MacBook Air for graphic design…?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Jim Campbell, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #1
    This question seems to come up semi-regularly, so I thought it was worth a post.

    I've recently swapped out a 15" mid-2010 MBP (2.66GHz i7; 8Gb RAM; 500Gb HDD) for a new 13" MBA (1.7GHz i7; 8Gb RAM; 500Gb SSD). On paper, the older machine outspecs the MBA, but the real eye-opener for me is the realisation that the bottleneck was the spinning platter HDD in the MBP.

    I've always found the 15" sitting on the very edge of easy portability, so I was keen to try something smaller and lighter, but I was unsure about performance.

    Everything is faster. Everything. I spend all day, every day, primarily in Illustrator CS6, with some Photoshop work in support, and then using InDesign to make those AI pages into finished publications. This thing just rattles along — AI exported 22 TIFFs and EPSs using a batch operation in under three-and-a-half minutes. It was so quick that the TIFF export didn't even get time to throw up a progress bar.

    The MBA is quite happily driving a 24" Cintiq HD without any issue via Thunderbolt -> DisplayPort; there are no redraw issues in any application; no appreciable brush lag in Photoshop or Manga Studio.

    TL;DR version: yes. Absolutely you can use a MacBook Air for design work. I tried the same thing on my wife's 4Gb Air a few weeks ago and that felt a little sluggish, but with 8Gb, the MBA is easily up to the job.

    Cheers

    Jim
     
  2. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #2
    Great post :)

    Same sentiments as well, for work I have a Haswell MBA i7/256GB/8GBRAM and have notice how much quicker it is considering l'm loosing the dGPU.

    For Photoshop I've found the new MBA massively different compared to my older MBP, though the only place where I am finding it isn't great is for any type of VFX because I do get a fair bit of beachballing with Motion5 (on heavy use) and AE.

    But with that said, I 100% agree with your post, the i7 with 8GB RAM is a great little machine for Photoshop, Illustrator, etc...
     
  3. ekiro macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #3
    The Air is perfect for graphic design. Believe me when I tell you this. You will NOT be disappointed. I use it to develop websites every day. Design in photoshop and then code them. The display quality is the best you'll find in a laptop, second to the retina in the Pro line.

    You simply do not need a Pro machine for this level of graphical work. You're not rendering high polygons in 3D. And if you had the retina Pro a lot of your experience would be stretched out and blurry.

    The Air is what you want. Trust me. If I could I'd buy EVERYONE one. It's the best laptop to have. ;)
     
  4. Jim Campbell thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #4
    Also worth mentioning that using a laptop as your main desktop system also gives the advantage that the machine will fall back to battery power instantaneously in a power failure, giving you the security of a UPS unit without having to pay for one…

    Cheers

    Jim
     
  5. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2012
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #5
    Nice post OP, I've been running a 2012 Mini as my primary design machine and it's more than capable. The SSD or Fusion drive make a huge difference in the day to day feel of those machines as well.

    I've seen posts for a while now, particularly in the Mini and iMac forums, about folks waiting for the "next" revision so they have enough power for their work and the fact is that most any modern machine can get it done, unless one has a real need for a high end machine for something like editing or 3d/vfx work your typical new Mac is more than capable. Even then you might be surprised, I had an acquaintance several years ago doing high level film post production work in LA on an iMac.

    My only concern on something like the Air is screen real estate, I have an older 13" MacBook Pro that I do some design doodling and web dev on, but for development work I always feel like I'm a bit lacking in screen area when I get into more complex projects. Something like your Cintiq obviously takes care of that issue :)
     
  6. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #6
    For a Haswell MBA you can get a very decent amount of battery life even when you're using Photoshop. It was an absolute bonus when we were renovating where I worked, power on/off the entire day.
     
  7. Jim Campbell, Oct 31, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013

    Jim Campbell thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2006
    Location:
    A World of my Own; UK
    #7
    Additional update…

    I bought a portable second monitor for working in hotel rooms and other locations when out and about (one of these).

    The MBA, plus screen, take up about the same amount of room in my laptop bag as the 15" MBP and the combination weighs significantly less. I've only had time for a very quick road test of the second monitor — you can't colour calibrate it but it otherwise seems very satisfactory.

    Cheers!

    Jim
     
  8. lucasberg macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2011
    Location:
    Stockholm
    #8
    Could not agree more. Using a 2012 Macbook Air and a Thunderbolt display for graphic and web design 24/7. Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop is super fast, even when the machine is driving two displays. You really get the best of both worlds - portability and power.
     
  9. raccoontail macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #9
    Air is a great computer, though the new 13" MBP's are only 0.5lb more than the MBA now that they have SSDs and no optical drive. Advantages of the MBP are more ports and most importantly you can configure them with 16GB of RAM.
     
  10. fotuwe macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2009
    #10
    + MBA TN-Panel is a joke ...

    Obviously doesnt count while running a bigger (better) screen - but still!
     
  11. synhuages macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2013
    #11
    good,It was an absolute bonus when we were renovating where I worked, power on/off the entire day.[​IMG]
     

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