2013 MBA vs rMBP 13 for photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by gdourado, Jun 18, 2013.

  1. gdourado macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010

    Today I was looking at laptops.
    This is a no ending road towards a decision... :)
    As much as I like the specs of a Mac Mini or iMac, the whole being tied up to a desk is just not for me I guess...
    I was thinking about a 2.6 1tb fusion-drive Mac-mini and then probably a 24 inch monitor. Add the mouse and keyboard, and it is quite a hefty price tag...

    So today I was looking at laptops...
    I can get a new 2013 1.7 i7 13 inch 8gb 128gb Macbook air for a good price.
    It has a 13 inch screen, but the workspace of the 1440x900 resolution might not be bad for working.
    With the money I save from the monitor I can get a Lacie 2big Thunderbolt 4tb to use as a library / work drive. SInce the Lacie is raid0, I already have two usb3 2.5 inch hdds for redundant backup.

    The other option is a 2.5 i5 retina 13 with 8gb and 128ssb. For use with the lacie also.
    The retina is equivalent to 1280x800 or it can interpolate as far as 1650-10xx... But will the GPU keep up for photo work?

    What do you think of these options?
    Because budget would be limiting, I would use the built-in monitors at first, calibrated with a spyder 4 pro. In the future, if I felt the need, I could add a thunderbolt display, but never before 6 months time...

    DO you use to work with laptop screens? How do you feel?

    Thank you for your help.
  2. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    You might want to consider larger than a 128GB drive so you don't have to constantly attach an external drive to work. If you really want the system to be portable, you want your active projects to be on the drive in the laptop and then archive off to external drives projects you are finished with.
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    First of all, don't worry about GPUs, they're all plenty fast for simple photo manipulation.
    You definitely will want the 256 GB upgrade, perhaps even more. Your internal SSD will run circles around your external RAID0. The Air's SSD shovels around 800 MB/s from A to B, that's about 10x what a laptop drive can handle under the best circumstances. The current Retina MacBook Pro is a little slower in throughput (it hasn't been updated yet), but in most circumstances, the much, much faster access times (~100 times faster!).

    I would change the storage strategy if I were you: get a mobile Mac and upgrade the internal storage to the max. Then get cheap external USB3 drives which are plenty fast. Spinning laptop drives are not slowed down by the USB3 connection (as opposed to USB2). Put active projects on the SSD and move completed projects/whatever to the USB drive when needed. I bought a 3 TB Porsche Lacie drive (without a fan, make sure to get one without a fan), and it's nice, quiet, spacious and not too expensive (way cheaper than the d2 Quad I've bought before). This solution will be a lot faster and it also may be cheaper.

    Air vs. Retina, if I were you, I'd definitely go for the retina, but be aware that a good external monitor runs circles around any notebook screen. I'm not thinking of those popular $250 24" Dell monitors, I'm thinking of ~$500+ monitors. If you plan to invest in a quality monitor anyway and you don't need the best screen quality on the road, the Air will do just fine. Oh, and one more thing: a significant upgrade to the 13" Retina MacBook Pro is just around the corner. Thanks to the new CPU, the new airs have increased their battery lives by 60~80 %!
  4. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Hello, thank you very much for your reply.
    You got me thinking.
    I was wanting an external raid like the Lacie because it can go to speeds of 350 mb/s both read and write.
    The idea was to have my whole library accessible there and mostly work from there. But then, I would be kind of stuck to the desk to, since the lacie is big, heavy and requires power...

    If i get a usb3 single drive, in 7200 rpm flavor, how much will the speed suffer?
    There are some external 2.5 inch drives from hitachi, that are self-powered and 7200rpms. If needed, can I work from there in photoshop and lightroom?

    Thank you.
  5. swordio777 macrumors 6502

    Apr 3, 2013
    Scotland, UK
    In the header you mention that you'll be using this for photography. You didn't specifically ask about this in your post, but if that's your primary use of the computer then I definitely think you'll want a bigger screen than 13".

    I completely understand that you don't want to be tied to a desk all the time - having the flexibility of a laptop is great. However when you're specifically working with photos I definitely think sitting at a desk with a large monitor makes the process a whole lot more comfortable. You mentioned the resolution of both 13" screens, but it's important to understand that decent resolution doesn't always make up for sheer screen real-estate when working with images. For that reason you may want to consider building the cost of a decent 24" monitor into your budget.

    Personally, I have a 21.5" iMac but would love a bigger screen for editing my photos (fingers crossed that Apple updates the thunderbolt display with USB3 when the new Mac Pro comes out). I shoot weddings, and the very thought of having to edit 150-200 images on a 13" screen makes me break out in a cold sweat.

    Hope that helps.
  6. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    We use our rMBPs for initial capture (dumping of cards) in the field and initial culling. But even a 15" retina screen is no match for a calibrated 27" ATD for final editing. So culled photos go home at the end of a trip, get processed on the ATD and then moved to the LR libraries on RAID 1 arrays.
  7. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    I think you're trying anything and everything possible to avoid tiered storage. At one point, you need to give up the dream that you'll have enough storage to fit everything on a single volume in a portable computer. If you get any type of external storage solution, you basically cripple portability and chain your machine to the desk where your external harddrives are located. Even if they are (more) portable 2.5" drives, I'd really give up that dream, because …

    … if you free yourself from that idea, a whole new world opens up. Speed is not as important if all you do are large, contiguous file transfer for data you rarely access. Especially if the payoff is a blazingly fast internal storage that is at least twice as fast in raw throughput (I'm pretty sure it's faster than that) and 100x times than external storage when it comes to random accesses. Even USB2 drives are plenty fast if you just want to archive things. In fact, Aperture is built with this in mind: you can have one library and selectively move files to another volume. New files are on the internal (blazingly fast) SSD while older files are on the external drive.
  8. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Hello, how are you?
    Thank you for your reply. It got me thinking...
    Yes, I was wanting all my data on one drive. I even considered a 15 inch MBP with high-res anti-glare display and upgrade the internal HDD to a crucial M500 960 gb unit. That would fit my current media and I would be able to work just with the laptop and work at SSD speeds.

    But what you are saying is that I should have an external at a desk where I keep the library and work at the current project from the internal SSD. Then, when I finish the edits, I move the folder to the external and update the path on Lightroom.

    That sounds like a plan. And it would be cheaper than a WD Thunderbolt Duo or a Lacie Raid0 unit.

  9. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    That's one option. If your data fits on a 768 GB volume, you can also do that on the internal SSD of a 15" MacBook Pro. It stands to reason that you'll also get a >512 GB capacity option for the 13" model.
    Yes, that's the procedure. Keep in mind that you only have to move some of the data at first.
  10. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Soo... I have another option to the mix...

    After much debating, I think I will not go the laptop route... I don't really use the computer out of the house that much and I already have the iPad for couch browsing... So I think I might be better served with a desktop machine.

    I was shopping around and saw a 21.5 iMac with the i5 2.9, GT650M, 16GB and 1tb Fusion drive.

    That is for 1400.

    The other option is buying a 27 TB display. That alone is 700. Leaving another 700 for a mac mini.
    I can get a 2.6 i7 and then upgrade the ram myself to 16gb and upgrade to an SSD in the future.
    I think the flexibility of having the display separated from the computer is a must. Also, the 27 with the higher resolution would be better...

    The thing is that I read the 21.5 has a better screen, with less reflections.

    Is that true?

    What would be the better choice?

  11. akdj macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2008
    Interesting...in comparison, the two displays aren't that far apart...Gamut wise, the ATD wins, by a small margin @ 76.1% vs. 73.2% on LG rMBP, 67.3% on tested Samsung...the rMBP beats the ATD in contrast and black point, the ATD bests the rMBP by a small margin on White point. Uniformity and brightness...as you know, can vary monitor to monitor....but for a true, professional monitor...the ATD and rMBP both fall WAY short of the higher end of the spectrum....and not that spendy either. The Dells are excellent, HP and Asus also make 'better' monitors when it comes to calibration. Of course, you can grab an NEC or Eizo as well;)

    Not sure what you meant by 'no match' when compared to the ATD....they're quite similar in fact and we have calibrated both LG and Samsung rMBPs. As far as using an ATD for professional, calibrated print work---it can be done, but there are cheaper and better options on the market. If the OP invests in a 15" rMBP, my suggestion would be to NOT get an ATD for final correction...but try the rMPB first and if not happy, look @ the Dell and Asus offerings. If you can afford it...NEC and Eizo are excellent displays.

    As far as OP's question on external storage....things couldn't be better than today, in this day and age with mobile computers and their I/O options. From Thunderbolt to USB3----you can't go wrong. I agree, as much internal SS storage as you can afford is invaluable....the speeds @ 800mb/s on these new MBAs is unreal...the latest rMBPs are running about 1/2 that speed and that's nothing to scoff at. This fall's update to the rMBP line should also bring parity in speed to the new MBA. Might be worth the wait....not to mention, the storage size and options dropping a bit in price? Maybe??

  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    raid is NOT a backup. I'll say it again "raid is not a backup."

    Actually raid 0 is twice as likely to fails as a single disk. You buy it for speed but redundancy. the way raid 0 works is that if either drive fails you loose all the data on both drives.

    raid 1 is called a mirror but you gt only 1/2 the storage ans it is slower. But even that is not a backup because there is only one file system.

    If you care about the data you need to follow both rules
    1) Data is always on three different physicl meadia with a RAID box counting as one physical media
    2) Data is always maintained at two different physical locations

    and lastly, the above most be maintained ESPECIALLY diurring a backup. So if you backup plan involves over writing an old backup disk then you need four diss and if need enough portable drives to rotate one to the off-site place before bringing the older ne back.

    You don't have to do this, but if you are talking about a 20 year time span, you will loose the data if you don't do the above as a MINIMUM.

    In 100 years I expect there will be almost zero 100 year old digital photos.

    About computers. RAM matters more than CPU. Buy the lower cost i5 CU and 16GB of RAM and then buy a good LCD monitor from Dell, not Apple if cost is an issue.

    The Apple monitor is nice because it has places to plug in your external disks and built-in Thunderbolt. But the Dell monitor costs four time less and the screen is just as good

    Just don't think any more about RAID being a backup. It does not protect from the common causes of lost data, like theft of the equipment, fire, flood, lighting striks the power line a mile from your house and the surge kill the entire raid. File system corruption, user error (deleting the file and not noticing)

    I'd say use the RAID for primary storage, then Time machine to backup everyhour to some other storage device and then two offline copies in fire safes, one kept in some other building. This system , with effort could last 20 years


    the 2.5 inch notebook drives are noticeably slower. You should not care to much about RPM. What matters is the tangental speed of the track under the read//write head multiplied by the bit density. This is to hard for most math challenged consumers to understand so the marketing guys just say "RPM". But if you think, yuo see that tangental speed depends on diameter.

    The reason to buy a 2.5 inch drive is to save power or save space. I suspect they will all go away soon as SSD gets cheaper.
  13. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2012
  14. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    First off, the iMacs are much faster than the Mac minis in terms of CPU and GPU horsepower (higher clock, in many models 2 instead 4 cores, the iMac has a proper discrete GPU). The 27" iMac has a better display, even more grunt and a higher RAM ceiling (32 GB). For that reason alone, I'd favor an iMac over a Mac mini.

    As far as screens go (you can connect one (21.5") or two (27") external screens to the iMacs), if you have money to spare, I'd invest in a Nec or Eizo display and forget about Dell or Asus.

    Oh, and yes, I second ChrisA's comments about a RAID not being a backup -- especially a RAID0 (I had missed that).

    So what is your total budget?
    How much storage do you need?
  15. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Yes, I am aware of the risks with raid0. I intended to use the raid0 array over thunderbolt as a work drive due to it's speed. I would then backup that array to two usb 3.0 hard-drives. One will be kept off-site with weekly rotation.

    The 2.9 iMac core i% geekbenches quite lower than the 2.6 i7 Mini.
    The iMac does have a dedicated GT650M GPU.
    What would be better, i don't know.

    From what I read, the iMac has a new build process on the screen that places the image closer to the glass in regard to the TB display and has less reflections.

    I just don't know what would be the better option... And the back of my mind still keeps saying laptop... laptop...

  16. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    You'll be much better off with a single SSD than a RAID0 made up of spinning platter hard drives: it's not just much more reliable, it's also worlds faster because of SSDs have access times that are 100x faster than that of hard drives.
    The iMac will definitely be the faster machine, don't be confused by the stupid Geekbench benchmark. Both CPUs are technologically identical, but the iMac's cpu has higher base and turbo frequencies. The L3 Cache size is identical. The difference between the two is that the Core i7 has hyperthreading enabled, i. e. OS X sees 8 cores rather than 4 (4 physical cores + 4 virtual cores). Most apps cannot make use of the additional cores (which is why the base 6-core Mac Pro with higher clockspeeds but lower core count is in many, many use cases actually faster than its lower-clocked brother with more cores). Moreover, the iMac has a much, much more powerful GPU than the Mac mini.

    In any case, I'd definitely wait another month or so for the Haswell upgrades of all machines.
  17. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    I know this is an Apple forum, but please, bear with me...
    Today I was looking at computers and came across this:
    ASUS G750jx.

    It has a core i7 haswell i7-4700HQ CPU.

    It can take up to 32gb of ram. Has 4 available slots. It also has 2 HDD bays and can take two 2.5 hdd's or SSD's. Both the memory and hard-drives are user upgradable.

    It also comes with a nVidia GTX 770M with 3gb of dedicated memory.

    It has USB 3.0 and thunderbolt. Has a 17.3 Full HD matte display.

    And costs 800 euros less than a retina 15 mbp with 256ssd, 16gb of memory and 2.6 i7.

    What's your take on this?
    I like OSX, have an iPhone and an iPad, but Windows 8 can also run photoshop and lightroom and nik plugins...

    Cheers and thanks!
  18. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    All of us fully grasp that Win7 or Win8 can run LR, Photoshop, the Nik Suite, Topaz Labs, OnoneSoftware.....etc. Of course in Win you can't run iPhoto or Aperture. I think the point of this forum is that we do want to run OS X.....and some folks maybe run Win in VM...if at all.

    No one purchases Apple products to save money.
  19. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    I always feel the urge to correct the faulty logic of two drives aggregated = twice as likely to fail...

    In an absolute sense, a single drive and a RAID0 both have 100% probability of failure. In practicality, a RAID0 will last the lifespan of the first drive to die.

    Say you buy two HDDs — HDD A is fit to last 10,000 hours of use, and HDD B is fit to last 15,000 hours.

    Using them as single drives, you'd lose half your data after 10,000 hours when HDD A dies, and the rest after 15,000 hours when HDD B dies.

    If you put them in RAID0 you'd lose all your data after 10,000 hours when HDD A fails.

    That's ignoring the various faults, errors and corruptions that can upset a RAID; but the point remains that it's not as simple as two drives = failure twice as likely/data life expectancy halved.
  20. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    … it also weighs 4.1 kg (+ power brick), has a low-resolution screen and shorter battery life. I reckon it is also very loud and not very well built.
    In reality this is a desktop computer that is easier to move from A to B, but not a laptop. Do you want that?
    Yes, it's big and shiny, but also bulky, heavy and IMO ugly. If you look at machines comparable to the Retina MacBook Pro, they cost a similar amount of money. There is no magic bullet and Apple laptops are not overpriced. Apple just doesn't make any cheap laptops.
    Do you want OS X? If you answer this questions, the rest is easy. ;)
    No, ChrisA is approximately correct, approximately, because the probability is higher than twice the probability of failure of a single hard drive. Of course, ChrisA assumed two identical hard drives with the same failure rate. Just accounting for the hard drives and not for the RAID controller, the probability of failure us

    P(fail) = 2 p + p^2 ≈ 2 p

    because either the first drive fails or (exclusive or!) the second drive fails (= p + p) or both fail at the same time (p^2). However, since p is usually very small, the p^2 term can usually be neglected compared to 2p.

    You were arguing with expectation values rather than probabilities (which is often more sensible, but different).
  21. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2012
    If you use crappy drives it will, stick with enterprise Hitachi's drives and you'll be good. I've been using them since 2008 with no issues. Knock on wood! I may have just jinxed myself.

    You bring up some very valid points about raid not being the backup
    With any raid configuration you need to prioritize your backend backup strategies.

    That's why I often share post's about other professional's workflow videos.
  22. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Returning to the original question on the topic... MBA vs rMBP...

    I saw this:
    - MBA 2013 1.7 i7 8gb 256gb for 1260.
    - rMBP 13 3.0 i7 8gb 256gb for 1510.

    So, that's 250 price difference and you don't get a pcie ssd, but you get a retina display that can go to 1680x1050 working resolution, has IPS and a 3.0 dual core i7.

    The MBA geekbenches at 8145 and the retina at 8703.
    Is the real world difference more?

    For photography, what would be the best?
    How is the difference of the displays in regard to colour gamut, contrast and colour calibration ability?
    Is the retina miles ahead?
    Also, for photoshop and lightroom, are these dual core cpu's enough or is it worth spending more for a 4 core 15 incher?

  23. fratey macrumors regular

    May 6, 2010
    There's only two valid decisions here, to be honest:

    * The rMBP
    * The Air with an external IPS monitor

    I'm a professional photographer, and I had an Air back in the day before it broke down. While the resolution made it easier to work with than the classic 13" MBP, the colour gamut is an absolute joke. Anything other than crowd photography is impossible to edit on it, as you can't get the damn tones right – you risk making everyone a zombie and add way too little contrast (as the Air seems to add contrast).

    Don't make the same mistake as I did. I once edited an entire wedding on the Air while on the run, and was forced to spend the same amount of time back at my workstation re-editing everything as the skin tones were horrendous.

    I expect the retina Macbook to have a good enough panel to be the "sole" computer. If you have time, wait for Haswell – else, just buckle up and buy it.

    And, to be honest, since you seem to live in America – I'd opt for a refurb 15 inch Retina. Makes all the difference in the world for Lightroom – 1680x1050 is the sweet spot for portable work, while 1280x800 is annoying and 1440x900 is workable.
  24. gdourado thread starter macrumors 6502


    Apr 22, 2010
    Thank you for your insight. Yes, that is what I fear about the air. The LCD panel. If it is that bad, then it really makes it a no go for photo work.

    The retina 13 has the native retina resolution at 1280x800, but can be scaled to 1680x1050.

    The retina 15 has the native resolution at 1440x900 but can be scaled to 1920x1200.

  25. fratey macrumors regular

    May 6, 2010
    It's "good enough" for quick adjustments and images that require very low colour fidelity - such as music event photography, concerts, and crowds. However, anything more than that - landscapes, weddings, studio work, even basic portraits - is an absolute no-go.
    I learned that the hard way :eek:
    If going for the Retina 13", I would expect you to work at 1440x900 scaling most of the time. I'm not entirely sure, but would guess 1680x1050 being too tight both performance-wise and size-wise - something the 15" has the luxury of being able to use without any problems.

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