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Old Nov 18, 2012, 02:38 PM   #1
HMI
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New MBA performance question

I'm used to much more powerful computers, and would doubt if a MBA would meet my needs, but I'm curious:

For those of you who use a MBA as your primary and only computer, what do you think about its ability to handle more than the basic uses of a computer (email, documents, web, and basic playback of songs or movies)?

What higher performance needs/tasks can it handle well with ease?
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 02:41 PM   #2
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I had the rev b air and it handled photoshop and garage band pretty well. With more ram it would have been so much better. I think the newer airs are far more capable.
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 02:54 PM   #3
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Well, how do you define 'much more powerful computers'?

If you are coming from any computer a couple of years old or more, you might be very surprised. While the HD4000 graphics are merely adequate, the CPU power is immense - the 2.0Ghz processor in the 2012 MBA is very fast. On Geekbench scores, the high end MBA scores over 7000, which is almost twice as fast as the 2009 Macbook Pro I am typing this on, and it's also faster than an original 2.66Ghz 4-core Mac Pro.

If you can live with the small screen and available ports, I don't see why you can't do almost everything on the Macbook air. The 11" might seem like a netbook, but it has the guts of a very reasonable computer inside, just squished in really tight.

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Old Nov 18, 2012, 04:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by orangezorki View Post
Well, how do you define 'much more powerful computers'?

If you are coming from any computer a couple of years old or more, you might be very surprised. While the HD4000 graphics are merely adequate, the CPU power is immense - the 2.0Ghz processor in the 2012 MBA is very fast. On Geekbench scores, the high end MBA scores over 7000, which is almost twice as fast as the 2009 Macbook Pro I am typing this on, and it's also faster than an original 2.66Ghz 4-core Mac Pro.

If you can live with the small screen and available ports, I don't see why you can't do almost everything on the Macbook air. The 11" might seem like a netbook, but it has the guts of a very reasonable computer inside, just squished in really tight.

David
By "much more powerful" I mean Avid, FCP, ProTools HD, Photoshop, After Effects, Motion, Shake, and some 3D. I don't think it can do all this, but I'm still curious to see what one can throw at this little thing and actually have it survive.

The Photoshop answer above was helpful.
I would like to know what else it can handle relatively well, and where the line is before it can't handle any more.
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 04:55 PM   #5
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By "much more powerful" I mean Avid, FCP, ProTools HD, Photoshop, After Effects, Motion, Shake, and some 3D. I don't think it can do all this, but I'm still curious to see what one can throw at this little thing and actually have it survive.

The Photoshop answer above was helpful.
I would like to know what else it can handle relatively well, and where the line is before it can't handle any more.
I'm typing on one right now. It is extremely fast, coming from a late 2009 high-end 27-inch iMac. I've used it for 3D gaming, Photoshop, and FCP, and it handles those things quite well as far as I can see (I've only had it for a couple weeks). Don't know about Avid or the others.
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Old Nov 18, 2012, 05:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by mrcheezit View Post
I'm typing on one right now. It is extremely fast, coming from a late 2009 high-end 27-inch iMac. I've used it for 3D gaming, Photoshop, and FCP, and it handles those things quite well as far as I can see (I've only had it for a couple weeks). Don't know about Avid or the others.
Was it FCP7 or FCPX, and were you cutting SD or 1080P .MOVs?
What formats/codecs?
How long was your timeline?
How well did the Intel 4000 hold up to your work, and were you using an external display at the time?
Did you use any motion titles and effects or transitions in your timeline?
How were your real-time playback and rendering times?

I would appreciate any real world input.

Last edited by HMI; Nov 18, 2012 at 05:34 PM.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 01:02 PM   #7
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Use my 2012 13" MBA with Photoshop and lightroom all the time. Minimum file size is 10 MB all the way up to 65-75 MB. This little computer isn't even winded with this tasking all the while simultaneously listening to music and having 6-10 tabs open in Chrome
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 01:37 PM   #8
orangezorki
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The other replies suggest that you might not have as many problems as you think. You clearly use a really demanding combination of apps, but it would still be really helpful for us to know what hardware you are currently used to using, just so we can give you a better idea of how the MBA will compare.

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Old Nov 19, 2012, 02:53 PM   #9
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I may be alone when I say this but my air feels faster then any computer that ive ever owned. I would not hesitate to use it for blender or photoshop work.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 06:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMI View Post
I'm used to much more powerful computers, and would doubt if a MBA would meet my needs, but I'm curious:

For those of you who use a MBA as your primary and only computer, what do you think about its ability to handle more than the basic uses of a computer (email, documents, web, and basic playback of songs or movies)?

What higher performance needs/tasks can it handle well with ease?
The 2012 i7 8GB Air is by far the fastest/snappiest computer I have ever used.

It boots up in 10 seconds. It opens any of the pre-loaded apps in less than a second. It plays Starcraft 2 with high details, native resolution, everything else set on medium/low at a steady 60FPS. This thing is very impressive. Something this small and light should not be this powerful. But it is.

The SSD helps a lot. With 500 mb/s read and 400+ mb/s write, everything flies. The 2.0 i7 processor is nice, though it gets a little hot when under heavy use, which is normal. The 8GB of RAM helps make the computer work very fast, even with a few heavy apps open. And when I need to carry it around is when I love it the most!
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 07:36 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Calot View Post
The 2012 i7 8GB Air is by far the fastest/snappiest computer I have ever used.

It boots up in 10 seconds. It opens any of the pre-loaded apps in less than a second. It plays Starcraft 2 with high details, native resolution, everything else set on medium/low at a steady 60FPS. This thing is very impressive. Something this small and light should not be this powerful. But it is.

The SSD helps a lot. With 500 mb/s read and 400+ mb/s write, everything flies. The 2.0 i7 processor is nice, though it gets a little hot when under heavy use, which is normal. The 8GB of RAM helps make the computer work very fast, even with a few heavy apps open. And when I need to carry it around is when I love it the most!
Agreed! I have the same config as yours and some of the others above, this thing rocks!

In 2012, the cliché about MBA=weak computer is an outdated notion. Many don't realize that the latest gen MBA performs very close to the latest gen 13" MacBook Pro. The only bit I might add is that I run Logic on mine and under what would be considered by most to be a heavy load, the performance of the MBA is outstanding.
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Old Nov 19, 2012, 08:02 PM   #12
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I got the base 13" MBA instead of a 15" 2009 MBP.

This is nice upgrade. The MBA is definitely faster.
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 12:02 AM   #13
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You still never answered the question about what you consider a "much more powerful computer." If it's a desktop made in 2010 or earlier the MBA is probably faster. I use mine for HD video editing (in Sony Vegas on Bootcamp) as well as photo editing in GIMP and it handles it all just fine. If you do a lot of heavy graphics work I would hope you have a desktop with dedicated graphics for normal use, but the MBA/i5/8gb will be more than enough for getting some work done away from home.
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Old Nov 23, 2012, 04:29 PM   #14
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You still never answered the question about what you consider a "much more powerful computer." If it's a desktop made in 2010 or earlier the MBA is probably faster. I use mine for HD video editing (in Sony Vegas on Bootcamp) as well as photo editing in GIMP and it handles it all just fine. If you do a lot of heavy graphics work I would hope you have a desktop with dedicated graphics for normal use, but the MBA/i5/8gb will be more than enough for getting some work done away from home.
"Much more powerful" is always a relative phrase, but for the sake of specifics, I normally get the latest multi-core, multi-processor Power Mac, Mac Pro, or HP Xeon Workstations. I don't think a MBA could be my primary computer by any means, but want to see what it might handle as a secondary machine.

Avid, After Effects, Motion, Shake, and Maya have always required more power than Photoshop, just as Photoshop has always required more power than MS Office or a Web Browser.

I'm not too concerned about boot times or how fast an app can open. Those things aren't as related to real world graphics work that some people need their computers to handle with ease. I want real world experiences of people pushing the limits of their Intel 4000 graphics chip on a MBA.

MBA is clearly more powerful than a PC netbook, but, as I said, I'm curious about where that line is between a "photoshop" computer, a "hobby FCP/Vegas" computer, and a "more powerful" computer capable of heavier graphics demands. Where is the MBA line between consumer video editing and professional video/motion graphics editing and compositing (not in marketing, but real-world performance).

I'm now satisfied that it might handle light consumer/prosumer HD editing with FCPX and Vegas, and now I would like to know if it can handle light Avid, After Effects, or Motion work. Can it handle more than light work?

How well does the Intel 4000 graphics handle heavier FCPX and Vegas work? Do you notice any weird behavior? What other performance details can you give me for those programs? How does it handle HD formats, newer codecs, long timelines with added tracks for titles/effects, and processing render times?

Has anyone tried really high demanding video and graphics work on their MBA yet?
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Old Nov 23, 2012, 04:54 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by HMI View Post
"Much more powerful" is always a relative phrase, but for the sake of specifics, I normally get the latest multi-core, multi-processor Power Mac, Mac Pro, or HP Xeon Workstations. I don't think a MBA could be my primary computer by any means, but want to see what it might handle as a secondary machine.

Avid, After Effects, Motion, Shake, and Maya have always required more power than Photoshop, just as Photoshop has always required more power than MS Office or a Web Browser.

I'm not too concerned about boot times or how fast an app can open. Those things aren't as related to real world graphics work that some people need their computers to handle with ease. I want real world experiences of people pushing the limits of their Intel 4000 graphics chip on a MBA.

MBA is clearly more powerful than a PC netbook, but, as I said, I'm curious about where that line is between a "photoshop" computer, a "hobby FCP/Vegas" computer, and a "more powerful" computer capable of heavier graphics demands. Where is the MBA line between consumer video editing and professional video/motion graphics editing and compositing (not in marketing, but real-world performance).

I'm now satisfied that it might handle light consumer/prosumer HD editing with FCPX and Vegas, and now I would like to know if it can handle light Avid, After Effects, or Motion work. Can it handle more than light work?

How well does the Intel 4000 graphics handle heavier FCPX and Vegas work? Do you notice any weird behavior? What other performance details can you give me for those programs? How does it handle HD formats, newer codecs, long timelines with added tracks for titles/effects, and processing render times?

Has anyone tried really high demanding video and graphics work on their MBA yet?
Don't listen this folks, you need CPU power for Final Cut and Shake and other complex tasks, MBA even 2Ghz model, doesn't have this power. You need MacBook Pro. I used Final Cut X on Air i7 1.8Ghz 2011, it works but rendering is more that twice is slow that mine iMac 2011 quad.
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Old Nov 24, 2012, 03:36 PM   #16
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Don't listen this folks, you need CPU power for Final Cut and Shake and other complex tasks, MBA even 2Ghz model, doesn't have this power. You need MacBook Pro. I used Final Cut X on Air i7 1.8Ghz 2011, it works but rendering is more that twice is slow that mine iMac 2011 quad.
And there is the real answer I was looking for. Thank you!
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Old Nov 24, 2012, 03:53 PM   #17
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A MBA is quite fast doing demanding tasks but what you want to do with it will simply slow it down because it is not a pro machine. With what you said you do with your computer, you are going to need a quad core laptop at the least with actual graphics not because the MBA can't do them but because the rendering times will be quite longer on the MBA.

While the MBA is approaching and exceeding speeds of even some Mac Pros in the end it is not a true professional workhorse which is what you need. 16 gigs of ram and storage for videos is another requirement that you have and the MBA simply cannot supply this.

If you already have a powerful computer maybe you can get an MBA on the side for on the field editing and just render them on your beast computer.

To best answer this question we really need to know what the specs are on your current computer especially with regards to the cpu and the amount of ram you generally use according to Activity Monitor. If you get a top of the line MBA I think it might do the stuff you want to do all the way up to the rendering process.
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Old Feb 2, 2013, 10:19 PM   #18
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MBA and Toshiba Z935 with same CPU/RAM vs older iMac - Geekbench

My personal computer is a 2009 27inch iMac 2.66Ghz four core i5 with 8GB memory with the OS on a (3G SATA II) 240GB SSD in the superdrive spot. I really love this machine and the Mountain Lion OS, but it doesn't fit in my suitcase when I need to travel...

I've been wondering how a new MBA 13 with the 27" Thunderbolt display would compare, although the thought of spending nearly $3k just for portability is not particularly enticing.

Additionally this year my company updated my development laptop to an 8 pound giant so I built a 2.5lb. BYOD Windows 7 equivalent with a Toshiba Z935-P300. The natural question was how does this Windows 7 ultrabook compare with a new MBA. Since it has the exact same processor and memory as the MBA (Core i5-3317U 4GB 1600MHz DDR3) the comparison should be fair.

I bought Geekbench to have a cross platform 32bit and 64bit benchmark. Since I don't have a new MBA, I looked for the best Geekbench 32 and 64bit scores for the MBA with the same processor and memory as the Toshiba in the Geekbench browser. Sure enough someone posted 32bit and 64bit results.

Code:
MBA 5,1 11" 2012 4GB                 Toshiba Z935-P300 4GB 
Intel Core i5-3317U at 1.7GHz        Intel Core i5-3317U at 1.7GHz
OS X 10.8.2                            Win7 sp1
      32-bit            64-bit        32-bit        64-bit
  Overall: 5725		6209          5480           7292
  Integer: 4125		4843          4784           5248      
  Floats : 7459		8217          5443           9652
  Memory : 5466		5403          6040           6955
  Stream : 5781		5578          6920           6864
The 64bit Toshiba is 17% higher than the 64bit test on the MBA, while the 32 bit MBA test is 4% better than the Toshiba. I don't know what it means for running apps, but the greatly different 64bit result on the same processor/memory is a surprise.

As far as the MBA replacing my four year old iMac, its Geekbench is:
Code:
Late 2009 27inch 2.66GHz Core i5-750 
8GB 1067 memory OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion

      32-bit 		64-bit
  Overall: 6474		7698
  Integer: 5094		6525
  Floats : 10103	11257
  Memory : 3610		4745
  Stream : 4332		5256
The iMac 64bit test is 24% better, and the iMac 32bit test is 13% better than the MBA with the 1.7 processor. The 2.0GHz 8GB MBA gets 7660 64bit and 7019 32bit, so is equal to my iMac on the 64bit test, and 8% faster than my iMac on the 32bit test.

So for raw computing, the new 2.0GHz MBA can replace my 2.66GHz iMac, but since my iMac has an ATI Radeon HD 4850 512 MB graphics, I'm not sure how the MBA's Intel 4000 graphics chip would hold up. I do know that my iMac cannot keep up with 1080p60 AVCHD, but Adobe Premiere Elements 11 does a great job of building content for my HDTV even though the iMac cannot play the result cleanly. I have the feeling the MBA would run APE11 just as well.

I had a 15" retina MBPro at work for a while and it felt similar to the 8lb Lenovo, albeit it was a little lighter and "way cool". Having a 3 lb MBA for travel and hooking it to a giant 27" display at home seems like the best compromise for my personal computing needs, and I can tolerate the 13.3" screen in my 2.5 lb work computer more than my shoulders can tolerate the 8 lb Lenovo.

(Lest anyone ask why I bought the Toshiba for a work computer vs. running VMWare/Win7 on a MBA, there is this matter of cost. I didn't want to mix work and personal on the same machine, and a MBA with VMWare and Win7 license came out to twice the price of the Toshiba with Win7 from the start. Also, it seems from the Geekbench scores the Toshiba probably runs Win7 faster than the MBA/VMware or even dual booting would have been, and I would have less SSD space with two operating systems on one machine. The Toshiba seems like a great Win7 platform and with hard wire Ethernet jack, it doesn't need a dongle for fast networking either.)
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Old Feb 3, 2013, 12:19 AM   #19
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While your workflow may vary, MacWorld has evaluated both a 2.3 i7 rMBP and a 2.0 i7 MBA. The rMBP wins across the board, and aside from weight is probably the clear portable winner (This model is only a few hundred dollars more than the MBA.) The review seem to illustrate the value of more cores: MBA's i7 is 2 cores, and rMBP is 4 cores.
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