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Old Jul 16, 2012, 10:26 AM   #1
tcuguy
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Lightbulb I'm a Graphic Designer, and I only need a Macbook Air. My Tale.

Myth: If you are in the professional world, you need a Macbook Pro.

Two months ago, I had two computers. A triple monitor 2011 27" i7 iMac, and a 2010 11" Macbook Air. For obvious reasons, my reasoning was to use the MBA for going to coffee shops, sitting in front of the TV, and playing games. The iMac, on the other hand, kept food on my table... or so I thought.

75% of the time I ended up using my 11" MBA for doing all of my design, not because it was faster (of course its not), but because it was far more convenient. This a 2010 base model 11" Air, mind you. Not exactly a speed freak. However, unless I was working on a 10 foot poster, it would run just as fast as my iMac. The main problem, the tiny screen.

This led to my current configuration.

I realized that even a 2010 MBA had the power to run Photoshop, Illustrator, and inDesign all at the same time. Working in Aperture was a drag though. The problem was the screen size. Fast forward to 2012, and the new Macbook Air's are FOUR times as fast as in 2010. Aperture, I thought, should not be a problem now. Screen size? Well use an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for that matter when sitting in a desk.

So here I am, a full time graphic designer, working to keep food on my plate (not using photoshop to make memes). And I can re-assure you, ALL YOU NEED IS A MACBOOK AIR. I chose the 13" this time, for slightly more real estate and longer battery life, without much added weight AT ALL. I went with the i5, because it is more than enough to run everything, I promise. Upgraded the ram to 8GB (DO THIS), and called it a day. Most storage I keep offsite in a 1.5TB enclosure, since I don't use much when working on a single project. I couldn't ask for more. Portability is there, power is there, and a giant screen is there when I need it (connected to my external monitor in my desk).

If you do ANYTHING less intensive than Graphic Design [surf the web, use it for school, play games (to a certain extent)], I promise you, don't spend the money on a MBP. You will loose portability and a whole lot of cash - only to gain nothing. The only reason I see anyone buying a MBP or iMac these days is to do HEAVY video editing. Because even now, with my i5 8gb MBA, I can do all the photo editing in the world [even in a power hogging application such as Aperture].

Needless to say, my iMac is gone and I have consolidated into a single computer. The 2012 Macbook Air's are beasts, despite what all 16 year old boys who only look at benchmark tests tell you.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 10:29 AM   #2
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I think the point is all YOU need is a MacBook Air...
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 10:51 AM   #3
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Good to see you happy with your MBA!
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 11:08 AM   #4
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I think the point is all YOU need is a MacBook Air...
All anyone needs who does equally or less intensive tasks than working heavily in photoshop, illustrator, and indesign at the same time.

The only reason people get more is because they think they need more, and then don't use it to its full potential (or unless you need an optical drive or work in the field away from a desk with a larger monitor). Its like saying that you NEED a ferrari because professional race car drivers need them... you really only need a VW beetle- all else is for the ego to feed on.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 11:16 AM   #5
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I've posted on the iMac forum that the MacBook Air has become the de facto consumer Mac. It's quite clear that Apple is positioning it as such (with obvious implications for the venerable iMac line).

If all you're doing is email, web, iTunes, Office, Facebook etc, why would you buy anything else/more?
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 11:24 AM   #6
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It's nice to hear directly from someone in the field. I think people underestimate the power of the new processors. Sure, the ULV chips will always be the slowest of any given generation, but Intel has made some great leaps over the past few years. Remember, people were doing graphic design work for a long time. While more power enables more sophisticated software, we are reaching the point of diminishing returns where many existing applications don't need the extra power.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 11:30 AM   #7
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Its like saying that you NEED a ferrari because professional race car drivers need them... you really only need a VW beetle- all else is for the ego to feed on.
Ugh car analogies...always awful.

No one needs a Ferrari, but some people need a pickup.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 12:01 PM   #8
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I think the point is all YOU need is a MacBook Air...
That too. What this shows is how good current computers actually are. The difference between the slowest and fastest machines are becoming less big by the year. The Air is a very powerful machine in a very sleek formfactor. With the 8GB and the sata-3 ssd it is good enough for a lot of people, like the ones that want to run 1 or more virtual machines on it (like I do). They are selling like hot cakes.

However, it doesn't mean that the Air is the answer for everybody. There are still many scenarios where an iMac, Mac Pro, MBP, etc. are better. When you want to play games that require proper GPUs than these machines are better than the Air as they offer more powerful GPUs.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 12:06 PM   #9
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I'd say for web/office use an ULV i5/i7 is overkill and the most sane choice would've been a Celeron/Pentium machine or even a netbook/tablet.

The air can do so much more! I hope that most people realize this. That's not to say it's the most powerful kind of lappy out there, but it is in many ways good enough and not only for light workloads.

The "good enough" factor has been there since the C2D days and is now pretty much intel's main enemy. Hence why we're seeing this investment in making lighter laptops that can be as powerful as a little older crop of fatter laptops. Many types of work don't need more CPU-power!

Then there's the types that do benefit. And if your laptop will be your main machine and you're working with heavy workloads, then maybe the rMBP makes a lot of sense. Even though it may not always be needed, it will do the work faster, which is of great value for many.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 12:22 PM   #10
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Yes, you can. And I do, I have been running these apps on computers way worse than the Macbook Airs.

The advantage of the rMBP, is the rewrites that allow you space for your tools and your canvas on the same screen with lots less compromise. If you are living in these apps, this makes the computer more transparent, more useful, makes more money...

This is not a requirement to run the applications, just an advantage of the that machine.

After that it comes down to the compromises that are best for you. For me, I have the 11 inch machine, because portability and experience are way better for me. Even if I occasionally use other programs that are cramped on this machine. I have an iMac for those times where being less cramped is more important.

It is a myth that it is a requirement. But I don't think ANYBODY has said that. It is BETTER and more USEFUL with a different set of compromises. That is not the same as requirement.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 12:30 PM   #11
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 12:35 PM   #12
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I'm a publisher and I agree whole-heartedly with the OPs observation and experience. I purchased my 13" July 2011 Air mainly because I was waiting to replace my aging (and slowly dying) 24" iMac. My purpose was just to have it as a hold-over and then to segue it into a back-up/traveling role.

Like the OP, boy was I surprised with how slick and powerful the Air is. (As a side observation, with all the complaints about it, Lion really makes sense on these machines, Mission Control in particular. Spaces and full-screen apps make working on this machine a joy.)

With the Air, I am seriously reconsidering getting a new iMac. I probably will in order to do some heavy lifting. I can't say it will be a "necessary" purchase, though.

The MacBook Air is an incredible machine. I haven't been this excited about a piece of tech in a while. I was raving about it so much that my gal went and got for herself one of the new ones with the 2.0 i7, 8-GB RAM, and the 256-GB SSD. That sort of ticked me a bit because once again she has a better computer than I have. Wimmins! :-P

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Old Jul 16, 2012, 01:02 PM   #13
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depends on the kind of work you do. I am a corporate IT administrator for a television station. Our art, promo, and marketing depts have the latest, greatest(?) Mac Pros and they positively flatten them. I suppose it boils down to how many layers you are throwing around at which resolution. And of course CMYK vs RGB and 32 vs 16 vs 8 bit depth.
I will say that an air is good enough for web dev work. I was skeptical but it only really runs out of steam when you have your IDE open along with MAMP, photoshop and a VM. The last one being the real power suck.

I think that in a lot of case folks are better off with airs (it's what I advise my family member to get). But in pro environs we go with bigger machines like Mac Pros, iMacs and MBPs not necessarily because they are faster, but because they have all the ports and connections we could conceivably need. Wheras the air will need an adapter to do firewire (yes we still use that) or ethernet. And not both at the same time.
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Old Jul 16, 2012, 02:26 PM   #14
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Hi calaverasgrande!

I do agree with you. I think the point of the OP's post as well as mine is that the Air is a much more capable machine than what some may think. As I noted, I figured the Air would merely be a good traveler machine, something that would be decent for light work and that's about it. It isn't. It kind of rocks!

So, yes, users' needs are different and, as is often written online, "YMMV," in general, the Air is really awesome and is far more capable than what some think it is.

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Old Jul 16, 2012, 03:45 PM   #15
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The advantage of the rMBP, is the rewrites that allow you space for your tools and your canvas on the same screen with lots less compromise. If you are living in these apps, this makes the computer more transparent, more useful, makes more money...
Yeah but then, unless your work is 100% out in the field where you can't run a second monitor, most real professionals will hook up not a 15" retina display, but two or three 27" ips monitors. In that case, retina doesn't even matter (but thats for another argument).

I've obviously been able to slow down the machine a bit when working with 50+ big layers... but what slows me down the most is my brain. Honestly, at least in my type of work (and I want to say that in the music and video industry as well), we spend more time staring at a project (photoshop, video timeline, etc) and figuring out what we are going to do than we do waiting a second here and there waiting for the machine to pick up. If anything, I need a better and faster processor
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 10:36 AM   #16
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Yeah but then, unless your work is 100% out in the field where you can't run a second monitor, most real professionals will hook up not a 15" retina display, but two or three 27" ips monitors. In that case, retina doesn't even matter (but thats for another argument).

I've obviously been able to slow down the machine a bit when working with 50+ big layers... but what slows me down the most is my brain. Honestly, at least in my type of work (and I want to say that in the music and video industry as well), we spend more time staring at a project (photoshop, video timeline, etc) and figuring out what we are going to do than we do waiting a second here and there waiting for the machine to pick up. If anything, I need a better and faster processor
I guess it depends on your deadlines. We do some "staring at the screen". But part of that is trying different filters or output formats, which can be sped up by bigger CPU/ram. The real kill is rendering out sometimes. C4D, AE and FCP benefit from big iron.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 11:04 AM   #17
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If anything, I need a better and faster processor
A lot of us could use some more memory, too. And for some reason, the human OS doesn't do a very good job of multitasking.

There's an adage that system requirements of software gradually increase to fill the available processor power, much the same way that the tasks at your job tend to fill the available time. I think for most tasks (including Office-type tasks) we've reached the point where programmers are adding features and eye candy for the sake of using the available power. Graphic design and engineering aren't quite there yet, but your experience seems to indicate that it's possible to manage quite well even with the least powerful of the current processors.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 11:14 AM   #18
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While it's nice to know that you PERSONALLY don't need more than an MBA to work on, don't try to extrapolate your usage to cover the needs of everyone. I know that trying to put my necessary workload on 8GB of RAM and a ULV processor would be disastrous. When you're running a host+2-3 VMs on an 8/4/4 split, or a 6/4/3/3 split, you end up taking all the processing power and more importantly RAM you can get.

So again, congratulations on finding the computer that suits you for only $1200 or what not. But remember that you can't speak for everyone based on your experience.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 11:14 AM   #19
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I agree wholeheartedly with this post, I just sold my mid-2009 13" MBP and bought a 2012 11" MBA, upgraded the ram to 8g and this machine FLIES.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 11:22 AM   #20
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Thanks for your post OP. I purchased a 2012 MBA 13" i7 8gb 256 SSD and I agree with everything you're saying. It had zero issues running any of the programs I use for graphic/web work.

When connected to my ACD it worked like a champ, the issue I was having was the 15% of the time I would use it while sitting on the couch. Yes, being a new Dad, sometimes you got to work when you have a few extra moments. I noticed I would find myself straining to work on the 13" screen. So I decided to give it to my Wife and I currently have a 15" rMBP on order. Being honest, I'm still really torn, because I now have MBA envy when looking at my Wife on her computer. I guess I will have to see how I feel once my rMBP is delivered.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 11:33 AM   #21
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So the point is, all you need is a good +27" monitor and some horsepower. Obviously the MBA is pretty good for most tasks and maybe even an overkill for smaller ones, but when it comes to design work I'd like to have quality screen which MBA doesn't have (re both size and quality).
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 02:10 PM   #22
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Excellent post. I own an older 15" MBP and have a hard time with the thought of downgrading to the Air's screen. But 95% of the time I'm plugged into the 27" display, so you may have swayed me. I hate working on a notebook display for more than an hour or so anyway. Only when I'm out and really have to.
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Old Jul 17, 2012, 04:47 PM   #23
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Totally agree with what the ThreadStarter sayed!

I'm a software developer. mostly web stuff (php, RoR, Javascript) for the past couple of years. Own a i7, 8GB mba 13inch and it idles around doing nothing almost all the time...

This current config of the mba provides far more than pretty much anybody posting on here really needs.

This argument of mbp's are so much more beefier and real pro's need is a freakin joke! I'm almost sure that 99% of the people posting on here even don't have a single clue what they're talking about when it comes down to making a decision based on real facts and not on gut feeling.

Sure, a rMBP is super sweet. Does a PRO need it? Probably not!

This years air blows almost the entire <2011 mpb line out of the water... Based on this facts. What the hell was a PRO doing with those mbp's when the current air ist not enough? Demands haven't changed that much the past year either...
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 10:43 PM   #24
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I ended up going with the Air and couldn't be happier. I actually bought a rMBP and returned it. The screen is great, but I thought the performance difference (as far as Adobe apps go) was pretty minimal. The Air is really powerful now.

I don't think the rMBP is all that portable either. When you're moving it, using it on your lap, carrying it in a bag -- it's pretty much like the classic MBP. I've been pretty astonished at how much more portable the Air is. I love it. I don't think I'll ever own a notebook bigger than this one. And I was going to look at both of them on a 27" display most of the time anyway, so I'd rather have the Air form factor.
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Old Jul 23, 2012, 11:06 PM   #25
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While I agree a MBA is sufficient, having an additional separate 24" display will no doubt come in handy for certain layout type projects.

These days, a good IPS matte display will set you back only a few hundred bucks...unlike the $$$ Apple wants for their glossy 27" display.
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