Upgrading a Decade-Old MacBook Pro

Just over ten years ago, I wrote about upgrading to the first generation retina 15″ MacBook Pro. It would replace my five year old college laptop with a slimmer, more powerful computer with a state-of-the-art display.

Today, I’m tapping out this blog post on the same mid-2012 retina MacBook Pro. It has lasted me twice as long as my college laptop, and I have since referred to it as a “once in a decade” computer.

I’m still using it as my personal computer, but I recently got a mid-2012 13″ M2 MacBook Pro as my work computer. Although I have used other work devices, I never thought of any of them as an upgrade until this computer.

As I move on from this laptop, I wanted to reflect on this past decade with it and also offer some praise for my new laptop.

10 years on the retina MacBook Pro

I re-read my post from ten years ago, and I got most of it right. My writing style has changed since then, so I had to pick out the important facts. But otherwise, there were some notable observations.

As I mentioned above, I used my mid-2007 15″ Intel MacBook Pro for five years. It was the first generation Intel MacBook Pro, and if it had had more than 4GB of RAM, it might have had a longer life. However, by 2012, it was noticeably dragging.

I figured I would get at least five years out of the retina MacBook Pro, and I really, really did. Actually, the pace of hardware improvement, at least in MacBooks, slowed down a lot more than I expected. In 2012, I got 16GB of RAM: it was a little much, but I wanted to future-proof as much as possible.

A decade later, 16GB of RAM isn’t just passable: it’s still more than standard for many laptops. For day-to-day use, this computer still runs just fine. It’s too bad that Apple dropped support so I’m still on macOS Catalina.

I was also concerned about the computer not being upgradeable and not having a removable battery. The first point ended up not being an issue: I haven’t needed to upgrade much because the specs have stood up. The speakers don’t really work anymore, but the computer is old enough that parts are hard to come by anyways.

The battery, however, is one of the main issues. The battery has over 600 cycles and is therefore shot. It’s poorly calibrated that the computer will shut off in less than a half-hour with no warning. At least it’s still portable as long as I can plug in a power adapter somewhere.

The other issue is the hard drive space. It has a 250GB hard drive, which would be plenty, except I have it split with a Windows Boot Camp partition. A few years ago, I re-partitioned to put most of it in Windows for video games. Since then, I have done more software development on my Mac and also taken many more photos. As such, I’m constantly running out of disk space.

For another opinion, I read the Engadget review on this computer. It was very positive, which just two cons. First, it was expensive, but in retrospect with its lifespan, it has amortized the cost quite well. Second, it had the new MagSafe 2 connector, but that became the standard for quite a few years anyways.

First impressions on my M2 MacBook Pro

The big pitch for Apple Silicon is that these computers are just much faster and efficient than the previous generation of Intel MacBooks. In day-to-day usage, I’m not sure I notice it much, but in my work, I have noticed that my code compiles significantly faster than before. That was a nice, expected improvement.

However, I did not expect how much I would like Touch ID.

To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about Touch ID as a feature. I was familiar with it in principle, and I remember how nice Face ID was on my iOS devices. But it’s been very convenient.

These days, everything requires passwords. Especially for work, I’m constantly needing to re-authenticate into websites or getting admin privileges to do something. I had gotten used to typing the master password for my password manager over and over again, or unlocking my computer with my password.

Just putting my finger on the button on my keyboard has been a major quality-of-life improvement. It certainly has saved me mistyping my master password, but it generally is just nice to skip that step.

This computer does come with a Touch Bar, which no longer appears on many other MacBooks. Although I have heard many complaints, it doesn’t really bother me. I didn’t use the function keys before, and I don’t use the Touch Bar much, either.

Final thoughts

Although I like my new 13″ M2 MacBook Pro, I actually don’t recommend it for most people. I realize the segment above doesn’t sound that positive, but I really do like it. It just very narrowly fits my specific mix of responsibilities at work at a good price point. However, it’s clearly the odd one out in the lineup.

I recommend the 14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro for anyone who actually needs juice. For everyone else who wants a MacBook, I recommend the M2 MacBook Air. Since Apple released the M1 MacBooks, I have been telling people to wait for the second generation Apple Silicon computers. I think it was a bold statement since I proudly got the first generation Intel MacBook and the first generation retina MacBook.

But I’m pretty sure I was right about this one. Although the M2 processor isn’t tremendously better, The M2 MacBook Air has the new chassis with a MagSafe 3 charging port and a 1080p webcam. I think the M2 MacBook Air is the current “once in a decade” computer.

Let me set a reminder for 2032 to check in on that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *