Macbook air with Thunderbolt display as only setup for student/amateur photographer

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by addoh, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. addoh macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2011
    Hey guys,

    I'm a student in medical school with photography as one of my main interests. I've been using a unibody macbook from late 2008 for 3 years now, and it has served me very well. Hasn't let me down a single time and still works like a charm.

    It is very slow in Lightroom 3 though, and the screen is horrible when comparing to even my brother's 2009 13'' MBP...

    Now it's time for something new and I've been contemplating this upcoming purchase for months, reading on the web for hours on end. One day I'm set on a 17'' MBP maxed out, the next I want a 11'' MBA etcetc.

    I think I've settled on a MBA + Thunderbolt display now though. I've decided that my gaming will be done on a console only, which leaves Lightroom and video playing/streaming as the only remaining "demanding" tasks. I assume that the new i7 MBA will be able to handle this very well for the next three years.

    I'm very mobile atm, traveling to and from Uni, to and from my parents, my friends, my current apartment and so on. Therefore a MBA will be nice and portable, and when at home I'll use the 27 Thunderbolt Display to do the heavy photo editing, where I'll have mouse/keyboard/speakers/external FW 800 HDD connected as a docking station. At home I'll edit photos, watch videos/TV/streams, surf the web etc.

    This sounds perfect to me, what do you think is lacking? What are the downsides? The ONLY concern I have right now, since I assume performance with LR3 will be very good, is the SCREEN QUALITY of the MBA.

    Most of the photo editing/organizing will be done on the 27'' display, but when I'm not home I still want to be able to do minor editing, uploading etc. If the colors really are way off maybe that wont be enjoyable at all..I also want to show off my photos to friends, which is more fun if the display is accurate and vibrant.

    I've been doing it on my 13'' unibody MB for 3 years, with no external display whatsoever, and managed just fine, but I know many photos look bad on other, better screens..

    Man did I write more than I intended to...anyway, please point out the downsides of my planned setup, and help me with the display issue. Is it really bad for color accuracy? I know it displays 46% sRGB etcetc but I want advice from people who USE the computer.

    Thank you guys so much in advance.
  2. MRU, Aug 5, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011

    MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    The only thing I'd ask is... Is the need for a laptop important?

    Because if your after a 27" cinema display alongside a MacBook Air, for purposes you describe you could purchase the ultimate i7 iMac, upgrade it to 2GB Graphics card, and buy 16GB 3rd party ram upgrade. Which would give you considerably more editing power for your photography - and for anything else for a considerable time. 4GB Ram on the MacBookAir is ok, but can't compare if your going to editing high quality raw files - I can forsee quite a few pageouts ram wise.

    Of course that only makes sense if portability is not a necessity.

    I love my MacBook Air, but if I was mainly going to use it as a desktop machine and are already spending more than possibly the best desktop experience Apple offer (that top line iMac had higher scores than the current macpro) - I'd have to consider whether a laptop is really the best choice.
  3. addoh, Aug 5, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011

    addoh thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2011
    Well I'm going to have to bring a computer to the university several days a week. I'm also currently living with friends in an apartment. My current living situation is temporary so I may be moving in a few months.

    Apart from traveling to and from the university I go back home maybe twice a month, and I travel abroad at least once per semester. All of this means I absolutely need something portable. I would LOVE an iMac, but:

    1. I don't have a proper desk where I currently live. I could certainly make it work (which I will if I get a 27 ACD) but I don't know what will happen in the upcoming months.

    2. I want to be portable, ie be able to edit my photos when I go abroad in Europe over a weekend, or when I visit my parents for a few days.

    This means I could get an iMac AND a laptop (MBA), but that seems overkill. I currently only use Lightroom, but may start using CS5 soon as well. I shoot with a Canon 5D so the files aren't huge. Hmm..

    I've also (as I mention in the OP) considered a 15 or 17 MBP, which would give me a "desktop" wherever I go. Seems like that would be the best solution, but it could be a pain bringing it with me EVERY day in a backpack. Also, the screen still wouldn't be a 27 ACD. As you can see I'm going back and forth, back and forth...this is killing me!

    I should mention that I'm very athletic, so weight probably wouldn't be an issue, hell I carried 45 ibs for two months in South East Asia without complaining. Also, money really doesn't matter too much.

    RIGHT NOW it's between 13/11 MBA with 27 ACD, and 17 MBP I think. Might as well go big if I go big, if you know what I mean. That would be added weight and bulk, sure, but I'd be able to do all I want and more, anywhere, and i'd have a perfectly decent screen anywhere. If I get a 17 MBP I'll get a Vertex 3 240 Gb SSD the second I get it.

    Does anyone have experience lugging a 17 MBP around several days a week? Any good bags that fit the 17?
  4. aCuria macrumors member

    Aug 1, 2011
    The main selling point of the air is that its light weight. If weight is not an issue for you, then just go with the 17"! its a much more capable machine, and you can even game on it.
  5. misterneums macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2009
    I think that the MBA + TB screen would be great. Obviously the IPS screen will give your a very accurate color. The screen on the MBA is good--but the screens on the pro's are better. The 17" is a beast of a machine. You'll have a lot more power available with it--and a lot more weight as well.

    That being said, the Airs are very functional computers--unless your'e planning on gaming (which you said you weren't, I believe) I think you'll be very happy with an air.

    Also, one final thing. If you get the Thunderbolt display, you're essentially getting a docking station with it.
  6. LeakedDave macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2011
    Umm. My Air games fine. Get out of here thanks.
  7. LeakedDave macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2011
    13" i7 MBA with the Thunderbolt display = bliss.
  8. misterneums macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2009
    Perhaps your opinion of what "fine" gaming is and mine are two different things. If getting by with minimal settings and a frame rate only slightly higher than what the eye can see is your definition of "fine," then sure. It games "fine." If you're expecting to be able to play the latest and greatest games when they come out at full settings--you'll be disappointed.

    The Air is by no means a "gaming" computer. It's an amazing device; it's sleek, powerful, lightweight and the best product I've purchased from Apple to date. All that being said--it's no replacement for a gaming rig if that's what you're looking at (which the OP wasn't.)

    Lastly, to your "Get out of here thanks" comment. Grow up.
  9. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Having read the whole thread, I'd recommend a 15" or 17" MBP with the SSD and at least 8g ram. You'll have a tremendously powerful mobile solution. Grab the ACD for the times your working at home. The Air is a sexy machine, I know I have the 2011 13". But, its not anywhere near as powerful as the quad core MBPs and its not at all upgradeable. The MBP I'm typing this on has a Vertex 3 and ram upgrade.

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