New Macbook Pro's, and upgrading HDDs

About every 12 to 18 months, I make a habit of upgrading our hard drives. This keeps them nice and new, and so far, failure free*. Last time, I got the new (at the time) Seagate Momentus XT, which is a HDD/SSD hybrid drive. It combines a 500GB SATA disk with a 4GB NAND cache. The user, and computer, has no control over whats in the cache, but the result is usually around 80% quicker than a normal 7200rpm drive.

And for repetative tasks (eg launching Chrome or iTunes), they are very, very quick.

This time around, I got 2 of the the new 750GB Momentus XT drives. They have a 6Gbps SATA connection, and 8GB of flash. So far, it's very very quick, even compared to the older model.

Which brings me to the first part: upgrading the hard drive in a mac is a trivial operation. Aside from physically swapping the disk (which takes me about 5 mins now), it's just a case of installing Lion off a USB key, using migration assistant to move the files off the old disk (via Firewire Target Disk Mode, or just put the drive into an external USB case), and run updates and sort out the few apps which need something that Lion doesn't install. Total time was about 3 hours, and 2.5 of that was copying my 350GB-or-so of data off the old disk.

I don't ever remember Windows being quite that easy.

Speaking of "what Lion doesn't install" - why does Photoshop CS5 require Java? Explains why that malware became so widespread.

**In the same vein, **rumour has it that Apple is releasing new Macbook Pro's shortly, as some of the models are becoming hard to get. Here's my prediction for what they come out with.

The 13" version will either not change, not change much, or go away. Maybe it'll get the display from the Macbook Air, but why bother - why not just drop it and maybe drop the price of the MBA with a 256GB SSD?

The 17" and 15" version will get most of the work. I'd guess the screen resolution will go to the levels of the 27" cinema display (2560x1440), but in a 15" shell, that is close to "retina" resolution**. I'm not sure the case will change much, as it's pretty full in there, and 50% of it is already battery. Ivy Bridge is a given, as the TDP of the current CPU's is just too damn high. And that enables the SSD/HDD combo - Smart Response Technology - that Intel built into the chipset. This is very simlar to the the hybrid drives above, but allows them to build in a larger SSD (up to 64GB) and keep some spinning rust around for large files, which is pretty much a requirement for the Pro line up, all without blowing the price out much. This would most likely increase the disk performance by around 150%, while not changing (or possibly dropping) the power usage.

Other than that, I don't see them changing much. Maybe USB3.0 (again, it's in the chipset), more because they'd have to work to turn it off, so why bother? But unless Apple's cornered what's left of the SSD-chip market, I don't see an affordable 512GB SSD coming soon***.

And of course, like the "pro's", I could be totally wrong.

  • I'm hoping to not jinx it by writing this!

** Retina is "you can't see the pixels", not a single resolution or pixels-per-inch. You use a desktop or laptop at a larger distance than you do with a phone or iPad, so the resolution needs to be lower. I can't see the pixels on my 24" 1920x1080 "TV" screen from 6 feet away, so technically, it's retina.

*** You can get a Macbook Pro with a 512GB SSD right now - but it costs the same for the SSD as the rest of the machine. Possibly, but not probable.

Nic Wise

Nic Wise

Auckland, NZ