MacBook Pro FAQ

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This FAQ is an attempt to reudce the number of repeated questions in the forum.


Buying Advice

Q: Should I get the 2.53 GHz (or other upgraded CPU) model over the 2.4 GHz? How much faster is it?

A: CPU clock speed is a direct speed comparison between CPUs with the same architecture. This means that the actual speed increase is the ratio of the clock speeds between the two processors. For example, a 2.53 GHz CPU is ~5% faster than a 2.4 GHz processor, and a 3.06 GHz CPU is ~9% faster than 2.8 GHz. This only applies when considering otherwise identical CPUs, and therefore cannot be used to compare different architectures (eg. Core 2 Duo to i5/i7), chips with more/less cores, or a number of other physical differences.

Unfortunately in some cases a faster CPU will not provide any extra speed. This is caused when other computer components are too slow to transfer this extra data. This effect is known as Bottlenecking. The best way to compare the performance of different CPUs in the MacBook Pro is to read reviews, and look at online benchmarks.

Q: Do I need a AMD Radeon HD 6770? How much faster is it than the AMD Radeon HD 6750

A: The 6770 isn't much faster than the 6750, with a wide variation depending on the task at hand. The general rule for the time being is to get the 6750. The 6750 and 6770 is the exact same card BUT the 6770 is overclocked slightly so you may see small performance gains across the board. If you plan on playing games, or use software that depends on the GPU for peak performance (e.g Aperture, Motion, etc.) you probably should get the 7770, however there isn't a world of difference

Q: How does the Intel HD 3000 Graphics card compare to a AMD 6XXX?

A: The Intel HD 3000 is an integrated GPU. You won't be able to play many games or do much that's graphic intensive (e.g Aperture, Motion, etc.). But you can do most computing tasks, for example: you can watch HD video, play flash/2D games and do most tasks that aren't gaming or graphically intensive. Some 3D (Call of duty etc.) run on okay settings. But if you plan to game get the AMD card!

Q: What is the difference between the Core i7 and the Core i5? What about a Core 2 Duo

A: There is very little difference between these chips. Both feature TurboBoost, which increases the clock speed on the fly in response to load, and Hyper Threading, which allows four processes to run on a dual core CPU.,43560,43544 The i7 has a slightly larger cache than the i5, 4MB instead of 3MB, but the difference is insignificant for most applications. The i7 has a 5% higher clock speed and the maximum TurboBoost speed is 8% higher than the i5. Again, these differences will likely not be noticeable in most real-world use.

The Core iX chips are significantly faster than Core 2 Duo chips for the same clock speed. Some applications may see up to a 30% performance increase on an iX over a Core 2 Duo, but the actual performance gain will depend on how well an application is optimized for the iX chips. Generally video editing/rendering will see the biggest performance gain.

Q: What is Turbo Boost?

A: Turbo Boost is a feature of Intel iX CPUs that dynamically increases the clock speed in response to load. TurboBoost only activates when the power use, number of cores in use, and core temperature is low enough. It is designed to provide a boost to single threaded applications running on multicore CPUs. If you have a fully multithreaded video render running, Turboboost likely won't be able to activate since both cores will be in use, the temperature will be high, and the power use will be high.

Q: Should I buy now or wait?

A: Whether to buy a computer now or wait for the next rumored update is always a debated issue. Check the Buyer's Guide, the latest threads in the forums, and recent rumors for information. No one but Steve Jobs himself knows when the next update will really be released, so don't bother asking in the forums.


Q: What should I upgrade?

A: If you don’t already have 4GB of RAM, get that first. It is one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can do. If you want to upgrade more, you can get a faster hard drive. Hard drive speed is roughly related to capacity because speed is directly related to data density and capacity is related to data density. A 500 GB hard drive will probably be fastest, and 7200 RPM drives are faster than 5400 RPM drives. Read reviews here and on Newegg and check the mobile hard drive charts at Tom’s Hardware to pick a good drive. There have been some issues with a few of the 500GB drives on the market, so watch out. If you have more money to spend, consider upgrading to a SSD (solid state drive). Since they have no moving parts, SSDs are extremely fast, especially for random access. SSDs tend to be expensive and come in smaller capacities than regular hard drives, so if you need more space consider replacing your optical drive with a second hard drive bay which can be purchased from third parties. Finally, an often neglected upgrade since it does not apply to the computer itself is a nice standalone display. A large display with at least 1080P resolution will give you more screen realestate and increase productivity. Look for a display that uses a MVA, PVA, or IPS panel for the best picture quality, or a TN panel for fair picture quality but the lowest price.

Q: Do I need to upgrade my RAM?

A: Open up Activity Monitor and look at the system memory tab. If you have less than 100 MB free, you should consider upgrading. Next look at Page outs and Swap used. If either one is larger than a few hundred megabytes after using the computer for some time, you should also consider upgrading. OS X does best with at least 4 GB, and if you have any less upgrading will almost certainly be worth the money.

Q: Do I have to use matched memory modules?

A: No. Modern laptop chipsets support asymmetric dual channel, which essentially provides dual channel performance for up to twice the size of the smaller module, and single channel performance for the difference. The difference in memory speed it not likely to be noticeable in most applications, and if the extra RAM prevents to computer from swapping to the disk, there will be a large speed increase.

Q: Where can I buy tools to upgrade my MBP?

A: Home Depot and Lowes both sell small 8-in-1 screwdriver sets with either Phillips/flat or Torx bits. They are around $5-10 each, and you will need both sets to replace a hard drive. The Phillips/flat set includes Phillips 1, 0, 00, and 000 and flat 1/8, 3/32, 5/64, and 1/16. The Torx set includes T4, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9, T10, and T15. Many stores sell computer tool sets that will often have the right screwdrivers, along with other useful tools, but they cost a bit more. Screwdrivers of all sizes are also widely available online.

Q: How much faster is a 7200RPM drive compared to a 5400RPM one? How will it affect my battery life?

A: It depends. Speed and power use depend strongly on the drive, and even within the same manufacturer, speed and power use of new drives will be different as technology evolves.

Speed is related to data density, rotational speed, latency, and cache size. Faster rotation should make a drive faster all else equal, but if one drive has a higher data density, it might be faster than a less dense drive spinning at a higher speed. The largest drives on the market generally have the highest data density, which means they are generally the fastest, but not always.

Power use depends on the construction of the drive, power use of all its components, and power management. Higher rotational speed generally takes more power, but an inefficient slow drive could use just as much power as a highly efficient fast drive.

Tom's Hardware has a great chart comparing most drives on the market in terms of speed, latency, benchmark results, and power use.



Q: My CPU temperature is XX degrees! Is this safe?

A: Recent MBPs tend to run hot, and thats a trade-off Apple made to make their computers thinner, lighter, and quieter. Up to 90C is very common for the latest generation of unibody MBPs, especially the 13”, and the fans may take some time to come on. The CPU can safely handle up to 105C before it starts to throttle down, and it will force the computer to shutdown somewhere over 105C. the GPU can handle a similar temperature range. If your CPU temperature exceeds 100C, there might be a problem with your cooling system, though.

Q: I spilled X on my MBP! What do I do?

A: Turn off the computer, unplug the power, and remove the battery if possible. Soak up as much of the liquid as you can. Flip your computer upside down, where the keyboard is almost parallel to the floor. Wait. This could take more than a day. Sometimes it helps if you take a hair dryer and put it over the keyboard and trackpad.

Q: My battery shows XX% health in Coconut Battery. Is that normal? What can I do to keep it from decreasing more.

A: It is normal for batteries to lose capacity over time. According to Apple your battery should last 3 years and 300 cycles before it drops below 80% if you have a removable battery, or 1000 cycles before it drops below 80% if you have a non-removable battery. For the normal user, it's best to simply use the battery and not worry about it. If, however, you are obsessively concerned about getting every last electron out of your battery, the following tips may help. Most importantly, use the battery regularly and keep it cool. If you just leave your computer plugged in all the time, the battery sits at 100% (or near 100%) charged, which slowly causes damage. Heat also slowly causes damage, so make sure the battery stays cool and has plenty of airflow. Try to avoid using your MBP on soft surfaces that can block airflow and trap heat. It may help to calibrate the battery occasionally (see Apple’s site for instructions), but calibration has little impact on the health of the battery and mainly just improves the accuracy of the time remaining estimate.

Q: There is a red light coming out of the headphone jack and no sound from the speakers!

A: Your MBP has optical audio out built into the headphone jack. It is normally activated by a special mini-Toslink cable, but sometimes the switch can become stuck during normal use. Try plugging in headphones, and if that doesn’t work, carefully use a toothpick or nonmetallic object to try to unstick the switch.

Q: I hear electrical noise coming from the computer. Is that normal?

A: This is a somewhat common issue with MBPs. Noise can come from many sources. High frequency noise most commonly comes from the CPU, LCD backlight/inverter, or the Magsafe charger. There isn't much that can be done about this kind of noise, although programs like ShhMBP are reported to reduce CPU noise by keeping the CPU in use (maybe 1%) all the time. The fans and the hard drive are both mechanical parts, and they nromally make some noise. The hard drive normally makes some clicking noise when it is being accessed, and sometimes a louder click or clunk noise if the Sudden Motion Sensor is activated, and the normal noise level depends on the model disk that you have. The If the fans are making a clicking noise, it may indicate that they are failing. You might be able to get Apple to fix or replace your computer if it is making an unusual amount of noise under warranty.

Q: I hear noise from the magsafe.

A: It is fairly common for the Magsafe to make electrical noise, and the problem usually gets worse with age. There is not much that can be done except to try to get Apple to replace the Magsafe if it is under warranty.

Q: I hear some other noise coming from my computer.

A: The hard drives and fans both have moving parts, and it is normal for them to make some noise or vibration. Hard drive noise and Noise resuming from sleep are normal. If the noise you are hearing is not like that described in the above articles, or if it is unusually loud, it may indicate a defective failing component.

Q: I feel electricity through the aluminum case.

A: Try using the grounded (3 prong) cable. [Under Construction]

Other Questions

Q: How can I connect my MBP to X display?

A: See this comprehensive guide: How to: Connect a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro to a TV

Q: Can I use X magsafe with X MBP?

A: Yes. You can use an old (plastic plug) magsafe with a new MBP or vice versa. You can use a magsafe rated for more power than the one that came with your computer with no problems (for example, an 85W magsafe on a Macbook that only needs 60W). You can use a Magsafe with less power (such as a 60W Macbook magsafe for a MBP that came with 85W), but the battery will not charge if you are using the computer, or it will only charge very slowly.

Q: Apple said my MacBook Pro gets 10 hours of battery life, but I'm not getting anywhere near that!!

A: The battery life estimates provided by Apple are just that - estimates. They are not guaranteed and as specified on Apple's website and in its documentation, the battery life specified is achieved in the lowest possible operating states. Actual battery life will fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to:

- Calibration state of the battery

- Keyboard backlight level

- Screen brightness level

- Airport state (enabled/disabled)

- Bluetooth state (enabled/disabled)

- Wireless data communications, such as a large download via Airport

- Running applications, the quantity and types of apps (i.e. Mail is light on the battery, Photoshop and VMWare are not)

- Whether you're playing media of whatever type

- The age of the battery. Newer batteries should be calibrated so that Snow Leopard has an accurate representation of remaining battery life

- Running processes (under Activity Monitor)

As a result, while the claim is "up to" 10 hours, your real battery life is going to depend on how you use the MacBook Pro. Lighter usage will yield greater battery life.