Air i5 or i7(1.7ghz) or i7(1.8ghz) for Photo processing?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by pjny, Sep 19, 2011.

  1. pjny macrumors 6502a

    Feb 18, 2010

    I have a Macbook Pro 13" 2010 but it is often a backbreaker in my backpack when carrying other equipment. I am recovering from a back injury and trying to keep it light. I have to process images on tight schedules in different locations using Adobe Lightroom so portability is very important.

    I am thinking of either going to go with:

    MB Air 2011 - 13" with 1.7ghz i5, 128GB SSD($1299)

    or go all in and get the

    MB Air 2011 - 13" with 18.ghz i7, 256GB SSD($1699).

    I looked at Anandtech air reviews and the benchmarks indicate a small 8-10% improvement. Have you used the i7 or i5 with Adobe Lightroom and noticed any significant improvements over an older Macbook Pro 2010?

    If there is not a real world big speed difference between the i5 1.7ghz and i7 1.8ghz, i will:

    1) Buy the i5 1.7ghz 128gb ssd
    2) use the $435(after taxes) price difference towards an OWC 256GB Sata 3 drive in the future. I hear they are faster than the stock MB air drives.
    3) and use the stock one in the MB Air on my older MB Pro as a secondary SSD drive(if possible).

    What do you think?

  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Your plan isn't exactly possible, as the MBA uses a different type of SSD than the MBP does, so the standard OWC SATA 3 drives will not fit in the MBA. However, there really won't be a huge difference between i5 and i7
  3. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Got a chance to touch an i5 earlier in the day. Immediately got Lightroom 3 on it for some quick tests.

    Improvement was none. My Macbook Pro 13" 2010 model (2.66GHz with 8GB RAM) was still faster at applying presets and making adjustments.

    Just to clarify, though, I have Coolbook installed on the Macbook Pro, so I can get higher frequencies like 2.66GHz easier and at the same time reduce voltage to avoid overheating.

    If your Macbook Pro has been running hot, I would suggest that you check with Coolbook (checking frequency is free) and see if it's not throttling down the CPU. I get that on mine a lot prior to using Coolbook.

    Otherwise, I don't see any speed demon within the 2011 Macbook Air. One of the reasons why I held off on updating.
  4. gwickes macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2011
    That's the configuration I purchased late in July when the 2011 MacBook Air became available. The device serves two purposes for me (1) a laptop that is light and capable for my business work when out of the office traveling and (2) my mobile photo processing -- and for photo processing its quite remarkable given its relative size (which is just fantastic for portability)...

    I have Lightroom (LR) 3 on this Mac and the same license of LR3 on my i7 8Gb Windows 7 home PC. I generally take 25Mb RAW files with my Canon 7D. After shooting hundreds at a sports game or event, I then use the MBA to quickly view, delete and make initial adjustments. Very capable and speedy.

    I have completed a few photos to final output on the MBA and have been quite impressed. Although I do like the dual 23" monitors of the home machine for the majority of the final edits....

    So as far as I'm concerned, the i5, 4GB RAM, 128MB disk is the sweet spot for performance, value and portability.
  5. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    I'm guessing it's the extra RAM making the difference with your Pro. On paper, the 1.7GHz Core i5 ought to be roughly equivalent to a 3.5GHz Core 2 Duo.
  6. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    If you buy a replacement SSD, OWC sells a USB2 adapter for $35 that would accommodate your MacBook Air's original SSD. Of course, you would only get USB2 speeds. They also sell a FireWire version for $70. It would be nice if they sold a Thunderbolt version (maybe someday).
  7. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    That's only on paper. And it's not equivalent to a 3.5GHz Core 2 Duo. The i5 in the Macbook Air can barely turbo boost one core to the same frequency my Macbook Pro runs at... by default, for both cores.
  8. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    This is Megahertz Myth at work here. First the 1.7GHz i5 turbo boosts both cores to 2.4GHz, and can boost a single core to 2.7GHz, which as you point out compares to the 2.66GHz that your Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro runs at.

    Second, and more importantly, it is two full microarchitecture generations ahead of the Core 2 Duo. The switch from Core 2 to Nehalem brought a 15-25% boost on single threaded applications on a per-clock cycle basis, and the switch from Westmere (the updated Nehalem) to Sandy Bridge brought another 15-25% boost per clock cycle. On multi-threaded applications it is even more, because the Core i5 supports hyperthreading and tricks the OS into thinking there are twice as many CPU cores as there really are.

    If we could get a Motorola 68020 or 80386 chip to run at 2.7GHz, it would barely power one of our smartphones, much less a modern PC. Microarchitecture makes a big difference. There's a reason why the Sandy Bridge chips score so well on benchmarks.

    Regarding photo processing, this is one area where more RAM helps. The Pro with 8GB would have an advantage. To the extent that your software can offload tasks to the GPU, the Pro would also have an advantage. That said, there is no way that a 2009 Pro with 4GB would hold a candle to a 2011 Air with 4GB on a purely CPU-driven task. In your case, I think it is the RAM that is making the difference, since even the fastest SSD pales in comparison to RAM. A processor can't process what it's waiting for the HDD/SSD to deliver.
  9. danpass macrumors 68020


    Jun 27, 2009
    Miami, FL
    the Air is a bit stuck regardless due to the 4gb ram cap (at this time)

    it is definitely noticed when using Aperture and I suppose Lightroom is similar.

    <-- 2011Air13i7-1.8-256

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