MacBook Pro buying advice needed

I really want to wait for the 14 inch but my Mac is seriously slowing down and I probably should replace it before I start school in August. Your advice would be appreciated. I really don’t want to spend over 2k, but want this machine to last me five years or more if possible. What do y’all think?

Current System

MacBook Pro (Retina, 13 inch, Early 2015)

Processor: 2.7 GHz Dual0Core Intel Core i5

Memory: 8 GB 1867 MHz DDR3

Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 1536 MB

Storage: 250 GB Solid State

Use Case

Grad Student who does some cybersecurity and programming, in addition to reports, word processing, etc.

This is my main machine, so I use it for every computing task that requires a computer

I also use it for games, which my current Mac can run but is very unhappy with.

Ideal System (cost $2259 with education pricing)

13‑inch MacBook Pro - Space Gray

  • 2.0GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
  • 13-inch Retina display with True Tone
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • 32GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
  • 1TB SSD storage
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Backlit Magic Keyboard - US English

I have a 2013 16in MBP that has had updates to RAM and SSD.

Get the i7 CPU. Lower either the amount of RAM or the amount of SSD (or both).


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What advantages does the i7 have in the 13inch, in your experience?

If it’s within your budget that looks like a good system to me. You’ll get a lot out of the extra RAM, and the storage will be useful too, especially if you do any work with video. (If not, and if you have good cloud storage you could save a little $$ by getting a smaller SSD - but again, if you have the budget keep the 1Tb.)

With a 5 year lifespan in the works, my advice is to make an investment in a component that you may predict that you wished you had but cannot update versus making investments in components that you want now, that will not be absolute bottle-necks now, that can be supplemented by external-components (e.g. 512 GB SSD and an external 2+ TB hard drive), and that can be updated later.

The i7 has advantages in computational power regardless of the size of the monitor. Do a search on comparing the i5 versus the i7 to read the specs for yourself.

When you can in any way even guess that you might need an i7 in the next 3-5 years, then buy it now. Or, alternatively, when you can absolutely, with no uncertainty, state that in the next 5 years you will NEVER need any aspect of the additional computational power of an i7 versus an i5, then don’t bother. Or even further, the i7 may give you a 5-7 year life span with incremental updates to RAM and SSD along the way while the i5 may max out in the 3-5 year span of your as-yet-defined-but-gosh-I-wish-I-was-there-today career in high-speed, video programming for gaming systems.


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Thanks :slight_smile:

Thanks for your input!

I think your initial config is really good. In recent years, I haven’t often found myself thinking my computer too slow, but I have more frequently found myself wanting more RAM or storage. Your use cases are similar to mine.

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I would get a new MacBook Pro 16 inch with as much storage and RAM as you can afford. I really would you won’t regret. I appreciate that might put you above your 2K$ but over five years plus I think you should consider it. Keyboard on this model is now fixed and I find it a delight to use. I enjoy the RAM I installed too, again on advice from this forum. I can’t give you every step in my reasoning but max out on a 16 inch I would. I have put cost constraints in the past which were marginal really and got a 13 inch one time. It did well in fairness but I regretted it from the point of view of screen real estate. The 16 inch also now comes with a default of 1TB of storage I believe.


I know we are probably going over old ground here, but in 2020 with a modern Mac what are typical profiles of Mac users that need 32GB RAM?

Doesn’t the Mac utilise whatever RAM is made available to it to a degree?

Would your average enthusiast user who does some coding, some video editing, some gaming and other light web/office/productivity work need more than 16GB?

If you have a modern fast apple SSD doesn’t the swap file system help reduce the RAM requirement?

The base i9 comes with 1TB. The cheaper base i7 comes with a 512GB by default.


I hate that Apple doesn’t let you upgrade the memory and disk. It’s like they are taunting us, saying I know that you want it and you’ll take what we give you. That means that you have to buy a system that will satisfy the Future You.

The way that I look at it is if I spend an extra $400 on an upgrade then that is really “only” $80 per year.

My decision unknowns:
I5 vs I7. Will you notice the difference in performance
MacBook Pro 16 - Wait for 10th get update

I am buying a system like you, that I expect to have for the next 5 years at least. I am going to get the 2TB drive ($400 Ouch) and the 32 Gb Memory as I occasionally run out of memory with 16Gb.

If you go to work somewhere that is primarily a Windows Shop you might want to get a 2Tb disk and 32 Memory so that you can run Parallels.

But I don’t like to waste money. Would the average user that edits photos and and occasional video really going to notice the difference between the i5 vs i7?

My need is that DevonThink is a memory hog and I need a faster machine to process the PDFs. At least that is what I am telling my wife.

I am leaning toward that 16 inch for the better microphones and better cooling. The screen is not that important to me as I typically use it as a desktop machine. Is the cooling and the mic’s enough justification to wait for the 16 inch upgrade. I could always attach a good mic, I do a lot of dictation.

My quandary is, when do you think that the 16 inch will get the 10th Generation upgrade and is it worth waiting for? I saw one YouTube Video that said the 10th gen was about a 35% performance improvement. Would you agree.

Crazy that with Apple Care and Tax, they can get us to spend $3,000 for a frigging notebook.

But learn from my mistake, I was upset at Apple for the “Apple Tax” and went out at bought a DELL XPS 8930, I9 Processor, water cooled, 32G Memory, Thunderbool card, Great Graphics Card all for about $2350 out the door. It’s just OK, my late Oct 2013 Mac actually feels faster and whenever I go to do something on Windows I have to futz with it to get it working. Never Again.

Not an easy decision, but shortly you will be working and have so much cash lying around you won’t care. My Motto: “Life is too short to be rocking last years iPhone”

Let us know what you buy and how you like it.

These prices are off of AppleInsider

1.4GHz 8th Gen Intel Core i5

1.7GHz 8th Gen Intel Core i7

2.0GHz 10th Gen Intel Core i5

2.3GHz 10th Gen Intel Core i7


You say your current Mac is slowing down, but with what use care?

I can see it being slow for games, but that is partly because it’sa portable machine with Iris graphics. A new 13” is going to feel slow for games soon I expect (unless you don’t update your games).

If your current machine is slow for word processing etc, then I wonder what is slowing it down, as it should be very capable still.
I have an early 2015 13” MBP and for standard tasks it runs perfectly well, I only notice a significant difference with apps that require lots of RAM and games. Xcode storyboards were slow, but other programming was fine.
The battery has just swollen though, so there is that!

I suppose what I’m saying, is if it’s gaming that is slow and the rest is fine, consider a console!


Definitely. But I also run into RAM constraints all the time. It slows my Mac down to no end, usually I only have 100 mb free, despite quitting all unused apps. 8 just doesn’t cut it.

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In the middle of my university degree, i was faced with a similar choice,

What i did was rather then getting a brand new computer. I got a recent-ish high end computer.

If you can live with the butterfly keyboard, you should consider picking up a used MacBook Pro, for ether the same amount of money or cheaper.

I have a 2016 MacBook Pro that i use for development all the time and it still has more then enough headroom.

It’s does depend on your exact programming, i do flutter development for iOS, android and web. But your mileage may very.

In cyber security if you are using something like Jack the Ripper to crack hashes, it might be better to get a cheap chromebook for most things and build a custom linux box that you VNC/SSH into.

Fair enough. That’s why I got a MBP with 16 GB RAM, when I saw I was constrained to having nothing else open when working in Xcode. I have zero problem with 16 GB in Xcode, with Graphic (an annoyingly demanding app), and other tools running concurrently. I personally wouldn’t pay for 32 GB there.

I did put 32 FB in a Mac Mini though because I got 3rd party RAM. I haven’t noticed any significant difference except in Final Cut Pro maybe, but it’s not worth paying much for the difference.

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I don’t really understand how RAM works I must confess, I wish I did and I wish maybe MPU did a bit on one of the shows about it. How it about it @ismh ? The principles I mean. I think I saw once somebody explain it in a way that you suggest though. I don’t remember the details but I remember the explanation was cogent and really made sense, I think it said it even stores things in RAM if the space is there.

The point was that there is there is no point looking at your RAM usage, because it will always be high, however much you ‘really’ need. I have 64GB.
My machine runs beautifully but I am only recommended by many power users and experts to have 16GB. I maxed out my 16 inch this time, it is meant to last years, and I maxed it out, for the hell of it for once in my life. I really haven’t regretted the extra expense which wasn’t that much for me now I find having several tabs on Safari open on my old one was quite slow on 16GB. Again whether that was RAM shortage I don’t know. I don’t know enough about under the hood.

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RAM works like this.
In order for a computer to process data, it needs to access the data in the CPU, thus on CPU’s themselves they have Caches L1, L2, L3. The closer the data is to the chip the faster you can process it, and thus the faster your computer will run.

Super fast Cache storage is hecking expensive, which is why even on the top of the line CPU’s it is measured in MB and often KB.

In the days of past, you had mechanical HDD’s, which can store lots of data for cheap, but are slow. So in order for computers to feel snappy, you have RAM sit in between the CPU Cache and the HDD. With the files you are accessing loaded into it.

These days with SSD’s the difference in access speed between SSD storage and the RAM is less of a gap then it used to be. But it is still there, and in fact high quality SSD’s have RAM caches on them for performance reasons.

You also get some benefits when writing to the disk, the CPU can dump the file out into RAM which is spooled to the storage medium.

Modern operating systems, appear to have high RAM usage because they are proactively attempting to load data into the RAM to make the computer snappier in use.


Memory Pressure is an abstract measurement of memory use in Activity Monitor can help you figure out how much RAM you’re really making use of and whether you might benefit from more, if you’re considering an upgrade. Official explanation:

Here’s an example from my 16GB MBP. When I opened it, I had my normal stuff open (finder windows, Slack, email, OF, Word, a couple other standard business/communication programs) and memory pressure was around 40%. That alone tells me it’s good I have 16GB instead of 8GB. Then, I opened a VM I use to do work and pressure rose to about 80%, so I’m making nearly full use of the 16GB already. Then I opened a coding environment and memory pressure went into the red. The slowdown opening the project was noticeable and annoying. Because it coincided with high memory pressure (and the CPU was fine), I can confidently buy 32-64GB next time and know the laptop will perform better when I do this kind of work.


The lower specification CPU options in gen 10 will our perform /016/17 machines, so stick to purchasing new (not to mention warranty). You’d be better off getting a current i5 over a dated i7. 16GB of RAM is enough, assuming you are relying Hp this machine for daily full dev environments and test virtual machines 24x7 (conside and azure or AWS environment, far cheaper).

Cyber Sec dev is fairly light, any hashing/salting/crypto/etc should be done outside of your machine.

Go new, get the warranty and other benefits
Then spec the machine up to your budget.
Make sure your purchase is enough to get you through school, you don’t want to be doing this again on 3 years time.

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