It's difficult to believe that it's been a year since I ordered this MacBook Pro. After three years of daily use, my 2009 MacBook was showing its age and lack of capacity. Today, I bought an AppleCare extended warranty, just in case.
My main photo raw development software, Phase One Capture One 7, was pushing the system. 6 GB of RAM just didn't seem to be enough, and it would grind away at the hard drive swapping processes' information, leaving me with a few Megabytes of free working memory. The 750 GB 7200 rpm hard drive was still too slow to really do a great job when I handed it a basketball game with 1000 photos. The transfer of images over USB 2.0 didn't help.
I'd been watching the refurbished machines for a while. I choose refurbished machines from Apple because they've been through a bit of trouble and repaired and checked again. The prior two machines (late 2004 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4 and 2009 2.13 GHz MacBook worked quite well as my main machine, and they still work well), so buying another refurbished machine was the best way to go. I didn't mind the savings, either.
I really wanted the 15.4 inch display but with the 1680x1050 resolution and anti-glare display. I missed buying the PowerBook with the 1440x960 display to save a bit, and with photo resolution becoming larger all the time, I could use a denser monitor. However, finding the higher resolution and anti-glare property at the same time was difficult, and the extra cash made me think twice. Still, it has the nVidia GeForce GT 650M, which is used by OpenCL to aid in computational math, a feature than Capture One Pro 7 uses.
As my photo processing was taking 3-4 times as long, I decided on a 2.6 GHz i7 MacBook Pro with the typical 1440x900 resolution and the glossy display. Inexplicably, the company chooses to use a 5400 rpm drive, and 750 GB or not, it's not fast enough for work or games, really.
The day after I ordered it, I placed an order with OtherWorld Computing for two 8 GB RAM sticks. They were "only" about US$100. Contrast this to 1993 when I bought a 72 pin SIMM with 32 MB of RAM (for the Quadra/LC/Performa 475/476) for $1040, or 3 rebuilt 16 KB Atari RAM cards (for the Atari 800) for $108 in 1983. 16 GB was the most the model would support and I wasn't going to be held back by the hard drive speed.
Apple managed to push me from Snow Leopard on the MacBook to Mountain Lion on the new MacBook Pro. It was very, very broken, and it was a pain in the ass because I had to download it all over again to put it on another drive, a 750 GB 7200 rpm drive that I'd been using in the MacBook. Thankfully, I was able to use the connection of a repair shop that was convenient, as I was familiarizing them with Apple technology.
When I'd got the thing running correctly, I noticed that my batch processing of photos was driving the machine to over 100 degrees C, with all four processor cores running, along with the extra 4 virtual cores. It's still close to that but under 100 degrees C these days.
After a month or two, I changed to a 480 GB SSD, which fixed a lot of the speed problems. Not only was photo processing much quicker, but games were loading reasonably well, and even Valve's games weren't stuck with "LOADING" long enough for me to get a drink.
Seeing the recent, new Retina-only models made me think that I'd bought the correct machine for me. I still need an optical drive. The nVidia 650M is strong enough for me, at the moment. Being forced into OS X Mavericks/10.9 doesn't seem like a good idea, enhanced battery life or not. Thin may be in, but Apple's machines become hot too easily. This one is indicating 40 degrees C and it's actually chilly to the touch.
I'm hoping to get 3-4 years out of it before I need to buy another machine. By then, photo resolution may have increased again, depending on the ability to miniaturize, and I'll need a stronger machine. I might even be on 10.9.x by then, because I know that they won't have fixed 10.8.x further. Maybe, they'll have the Mac App Store fixed by then.
I wonder if we'll even have typical laptop computers by then, or whether they'll mostly be hybrid tablets with keyboards at that point. In any case, I'll be sticking to a slightly older, 100% guaranteed to be refurbished machine, and I'll be happy with it because it will work well. Hopefully, this one will still be happy by then.
If you're wondering, I'm still using the 2004/2005 PowerBook G4 and the 2009 MacBook. They work just fine but they're not exceptionally powerful for photo processing.
Update 2015.08.15: It's getting close to three years that I've had this computer. It's still what I use daily. It's been through a lot, including having flipped into the air and it landed upside down on the floor. It's more several months since then, and it's fine.
In November 2014, I had the closest Apple Store update it to OS X 10.9.5 and it has been reasonable. I need to have it updated to 10.10.5 now that it is available.
Making videos with it, it seems to struggle a bit. I looked for a computer running Windows, but they were running about the same amount of money for similar resolutions and power.
I gave away the 2009 MacBook to someone who had helped me set up my apartment but it wasn't extremely powerful with those nVidia graphics.
I keep looking at the recent MacBook Pro models and I have to go with a Retina model to get something current. They're not easy to customize after the sale. It's better since they've been out a while, and OWC has had time to figure out some options. It still seems a guessing game as to what Apple will do next. The latest 15.x inch MacBook Pro models haven't had a good CPU upgrade for a while. Since the Back-to-School sale is in progress, updates should be out soon.