It’s not everyday that I get the chance to boast about technology and new hardware, because things that are worth boasting about are normally too expensive for me to afford.
Today however is different; I would like to boast about my Macbook Pro 17″ Early 2011 and the recent upgrades I have added to it.
Before you continue to read and then think that I am crazy for pursuing such upgrades, let me justify it by saying that the laptop is my working life; without it my work productivity will decrease dramatically (if any at all) and therefore having a top performing laptop to me is absolutely essential.
Down to the nitty gritties then, here are the full-specs of my MBP:
- Macbook Pro 17″ Early 2011
- Intel Core i7 2.2Ghz (Quad Core)
- 16GB 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM
- AMD Radeon HD 6750M 1GB Dedicated Video
- 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD (Max Read: 521 MB/s | Max Read: 491 MB/s)
- Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3
So from the specs you have probably picked that the 2 things I’ve custom upgraded is the RAM and the hard drive. I’ve previously talked about my SSD and some performance issues here, but I will elaborate on my new findings later in this post.
Firstly let’s talk about the RAM upgrade, I very originally had 4GB stock RAM as I bought it last year in my MBP, however not long after I pursued 8GB of RAM. Needless to say it was a huge performance boost to go from the initial 4GB up to 8GB. Start-up was faster and general operations were much snappier than before. I was always expecting the 4-8GB upgrade to impact more than 8-16GB upgrade, and I was right; kind of.
The 16GB of RAM did not make much difference in every-day operations such as boot-up or opening programs, however it is a huge boost when working with large data-sets, images, video or running multiple VM’s at once. This is obviously due to how hungry these applications are (both separate and even more so simultaneously/together), and 8GB just was not enough to cut it before.
So the upgrade set me back about $180 USD include shipping (actually shipping made up 25% of the price!) which works out to be just over $200 NZD. I did plentiful of research prior to buying this RAM, as it is from overseas and if a RMA was to occur it would really not be worth the effort.
Considering all this, I think I got a pretty good deal; 16GB kits debut and retailed less than a year ago at $1599 USD (OWC) and have since been rapidly dropping in price. New Zealand unfortunately does not sell many 8GB sticks around (let alone 16GB kits and for Macbooks) and where they are available they retail for more than $450 NZD (and that is on the cheap side) so due to the large price difference I decided to purchase mine from overseas. Looking back at this post a year from now (not even that, a few months from now) we will all be laughing at the ridiculous price I forked out for 16GB of RAM, I guess that is the price to pay when you try to keep up with technology!
After running memtest in single user mode overnight last night, I did not find anything faulty with the modules I’ve bought (fingers crossed!) so hopefully these upgrades will last the distance (until next year, when 32GB kits will be available…?!). In case you were curious, I ram the test 10 times (memtest all 10) and it turned out to have completed without any errors.
Now, a while ago I posted about my upgrade of my Hard Drive to a Solid State Drive along with a few useful tips and performance inconsistencies. I have since found out that the performance inconsistencies were partially untrue due to Blackmagic’s software changing how they perform their speed tests.
As before, I get a pretty pathetic result in Blackmagic’s Speed Test Software:
However benchmarking in another well-known software yields exceptional (and expected) SSD results especially for a Vertex 3 on SATA III link:
So the conclusion I have drawn is that actually my SSD is performing, however it just doesn’t show in all benchmarking results.
So, the final verdict to my upgrades? Considering how much SSD’s and 16GB (and also 8GB) RAM kits are coming down in price, I’d say it is well worth it. If you were a hardcore user like me I would strongly recommend upgrading to 16GB of RAM as you will notice a considerable amount of difference in performance especially for RAM intensive tasks (large data sets). For lighter users I would still highly recommend the SSD upgrade as well as RAM upgrade, however 8GB should be plentiful and you would be struggling to use that up with several browser tabs open and playing Farmville whilst chatting to your mates on MSN, Facebook and Skype.
Next up: A second SSD (hopefully!) in place of the almost never used optical drive to boost both performance and also storage, as 120GB is insufficient and I always find myself plugging in a USB drive which is inconvenient and annoying. Stay tuned!