The $170 MacBook Pro
It wasn’t until recently that I was finally given the chance to really start learning React-Native, and use it to create some apps for a client. When wanting to do such, that means that a Mac is a necessity. The reason being that OSX is needed to compile iOS apps, which require Xcode, which requires OSX. Sure, you could probably use a Hackintosh, if that project is still around, but why chance it when you need a reliable workstation?
Even though I had an old 2008 iMac, it isn’t portable, and it’s pretty much the “kid’s computer”. Instead I was able to make a great system for myself for around $170, but can be done by anyone else for around $300; still a smaller amount of money. Let’s now find out how.
Last year I had a client who brought in his mid-2009 MBP for the last time. After giving it to his son it was dropped on it’s corner, killing the charger port. The cost for me to repair it wasn’t worth the cost of the MBP itself ($250), so the drive was pulled, and the MBP abandoned.
A few months later, I decided to take some free time to work on the system myself, and fix the charging port; an annoying repair to say the least. Regardless, the port was fixed, and the MBP was alive again. It was at this point that I decided to fix it up. It wasn’t worth selling, as you can purchase this model quite cheap. I’ll talk about that more later. Since I was going to use it for development, and for myself, I decided to deck it out.
The first addition was a Samsung EVO 850 250GB SSD ($90). While the MBP couldn’t handle SATA-III, it would make a good replacement for a future upgrade regardless. Next, the battery wasn’t holding a charge for longer than an hour, something expected for a 6-year-old laptop. I bought a GreeBox battery for $43, which gives a maximum of 6.25 hours of life in general use. The RAM installed was 4GB (2x2GB), so to max it I ordered Two new Corsair 4GB PC-10666 DDR3 sticks for $35; again thinking of future upgrades.
So for a total of $168, I was able to take a MBP that was barely working into full working condition, and making it a great development system. The SSD allowed it work extremely quick, and the fact it only had two cores was no longer an issue.
So what about the performance? Well, the RAM did a great number on the performance, making it able to run quite a bit of apps at once, and rarely hit the 8GB cap. The best part of the upgrade was the SSD. So many Mac users that have done this upgrade will tell you that it “breathed life into their mac”, which I thought was an understatement. Various processes that took 30 seconds took as little as 3 seconds (heavy processes like compiling, and starting heavy services like the iOS simulator). There are so many hard drive bottlenecks, that the SSD allows the Mac to show its true power.
Now some people might ask, “Why didn’t you buy Apple branded parts?”. I’ve been working on Apples for over a decade now, and what they sell are these same brands, but say it’s “Compatible” as if there is something special about their parts. The truth is, there isn’t at all, except for the fact they cost twice as much, and don’t work any better.
Your Own Upgrade
I wanted to share this so anyone else could do this as well. An older Macbook Pro can be purchased on Amazon for a very cheap price, as low as $100. Buy yourself one of those, and upgrade it to have a great Mac without the cost. Just keep in mind to stay away from the older MacBook Air.
Through the explanation of the upgrade process, I talked about “future upgrades”, and that may not make sense in a scenario like this. Both the SSD and RAM are rated for speeds faster than what the MBP can handle, allowing them to be used in newer models of systems. When OSX 10.12 comes out the mid 2009 will lose support, and will be unable to upgrade to 10.12. Once this happens, the 2011/2012 models will be cheaper, and allow for a low-cost change. The drive, and RAM will be able to be reused, maybe even the battery if I’m lucky. So instead of having to pay for these parts all over again, it would be a simple part switch, and be upgraded all over again, and with 10.12.
To conclude, if you need or simply even want a Mac of sorts, consider your options. Buying one brand new can take a lot of money, and sometimes doesn’t give that much to show for it. Buying an older one, and upgrading it can give you comparable power, at least that you would notice. If you want something for games, or some intensive computing like rendering 3D or processing video, I highly suggest making yourself a PC which I’ll write an article on in the future. Enjoy!