MacBook Air + Thunderbolt Display or iMac?


macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 29, 2011
I just recently got a refund for my MacBook Pro Retina as I experienced a lot of display issues and because I found it to be a pain to create 72dpi graphics on.

I do a lot of graphics design (web and iOS) and I am not sure which of these combos to get:

1) MacBook Air 13 + Thunderbolt Display
2) MacBook Air 13 + iMac
3) MacBook Air 11 + iMac

Will the MacBook Air (8GB RAM) be enough for light video editing and some 3D work (rendering)? I do not play games that much - only some Football Manager and Diablo 3.

The apps that I will use the most are Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign - and some times After Effects, Final Cut X and Cinema 4D. Does anyone know if the Intel HD 4000 support OpenGL/CL in photoshop?

I might lean to the MacBook Air + iMac solution and just use the Air for light work and the iMac for serious work. For the iMac I can also add 16/32GB RAM and SSD (...and maybe external gfx card later on?)

What would you guys choose?
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macrumors 6502a
Dec 2, 2008
Yeah, based on the fact that you need to do video editing / 3D rendering I would go for an iMac, its dedicated GPU will really help with performance with those things.

I have a top spec '12 Macbook Air (i7/8GB) and played Football Manager myself for the first time on it yesterday, as soon as the 3D match engine started the fans kicked in and my battery sapped.

I've tried some other 3D games as well on my Air and it handles reasonably good graphics pretty well, but doesn't take long for the fans to kick in which to me indicates the machine is working hard to cope.


macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 29, 2011
Well I need something easy to carry around - especially when meeting clients. Something that can easily run Photoshop and Illustrator (also large files). Of course I will use the iMac for the heavy work, but I would just like to be able to do a bit of designing on the Air also.

Do you think that it will be possible (in the future) to be able to add graphic cards to the iMac via thunderbolt? I mean right now it is only the super expensive RedRocket cards.

So it's either iMac + 11" Air or 13" Air.


macrumors 6502
Mar 23, 2007
I would pick iMac+13in. It is not that heavier and you get more working space.

D3 is "playable" with the HD4000.
But once you enter Act3-4 where there are tons of stuff fps drops. Some people get by on "playable fps".


macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 29, 2011
Would MacBook Air + Thunderbolt display be enough if I was not to use 3D and editing videos? 90% of the time I will use it for Photoshop and Illustrator (web design and iOS app design) along with some Football Manager, browsing and movie watching...


macrumors G5
Nov 20, 2008
Ventura County
I ended up purchasing an iPad 2 and sold my MBP. I then bought a 21.5" iMac and caved buying a 11" air for school.

The 21.5" iMac and 11" Air is a great combination. Have basic stuff on the air and everything on my iMac.


Aug 27, 2012
I found that the MBA\iMac combo is the best way to go. Toss in iPad for non-business trips.


macrumors member
Aug 22, 2012
Any designers in here? :)
Me! I am a wedding photographer/graphic designer and I myself am considering a 13" MBA Ultimate 2012. I have also been looking at a rMBP, but I have some serious concerns about the pixel density and pixel doubling affect for my design work.


macrumors member
Jul 14, 2011
Can current imac still use as display output from mba? Becos everything put on cloud storage would b troublesome when internet is slow and local storage would b troublesome to share files between mba and imac


macrumors 6502
Jul 17, 2012
I'd go for the iMac and the 11 inch Air. Why get the 13 if you've already got the iMac for the heavy lifting. If you want something to take out to clients for showing work the smaller Air makes more sense.

I you're a freelancer having two computers you can work on is definitely less of a worry. Having your only computer conk out in the middle of a project doesn't bare thinking about.

I keep all my files synced across two macs with a combination of Dropbox, Google Calendar and route my email through Gmail. The only thing I've had to pick a "master" computer for is my 1Password keychain, mainly due to its half-arsed encryption (it only encrypts passwords), I'm uncomfortable putting a list of usernames/URLs/email addresses unencrypted on Dropbox.


macrumors 6502a
Jul 16, 2012
St. Louis, MO
The legacy MBP 15 with upgraded 1680x1050 display might fit the bill.

Contrary to what Apple says, you can upgrade the RAM to 16GB and slap an SSD in if you wish. The MBP also has an optical drive.

The MBP has the same Ivy Bridge i7 that the rMBP has and the same discrete Nvidia card as well.

Just a thought.