a week of graphic design on the 12-inch MacBook

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by c.s., Jul 19, 2015.

  1. c.s. macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2007
    I haven’t seen much feedback from designers using the MacBook, so I wanted to share a couple observations. I debated getting one after reading all the mediocre tech press reviews — my current setup being a 5k iMac and a 15” rMBP (2012 model). I fully expected to be returning the MacBook and just waiting on a 15” redesign — but I was curious so I had to try it out. After a week I have to say it’s my favorite laptop ever and I doubt I’ll ever use anything bigger or heavier again.

    My biggest concerns were performance (Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator are resource hogs) and screen size (can I really design on a 12-inch screen?) Both concerns were alleviated pretty quickly.

    This week I edited a huge 1 GB Photoshop file (poster) containing multiple layers. Interacting with the file changing type, color, masking, moving things around, etc. is just as responsive as my 5k iMac. The only time I felt the performance drop was changing the resolution of the entire file and saving it. With a file that big, I still have to wait on my iMac anyway. At the end of the day, I don’t think you lose much (any?) real-world efficiency using Adobe’s apps on the MacBook. As others have stated, there can be a little UI jerkiness, which I especially find in InDesign, but this is more of an annoyance than anything that really affects how quickly you can accomplish a task. The other issue is screen size — Adobe’s UI takes up a ton of space. But you’re going to feel this no matter which laptop size you use. Nothing beats a large monitor for design. My MacBook is a supplemental computer and I can easily accept its limitations. I’m not using its screen all day.

    In the past week I’ve found myself using the MacBook everywhere — in the doctor waiting room, riding shotgun, out on the patio. I just carry it naked like a book and go. No messing with a bag. It doesn’t even feel like a machine. I never did all this with a 15” — it was a hassle to take places, even from room to room. It’s a pretty profound change.

    I had always hoped the iPad would turn into something I could use for real work — to edit my files from anywhere. It’s great to have something JUST as portable as an iPad that can do EVERYTHING I need it to do. Maybe it's a little slow, and people will complain about the specs, but I think I understand why Apple made it. It's a different, better mobile experience than I've ever had before.
  2. jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    This is valuable information ... surprising, too! Thanks for posting.
  3. tbirdparis macrumors 6502

    May 30, 2015
    Just out of curiosity, which spec did you get?

    btw I just received mine the other day, agree with everything you said about it feeling like a totally new class of machine that just somehow redefines what you thought you could do with a laptop. Everyone who has seen mine so far has, without fail, looked at it, picked it up and started using it with a perplexed look of excitement as if they're using a portable computer for the first time ever. I think there's something about the dimensions of it and yet the way it doesn't feel at all like a cramped compromise when you use it that seems to blow people's minds.

    I won't be as lucky as you in the sense of being able to discover to my surprise that it could cut it as a work machine. In my line of work (mostly film scoring), the rMB doesn't have a hope in hell of being able to run the kinds of projects we work on. However, with a basic reduced sound library on board and Logic, I'm sure it would actually be more than fine as a go-anywhere workstation for developing ideas in scratch-pad form. But aside from that, for everything else I use a computer for, it's pretty close to perfect.
  4. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

    Jun 1, 2011
    Thanks for typing this up, I am glad you found something that works so well for you.
  5. c.s. thread starter macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2007
    I got the base model, 1.1. If I had known how much I would like it, I probably would have maxed it out.

    You're right, it feels like using a portable computer for the first time. Because there's so much less friction involved in actually porting it.

    I use a rare bit of After Effects but definitely won't load it on this machine.
  6. z31fanatic macrumors 6502a


    Mar 7, 2015
    Mukilteo, WA USA
    It could be that the honeymoon is not over. One week is not enough :D
  7. c.s. thread starter macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2007
    Maybe. For the Macs I've purchased over the years, though, the honeymoon has always lasted until Apple releases something better.
  8. seong macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2010
    Have to agree with you on this 100%.
    So far, it hasn't showed much difference in performance compared to my rMBP 15" on day to day tasks (photoshop, github, coding/programming, etc.) the only part I find in lacking performance when it was running codes in Xcode/Coderunner, but other than that, it's a pretty impressive device.
  9. Rusty33 macrumors 6502


    Jul 8, 2011
    Really great insights - thanks for this. I too have been looking for this to no avail...
  10. smacx macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2013
    I also have no problems using Photoshop on the MacBook. (I didn't handle large files though)

    Where I feel a huge difference is when using lightroom 6 with large RAW files. It's really slow.
  11. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2008
    What screen resolution are you using?
  12. c.s. thread starter macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2007
    Default (1280x800) most of the time. If I bump up to 1440 my eyes start to feel strained really quickly.
  13. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2008
    Thanks. That's similar to my experience.
  14. MariozPOC macrumors newbie


    Oct 9, 2014
    Rivarolo Canavese - TO
    I use my rMB 12 1,3 basically for writing (I need to examine several sources from my documents and web during the process), limited Photoshop jobs (small files), free time activities (social, movies, etc...). In the past I thought it was possible to use an iPad, but it is was not. rMB makes the miracle: I bring it with me as an iPad (sometimes I use the same bag I used for the tablet) but I can do "real jobs" on it.
    In my home I have a 5k iMac, the rMB is the PERFECT second (portable) computer, IMHO.
  15. mcdj macrumors G3


    Jul 10, 2007
    Heh I wish my retouching files were 1GB. I'm currently working on an image shot on a Sinar back, with a few dozen composite and adjustment layers and tons of layer effects, and it's about a 5 min save at 23GB.
  16. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Sep 30, 2003
    I don't do a whole lot of big processing in Photoshop, but as a web designer / developer, the 1.1 model has been absolutely fantastic for my needs in Photoshop, Affinity Designer, Sketch, Sublime Text, and all the standard types of apps everyone uses. I thought I'd notice a slowdown but it's been nothing but a great upgrade from my 11" Air. The display is just plain gorgeous. It beats the pants off my 2012 Retina MBP's display - there's no backlight bleed or anything present on the Macbook. Battery lasts at least as long as my 11" Air did. Overall, extremely satisfied.
  17. Eric8199 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2009
    I tried opening a very large project in QuarkXPress 2015 today on my base MacBook and it was the first time I noticed a slowdown. It was tolerable — I could have worked in it — but we have iMacs here too so I just popped it open on one of those instead.

    I do notice the reduced screen real estate over my 15" rMBP when I am designing pages for the newspaper I work at though. Generally the rMB is an "if I need to" device for those types of things.
  18. Harleg macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2015
    Just the man I've been looking for! What spec do you have? Have you tried running virtual instruments in Logic X or Garage Band? My only concern with the rMB is the cpu usage running a few instances of Kontakt Player 5 - simple arrangements w/Embertone strings. Writing, photoshop, Netflix, etc seems to be well covered with the base model. Thanks!
  19. Eric8199 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2009
    I can't offer you any advice from my standpoint but from what I've heard the rMB processor can handle short bursts of power but not the prolonged stuff.
  20. tbirdparis macrumors 6502

    May 30, 2015
    Hey, I got the 1.3/512 spec. But to be honest, haven't tried running anything on Logic X on the rMB yet. Have installed it because why not, but only a basic install.. none of my real work setup including the plug ins I use and things like Kontakt. If and when I do give it a try I'll let you know how it goes. btw I don't use embertone strings (for orchestral work I use mostly Berlin Strings and their other sections too, all of the Spitfire libraries, Hollywood Brass, Cinematic Brass, LASS)... is embertone any good?
  21. Harleg macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2015
    I've only heard samples/examples from the Embertone site, but they sound very capable/expressive for solo/ensemble work w/low cpu usage. Honestly, I'm a bit out of the loop with regards to current libraries, but you have one serious collection at your disposal! I'll let you know my impressions when I cross that bridge. Thanks.
  22. tbirdparis macrumors 6502

    May 30, 2015
    Yep, these days directors (and even worse, producers) expect extremely highly-produced demos, even of very complex massively orchestrated scenes... so we have no choice really other than to keep up with the jones' and spend a small (or large) fortune on sound library and all the rest..!

    I'll check out Embertone, never a bad thing to have options in the arsenal. And I'll let you know how it goes when I try to run a Logic project on the rMB. Actually the main thing really stopping me from trying is that my main sound library drive is on thunderbolt so I don't really have a way to easily just load up a current project on it..
  23. Harleg macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2015
    Kudos to you for being one of the "Jones'." I'm sure it must be stressful as hell keeping pace and keeping clients happy.

    I remember building my own PC workstation from scratch, many years back, just to be able to play those "large" East/West libraries that were hitting the scene. Funny, the box that the rMB comes in is probably the same size as that EW DVD Box! And now...

    Now, I can pack my rMB/Air, battery pack, and Korg Microkey in a backpack, hike a few miles to the middle of nowhere and spend the day writing/composing amidst the quiet, unfettered company of falling leaves, birdsong and bear scat :)
  24. tbirdparis macrumors 6502

    May 30, 2015
    Yep it's always nice to reflect on what we take for granted as so easy to do now, and for so little money compared to how it used to get done. One of my personal "look at how things have changed" milestones was already from quite some time back. I remember when I bought the exs24 sampler for Logic back when it was a plug in you had to buy separately. I looked at this cardboard box with a disc in it thinking OK, so for 400 bucks I just bought a virtually limitless sampler, compared to the 12K I'd spend only a few years earlier for a fully kitted out K2500... Still a lovely instrument but limited to 48 voices, laughably small amounts of RAM compared to what we use now. I think from memory it even had a 40MB hard drive built in. 40 megabytes, lol.

    btw speaking of your korg micro key (I have one at home too), have you seen the new CME x-key controllers? Haven't physically tried one yet but they look amazing.

    OK I think we can call this thread officially highjacked now.. sorry to the OP. Music nerds and graphic designers I'm sure at least have in common the fact that we can go on forever into shop talk if no one stops us... :)
  25. kazmac macrumors 603


    Mar 24, 2010
    On the silver scream
    Very helpful thread, I do not do heavy design work any more but I appreciate hearing from the OP and the writers here. I do not even know why I was thinking of the iPad again with all of the previous issues.

    Thanks for posting c.s.

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