[Question] Which MacBooks can be upgraded?

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#1
I am considering buying a MacBook and I have found an excellent deal on one on clearance. If it had more memory, I would have bought it yesterday and ran out of the store with it yesterday laughing. I wasn't sure if it would run one of the programs that claims to "run best" with 16G so I came home to research and its on hold for me.

I am trying to research which MacBooks can be upgraded, but I'm having a super hard time finding a decent website to tell me this. Could anyone please point me in the direction of a good website to help me with this?
 
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#3
I already mentioned it in this post, but there is a website I frequent (www.everymac.com) that will give you the specs on, well, every Mac ever made, so long as you know when that Mac was released. Knowing the model identifier would be a great help as well, instructions on how to find it are here.

But if you want the short-and-skinny of it, these days you shouldn't get one with less than 8GB RAM and you also probably want 256GB storage. Most of the rest are questions about how long the battery will last, what type of CPU/GPU is in it, and what ports/connectivity you need. I'll be happy to answer any questions about specific features as well (stuff like, "What's the difference between the 2015, 2016, and 2017 MacBooks? They all look the same!").

--Patrick
 
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#4
I'm happy with everything but the 8GB of ram. My PC has 16 but there don't seem to be any sensibly priced MacBooks with 16. I don't mind a smaller SSD when I can put a a huge USB drive in there to store extra pictures that I'm not currently working on. The beauty of the one I'm looking at is that it has normal USB drives and an SD card reader rather than that fool thunderbolt slot that requires a $139 adapter to work.
 
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#5
I'm happy with everything but the 8GB of ram. My PC has 16 but there don't seem to be any sensibly priced MacBooks with 16. I don't mind a smaller SSD when I can put a a huge USB drive in there to store extra pictures that I'm not currently working on. The beauty of the one I'm looking at is that it has normal USB drives and an SD card reader rather than that fool thunderbolt slot that requires a $139 adapter to work.
That means its generation is from 2015 or earlier. Apple does also sell a much cheaper $20 adapter that does nothing more that physically adapt the USB-C to the more familiar USB-A (kind of like an OTG adapter), but then you can't simultaneously charge it and/or plug in a monitor like you can with the more expensive adapter.

--Patrick
 
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#6
I ended up getting a MacBook Pro with both a Thunderbolt port and normal USB ports and an SD card reader on it.

It's not the absolute newest one available but I made it clear that I didn't want to buy adapters. I also decided against the demo the other guy was offering to me at a deep discount. The demo part was really freaking me out. I had a bad experience with a demo I bought back in university and I can't do it again.
 
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#7
I ended up getting a MacBook Pro with both a Thunderbolt port and normal USB ports and an SD card reader on it.

It's not the absolute newest one available but I made it clear that I didn't want to buy adapters. I also decided against the demo the other guy was offering to me at a deep discount. The demo part was really freaking me out. I had a bad experience with a demo I bought back in university and I can't do it again.
Just be aware that USB-C is not the same thing as Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt ports use the USB-C type of connector, and USB-C devices work when plugged in, but a "regular" USB-C port is not necessarily a thunderbolt port. So it's an "enhanced" type of port. You can plug in an external video card (and some other stuff) into a Thunderbolt port, but you can't do that (even though the connector looks same/similar) into a regular USB-C port. But you're probably not going to do that, so it really doesn't matter to you.

Just making sure you weren't confusing them.
 
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#8
Thank you! I didn't know that. Silly question time please. What is an external video card? Is it like an external hard drive in so much as it allows you to upgrade your computer from a device you plug in?

I ended up buying a MacBook from last year that has two Thunderbolt ports and normal ports (two standard USB, SD card like my cameras use, headphones and HDMI). I really didn't like the idea of buying a current year model that required an adapter to work completely.
 
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#9
It's becoming more and more common to see graphics cards get added externally, because this really benefits laptop users. Apple has their version, Alienware has one, NVIDIA did something similar over a decade ago. Basically you can change the graphics cards in desktop PCs but not laptops, right? Well, originally thanks to proprietary connectors but becoming increasingly more common because of Thunderbolt you can now move your graphics card outside of your computer case and into a box on your desk, instead.
I really didn't like the idea of buying a current year model that required an adapter to work completely.
You say that now, but the way things are going it won't be too many years before you'll have to buy adapters so you can plug new stuff (that has the new USB-C style connectors) into your "old" laptop, and it'll be limited by the paltry 5Mbit USB 3 speeds (USB-C is moving to 10Mbit) and its slow 20Mbit Thunderbolt 2 (Thunderbolt 3 can do 40Mbit). ;)

--Patrick
 
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#11
The NVIDIA one gives you the option of attaching 4 graphics cards simultaneously.
That's why it's so expensive.

--Patrick
 
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#12
The NVIDIA one gives you the option of attaching 4 graphics cards simultaneously.
That's why it's so expensive.

--Patrick
...But once you need four graphics cards at the same time, why are you using a laptop?!
Eh, bitcoin farms, I guess.
 
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#13
...But once you need four graphics cards at the same time, why are you using a laptop?! Eh, bitcoin farms, I guess.
That nvidia one is just the earliest example I know of an external GPU. It wasn't really meant for laptops, just for vastly increasing the CUDA processing power of a workstation without also overloading its PSU. This was in the days before 1200W+ power supplies were readily available.

--Patrick
 
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#15
I didn't understand much of that article, other than some of the higher end graphics cards would be wasted on my MacBook maybe, so before considering one of these setups in the future, it will be important to make sure that I buy a card that's good but not one meant for a hard-core gaming desktop.
 
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#16
I didn't understand much of that article, other than some of the higher end graphics cards would be wasted on my MacBook maybe, so before considering one of these setups in the future, it will be important to make sure that I buy a card that's good but not one meant for a hard-core gaming desktop.
Right. The bottleneck with external GPUs is the Thunderbolt link, because even the current third generation of that technology can only talk to the external card at 1/4 the speed it could if it was mounted internally. And since your 2015 laptop's Thunderbolt ports can only speak at Thunderbolt 2 (not 3) speeds, that means any GPU would be talking to the computer at 1/8 of its full capability. Like the article says, though, the bottleneck only matters if what you're doing requires the computer to send a constant stream of data back and forth to the card.

--Patrick
 
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#17
I bought this MacBook for the quality of its display, its SSD, 16 GB of memory, its excellent battery life (at least compared to my PC laptop that can't be unplugged even 45 minutes) and how lightweight and truly portable it is. Trying to manually align and stack multiple exposures of star pictures at 200 and 300% in Photoshop on a screen with crappy resolution made my eyes burn and my mouth swear. I did some manual alignment on my MacBook and the difference that having a better quality display made was amazing. The speed that it runs at is also crazy good. I have no idea how, but it installed Photoshop in under 5 minutes. It took my PC closer to 40. I don't know why. I don't think that I would need a separate graphics card for photo editing, would I? I haven't yet and it's processed my images quickly and my Lightroom imports and exports have been way faster than on my old laptop.

I also travel a lot with my job and I have to take my work laptop and I can't check it so I always debate about whether or not I was going to be able to lug my 17.3 inch, super heavy beast through the airport with one arm while I dragged my work rolling bag with my work laptop and scanner. If I try to cram both in that bag, it's too heavy for me to lift by myself after my arm surgeries and I have to rely on the kindness of strangers and/or airline staff. I've had many airline staff refuse to help me. Even when I had to wear my huge arm brace to travel. This one is 15 inches but it's very light and thin. It would easily fit in my work bag or in my airport purse and wouldn't add much extra weight. I would have preferred a 13 inch, but the sales person convinced to go for a bigger screen. I also didn't see the amount of memory I wanted in a 13 inch. Taking my personal laptop is important because I bring my camera on a lot of my trips for Northern Lights pictures :)
 
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#18
The speed that it runs at is also crazy good. I have no idea how, but it installed Photoshop in under 5 minutes. It took my PC closer to 40. I don't know why.
Your new laptop has a PCIe SSD. A Samsung one, if I guess correctly. Those Samsung SSDs are crazy fast (about 20x faster than standard laptop hard drives). Just don't break that high-quality display. They're reeeeeally expensive to fix, no matter whose computer they're attached to.

--Patrick
 
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#19
I plan to list it on my insurance rider with my camera gear so if I drop it or something equally stupid, it will be covered if that's what you mean?

I'm loving it! My case and keyboard cover arrived and they're really fun.
 
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#20
if I drop it or something equally stupid, it will be covered if that's what you mean?
Yeah, those hi-res displays are expensive to purchase. Doesn't matter if they're attached to a MacBook, a Dell, whatever...they're usually something like double the price of the standard def ones.

--Patrick
 
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#21
With your cautionary words in mind, I went out and bought a screen protector today. Not a weird plastic one that would cover up the display, but a soft thing to put inside my laptop when I have it closed to protect the screen from damage when it's closed and it's in my purse etc. It also doubles as a mouse pad!
 
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#22
With your cautionary words in mind, I went out and bought a screen protector today. Not a weird plastic one that would cover up the display, but a soft thing to put inside my laptop when I have it closed to protect the screen from damage when it's closed and it's in my purse etc. It also doubles as a mouse pad!
It was more a caution when handling/transporting the computer.
But so long as your new pad doesn't wear the antiglare coating off the display, it can't hurt, right?

--Patrick
 
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#23
Did you ever explain why the MacBook Pro was the only one to consider?[DOUBLEPOST=1502556390,1502556223][/DOUBLEPOST]The new pad is still in it's wrapper lol because my MacBook hasn't gone any further than one couch to the other :)

On car trips or treatment trips it will go in my backpack's laptop sleeve. On star trips, my giant camera bag has a padded laptop sleeve. The only risky trips are for work when it will be going in my airport purse.
 
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#24
Did you ever explain why the MacBook Pro was the only one to consider?
Not sure if I ever did or not.
But at the moment, the MacBook Pro has multiple opportunities for connectivity (USB, Thunderbolt, audio, SD slot (pre-2016)) while the MacBook just has one port for audio and one port for literally everything else (charging, video, USB devices, everything).
So if you're going to be connecting anything to the computer (like another display or a camera or whatever) the Pro is the better choice. The regular MacBook is for people who want something that weighs as little as possible, is as small and portable as possible, quiet as possible, independent as possible, etc.

--Patrick
 
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#25
You didn't explain, thank you so much for explaining now. I must have the pre-2016 one then as I have the SD slot etc. I was unimpressed that the newer one had just the one slot and if I wanted anything else, I was going to need an expensive adapter. The MacBook itself was already plenty expensive. It was worth it to me. The first time that I edited a stack of Milky Way pictures the difference was amazing.

For me, I went with the MacBook Pro for the amount of memory and the SSD. I'm not sure if the regular MacBooks have those or not, but they didn't at the store I was at.

It's funny that you talk about portability though because even though my MacBook might be one of the larger ines, it's tiny compared to my old PC laptop. That beast is a 17.3 inch monster with a built in video card and it weighs a ton!
 
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#26
You didn't explain, thank you so much for explaining now.
Yet another in the long list of Things I Meant To Get Back To But Then Didn't And It Fell Off My RADAR.
IIRC you went with the 2015 MBP15 ("MacBook Pro 15-inch"). The 2016 and later MBP15's are the ones that have the new USB-C-style ports that need an adapter to connect to "ordinary" stuff (but that you can use for everything).
Yes, there are people who still whine about how your computer is "not portable enough" because of its MASSIVE 15-inch screen and crushing 4.5lb/2kg weight. These people are also probably the ones who complain how the 6inch display on their phablet is "not big enough" ARGH MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

--Patrick
 
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#27
It's plenty portable for me. It will fit nicely in my work laptop bag with my work laptop so I can bring both on trips if I'm going somewhere that I want to take nice pictures.

It's tiny. Those people complaining are silly. You have to sacrifice a bit of portability to get some of the other benefits. It does all of the photo work that I want it to do better than my PC laptop and it's battery lasts forever compared to the maybe 45 minutes my PC laptop gives me and it's way smaller. I'd like to see those complainers try to carry around my old beast lol.
 
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