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Author Topic: Macbook Pro vs Macbook Air  (Read 5195 times)
RobbieV
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« on: December 03, 2012, 09:25:19 AM »
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Sorry for another Mac thread, but I'm having trouble finding out how suitable my options are. Your answers are very much appreciated.

I'm looking to upgrade from my Macbook (2009) Core 2 Duo and also offload my now dead iMac from 2006. I must be patient browsing in Lightroom, and even more so in processing further in Photoshop CS5. Right now I have 8gb of ram in the Macbook with the standard processor speed as well.

I am shooting with a 16mp camera, and have started to shoot panoramas a bit more now that my composition skills are rising. The files I work with are around 300-500mb with multiple layers/masks.

I regularly work with InDesign/Photoshop/Lightroom open at the same time.

I sometimes use surface blurring and regularly use other actions like unsharpen/sharpen/gaussian blurring. I mention this because I am wondering if this has any impact on the graphics card installed? Or does this only affect processor/ram and HD space available? Or am I completely backwards?

I rarely do any video editing, but this is partly because my computer can't handle editing HD at the moment. It simply chokes and freezes. I may edit small videos together, but it is not a huge priority. My priority is that I have a computer that can easily handle the files I produce, and that I can operate Lightroom/Photoshop without having to wait like I do now.

In your opinions, will the graphics cards in either the Macbook Air or Macbook Pro Retina 13" be powerful enough, or am I better off getting the 15" Macbook Pro Retina because of the upgraded graphics card? Should I even be concerned with this?

(Desktops are out of the question, but because of the cost of new Macbook Pros, I may look at some PC builds. Until then, I need advice and direction on the above).


Thanks very much for reading.

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popnfresh
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2012, 10:17:44 AM »
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You're better off with a MacBook Pro. Photoshop uses the the computer's GPU (video chipset) for some functions, and the CPU for others. And as of CS6, Photoshop includes what Adobe calls their Mercury Graphics Engine, which offloads more of the complex tasks to the GPU, making those functions significantly faster.

For more information on this, go here:  http://forums.adobe.com/thread/979969
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k bennett
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2012, 06:57:31 PM »
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I suppose the main question is, how portable does this need to be? If the size and weight don't matter, get the 15 inch MBP. You can get the Retina with 16GB of RAM, or get the standard antiglare display with 8GB and upgrade to 16 from Macsales or Crucial for less than $100 (you can also get an SSD for some additional speed.) The 16GB of RAM will make more of a difference than almost anything else you can do.

If portability is really important, perhaps the MBA would work for you. This summer I "upgraded" from a 2-year old 17-inch Macbook Pro to a new 11-inch Macbook Air with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. I got the fastest processor, which is the latest Ivy Bridge i7 Dual Core 2.0gHz. The new MBA is about 25% faster than my old 17-inch MBP. (Yeah, the MBP would be even faster, but still, it's pretty amazing.)

The 11-inch MBA is pretty slick - it fits in my camera bag, or my small courier bag, and doesn't weigh anything, especially compared to that monster 17-inch. It's really only slightly larger than my original iPad. It handles my Lightroom requirements pretty well, and does a decent job with stitched panos in the 500GB range. Not a speed demon, but fast enough for my purposes.

The screen size of the MBA is fairly useful for general computer work, and I can do quick photo edits on it in Photo Mechanic or Lightroom. In the studio I have a large NEC display for real photo imaging work.

Some things I do miss -- the Firewire port, though USB 3 is fairly fast. The PC card slot, as I used it for an eSATA card for my backup drives. The slot for a cable lock. But overall I've been very happy with the switch.

EDIT: In theory, one is not required to remove an MBA from a carryon bag at the TSA checkpoint. That might matter to some folks.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2012, 06:59:24 PM by k bennett » Logged

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Schewe
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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2012, 10:12:14 PM »
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Just to be clear, the MBP Retina has ram soldered onto the motherboard and can not be changed from the time of ordering...odds are you would want the full 16 gig but if you buy the 8 gig version, that's something that can't be upgraded after the fact.
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k bennett
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2012, 06:06:28 AM »
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Right, sorry if that wasn't clear. The inexpensive RAM upgrade is available only on the standard display model, not the Retina. (Nor the Macbook Air.)  You are stuck with whatever RAM you originally ordered on those.
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RobbieV
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2012, 08:32:16 AM »
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Right, and I think this eliminates the 13" from my options.

It's hard to tell how intensively I use my present Macbook, but the things that take the longest are a 40px surface blur of a .dng file. I'm not sure how much I will use the extra graphics card, but I suppose after reading the first post it would be better to not leave it out.

It is tempting to switch over to something like this given that it's almost $800 cheaper...

    Sony Vaio S 15"
        3rd gen Intel® Core™ i7-3632QM quad-core processor (2.20GHz / 3.20GHz with Turbo Boost)
        Windows 8 Pro 64-bit [$50.00]
        Fresh Start
        Microsoft® Office 2010 trial version
        15.5" LED backlit Full HD IPS display (1920 x 1080)
        NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 640M LE (2GB) hybrid graphics with Intel® Wireless Display technology
        512GB (256GB x2) solid state drive with RAID 0 (Save $255, reg. price $1,040.00) [$785.00]
        12GB (4GB fixed onboard + 8GB removable) DDR3-1333MHz (Save $15, reg. price $90.00) [$75.00]
        CD/DVD player / burner
        Internal (4400mAh) + sheet (4400mAh) lithium polymer batteries


I'm not brand loyal to Apple, but in my past two Apple purchases, the price difference was worth it to be able to us the OS X. I'm not afraid about learning to use a new OS, but I also haven't read much about Windows 8, or kept up to date with what features it has and how it fares. I was just comfortable using OS X.

I'm not worries about portability too much. I don't mind shlepping a 15" MacBook around it it means I'll have the proper tool to be able to edit where ever I want without too much limitations. I'm young enough that I shouldn't be complaining about this sort of thing Wink

I also don't like how the battery is glued in. I typically treat my batteries well (full depletion before recharging), but I still went through a battery with my last laptop. I know they are consumables, and this does worry me a bit when replacement time comes.

I suppose the ultimate decision is if OS X is worth the extra money...

I'm lucky to be faced with a choice like this, but it's still one I wish I didn't have to spend so much time on.
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popnfresh
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2012, 12:51:11 PM »
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Microsoft has made impressive speed improvements in Windows 8 over Windows 7 by supporting hardware acceleration for the vast majority of complex functions. This is particularly noticeable when processing media files, including images being processed by Photoshop CS6. For more information, check this out:  http://www.extremetech.com/computing/133318-windows-8-graphics-microsoft-has-hardware-accelerated-all-the-things
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RobbieV
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2012, 04:08:24 PM »
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Thanks for the great information Popn.

Do you have any personal experience with either?
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popnfresh
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 12:03:49 AM »
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Thanks for the great information Popn.

Do you have any personal experience with either?

I'm probably going to install Win8 at home this weekend to begin to familiarize myself with it. I've been resisting doing it so far, because frankly I'm not thrilled about Metro. At my company, where I'm the IT Manager, our PCs are all running Windows 7. I like it a lot. My background is mostly Mac, but Win7 is the first Windows I feel at home with. But it's time for me to stick my big toe into the Win8 pond. I keep hearing from my fellow geeks that it is zippier than Win7. It's also more secure and easier to manage across a variety of desktop and mobile platforms.
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schrodingerscat
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2012, 07:30:42 PM »
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What version of OS X heve you been using?

I've been using a 2009 core 2 Duo MBA for awhile, the original 'manilla envelope' version. Amazing bit of technology even now.

That said, After using an i7 desktop, the MBA seems a bit slow(only 2GB RAM). Not wanting to get much larger than the Air, I've been researching the 13" i5 MBP. As I'm sticking with OS 10.6.8 until forced to upgrade this limits it to an early 2011, as 10.6 cannot be installed on machines that ship with Lion.

The 13" MBP is only one pound heavier than the same vintage 13" Air, but includes Firewire, up to 8GB RAM, an optical drive, and ethernet. It's also easier to service and upgrade drives and the like.

If the extra size is no problem, the 15" MBP is probably the best bang for the buck.
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popnfresh
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2012, 12:43:46 AM »
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What version of OS X heve you been using?

I've been using a 2009 core 2 Duo MBA for awhile, the original 'manilla envelope' version. Amazing bit of technology even now.

That said, After using an i7 desktop, the MBA seems a bit slow(only 2GB RAM). Not wanting to get much larger than the Air, I've been researching the 13" i5 MBP. As I'm sticking with OS 10.6.8 until forced to upgrade this limits it to an early 2011, as 10.6 cannot be installed on machines that ship with Lion.

The 13" MBP is only one pound heavier than the same vintage 13" Air, but includes Firewire, up to 8GB RAM, an optical drive, and ethernet. It's also easier to service and upgrade drives and the like.

If the extra size is no problem, the 15" MBP is probably the best bang for the buck.


I use Mountain Lion in my 27" i5 iMac at work with Photoshop CS5. It's ok, but not great for processing the 36MP raw files from my Nikon D800E. I find myself wishing for a little more speed. The new 15" MacBook Pros with an i7 CPU would run circles around my iMac, especially if it had an SSD. If I were using CS6 it would be even faster.

The current non-retina MBPs still have Firewire, along with Thunderbolt. The retina version has two Thunderbolt ports and no Firewire. You can, however, purchase a Thunderbolt > Firewire adapter. At home I use a 3-year old Mac Mini with a Core2Duo CPU and it crawls. I'll probably get one of the new i7 Minis to replace it. I'd get an iMac, but I like the NEC monitor I'm using. I also have an i7 tower running Windows 7 at home and I could always use that for Photoshop. But I just like using Macs for graphics work. I also have a first generation MacBook Air, running OS X 10.7 (it won't run 10.8 ). I also have PS CS5 on that and it's ridiculously slow. It's currently sitting in the closet collecting dust.

I would not install OS X 10.8 on anything but the latest Macs. I've installed it on some of our older MacBook Pros at my company and users have noticed a slight decrease in speed. I'd stick to OS X 10.7 for older MacBook Pros, unless 10.8 has specific features you want.

Actually, 10.6 can be installed on Mac Pro towers that shipped with Lion. I've done it. It works because the architecture of Mac Pros hasn't changed substantially in the last 3 years. I have not tried installing 10.6 on Mac Pros shipping with 10.8, but I suspect it would also be possible.

Between the retina and non-retina MBPs, I think the non-retina models are a better deal. You have your choice of the same CPU and graphics options, but you'll pay $300 - $400 less than the retina version. In actual use, I don't feel that the retina display makes enough difference to justify the higher cost, especially if you choose the high-definition display for the regular MBP.

« Last Edit: December 10, 2012, 12:45:34 AM by popnfresh » Logged
schrodingerscat
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2012, 11:06:00 PM »
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Hi - With you there. As you've already moved on to Lion, the latest non Retina 15" maxed out would probably be the best bet.

Will be interesting to see just what drops on the stage next year if the scuttlebutt proves to be true regarding new Mac Pros.
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