The Computer Dilemma
There is not a doubt that although Apple is fantastic for providing out of box accessibility with computers, Macs have a tendency to be excessively expensive, especially if raw power is the desired trait of the machine. I was faced with this conundrum when about a month ago, I realized that my MacBook Air was getting quite old, and because of additional complications such as internal parts not working, I decided that it would just be best to get a new computer. My potential Mac was going to have to be able to handle a heavy workload, as I do a lot of audio editing and music making, but the main problem that I was having was that to get a computer that would meet my needs, I would be forced to fork over almost 2500 Canadian dollars. Once I retrieved my jaw from the floor, it was time to look for a solution. Many friends and colleagues voiced their opinions that if I wanted a powerful computer, and didn’t want to drain my bank account, I would be best served by getting a Windows based machine. Although I am capable of using Windows, I prefer the mac for a wide number of reasons, the main one being that for education and research, I feel that VoiceOver handles web browsing and word processing better. Yes, it is true that VoiceOver has issues with web applications, and Microsoft Word is a mess for the Mac, but if I really need to, I can just install the Windows operating system using Bootcamp which will run much better than a so called “Hackintosh,” which is OS X running on a Windows computer. All this aside, the point still stood; I needed to find a way to get a powerful MacBook, while balancing my budget.
A New Hope
As I considered my options, my hart sinking further and further in to my stomach as I browsed the Apple website looking for prices of Macs, something caught my attention. I scrolled back to look again and sure enough, I had heard my screen reader right. Apple was still selling the mid 2012 MacBook Pro without a retina display. Many may be quick to dismiss this computer as an ancient doddering old machine on its last legs, as it has almost reached the age of three years, but it has some unique advantages that make it a very attractive option for those who don’t have the budget for the specs they need on a newer computer. In fact, it provides options that no other Macs in Apple’s current lineup can.
Pick Your Parts
So how is it that a computer that is almost prehistoric by Apple’s standards can still be sold like hot cakes? It all comes down to the internal components. The essential point is that the internal parts in all of the Mac laptops made after the mid 2012 MacBook Pro without a retina display are extremely difficult to upgrade, if not impossible. Hard drives inside them can be upgraded, but they are extremely expensive to buy because of the fact that Apple uses a proprietary connector to attach it to the inside of the computer. Additionally, the ram, or random access memory, is soldered to the motherboard and in short, is impossible to upgrade in newer Mac laptops. The mid 2012 computer however, is user upgradable, and therefore extremely cheap to turn into a beast of a machine. The other option is to order the computer specially upgraded from Apple but the problem with this is that they charge hundreds of dollars more than market value for the upgrades, making it extremely expensive to have a computer with any real power. For example, when all was said and done, I was able to get my computer with a 2.9 GHZ processor, 16 GB of ram, a 512 GB mechanical hard drive, and a 512 GB solid state drive for around 1400 American dollars. Overkill? Yes, but the third party SSD and ram was so cheap that I couldn’t resist. This would have costed me around 2000 American dollars if I had gone through Apple making it a no brainer as to which path I was going to choose. Even though I didn’t feel comfortable doing the hardware upgrades myself, it was fairly easy to find a computer shop that would open up the laptop and do the upgrades for me. Of course, there was still quite a lot of research that needed to be done to find the correct parts for the computer at the best prices, and we won’t go into all that here as it will all depend on what you, the user wants, but the point is that although it may take an extra amount of work to upgrade, the amount of money saved makes the work put into the machine worth it in the end.
Crazy good connections
Another advantage of buying the MacBook Pro from Mid 2012 is that although making the computer slightly bulky, it has ports such as firewire, ethernet and a disc drive that no other Macs in Apple’s current lineup have. Even if you feel that the disc drive is not necessary, it can be taken out of the computer and replaced with another hard drive, providing up to four TB of storage that is possible for the computer. This is what I ended up doing, and I haven’t looked back since, although if you do wish to perform this upgrade, I strongly recommend getting it done professionally at a computer shop, as the process is quite complex. Regardless of what you decide to do with the disc drive of the computer, there is no denying that the 2012 non retina MacBook Pro can connect to ports that every other laptop on Apple’s shelves currently doesn’t have access to.
The main issue that I had upon doing my research on the machine was the fact that although it could be made extremely powerful, it would still be running on three-year-old hardware. As noted in this article however, the speed difference is negligible and won’t even faze most users. The weight and size of the computer was also a factor, especially coming from a MacBook Air. As a visually impaired student, every inch of space is extremely valuable in my backpack because of the fact that the textbooks take up so much of it. However, using this computer for around a month, and taking it on an over seas trip, I can say that personally, I have hardly noticed a difference, although this, again will depend quite heavily on the user. The only extreme disadvantage of this machine is that when you upgrade the specs yourself, if AppleCare was purchased along with it, the warranty will be rendered invalid, unless you insert the original parts into the computer before taking it in to Apple for service. This won’t really matter if you are able to do this yourself, but if you require the paid assistance of a computer shop, you may have to fork over some cold hard cash before even going to see Apple. The final bone of contention is the fact that the screen is not a retina display model, which for low vision users of the computer could be an extreme disadvantage. Being totally blind however, this was not a determining factor in my decision whether to buy the computer or not. Basically, if you are someone who is low vision, this computer may not be the one for you, but if the other disadvantages are looked past, it should be a very easy decision on what computer to buy when it comes time to upgrade.
The 2012 MacBook Pro without a retina display is currently Apple’s best bang for your buck, if absolute power is your only concern. Advantages such as user replaceable parts that are becoming cheaper and cheaper as was noted in this podcast, make it easier on the pocketbook than ever to create a monster. The computer may be slightly heavier than other, newer models of the MacBook Pro but it makes up for its girth with the addition of connectors such as a disc drive that are one of a kind to Apple’s current line of MacBooks. Unfortunately however, not having a retina display screen could be a very exasperating issue for those that are low vision, but if this, as well as the other disadvantage of voiding warranty can be looked past, the machine will work out beautifully for most users. Overall, the non retina MacBook Pro is definitely a computer to be considered if in the market for a new laptop, and even though it is a few hours worth of extra work to upgrade, the results will be far worth the time, and more than worth the money, power user or not.