Mac Musings

The 2008 MacBook Pro Value Equation

Daniel Knight - 2008.02.27

The new MacBook Pro models, introduced yesterday, aren't a big step forward from last year's models. Clock speeds, which ranged from 2.2 GHz to 2.6 GHz, now range from 2.4 GHz to 2.6 GHz, but the 2.5 GHz and 2.6 GHz Penryn CPUs do have larger caches than their predecessors. (The 2.4 GHz one, though, has a smaller cache.)

We're not expecting much of an improvement in processing power, although Intel has improved the SSE4 vector engine in the new CPU. The changes lie elsewhere this time: a multitouch trackpad and bigger hard drives are the primary improvements. Also, the Apple Remote is no longer included with the new models.

Perhaps the best thing about the new models is what they've done to prices of last year's MacBook Pro line.

Close Out Pricing

The new 17" 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro retails for $2,799 and is available for as little as $2,719 after mail-in rebate. The 2007 2.4 GHz model is being cleared out for as little as $2,344 after rebate. What do you get for the $375 difference in price? A bit more CPU speed (4% boost in clock speed plus a larger cache), twice the video RAM, and a much bigger hard drive - 250 GB vs. 160 GB. And the multitouch trackpad.

It would be hard not to pick the close-out model with this price difference unless you're convinced you need the multitouch trackpad. That $375 is more than enough to buy 4 GB of RAM and a larger hard drive, and the difference in computing power should be almost imperceptible.

The new top-end 15" MacBook Pro runs at 2.5 GHz and has a 250 GB hard drive. It lists at $2,499, and you can buy one for $2,419 after mail-in rebate. The 4% slower 2.4 GHz model has a 200 GB hard drive and half as much video RAM, and it sells for $500 (20%) less. Kind of a no-brainer which is the better value!

If that sounds good, the close-out 2.4 GHz model - the one with "only" a 160 GB hard drive - is being sold for as little as $1,744 after rebate. For $175 less, it's a very good value.

On the bottom, the 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro is being blown out for as little as $1,544 after rebate, and it offers over 90% of the processing power of the just-discontinued 2.4 GHz model. With a smaller hard drive and less video RAM (probably not a big deal), it's not as good a value as the 2007 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro.

Needless to say, we can't recommend the upgrade from 2.5 GHz to 2.6 GHz for $250. That's 10% more money, and all you're gaining is 4% more processing power.

Looking at Refurbs

Apple cut prices on refurbs, which have the same warranty as a new-in-box MacBook Pro. You can pick up the 2.2 GHz model for $1,449 and the 2.4 GHz for $1,649. Again, for the difference in speed, video RAM, and drive space, the 2.4 GHz model is the better value.

Compared to the new 15" MacBook Pro models, the refurbs are the hands down winners.

Likewise, Apple has refurbished 17" 2.4 GHz 2007 units for $2,149, almost $200 better than the best price for a new unit (and that's after a rebate). For the difference in price, it's the value champion among 17-inchers.

From a performance per dollar standpoint, the close-out and refurb prices tilt the value equation to the 2007 MacBook Pro models.