I'm a math phd student, who currently owns the mid 2009 13" MacBook Pro (2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3 memory and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M 256 MB graphics).

I use my laptop mainly for surfing the web and watching tv shows/movies, but also as a research tool (e.g. Solving differential equations numerically and plotting various functions using Mathematica and MATLAB)

I'm really excited for the upcoming MacBook. It seems to be an improvement to my current Mac on every aspect except for the processor: It reads "1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor Turbo Boost up to 2.4 GHz/1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor Turbo Boost up to 2.6 GHz"

My questions are:

  1. Is this laptop suited for my needs?

  2. How often does this Turbo Boost kick in? If it does so often, I'll definitely get this one.

Thank you!

  • TuroBoost kicks in for a while then turns off when it gets too hot - I suspect heavy Matematica and MATLAB use will turn it off quite quickly mathematical code needs the higher powered processors – mmmmmm Mar 15 '15 at 12:48

For the quotidian tasks you mention, your computer is adequate, although I would immediately increase RAM to 4GB, a rather trivial expense.

Mathematica & MATLAB, and other CPU-heavy apps such as Strata Design 3DCX or FinalCut Pro X, have the ability to run multiple cores in parallel. In most cases, ordinary apps will run only one core of the CPU. Other apps, such as Photoshop will take advantage of multiple cores for a subset of its available operations which can benefit from parallel processing.

Mathematica, in particular, does not run most of its calculations on multiple cores, but offers operations which provide parallel computation.

If the MacBook is in OK shape, (i.e., you treated it decently,) the best options would be to increase the RAM, and if you choose to do so, install an internal SSD. At 6 years of age, the internal HD is closing in on its eventual demise.


I was advise against the upgrade that you wish to do. I would go as far as to say that it would be a downgrade. Look at the names, you have a MacBook Pro and you are thinking of buying a simple MacBook. The MacBook still only has two cores, the same as your machine has and only runs 10% faster.

OK, your model doesn't have the turbo boost, but to be honest, it is not worth it, anyway. It only works on a lightly loaded Mac CPU - on a more heavily loaded CPU, it causes the CPU is warm up and once it reaches a critical temperature, it turns itself off. So while the marketing-speak would lead you to think that it will hurry along CPU intensive tasks, such as running Mathematica and MATLAB, the truth of the matter is that it will not. It will only really have use on a truly single-threaded process, and not many of those exist in the examples you give.

The cheapest option, as suggested by IconDaemon would indeed be a RAM upgrade, your MacBook Pro can actually take 8GB. That would not only give you a significant performance boost, as there would be less swap/disk activity, but it would also increase your multi-tasking ability, both in speed and number of simultaneous applications. Add to that an SSD, and it will not only boot faster, applications launch quicker, but switching between apps could be quicker, and disk intensive applications, such as Photoshop would be arguably quicker. Pretty much as IconDaemon has already said.

However, if you really want a new machine, I will add that if I were you I would go for a second hand (cheaper than new) quad-core i7, such as those from (late) 2011. You could get a 2.5GHz Quad Core i7 17" MacBook Pro for the price of the new MacBook that you have your eyes on. Blisteringly fast.

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