watch out for MacBook Pros 2011 17"!

as i was visiting US for extended period of time, i decided to pull the trigger and in Apple Store bought myself new, shiny 17” MacBook Pro 2011. what’s ridiculous is that when you compare prices in Poland vs US, i’ve paid around 4,5k PLN (around 1000$) less than I’d pay in Poland - even though, Apple doesn’t import such high end configs to Poland. unbelievable, 1/3 of the cost of the whole machine!

well, watch out… it seems Apple has a lot of problems with 17” and i mean it - a lot! it’s really unbelievable, even more than price difference. it seems that 2011 models have enormous problems with internal electromagnetic interferences, and while they are rare in 13” and 15” models, in 17” it’s a standard.

whole story started once i decided to exchange built-in 750GB mechanical disk drive made by Toshiba to SSD. after connecting Crucial M4 (SATA3), any work was impossible - and just restoring TimeMachine backup took like 6 hours. booting system took 5 minutes(!). and what’s interesting, my friend 15” having the same SSD - had great experience!

so i started browsing on various forums, and found out horror stories:

when you deep further, diagnosis is heart breaking. not only each 17” unit has it’s own unique controller configuration calibrated in manufacturing process (all show one SATA3 controller for main bus, and then some show SATA3 controller for CDROM, some only SATA2). and even though that’s theory, finding unit that is actually capable of working while configured for SATA3 is essentially lottery. some users report that moving primary disk to where optical kit was increases chances of success. it unfortunately doesn’t get better with newer manufacturing dates - actually some of the recent users with newer manufacturing dates report more problems.

i did some benchmarking - AJA System Test was showing transfers of around 20MB/s (read and write) on the built-in Toshiba. for OWC needle moved only up to 100MB/s. no comments… i’m waiting for second SSD, Vertex2, that supports only SATA2 - maybe that will solve interference problems.

when you uncover the bottom of MacBook Pro, its indeed clearly visible, that both cables - battery and SATA signalling one go together for most of the length. who would think that after 30 years of building computers, company that announces that it ‘thinks differently’ is indeed…. thinking really differently?

i’m really interested in how polish customers will react, as well as polish Apple office. in US on the help line you are directed to set appointment with Apple Genius (as they call them). in the shop however you’ll be informed that as the components provided by Apple work correctly, they won’t bear any responsibility. but if you have blog that’s popular like this one Apple will immediately send you replacement unit. and that one worked. interesting, right?