two-pane display. I found the 17 was hard to fit into a brief case or fit on an airplane seat-back tray.

If travel is not a big concern, why not go grande latte and choose an iMac 21.5" screen? Room for multiple windows, and the desk footprint is not that much larger.

Thanks for the responses, but the answer to “Why not?” is because a desktop is out of the question for me and for my work. :slight_smile: I am getting a laptop. The 15" and 17" can both be had with the same Intel chip (i7) and the same graphics card (Nivia 330M). The only difference is size, weight and whether it has an SD or Express Card slot. And I think an extra USB port. Otherwise, essentially the same computer. So it’s simply which one to get.

I’m going to give both a look at the local Mac store. Just thought I’d get some feedback about the different sizes and weights. That you found it hard to port the 17" is my concern about getting that one, so that’s helpful, thanks! There would be no question about getting the 15" except for the fact that I’ll be working with video as well, both converting and editing it.

I have a 15 inch and a separate 24 inch monitor screen. So when home I use both screens, when I’m away I only use the 15 inch. (If I’m away and just want to read things and not create anything I only take my iPad with me).

I do film and video editing for a living, and I used to own and love the 15" mbp. The latest upgrade cycle, I went with the 17" for one single reason: the lack of ExpressCard slot in the 15". I use it to connect external video hardware for “proper” monitoring. Others use it to connect eSATA drive arrays. The newer 15" models have no such connectivity at all which may or may not be a problem depending on your needs.

As for screen size, it is not such a big issue for me as I almost always use my machine with at least one extra monitor (computer and/or video). An extra monitor, regardless of size, makes a much bigger difference than two more inches of screen space, and for serious editing it really is the way to go. In this scenario, the difference between 15" and 17" is negligible.

Having said that, I find the 17" just big enough to make single screen editing a reasonable proposition. Whilst not impossible on the 15", to me it always felt a bit of a squeeze. But the extra screen space comes at the cost of portability: carrying the 17" in a shoulder bag gets old real quick. Which is why I really need an 11" MB Air for Scrivener… :mrgreen:

If you are doing serious video editing (NYC production house type stuff) you will need to go with the 17 for external expansion (arrays, IO interfaces). Although if you haven’t needed one yet you may no need one for the future.

That said, I will not buy a 17 again. I will look to a 15 and an external display for “workstation” use and live with the lost screen space for portable use. The 17 is just to big to move around all the time (mine goes everywhere I go). Then again, I am not doing video editing.

Great! That’s every helpful, thanks so much. I need to do a bit of research on external connectivity, since I’m getting that is the real issue. My current camera isn’t an issue, but have to consider what could come down the road with my work with video.

Thanks again for the responses!

If it’s down to the weight alone, I have a suggestion: get small scale for food, and then find something that weighs the difference between your current computer and a 17" macbook pro. Carry that in your computer bag (next to your Macbook) for a week to get a feel for the extra strain of carrying it.

Then do the same, but with something that weighs the difference (if any) between your current laptop and the 15" MBP.

You’ll be amazed how a couple of pounds hanging from your shoulder feels in comparison to lifting up a display model. The weight of my MBP from 4 years ago is my main motivation for considering a MB air in the next year or two.

Actually, as I said in my previous post, external connectivity is the deciding factor. Having owned many laptops in the last 20 years, I don’t need to conduct this experiment. :smiley: I know well what a couple of pounds can do to my back and shoulder muscles. Which is why I started this post, to see if the extra weight would be worth it. It has come down to whether or not I need to have an ExpressCard slot or not. I’m researching this now. Thanks.

The points to look at are

  1. Explicit express card for specialized HW (this would be pro level video/audio interfaces).
  2. Need for esata connectivity to array.

There really isn’t that much else you would do with an express card that is AV specific.

Yeah, as of now, neither is relevant. The camera I’m using connects via USB and is a high end HD camcorder. Don’t know if I’ll ever need pro level interfaces. Ugh, it’s hard to know how far I’ll go with video work right now. I’m definitely leaning toward the 15". I guess if I ever get that serious, I’ll probably get myself a loaded up Mac Pro!

What I’m looking into now is boot camp and running Windows so I can use Sony Vegas. My camera records in a AVCHD format and the conversion process is cumbersome and the results less than desirable. Another whole new area to explore! But I can certainly do this on the 15"!

do you really need the windows install to be portable?

Well, my computer needs to be portable. So, since I can only afford one computer, it will all need to be portable. :slight_smile: I need the windows install in order to work with my video files. Believe me, I’ve researched this well, and I’ve been dealing with the video issues for quite some time. I just came back from the Mac store and love the 17" screen a LOT, but can’t abide the size and weight. I’ll settle for the 15" with a large screen at home.

Thanks all for the great responses.