I have also tried $100 dollars Windows laptop, but experience is very subpar. Not only the screen looks pretty terrible, but most importantly, those machine all comes with painfully slow Intel Celeron Processor and awful 32GB eMMc storage. Windows 10 installation alone count half of available storage, which leaves less than 16GB for files and program. This isn’t even counting constant Windows update. To put bluntly, those laptop is pretty much just brand new e-waste.
Then I came across a 13″ inch 2009 MacBook Pro for merely $40, so I felt that I have to give it a try, even though the seller is 1 hour of driving away. So the actual cost of this machine is close to $60 dollars, if we count gas.
The Unibody MacBook Pro is the last generation of MacBook Pro that are fully upgradable. Retina MacBook Pro has upgradeable SSD, but they require special adopters and some SSD will not functioning correctly. The unibody MacBook Pros aren’t have these problem. Standard DDR memory, standard SATA connectors and we can even get dual drive if we replace the SuperDrive. It is truly wonderful and it is in direct contrast of current generation of MacBook Pro where everything is soldered on.
This particular MacBook Pro is 13″ mid-2009 MacBook Pro, where it comes with upgraded Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8700 clocked at 2.53Ghz, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 250GB hard drive. Since this MacBook Pro is easily upgradable, so I have installed 8GB DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD, which made the MacBook much faster.
Why Do I love this so much?
I mean for $40 dollars worth of laptop, this laptop is holding up very well. Surprisingly, the battery is about 94% of original capacity, so it last for about 2-3 hours before it goes. Unlike the new MacBook Pro where everything is soldered on motherboard and locked down to component level, this MacBook Pro is fully upgradable and repairable. If SSD goes, i just toss a new SSD. If the RAM goes, I will just pick up used DDR3 RAM.
Intel Core 2 Duo is decade old CPU now, even Windows 11 isn’t support this CPU anymore. So I am not expecting doing any heavy tasks with this laptop. But it doesn’t mean it cannot do video editing or coding, it will just be slow. However, that being said, this machine is fully capable to do modern day tasks, such as web browsing, video streaming, even 4K playback is smooth. You can still run Microsoft Office 2019 and many other applications.
For what this MacBook Pro worth, it is certainly better than any new Celeron based Windows laptop. There is no questions about it, so the question is would you rather shelling out more money for not so great experience, but new laptop; or would you rather spend lesser money for better experience, but a decade old MacBook Pro. I would choose latter without hesitation.
What Do I NOT love?
Love or hate it, this is a 13 years old laptop. Even though this laptop offers more port selection than current MacBook Pro, but newer Macs offers lots better experience.
This laptop only have two USB 2.0 port, an ancient FireWire port (this maybe bonus if you need to connect FireWire devices) and Mini-Display port. USB 2.0 is slow in today’s standard, file transfer will definitely take longer. The SATA 2 interface will limit SSD’s performance, so please don’t spend lots of money for high end SSD, it will be limited by SATA 2’s 3Gbps speed anyway. DDR3 RAM can be hard to find these day for decent price.
And the screen. It is 1280×800 resolution, so it is not Retina Display. You will definitely see pixels. Viewing angle is also low, colour shifting is noticeable and colour accuracy is not great either. It is not even remotely close to some cheap Windows laptop that features FHD screen. So be prepared be disappointed by this screen.
And software. The 2009 MacBook Pro can officially upgraded to Mac OS X El Captain. It is almost 7 years old OS now. So security updates has been discontinued. If you care about running up to date macOS, then you must use Catalina patcher to install macOS Catalina. Although support for this OS will be dropped when macOS Ventura comes out this September. I have not try Big Sur on this machine and I am not intended to run. Catalina is somewhat buggy on this machine. WiFi will not automatically reconnect when wake up from sleep and it can take a while to boot even on SSD.
Intel Macs all have very ironic ending. Where as Intel Mac will be better Windows machine than being a Mac, simply because you can run Windows on pretty much any Intel Mac and run well. Where as you need hack macOS installer to get semi-recent macOS installed on this laptop.
I do not know what I will do when Apple end support for Catalina. I probably will install some Linux Distribution or Windows on this, but for now, it is macOS Catalina and I love it.
For this little $40 dollar laptop, I am very satisfied. It is can do every modern task relatively well if you don’t stress it. It is still very capable to be everyday computer. Certainly better than some cheap Chromebook (or you can install ChromeOS on this machine). For $40 dollars, this is money well spent.
Here is my collection of MacBook Pros
2009 MacBook Pro 13″ for $40 dollars, 2009 MacBook Pro 15″ for FREE (given by a co-worker who can’t get macOS installed), 2010 MacBook Pro 13″ (one with cracked trackpad, replacement ordered from Aliexpres) for $80 and 2012 MacBook Pro 13″ for $200.