16" MBP: i7 or i9?

gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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Hi,

I don't usually ask advice on forums, but after days of research without results, I feel I must.
I have ordered the 16" mbp i7, with upgraded memory (32gb), upgraded ssd (1tb) and upgraded graphics (8gb). Now a weird case of buyer's remorse has set it, as I'm wondering if I should have gone for the i9 after all for a modest price increase.

I'm currently using a 2017 13" mbp, but got into heavily into photography in 2018, so it's just not the right machine for me anymore. Its 8gb of memory are severely limiting and I spend a lot of time looking at the spinning wheel. I also want the bigger screen.

I use Lightroom, Capture One, Photoshop and Indesign (aside from normal office and web stuff, which really doesn't deserve any consideration when picking an MBP consideration). I'm planning to add (4k) video to my portfolio in the coming months/years, so I would like my laptop to be ready for that (Adobe premiere, mainly).

My thinking in picking the i7 was that Adobe apps aren't optimized for multi-core usage anyway, and the i7 runs at a higher base clock speed. I was also hoping it might run cooler and longer than a higher-end cpu, so I thought why spend money on something that might not even have a positive effect.

Reading on the forums I came across the (probably valid) consideration that an i9 spec will yield a better resale value later on. I also found some opinions that the i9s might be "higher bin cpus", thereby working more efficiently. Some benchmarks seem to indicate that the i9 performs better with Adobe after all.

So the question is: Should I return the i7 when it arrives next week, and order the i9 (lower spec version) instead (same components otherwise, but 8 cores instead of 6)? How much of a performance difference can I really expect with what I do? Will there even be a performance increase, considering the higher base clock speed of the i7, or will it be the same or worse? Will battery life/heat be any different?

I realize that the performance difference won't be huge in any case - but I don't want to spend the next 3-5 years wondering why I didn't spend that little bit more for the i9.

Please help, this is driving me crazy ;)
 
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gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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Thanks, but that doesn't really answer my question. I did all you've suggested. My question is whether I should keep the i7 that's already on its way, or send it back and get the i9 2.3 instead. The 2.4 is above my budget.
 

kp98077

macrumors 65816
Oct 26, 2010
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I have the i7, and although I don't use it for photography I do use it for I intensive medical/scientific apps and it does fine! but given all you added extra to your machine, yeah the price differential may not be that great, so may be worth just going for i9. Although I am not into photo editing, I do have about 20,000 photos I access and mildly edit, still no issues.
 
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maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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I have ordered the 16" mbp i7, with upgraded memory (32gb), upgraded ssd (1tb) and upgraded graphics (8gb). Now a weird case of buyer's remorse has set it, as I'm wondering if I should have gone for the i9 after all for a modest price increase.
Given your stated workflow, are you sure you need 32GB? Seems like over kill to me. PS and I believe to some extent LR can take advantage of the GPU, but I'm not sure if the speed difference in the 5500 vs 5300 will be felt in those apps. Depending on how large your images are, the CPU upgrade may be a nice bump in performance since you get more cores.
 
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gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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Thanks everyone.

Given your stated workflow, are you sure you need 32GB?
I'm not sure, but I'm also not revisiting that decision. Reason: I got my 13" mbp with 8gb memory to save money, and I regretted that a lot. I decided afterwards that I will never again get a memory configuration that "might just be enough".
I'm a heavy multitasker, sometimes photoshop is open with several files and several layers each, LR is in the background, browsers with many tabs, etc.
I can't count the number of times OSX forced me to quit applications because it had "run out of application memory". Would 16Gb be enough? I don't know for sure, but I don't want to run into problems again and I want the machine to be future proof. So I'm getting 32gb, that's set in stone.

Really my only question is about the CPU. The benchmark links above seem to mainly discuss the i9s, and only in synthetic benchmarks. I'd be interested in what kind of improvement I can expect in the real world.
(Some in that thread even mentioned that the 2.3 i9 might be the ones that didn't make the cut to become a 2.4. Not sure that would make it a good choice)
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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I went with the upper end stocked model that is i9 based and upgraded to 32 gb. My thought process was outside of the memory size, it will be one of the 2 most tested configurations on the Adobe CC suite and other products I use.
 

maflynn

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Really my only question is about the CPU.
Well then, in for a penny, in for a pound. If you want to avoid buyers remorse then stick with the high end purchse -

There's a reason why apple solders the ram, and storage on to the logic board. People invariably will buy too much computer, just to be safe. That is they overbuy even if their needs are much more demanding.
 
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gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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It’s only a difference of $150, isn’t it?
If I were you, I would get it just for the sake of not having to worry for the next 5 years.
That's what got me thinking (unfortunately, only after it had been shipped).
I just want to make sure I won't have worse battery life with the i9, or overheating problems, or worse performance with my applications because the clock speed is lower and the additional cores aren't being used. It doesn't seem like a clear "the i9 is better" decision at the moment.
- - Post merged: - -

Well then, in for a penny, in for a pound. If you want to avoid buyers remorse then stick with the high end purchse -
Frankly, that's not helpful. I'm asking here if anyone knows how much real life effect there will be with the applications I've mentioned.
If it turns out that the i9 has worse battery life, runs too hot, or is actually slower with LR than the i7, I will have buyer's remorse as well.

People invariably will buy too much computer, just to be safe.
If that is what I was doing (which you seem to be implying), I wouldn't have chosen the i7 in the first place.

That is they overbuy even if their needs are much more demanding.
And here you seem to be implying that 16Gb is easily enough for my needs (in the long run). Any supporting evidence of that?
 
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badsimian

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Aug 23, 2015
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I agree with you that most people assume it is better because it has more cores and costs more. But more cores means more power consumption and heat although balanced by the high base clock speed of the i7. It would be good to know myself. I think the 5300 is so good anyway that I would be happy with that. I think 32GB is a good call if you are going to use it for a few years. 16GB is absolute minimum these days. I would be going for either 1TB or 2TB of storage myself as well.

The i9 comes with the 5500 though - again more power consumption and heat from that contributing to fan noise. Benchmarking is all well and good but these machines don't generally spend their lives like that. Right now on my 13" anything which causes the cores to do some work causes the fans to come on which I am not keen on. I would like to know how often that happens with the i7 and i9. I would prefer a fast quiet machine than a fast(er) louder machine.
 

am2am

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Oct 15, 2011
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If you work with RAW photos I believe you’ve made the right choice with 32GB. I was in the same boat - have 16GB now and occasionally have to restart because of large swap - decided 32GB is worthy upgrade for anyone in RAW editing.
Re your question - honestly I do not know as I don’t have neither. I have decided to go with i9 as I do video editing as well and decided additional 2 cores and performance is worth for me. Waiting for my i9 2.4 with 32GB RAM , 2TB SSD and 5500M with 8GB. It’s a lot of money but I do plan to use it for many years.

Being in your shoes I would wait for the machine, test it 2 weeks and then decide if I’m happy with it. In the mean time there will be more feedback from this community on i7 vs i9 (heat, performance, battery life)
- - Post merged: - -
 

gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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I would prefer a fast quiet machine than a fast(er) louder machine.
Thank you for understanding my questions. The noise is also a valid point that I hadn't even considered specifically yet (although related to power consumption and heat). I agree, I would probably be willing to sacrifice 10% performance in exchange for a quiet machine.

It almost seems like the only way to know for sure is to get both and run some tests. My credit card won't like that.
- - Post merged: - -

If you work with RAW photos I believe you’ve made the right choice with 32GB. I was in the same boat - have 16GB now and occasionally have to restart because of large swap - decided 32GB is worthy upgrade for anyone in RAW editing.
Yes, I work with RAW (and TIFF when moving on to PS). It's demanding, even if some colleagues here think that only 3d renderers have any right to buy a powerful machine ;) Thanks for your experience, I had already decided for 32gb, but it's good to hear that others with a similar usage pattern.

It’s a lot of money but I do plan to use it for many years.
Agreed. I was planning on using my 13" MBP for more than the 2 years I've been using it now. But working with it has become painful, so it has to go. I don't want to make the same mistake again when configuring the new one. This time it should be fine for ~3-5 years.

Being in your shoes I would wait for the machine, test it 2 weeks and then decide if I’m happy with it. In the mean time there will be more feedback from this community on i7 vs i9 (heat, performance, battery life)
- - Post merged: - -
I usually try to avoid extensively testing electronics and sending them back, it feels unethical. But in this case, it seems to be one of my few choices. Having both side-by-side would be ideal, but since I'm buying in the edu store, and one is only allowed to order one mbp per year, I'm not sure that would work.
 
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maflynn

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Frankly, that's not helpful. I'm asking here if anyone knows how much real life effect there will be with the applications I've mentioned.
If it turns out that the i9 has worse battery life, runs too hot, or is actually slower with LR than the i7, I will have buyer's remorse as well.
I'm not sure why you don't think it's helpful. You're spending thousands of dollars and you're questioning one small aspect. Given your concern about under-speccing it, you're better off just getting the higher end one ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

gxxr

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Original poster
Nov 22, 2019
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I'm not sure why you don't think it's helpful. You're spending thousands of dollars and you're questioning one small aspect. Given your concern about under-speccing it, you're better off just getting the higher end one ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I didn't feel it was helpful because I had specific questions, and you ignored those, implied that I'd be fine with a lower spec model, and told me to just get the "high end purchase" to avoid buyer's remorse. I think my concerns were a bit more nuanced than that.

But I get that if one accepts the assumption that more money spent means better performance, you are correct. I'm just not sure that's the case here. Performance, for me, is more than raw top-end power, and covers battery life, heat, noise. And even when talking about raw power, performance with real applications isn't the same as performance in synthetic benchmarks. I'm an analytical guy, and if I know that I have optimized my configuration for my specific needs within my specific budget, I won't have buyer's remorse just because there would've been a more powerful option. That's what I'm trying to do.
 
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alphaod

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I feel like you shouldn't be feel pressured to get the i9 processor just because of some benchmarks. Buy what you need for 90% the time, not that 10% you might be doing something that would benefit from a faster processor. Sure the i9 will sell for higher that's only because it also costs more today.

Regarding that last comment that a more powerful processor will require more cooling and therefore more noise... well it will complete the task faster and therefore the fans will slow down sooner.

I think you made the right configuration choices.
 

interbear

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Sep 5, 2012
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My opinion would be to go with the i9 simply so that you don’t keep questioning the original i7 decision as your photography ambitions and applications evolve over the next few years.

I also currently use a 2017 MBP 13 with 8GB RAM and often see the spinning wheel. I was about to order the standard spec model with i9 processor but I had a nagging doubt about going with the stock 16GB RAM as I intend to keep this machine for several years and wanted to future proof it against OS and application developments as well a flexibility for me if I change jobs or want to use it for other things. At the last minute I decided to go for 32GB RAM. I don’t need it today but it means I won’t be questioning my decision for years. A bit of peace of mind vs a bit more expense. A worthwhile trade off if you can afford it in my opinion, and the very fact you’re taking this thread so seriously suggests to me you should just go for it. I know you’re looking for technical reasons why to go i9 vs i7, smarter people on here will help you with that but I wouldn’t discount the simple benefit of being happy with your decision rather than worrying about it. Life is too short.
 

kp98077

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Oct 26, 2010
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Thank you for understanding my questions. The noise is also a valid point that I hadn't even considered specifically yet (although related to power consumption and heat). I agree, I would probably be willing to sacrifice 10% performance in exchange for a quiet machine.

It almost seems like the only way to know for sure is to get both and run some tests. My credit card won't like that.
- - Post merged: - -



Yes, I work with RAW (and TIFF when moving on to PS). It's demanding, even if some colleagues here think that only 3d renderers have any right to buy a powerful machine ;) Thanks for your experience, I had already decided for 32gb, but it's good to hear that others with a similar usage pattern.



Agreed. I was planning on using my 13" MBP for more than the 2 years I've been using it now. But working with it has become painful, so it has to go. I don't want to make the same mistake again when configuring the new one. This time it should be fine for ~3-5 years.



I usually try to avoid extensively testing electronics and sending them back, it feels unethical. But in this case, it seems to be one of my few choices. Having both side-by-side would be ideal, but since I'm buying in the edu store, and one is only allowed to order one mbp per year, I'm not sure that would work.
I guess I don't understand, why, the i9 wouldn't automatically have lower battery life and run hotter (it will), so either you accept that or not, that's how I look at it. I had a 2018 i9 and didn't like the heat and noise, and went to the i7..... same now with my new 16"
 

intrepidcase

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Nov 13, 2019
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I guess I don't understand, why, the i9 wouldn't automatically have lower battery life and run hotter (it will), so either you accept that or not, that's how I look at it. I had a 2018 i9 and didn't like the heat and noise, and went to the i7..... same now with my new 16"
So it's easy to think that the i9 will have lower battery life ... but it's quite possible/likely that it's the other way around. See this extensive test of the 2018 i7's vs i9's

.
 
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iMi

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I personally would suggest you stick with what you have. I opted for the i9 model mainly because it already had the right amount of storage and the right graphics card. I bought the stock version. In a laptop, you'll probably see some thermal throttling with either one. Plus, benchmarks thus far show a relatively small difference. If you plan on using lots of apps that will take advantage of the extra cores, then maybe... but still, improvement will be incremental. I don't think you'll be missing much, if at all.
 

gxxr

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Nov 22, 2019
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I don't think you'll be missing much, if at all.
I found some older benchmarks (not specifically about MBP, just about i7 vs i9) which showed that almost all tasks are the same between i7 and i9, but some tasks (like exporting pictures, generating smart previews, ...) are dramatically different. But even with that knowledge, I can look at it from two sides. "Most of the time I will notice zero difference" or "I import pictures almost every day, I'll be annoyed at twice the time for generating previews every day", for example. And then I don't know if these differences apply the same way in a thermal throtteling laptop.

I guess I don't understand, why, the i9 wouldn't automatically have lower battery life and run hotter (it will), so either you accept that or not, that's how I look at it.
I don't know if it would or wouldn't. That's what I would like to know. If the i7 does run cooler and longer, that's probably the one I'll stick with. But:

So it's easy to think that the i9 will have lower battery life ... but it's quite possible/likely that it's the other way around.
 

alfogator

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Nov 3, 2005
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Given your workflows, if you plan to keep the machine for some years I’d get the 8 cores.
software is usually optimized for the most common platform and for many years that meant having 2-4 cores available. Now the average is moving towards 8 cores with a ceiling of 16 so developers will be pressured to optimize for these core counts.

ps regarding noise and battery life: I use a tool to disable turbo boost for situations where I’d rather have a cooler quieter machine with a few extra hours of battery life, switching modes is just a keystroke away
 
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gxxr

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Nov 22, 2019
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Now the average is moving towards 8 cores with a ceiling of 16 so developers will be pressured to optimize for these core counts.
Valid point. (Although, knowing how quickly Adobe acts, it might take them 5 years to get going with that idea...)

I use a tool to disable turbo boost for situations where I’d rather have a cooler quieter machine
Good hint, which tool do you use?
 
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