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Where did the Mac upgrade market go?


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#1 Eric D.V.H.

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 06:13 AM

Throughout most of the Mac's history, there was a burgeoning upgrade market, and a substantial number of companies had all sorts of things for sale from simple cards to services that would pretty much cherry out your whole Mac in a single shot. Processor upgrades, internal interface upgrades, graphics upgrades, cache and memory upgrades, oscillator crystals, etc… Even Apple used to sell many upgrades, all the way up to whole motherboards from new Macs sold retail as “upgrade kits” for customers to drop into older Macs with similar cases to upgrade them.

Whenever Apple put out an “un-upgradable” machine, the industry took it as a challenge, and responded with products that fit in slots Apple never intended such products (or in many cases, like the original iMac's mezzanine slot, anything at all) to fit in, sometimes even going to the extent of offering customers to mail their Macs to their workshops so they could desolder components right off mainboards and replace them with their own (while breaking the Apple warranty… and replacing THAT with their own.)

This industry existed for decades, and earned an enormous amount of money from a large portion of the Macintosh userbase. In spite of all this, the transition to 80x86 Macs (and PPC G5 Macs to a lesser extent) seems to have coincided with a gaping vacuum in the catalog space where the menagerie of upgrades designed for previous generations of Macs resided. I find this especially bizarre given the fact that x86 Macs use even more generic parts than previous models, yet no Mac retailor sells them, no Mac servicer installs them, and virtually no x86 Mac owner buys them.

Apple's CPUs are all generic x86 units which could easily be replaced without the systems noticing, Apple's entire desktop line (Mini, iMac, Pro) will even take retail CPU modules in standard socket sizes with zero soldering, the iMac has a proprietary 16 lane PCIe slot for its graphics, ALL of Apple's current machines (including laptops) have a Mini PCIe slot for their wireless cards, and of course nearly every other part of the machines are generic as well. The mind boggles.

I'll admit I'm still using PPC machines for everything, and that I'll probably start getting wintel machines instead of x86 Macs eventually (owing to the fact that Apple has apparently decided to abandon the sub-$2300 minitower market,) but I honestly wonder if the people that buy and design products for Macs have really changed that much. I recently saw an advertisement that said “Don't buy a new Mac, upgrade its memory instead!”. Is that what we have become?



Eric,



#2 teflon

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 06:58 AM

so, youve pointed out that you can indeed upgrade some parts of the machines... but that its not as common because Apple resellers dont offer it?

the real problem is that the upgrades are a) cheaper as a BTO in the first place, b)not pin compatible, c) the original CPU is soldered onto the board d) prohibitively expensive e) the heat profile of the machines is so tight these days that theres not really any room for error.

on the whole, I think Apple are pushing to try and get closer to the industry's standard upgrade cycle which is every 3 years. Apple have been stuck on 5 years for a long time and now that theyre on intels theyre closer to the PCs. Yet things really arent moving all that quickly. Yes the new MBPs are substantially faster than the old MBPs from 2006, but in day to day use I doubt youll feel it unless youre working with graphics etc. etc. where you probably dont want a laptop in the first place and more a Mac Pro with 8800GT, or in fact a PC with a 9800 GTX.

As Ive said elsewhere, the upgrade market boomed during the period when Apple's machines were climbing in speed at around double the mhz in 3 years. if you could spend $500 on a processor that is double the speed, you would wouldnt you? but these days you get smaller advances over this time period, and the betterment's happen across the entire system.

what im trying to say is that it doesnt happen anymore because people dont see the point as much. The CPU isnt the bottleneck anymore, its the HDD. If you want to upgrade the CPU in your imac, then go ahead and tell everyone you did it, but dont expect to be starting any trends. Personally Im going to get a bigger better and faster hard drive
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#3 Douglas

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 08:48 AM

You know what machines are crying out for an upgrade path are the G5 desktops. Man, I am so glad I skipped these machines. No Bootcamp, No further Video options, Liquid cooling spewing everywhere and wrecking motherboards, defective capacitors spewing electrolyte and wrecking motherboards, and worst of all, NO CPU UPGRADES.

Wow..major bummer.

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#4 Eric D.V.H.

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 09:25 AM

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 05:58 AM, said:

the real problem is that the upgrades are a) cheaper as a BTO in the first place b)not pin compatible c) the original CPU is soldered onto the board d) prohibitively expensive e) the heat profile of the machines is so tight these days that theres not really any room for error.
  • At the moment, that is true for CPU upgrades (Apple's current Mac Pro options go for $500, $900 & $1300 as BTOs; or $850,  $1090 & $1399 from a price spider result.) The same obviously doesn't hold for other components, which I'd say are all overpriced by about 1.5x-5x (other pre-built PC companies are equally guilty, if not moreso, Apple isn't alone in that boat at all.)
  • No, they're completely pin compatible with all LGA771 CPUs. People have upgraded the things without any issues (the last two revisions, I haven't actually read upgrade accounts about the latest models, but they appear the same so far.)
  • See first post, resoldering components is nothing new to the upgrade industry.
  • For $2k-$4k machines? I think not.
  • Not only do upgrades typically come with enhanced heatsinks, many newer CPUs actually run cooler.

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 05:58 AM, said:

Yes the new MBPs are substantially faster than the old MBPs from 2006, but in day to day use I doubt youll feel it unless youre working with graphics etc. etc. where you probably dont want a laptop in the first place and more a Mac Pro with 8800GT, or in fact a PC with a 9800 GTX.
Yeah, I wouldn't dream of doing anything serious on a laptop, but a lot of people do. Those people should have options other than burning thousands on a new machine, especially two or three more years from now.

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 05:58 AM, said:

what im trying to say is that it doesnt happen anymore because people dont see the point as much. The CPU isnt the bottleneck anymore, its the HDD. If you want to upgrade the CPU in your imac, then go ahead and tell everyone you did it, but dont expect to be starting any trends. Personally Im going to get a bigger better and faster hard drive
There's a lot of Mac users that squeeze every drop of blood from their machines' CPUs, doing 3D and high-res imagery, extra MHz on the cheap would mean serious benefits. You might poo poo CPU upgrades now, but what about a ways down the road? Consider this then: Decent graphics for iMacs.

(Oh, Doug? Mac Pros still have liquid cooling and no SLI support, better hope all the bad juju happens BEFORE your warranty runs out!)



Eric,



#5 teflon

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 10:55 AM

yes, other components are overpriced too, but I was talking mainly about CPUs. GPUs are artificially limited in the mac market right now, and not replaceable in all but the Mac Pro. RAM is best bought elsewhere. HDDs are mysteriously easy to replace in the MacBook, tricky in MBP and iMac, but easy to get done in the shop.

CPUs, if not soldered onto the board are almost the same procedure as with HDDs in the iMac, but pretty tricky in the MacPro. On the other hand, you need to be very careful when handling the CPUs as they need to be properly thermal pasted to the heat sink in order to get the best transfer and keep the machine running well. but as I said, pin compatibility is an issue, and Im talking about a few years down the line here, not in the here and now. Most people wont want to change their machine until the warranty has run out. With AppleCare, thats 3 years after purchase, by which point intel is more than likely to have moved onto the next socket. So youll be stuck with a CPU that is at best 2 generations beyond what you have.

resoldering might not be anything new, but its not something the average user will want to try and does require pretty specialist equipment that your average mac reseller and apple store might not have. I was more commenting on the average user being able to do this really, as I believe that most upgrades are DIY-able if you know what youre doing.

when you can sell your machine and buy a new one with a new processor etc. etc. with a difference of less than the price of the new processor on its own, then its prohibitively expensive. Macs have a very good resale value.

as for the heat thing. In order to get a performance boost of a decent amount, youre going to be wanting to get the top (or near top) processor, which will probably run hotter (not to mention be the most expensive). And even then, in the case of an imac it wont really offer too much of a boost. In the case of a Mac Pro (dont forget you have to get two of these quad core processors), it will probably be quite substantial, but then again, just get a whole new machine...

and we now have decent graphics in the iMac! the 8800GS. Its a competent card, and fits the heat profile of the 24" machine (no, not the 20").
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#6 Eric5h5

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 11:29 AM

View PostDouglas, on April 28th 2008, 10:48 AM, said:

No Bootcamp

Wouldn't use that even if I had an Intel Mac.

Quote

No further Video options
True.  Although in my case it was more AGP being the limiting factor, and all those zillions of PCs with AGP also hit the same wall.  The PCIe G5s could go one generation further.

Quote

Liquid cooling spewing everywhere and wrecking motherboards

A myth; only a very tiny fraction have had leaks.  Also most G5 models didn't even have liquid cooling.

Quote

defective capacitors spewing electrolyte and wrecking motherboards
Never heard of anything like that.

Quote

and worst of all, NO CPU UPGRADES.

True, the G5s could not be upgraded.  It's not exactly like I'm hurting for CPU speed though; CPU upgrades just aren't that important anymore.  Graphics card upgrades are more of a big deal.

Quote

Wow..major bummer.

Not at all.  My G5's been rock solid for years, performs well, I was able to upgrade it a few times, and I got to miss out on all the "fun" of Rosetta slowness and bugginess that the early Intel adopters had to suffer through.  If I had known then what I know now, I would still have bought it.

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#7 Silver Samurai

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 11:48 AM

As a side note. I've noticed a lot of Mini users upgrading their CPU's and getting decent gains. Although what one thinks is a good gain, is all relative.
BEing able to  upgrade the CPU is good though. Gets you a bit more time out of your machine and isn't as expensive as buying a new one.
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#8 Dark_Archon

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 12:29 PM

View PostEric D.V.H., on April 28th 2008, 11:25 AM, said:

Yeah, I wouldn't dream of doing anything serious on a laptop, but a lot of people do.
Nobody does. Laptops don't have socketed CPUs, and the pins are too tightly packed together for soldering to be an option. Connecting a CPU to those boards is a factory only kind of thing.

There isn't an upgrade path for the G5s. There weren't too many G5 speed bumps. Besides, they are still reasonably beefy machines for work. The G4 upgrades were because of the huge speed bumps. Upgrading them made sense.

Edit: And on the whole upgrades thing, I have a new hard drive in the mail, and am planning on ordering a new graphics card this week or next week. Part of Apple's line is still upgradeable, and with the 2008 Mac Pro(4-Core), the price is much closer to that of the iMacs.
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#9 PeopleLikeFrank

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 01:47 PM

Where is the Apple market for an upgrade market to exist in?

Any Mac with an upgradable CPU can use off-the-shelf Intel CPUs. Only one Mac model has proper upgradable GPUs, and it's an expensive pro model that probably hasn't seen the same growth as the cheap, but basically un-upgradable MacBooks and iMacs.

No company is going to start producing upgrades for PPC Macs at this point, with the possible exception of GPUs for the last gen or two of G5s.

So what does that leave? Hard drives and RAM? Off the shelf again.
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#10 the Battle Cat

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 01:58 PM

View PostEric5h5, on April 28th 2008, 10:29 AM, said:

Not at all.  My G5's been rock solid for years, performs well, I was able to upgrade it a few times, and I got to miss out on all the "fun" of Rosetta slowness and bugginess that the early Intel adopters had to suffer through.  If I had known then what I know now, I would still have bought it.

--Eric
I second that.  I have a dynamite, trouble free computer that will let me set out the birthing pains of the intel machines, as well as provide a powerful legacy machine.  I purposefully bought this G5 for those reasons, I'm glad I did, and I'd do it again if I knew then what I know now.  I'm coming up on a Mac Pro purchase this fall, I think they have matured enough and that the software has caught up to the hardware pretty well.
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#11 QuantaCat

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 02:33 PM

I *think* I have a first gen MBP (bought it december 2006), and it doesn't display any kind of problems, really. Am I blessed, or do I simply have a model that's a bit further along the first fish food chain?
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#12 Dark_Archon

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 03:10 PM

People who have problematic hardware are much more vocal than people who don't. You don't see threads on forums about how the machine is working fine without any problems. Apple scores quite well in terms of reliability with laptops, and even better when it comes to desktops.
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#13 teflon

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 04:02 PM

The first kinks and firmware updates had already come out for the MBPs by the middle of 2006, so most hardware issues shouldve been resolved by then really.

of course, these machines are still fairly problem prone... its just theyre not usually particularly major any more..
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#14 Douglas

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 04:45 PM

(Oh, Doug? Mac Pros still have liquid cooling and no SLI support, better hope all the bad juju happens BEFORE your warranty runs out!)

Eric,



Hi Eric!

Hate to tell you this man, but survey says...WRONG!!!!..Mac Pros do NOT have liquid Cooling (thank god).


Hate to bum you G5 guys out but...


http://www.macintouc.../topic4243.html

and

http://www.xlr8yourm...lant_leaks.html


A quick sample of the misery...

"I have a lab of 17 Dual 2.7Ghz G5s that are all now leaking their coolant - all at once. A significant number are dead in the water and the rest are just holding on right now."



The company that Apple contracted with to manufacture the cooling system on the G5 did a crappy job and then went OUT OF BUSINESS leaving Apple holding the bag! (look it up).

Remember it's not a matter of "if" you're getting a coolant leak but "when"...the stock system is DEFECTIVE out of the box and was replaced by Apple under warranty with a DIFFERENT liquid cooling system altogether!

Also...

How could you not know about the bad capacitor problem?  It was so bad, Apple issued an EXTENDED WARRANTY on the Emacs AND iMac G5's because so many capacitors in these machines were bad!

http://www.apple.com...tensionprogram/

http://www.apple.com...tensionprogram/


I pulled my friends eMac apart and counted 14 spewing capacitors that had ruined his 4 year old machine!  Here is some general "info" on the problem so you guys can "educate" yourselves before you end up buying something with bad caps in it....

http://www.badcaps.net/

and

http://en.wikipedia....apacitor_plague

Hope all this helps!

Douglas

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#15 Eric5h5

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 06:20 PM

View PostDouglas, on April 28th 2008, 06:45 PM, said:

Hate to bum you G5 guys out but...

Yes, like I said, a fraction of people with G5s had problems.  The vast majority did not.  It seems to be the same with every Mac model ever made...someone sees an isolated batch of problems and gets the idea that "Oho, the ___ Mac explodes/overheats/leaks/ignites!  Glad I didn't get one of those!"  Well, that's not really the case.  Most Macs are fine.  Some have manufacturing defects...it will always be so....

Quote

How could you not know about the bad capacitor problem? It was so bad, Apple issued an EXTENDED WARRANTY on the Emacs AND iMac G5's because so many capacitors in these machines were bad!

Er, how did we go from talking about Power Mac G5s to different models entirely?  I know nothing about bad capacitors because I don't have an eMac (which doesn't even have a G5) or an iMac....

--Eric

#16 Douglas

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 06:29 PM

View PostEric5h5, on April 28th 2008, 05:20 PM, said:

Yes, like I said, a fraction of people with G5s had problems.  The vast majority did not.  It seems to be the same with every Mac model ever made...someone sees an isolated batch of problems and gets the idea that "Oho, the ___ Mac explodes/overheats/leaks/ignites!  Glad I didn't get one of those!"  Well, that's not really the case.  Most Macs are fine.  Some have manufacturing defects...it will always be so....
Er, how did we go from talking about Power Mac G5s to different models entirely?  I know nothing about bad capacitors because I don't have an eMac (which doesn't even have a G5) or an iMac....

--Eric

Hmmm, I wouldn't call "17 bad powermac G5s out of a lab of 17 powermac G5's" a fraction, I'd call that a whole number!

Ha Ha Ha!!

Sorry...math humor.

But seriously folks, you buy 17 G5's, and they are ALL spew coolant?

Hmm...pretty sucky.

And that's only one (unfortunate) guy.

Douglas

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#17 Eric5h5

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 07:19 PM

View PostDouglas, on April 28th 2008, 08:29 PM, said:

But seriously folks, you buy 17 G5's, and they are ALL spew coolant?

Because they all were from the same defective batch.  :rolleyes:  It's not a random sample of 17 different G5s.  Seriously, I know a few people seem to have a superstitious dread of liquid cooling, but it's not really voodoo or anything.  Chill out.  Ha!  Get it?  "Chill out"?  And we're talking about cooling?  Yes?  OK, never mind....

--Eric

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 08:02 PM

We had an G5 from the original release date back in '03 (we got the dual 2.0) and used it all the way till late 2006. Never had any problems. I loved the Machine, it was my favourite mac that I've ever owned, it just seemed so much more macish then the macs that are out today. I loved that computer so much :crying:

You've never owned a G5 and yet your tearing into it like you spent years researching it and finding every miniscule flaw. Pretend that tBC and Eric 5H5 owned sweetly fast cars instead of the G5 and then you come along and say. "Did you no that I read in the internet that one car of that model had a engine blow, therefore your car must suck. Wow am i ever glad i didnt get one of those." meanwhile the car was the most powerful personal car at the time


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#19 Greg Grant

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 09:16 PM

View Postnobody, on April 28th 2008, 12:47 PM, said:

Where is the Apple market for an upgrade market to exist in?

Any Mac with an upgradable CPU can use off-the-shelf Intel CPUs. Only one Mac model has proper upgradable GPUs, and it's an expensive pro model that probably hasn't seen the same growth as the cheap, but basically un-upgradable MacBooks and iMacs.

No company is going to start producing upgrades for PPC Macs at this point, with the possible exception of GPUs for the last gen or two of G5s.

So what does that leave? Hard drives and RAM? Off the shelf again.

Honestly, why wasn't this the 2nd post?

Before this thread derails to G5 coolant leaks. I dunno, I got 3 1/2 years out of my G5. 8 HDs (yes 8), a full PCI bay, 4.5 gigs of Ram, a DL/DVD-+RW and X800 XT my machine has been fairly upgradable aside from the CPUs. Even if I could wouldn't, seeing as Intel Macs are the future. 3 years for any desktop is a reasonable shelf life. While the upgrade path might have been nice, the way the direction Macs have gone I don't think anyone got burned buying G5 without being able to upgrade the CPUs. (Assuming it functioned properly)

Honestly, the Mac Pro is as upgradable as any Mac has ever been. Bought a dual  dual-core? Wait a bit and buy quad core CPUs for it as the price comes down. Got a Mac Mini? Jam in a faster CPU. Aside from the G3 iMacs, nothing has changed for the iMacs, they're still meant to have a short shelf life. When you buy one, you have accept that it'll be relatively the same hardware specs through out its life.
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#20 Eric D.V.H.

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 02:25 AM

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 09:55 AM, said:

you need to be very careful when handling the CPUs as they need to be properly thermal pasted to the heat sink…SNIP…and we now have decent graphics in the iMac! the 8800GS. Its a competent card, and fits the heat profile of the 24" machine (no, not the 20").
Yeah, nothing new (but annoying.) Do you need to do that in order to access the drives too, like in the iMac G4s?

That 8800GS is a first step, hopefully a sign of things to come.

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 09:55 AM, said:

resoldering might not be anything new, but its not something the average user will want to try and does require pretty specialist equipment that your average mac reseller and apple store might not have.

View PostDark_Archon, on April 28th 2008, 11:29 AM, said:

Nobody does. Laptops don't have socketed CPUs, and the pins are too tightly packed together for soldering to be an option. Connecting a CPU to those boards is a factory only kind of thing.
Heh, I wasn't suggesting that local stores resolder components. I'm referring to a number of upgrades (mostly for iMacs & PowerBooks) where you mailed your computer or board to a giant factory so they could upgrade it and send it back.

And Nobody, I didn't mean making serious physical alterations to laptops, I meant using laptops for serious computation.

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 09:55 AM, said:

With AppleCare, thats 3 years after purchase, by which point intel is more than likely to have moved onto the next socket. So youll be stuck with a CPU that is at best 2 generations beyond what you have…SNIP…when you can sell your machine and buy a new one with a new processor etc. etc. with a difference of less than the price of the new processor on its own, then its prohibitively expensive. Macs have a very good resale value.
That can vary quite a bit depending on the socket's age. Socket M's compatible CPUs went from around 1GHz to about 2.3GHz default over its lifetime, but the first x86 Macs came out at 1.8GHz to begin with (except the Mini, 1.5GHz, ech.) On the other hand, Apple made some of the first Socket P systems, so they should be more viably upgradable.

Trading in your Mac is a habit I'm very fond of, but one or two major upgrades over your ownership can often give a better value. A quick spin through eBay showed the cheapest 1.8GHz iMacs at ~$700 and the cheapest >2.3GHz ones at ~$1300, 1.8GHz iMac CPUs go for as little as $60 and 2.3GHz iMac CPUs as little as $325 (all Buy It Now prices). That means it might cost $600 to replace an iMac, but $265 to upgrade it.

View Postteflon, on April 28th 2008, 09:55 AM, said:

youre going to be wanting to get the top (or near top) processor, which will probably run hotter (not to mention be the most expensive).
Yeah, but looking at the above example, the 1.8GHz CD has a 31W TDP while the 2.3GHz C2D has a 34W TDP. That's not too shabby.

View Postnobody, on April 28th 2008, 12:47 PM, said:

Where is the Apple market for an upgrade market to exist in?

Any Mac with an upgradable CPU can use off-the-shelf Intel CPUs.

View PostGreg Gant, on April 28th 2008, 08:16 PM, said:

Honestly, the Mac Pro is as upgradable as any Mac has ever been. Bought a dual  dual-core? Wait a bit and buy quad core CPUs for it as the price comes down. Got a Mac Mini? Jam in a faster CPU.
I wasn't advocating proprietary cards like the old days, and I wasn't complaining that all x86 Macs are un-upgradable. I just want mainstream Mac vendors to stock and market existing upgrades toward Mac users again.

View Postnobody, on April 28th 2008, 12:47 PM, said:

Only one Mac model has proper upgradable GPUs, and it's an expensive pro model that probably hasn't seen the same growth as the cheap, but basically un-upgradable MacBooks and iMacs.
Imagine if somebody started dropping better GPUs into Apple laptops for a reasonable fee, I think they'd sell.

View PostDouglas, on April 28th 2008, 03:45 PM, said:

Hi Eric!

Hate to tell you this man, but survey says...WRONG!!!!..Mac Pros do NOT have liquid Cooling (thank god).
Gee, you're right. Still, I think liquid cooling will be the wave of the future (Factory overclocked CPUs FTW!). It's quieter, smaller, and way, uh… cooler. I'd especially like an LC'd laptop with a huge heatsink in the lid instead of searing the flesh from my legs.

View PostGreg Gant, on April 28th 2008, 08:16 PM, said:

Aside from the G3 iMacs, nothing has changed for the iMacs
That's what I'm complaining about. And actually, something has changed: Apple made them somewhat more upgradable again.

(EDIT: What the… "You have posted more than the allowed number of quoted blocks of text"!? What kind of dumb limitation is that? I've had to snip together some posts, they might be out of order.)




Eric,