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Expandable slot vs. Firewire - need an explanation

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Zach Blaesi
Expandable slot vs. Firewire - need an explanation
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:00:12 pm

I'm having trouble deciding between the Macbook Pro 15" and 17" for video editing and a mobile student computer. People in favor of the 17" argue that the higher resolution, bigger screen, and expandable slot make the increased pricetag and size worth it, whereas others argue for the 15" reasoning that it's cheaper, more convenient, and I can always plug it into an external monitor anyway.

For me, the main issue seems to be the expandable slot. I've been told that it's a necessity for running an external HDD effectively (until Thunderbolt opens some more options). Yet, I was recently told that I could simply connect an external HDD to the 15" through Firewire - because the 15" has a Firewire port.

Could someone explain the difference to me between connecting via Firewire vs. the expandable slot on the 17"? Why is it argued that the expandable slot on the 17" is so important for video editing?

Thanks.


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Joel Hufford
Re: Expandable slot vs. Firewire - need an explanation
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:09:10 pm

Hi Zack,

One of the great benefits of the ExpressCard/34 Slot on the 17" model, in addition to being able to add high speed connections like eSATA, USB3.0 and additional FireWire400 or 800 ports, is that is allows you to utilize third party hardware devices that require a PCIe connection. Examples specific to editing video include the MXO2 from Matrox, the IOExpress from AJA and Blackmagic Design's Multibridge. When Apple removed this expansion slot from the 15" models, it effectively forced people using devices that required a PCIe connection to go the route of the more expensive 17" model.

I think Thunderbolt is going to change the way devices interface with computers, and I don't think it will be long before we start seeing Thunderbolt to PCIe adapters being sold by third parties to bypass the missing ExpressCard/34 Slot on the MBP 15"

I would say you're absolutely right that you could buy a 15" MBP plus a nice 2nd monitor and still spend less than the 17 inch. and personally, I think that at 17 inches a computer no longer qualifies as a "portable," but that's my opinion!

joel
Corporate and Special Event Staging Services
http://www.pacificstaging.com


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: Expandable slot vs. Firewire - need an explanation
on Jun 29, 2011 at 11:38:39 am

The real difference is about $300 between the models.
The 17" has the express card slot; giving you today, access to esata and other fast connections, along with the ability for card readers (for p2) and external professional options like Matrox's MXO.
The other advantage is that you have a high def display on the 17".

That being said, it's clear that within 6-8 months, thunderbolt will permit all sorts of accessibility, essentially providing a better port for the same uses as the express card slot. Expect that those hardware elements will be expensive at first. And an item I expect to see is an external PCIe chassis that connects via thunderbolt (truly duplicating the card slot) But most of the similar hardware isn't cheap for the express card slot either.

Are you in the market for this sort of hardware? If you're a professional, the $300 isn't meaningfully different in price; if you can afford the external hardware we're talking about; then you can afford the price difference between the two models.

To me, the questions you have to ask are:
How fast is Thunderbolt going to be adopted?
Do you need the larger HD screen on the 17"?
Is there any money you could make today with the express card slot?
Can you deal with lugging around the 17" - and yes, the 'slight' weight and size difference becomes enormous.

Best,

Jeff G

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