Which Mac for photo editing using Lightroom?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by bking1000, Sep 11, 2013.


Which is the best upgrade path?

  1. Replace the batt in your MBP. None of the below are that much better.

    1 vote(s)
  2. Get a low storage 13" MBP retina, but manage video and photo files on external disk

    1 vote(s)
  3. Get an i5 or i7 regular 13" MBP. Much faster than your current, and better than mini/MBA split

    4 vote(s)
  4. Get a mini for dedicated photo editing, and a MBA for when you need mobility

    4 vote(s)
  1. bking1000, Sep 11, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013

    macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    Sorry for the long post, but I appreciate any help on this:

    I have been using Macs and Lightroom for a number of years now. I know how to use both, but my question is specific to upgrading hardware.

    I have a 2009 13" MBP. It has:
    • 8GB RAM
    • C2D 2.26GHz
    • NVIDIA 9400M 256MB graphics card
    • 750GB Western Digital HDD (can't remember if it's 5400 or 7200 RPM)
    • Hooked to Dell SIPS panel
    • Mountain Lion (plan to upgrade to Mavericks)

    The laptop is getting older, and LR is running a little slower than I'd like. Also, the battery is toast, so it needs to go in to have that replaced.

    I could upgrade, but my budget would be under $1500, and would prefer closer to $1100. My options seem to be:

    I usually buy refurbs
    • Replace the battery, and keep what I have.
    • MBP 13" retina, but I need more storage. I am using about 500GB on my current drive. I'd have to use an external HDD for video and photo master files. This might negate any performance improvements of the CPU and bus, and I only have FW800 drives currently.
    • Upgrade to an i5 or i7 MBP13" regular display, but I generally find I don't like to picture edit on 13" Just not enough real estate, so I leave it hooked up to my Dell panel a lot.
    • i5 or i7 mini? I might even be able to get one of those and a lower end 11" MBAir for when I want to have my laptop remote, but would 11" drive me crazy? And what about syncing the LR library files.

    Would one of these minis outperform my current MBP? Or, am I just better off getting the battery replaced, and saving my money?

    I put in a poll, but comments are appreciated, too.
  2. macrumors regular

    Jun 25, 2012
    I have a mid 2012 cMBP (13") and it runs LR4 flawlessly. Obviously the low res screen can be a pain with large images, but since you have an external monitor you can use that when editing photos if you want, like I do.

    I went from the 2.26 C2D processor in my old mini to the 2.5 i5, and the speed difference was instantly noticeable.
  3. macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA
    I'm in the same boat. Haswell + SSD should fix things nicely. It's just a question of the form. Do you still, use the laptopness? Would 2 macs be cool? Do you like the big/small screen arrangement?

    Dual big screens on a mini would be sweet, provided it does all that you need.
  4. macrumors 6502a


    Nov 14, 2010
    I'm an Austronaut
    Lightroom 4 works great on this Mac Mini


    It has an SSD exclusively for the OS and regular HD
  5. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    Is it possible to get a 2012 refurb MBP, and replace the DVD w/an SSD for OS boot?
  6. macrumors 65816

    Jun 18, 2010
    Can you upgrade the memory on the 2009 model?
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    sure, but 8GB is enough. I peg the CPU far more often than the memory.
  8. macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2008
    I have the same exact laptop and I've replaced the battery as well, swapped out the HDD for a SSD, and have no issues running LR4 at all. No need to completely buy a new computer yet. The SSD does make a huge difference in performance. However, if you are set on buying a new computer, I'd wait until the announcement for the Haswell MBPs, and the prices should fall even more in your favor.
  9. macrumors demi-god


    Apr 27, 2011
    Keep your existing machine, replace the battery and upgrade to a SSD. You will see a significant performance gain. Anything larger than 500gb is going to be expensive.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2009
    I also have a 2009 13" MBP and am a heavy LR and PS user. I rigged it up with 8GB RAM and did the optical bay mod so I had an SSD in the optical bay (as the OS+application drive) with the platter drive in the standard location.

    Instead of replacing my MBP, earlier this year I bought an i7 Mac Mini. I actually have two sets of Dell U2412M displays, bluetooth KB+mice at home and at the office and I'll carry my Mac Mini between home and work.

    I also modified the Mac Mini to use two drives and run an SSD in conjunction with a platter drive, and maxed out the 16GB.

    As far as 'syncing' LR libraries, what I have always done is keep my LR libraries and the actual photo files on an external FW800 drive. That way, I can do my edits on any Mac running LR+PS.
  11. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    Can you comment at all on the performance comparison of these two?
  12. macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2009
    I don't have definitive metric data that I can provide for you, but from a 'sense'/'feel' standpoint, the i7 Mac Mini is a huge upgrade over a 2009 13" MBP. The 16GB of RAM alone makes working in LR+PS a breeze.

    I see the most definitive performance gains in Adobe Premiere. A lot less time to export a video vs the 2009 13" MBP.
  13. macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    You are going to have to replace the battery in the old notebook, no matter what. The machine is of little value dead. While you are at it more RAM will help LR.

    If you buy another computer buy a Mini to keep at home and now, with the new battery you have a perfectly usable notebook.

    Or just save you penniesy level MP for the now Mac Pro that should be out this fall. No one knows the price. I'm guessing $1999 for an entry level MP. Of couse the MP is over kill but maybe not over budget if you sell the notebook with a fresh battery.
  14. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    I've got 8GB RAM now and rarely peg the memory meter, so I don't think RAM is the issue. The CPU, though, pegs frequently, and the fans have to spin up a lot to dissipate heat. I don't think the issue is RAM.
  15. macrumors member

    Dec 10, 2012
    Have you checked the Activity Monitor to see what's running up the CPU? There may be a process running that's eating up CPU unnecessarily. I ran into this just recently with my MBA. A Spotlight indexing process was trying to index the contents of about 875 PDFs I had just scanned. The fan ran incessantly and 30% of my CPU was being taken by the process.

    It's worth a look.
  16. macrumors member


    Jun 22, 2013
    Before I vote, can I ask: Do you shoot raw, and how many megapixels?
  17. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 29, 2007
    I shoot more raw than jpg. Upwards to 21MP. Rx100, 6d and eos-m

    My processor pegs during thumbnail creation, export, adjustments, etc. its the nature of working with large files.

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