I Feel like I’m Sitting on a Time Bomb

Apple’s 15″ Early 2011 MacBook Pros have some serious problems…

macbook pro 15 inch (2011)

I’ve been writing since 1997, but for the longest time I wrote on whatever laptop the office gave me.  After things started to get serious, I bought my own laptop – a Dell Latitude C610 – and was very happy for a very long time.  I purchased my first 15″ MacBook Pro in early 2006 (one of the first Intel-based MacBooks) and as Windows was my platform of choice at the time, used it as a Windows machine via Boot Camp. I finally made the full switch over to OS X in mid-2010, just before I bought a new, Early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro to replace the 13″ Late early 2009 Aluminum Unibody MacBook I had purchased.  The only way I run Windows on a Mac now is with Parallels Desktop for Mac.

I really like my Early 2011 MacBook Pro.  It’s sturdy.  It’s solid. It’s (generally) well built. It’s also end user upgradable… one of the last models of Apple’s professional laptop line to really be end user upgradable, too.

When I ordered it, I got it with the high-end processor, but minimal RAM and the smallest, slowest hard drive they had. The idea was that I could upgrade those components over the course of a few years, and bring extended value and life to what was then – and now – a very large purchase.  I also did NOT purchase Apple Care.  While it does provide you with a few key service upgrades – as well as the extended warranty period – the equipment is so well built, that I didn’t use it on either of the previous TWO MacBooks I had purchased; and thought, after buying the high end model, that I’d save myself $350 bucks.

Unfortunately, I feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb.

The notebook should last at LEAST another 5 or so years without breaking, provided I continue to baby it as I do. It’s in near mint condition, with only very minor wear, despite being upgraded from 4GB to 8GB, then 12GB and then finally 16GB of RAM.  I’ve also left the very slow, 5400RPM 500GB HDD behind for a couple different, faster (though smaller) SSD’s.

The big problem with the Early 2011 MacBook Pro, however is its built-in discrete AMD video card.  They’re failing.  In fact, there are stories all over the place about how the cards are taking notebooks out, out of nowhere.  The graphics boards are failing, making the computers unbootable. Those WITH Apple Care have been able to get the effected logic boards replaced and in most cases that’s fixed the issue; but with Apple’s 3yr Apple Care extended warranty deadline fast approaching, that may be an issue going forward, as it doesn’t always provide a permanent fix.

Some people have been able to “fix” the issue with
·    Restarting in Safe Mode
·    Resetting NVRAM/PRAM
·    Rebooting to single user mode and performing an fsck to check and repair corrupted files
·    Forcing the computer to use the Intel integrated graphics
·    Complete clean installs of OS X

Unfortunately, none of these have had any lasting success, either. Some work for a while.  Other methods initially resolve the problem, but it very quickly returns. Once you “wear out” your options, most systems become inoperable and unusable. I haven’t bumped into this yet; but it’s just a matter of time from what I’ve read in the HUGELY documented forums.

The fix is hit or miss; and there’s no standing order with Apple to replace the part.  Apple has yet to officially respond. As such, a petition has been started at Change.org. The document calls the graphics issue a “manufacturing defect;” and is addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Software Engineering SVP Craig Federighi. It requires 5000 signatures; and as of this writing, it still needed over 1500 signatures before it can be presented to Apple for some kind of response.

Again, while I don’t have the problem at this point, I feel like it’s just a matter of time before I will.  There’s too much documentation out there about this issue; and your MacBook can begin exhibiting symptoms regardless of how well you treat the device. It’s obvious that there is ample evidence that the issue is legitimate and needs to be addressed by Apple either via logic board replacement or complete device replacement. I spent almost $3000 on the PC not three years ago, and at that price point, with the computer’s high build quality reputation, it should last at least another 3-5 years without exhibiting any issues. It’s not unusual for Macs to last 8-10 years before NEEDING to be replaced.

When the average Windows PC costs about 1/6th of what this PC cost placing that level of expectation on the device isn’t unreasonable. I’m not rich or affluent. This was a business expense for me; and is the key to keeping my business going. I can’t drop $3 grand on a new computer on a whim, especially when the one I have should have at least 3-5 more years of value left in it.

I’d like to respectfully ask Mr. Cook and Mr. Federighi to do the right thing here and issue a recall on these, regardless of whether or not the original purchaser bought Apple Care with their Early 2011 MacBook Pro. This is a high-end piece of equipment; and I really do feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb that could go off at any moment, without warning.  At 6x the price of the average competing device, it’s not unreasonable to expect the product to last 6 to 8 years or more.

Are you a Mac?  Did you buy an Early 2011 MacBook Pro like I did?  Is yours giving you problems? Did you have the logic board in it replaced?  Did the problems return after you had it fixed? I’d love to hear from you. Please join me in the comment section below, and tell me about your experience.

Regardless of whether you participate in the discussion, below, please also remember to visit Change.org and sign the petition.

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