What’s My Power Usage?
Performance considerations from "under-the-hood" are processor, memory, hard drive and graphics processor. What's the number of cores? What's the processor speed? Does it have Intel® Hyper-Threading technology or other performance boosting functions? Does your primary software utilize these performance boosting features?
The current MacBook Pro models use Intel i5 and i7 processor chips. Take note the i5 and i7 in the 13-inch model is a dual core version. Starting with the 15-inch, the i7 chips are quad-core. In other words, Intel i5 or i7 does not automatically mean quad-core. I had this misconception when I first heard of the i5 and i7 chips. By the way, the switch some time ago from Motorola's PowerPC to Intel chips makes it possible to run Windows using a dual-boot setup on a Mac, including the MacBook Pro.
Another performance factor is the drive type and capacity. An upgrade from the standard 5400 rpm drive to a 7200 rpm is a common move for users needing higher performance from the operating system (boot) drive. The internal drive speed may add noticeable improvement to the overall system's performance during some operations. Now, solid state drives (SSD) are becoming commonplace, but currently are a pricier option.
The size of the drive, for some of you, may not be such a huge consideration. Professional uses may require an external drive for large-scale data intensive projects anyway. This avoids the internal drive, which has to supply operating system and software requests, from having to do double-duty writing and reading large data files. Check your software's recommendations.
Lastly, don't forget the memory (hey, that's pretty funny). Our current MacBook Pro model line-up provides 4GB as standard, expandable to 8GB. Often it is less expensive to order the memory upgrade initially. Adding memory after the purchase often means replacing the memory with larger chips. The 4GB in our MacBook Pro family is installed as 2 x 2GB. To upgrade requires 2 x 4GB, replacing the existing memory.
If your purchase is intended for a specialized use, research on the software you will be using including near term upgrades. A little pre-purchase reading—maybe a phone call—could help buy the right MacBook Pro model and configuration.