Configuring the 2011 Quad-Core Apple MacBook Pro
The above configuration is safe to modify for your needs, but I am adamant that the anti-glare screen should be mandatory for photographers. Demanding users should definitely stick to the quad-core 15" or 17" models.
Model size — 13" or 15" or 17"
I opted for the 17" model because even a 15" display feels cramped when working with images, especially with palettes in Photoshop, etc.
For a slightly smaller form factor, the 15" model is excellent, but I do recommend getting the high resolution anti-glare screen option (which then brings its price very close to the 17" model).
The 13" model is a great choice too, with no compromises other than dual cores instead of quad-core. Those are fast dual cores, so for most users this is not a serious issue. Video users should stick to quad-core.
The 5% faster 2.2 => 2.3GHz CPU option is not worth the $250 upcharge, since 5% is barely noticeable. But because this site’s testing requirements always require the top-end, I opted for the trivially faster CPU. My advice to most users is to put the savings into a larger or faster solid state drive, such as the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro.
I ordered it with 4GB memory, because after rebate, I can get 8GB at OWC for about $90 (after rebate), instead of the $200 that Apple charges.
Absolutely go to 8GB— memory is inexpensive, and not spending another $90 for a $2K+ MacBook Pro is foolish.
Solid state drive
Because it’s only a $100 upcharge, and because for this site I need to test different hardware configurations whenever reasonably cost effective, I opted for the Apple 128GB SSD, which is probably less than claimed in capacity, as are all Apple SSDs so far.
The Apple 128GB SSD is NOT the drive I’d be using daily, as it doesn’t have the capacity I need and is not as fast as the 240GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro that I use in my 2010 MacBook Pro.
But if the Apple 128GB SSD meets your capacity needs, it is in fact a very good deal, with far superior performance to a hard drive. If you want more SSD capacity, the Apple option would not be my choice, go with the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro.
I opted for the anti-glare screen, because the mirror-like glossy screen can be a serious problem in the field with bright lighting creating severe glare. Neither screen is enjoyable in bright lighting, but the anti-glare screen is tolerable.
Applecare advised, and get a good deal
But B&H has a great deal on AppleCare at $244 with free shipping, about $105 less than Apple. I strongly recommend AppleCare for laptops.
I use iWork regularly (Pages mainly). Like all productivity software, it has its issues, but at $45 with a new Mac, it’s too good a deal to pass up.