I grabbed a 2011 MacBook Pro and put it through it’s paces. For a quick look at what all I’ve done, keep reading.

This will be updated as I go along, building the site, and documenting the processes I follow. Daily updates for the time being.

 

The Purchase

Pretty simple. Pretty basic. Walked into a Best Buy, and walked out with a 15″ 2011 MacBook Pro. The salesman asked if I wanted to buy their extended warranty. I declined, knowing that I’d be voiding it pretty quickly the moment I pulled it out of the box anyway…

I’ll have some pics later.

With plans in mind, I started running tests and gathering data from the stock machine. After all, it helps having something to compare to.

 

Temperature Testing

One of the first tests were temperature tests. Idle and load. Stress testing programs bring the 2011 MBP’s CPU to a whopping 100 degrees celsius. I knew these things can got hot, but wow – I didn’t expect it would be high enough to trigger Intel’s thermal protection circuitry.

A look at the high temperatures in the 2011 MBP
Check out the temperature results before and after replacing the thermal paste

Replacing the stock thermal paste

The first matter at hand (after completing the stock tests necessary) was dealing with the high temps… trying to bring them down. This had to be first, because much of the testing I have planned will bring those temps right up, and I figured I may as well try to keep things from burning up before I finish.

Check out the Thermal Paste replacement I performed here

 

Upgrading the RAM and hard drive

The 2 mods that won’t automatically void a warranty! It’s an easy process.

I bought some Mushkin Enhanced DDR3 RAM (the 204-pin SODIMM stuff, as this is a notebook). Update: 1 stick went bad within the first week – in the process of RMA’ing it. The 8GB kit (2x4GB) was fairly cheap at Newegg and carried a mail-in rebate as well (Model 996647 if anyone’s looking). This is the one thing I decided not to benchmark since the speed (1333Mhz aka PC3-10666) was the same – the only gains I’d be likely to see would be in massive Maya scenes or opening a zillion programs, and since “more is always better” usually suffices when talking about RAM, I didn’t see the need for an all-out comparison.

Upgrading the hard drive to a 7200-RPM drive however is something I thought might be worth taking a look at. It’s almost humorous the way that Apple puts a top-end CPU, high-end mobile GPU, and next-generation Thunderport in the MBP, only to settle for a slow 5400-RPM drive. I happened to have a 7200.4 Seagate Momentus (not the SSD hybrid version) back from an RMA, so I gave it a try. Speeds increased (with 1 exception), temps were lower, and power consumption seemed to be lower as well. All in all, not a bad upgrade for the 10 minutes it took.

Check out the 5400 vs 7200 RPM drive benchmarks I performed here

 

Modding the Bottom Panel

Another warranty-voider I’m sure (in case the others weren’t enough). Due to some… concerns about the way the machine’s airflow is designed, I took it upon myself to make it better. It took a few hours, and a dremel, and a lot of planning, but it dropped temperatures a fair amount.

Check out the case mod to reduce temperatures here

 

To be continued…

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