Macbook laptop or Mac Desktop for Graphic/Web Designer?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nikishniki, Jun 30, 2016.

  1. nikishniki macrumors newbie


    Jun 30, 2016
    Neverland ∞
    Sorry if this has been asked before. I will delete this if I see a similar and satisfying answer lol. I really want to upgrade because my macbook pro is really outdated and slow, plus I need a bigger storage.

    I'm a graphic designer/web designer (I also illustrate sometimes) and I work at home at the moment. I'm still in a 3 month probation so if I keep this job I'm planning on upgrading after 3 months if not, I will upgrade maybe in half a year or next year. So I'm not really in a hurry but I don't want to buy something that is only useful just for now I want it for my future as well. I currently have a 13 inch macbook pro which I bought last October 2010. I am kind of having a hard time because the screen is too small and it's really slow. My boss has a really large monitor so we see differently. I use a plugin for chrome just to view it in 1366++++ I don't really know the difference in specs I just see numbers lol I don't know about the performance that's why I really need your opinion.

    I want to buy an iMac because I like how big it is plus the storage which I need but still keep my old laptop in case I need to bring it somewhere (I also do freelance). I also want to buy a 15 inch macbook pro so that I can carry it with me and get rid of my old one, but I feel like it's not worth it? 'Cause it's the same price with an iMac and a lot smaller? I read an article about mac's laptops vs desktops and macbook pro seems better than the level entry iMac? I don't know I'm confused. What is the perfect mac for me? Thanks in advance.
  2. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Sounds like you check which applications you expect to be using over the next couple of years and work backwards - find out what is the optimal hardware to run those apps (and output). CPU, GPU and RAM come first to mind then of course drive space (SSD vs traditional vs fusion offerings and of course external drives).

    If the pro laptop meets your needs, screen is large enough for your use as a portable, you could consider also getting a separate monitor to go with it on the desk.

    If an iMac seems in order, you could also add a 2nd monitor.

    Though your work may suggest web work, is screen calibration important to you? If so then a 2nd screen in either case might be of value that goes far beyond what is needed for web work. In your shoes, I would go to an Apple store or any other that carries the 15" Macbook Pro and see if it really is a large enough screen for your needs.
  3. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    For graphic design you'll either need an external screen or an iMac.

    The 5k base imac is an excellent bang for the buck.

    The only downside is it's ancient hdd but this can be solved by running the OS from an external thunderbolt ssd if necessary.
  4. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Or buying it with an SSD is an option!!
  5. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    First, the 5k iMac would be perfect for graphic/web design work, mainly because the display is one of the best you can get in that price range. Its the best bangs-per-buck and the most up-to-date Mac in the range. The only tip - as others have said - is to pay the extra few hundred bucks to get Flash storage or the Fusion drive as this makes a huge difference to the performance (2TB Fusion is probably the best value - personally I'd go with enough Flash to hold the system, applications and work-in-progress and top it up with external storage for bulky media files).

    Performance-wise, the reality is that any of the retina MacBook Pros will be up to the job - just watch out for the size of storage, especially if you need to be able to run Windows for testing websites in Internet Explorer. Unlike desktops, you don't want your laptop to be dependent on external storage.

    One possibility to consider instead of the iMac is getting a retina MacBook Pro, a nice external display (lots of other threads on this), an external keyboard & mouse/trackpad, and an elevator stand (e.g. At the desk, you use it with the big display as if it were a desktop machine, with the extra laptop display to one side as a bonus (great for copy, online documentation etc) - but, you can always just unplug the laptop and take everything with you, without worrying about syncing files etc.

    If you can wait 6 months though, especially on the laptop side, its probably worth it as there should be new MacBooks and possibly iMacs out by then (and if there aren't it may be time to start looking at PCs).
  6. VandaG macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2016

    I am sorry if this is not the right place to ask, but I will need a Mac for the same purpose as nikishniki, so it might be helpful for her also. I am starting a New Media Design & Web Development program in October so I want to get ready for it and buy the laptop now. I will use Illustrator and Photoshop mostly. I am Windows user, so everything is new to me. And I also don't have experience in web & graphic design. I am reading about it, but I am still not sure which one to buy. I'm considering these two:

    Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Quad-core Intel i7 with Retina Display
    Originally released July 2014
    15.4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 2880x1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch
    16GB of 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM

    512GB Flash Storage
    720p FaceTime HD Camera
    Intel Iris Pro Graphics and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M

    Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.5GHz quad-core Intel i7 with Retina display
    Originally released May 2015
    15.4-inch (diagonal) Retina display; 2880x1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch
    16GB of 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory
    512GB PCIe-based flash storage
    720p FaceTime HD Camera
    Intel Iris Pro Graphics and AMD Radeon R9 M370X

    I was thinking to buy newer one because of PCIe based flash storage BUT older one has NVIDIA.

    Can someone advise me, please?

    It has to be a laptop because I will probably move a lot (otherwise I would buy a desktop beast :D )
  7. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Unless you currently have no computer at all, and/or are fortunate enough to be able to drop the thick end of 2 grand without breaking a sweat, I'd think seriously about whether you really need to do that.

    Have they said that you'll need a brand new laptop on day 1? If so, have they given you any info on what you need? I'm sure that a program like that will be "Mac friendly" but its worth checking. The best source for information on that are the program organisers because, otherwise, "New Media Design & Web Development" is a bit of a piece of string.

    Boring reality: you can do web development, and the sort of (relatively) low res 2D graphics needed for the web on a 5-year-old MacBook Air. Everything else is convenience. The only reason you'd need a top-of-the-range MacBook Pro is if the "New Media Design" involves a lot of video editing or 3D and even then an older computer will be bearable for the occasional dabble. It might be worth waiting until you've started the program and have a better idea of what you need. There may be useful extras that affect your budget (e.g, just speculating, an iPad or new phone to test mobile stuff, DLSR camera, subscription to a virtual hosting service so you can share your stuff online...).

    OK, patronising lecture over & back to your original question. You've got the money burning a hole in your pocket and don't mind paying for a bit of overkill for the sake of future-proofing. I'd go for the second choice because:

    (a) Better support for 4k and 5k displays (the 2015 model will, e.g., support the dell 5k display, albeit needing two cables) and you're probably going to want a nice display for wherever you do most of your work.
    (b) You'll get the new force-touch trackpad.
    (c) Incremental improvements on CPU speed, general graphics, PCIe flash - although you might need a stopwatch to notice, so its not #1 in the list.

    I think that the NVIDIA vs. AMD debate is mainly to do with driver performance in high-end graphics/video/audio software that uses GPU for computation. That is unlikely to be an issue in the sort of thing you are doing (and might even get better with new software).
  8. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Sounds like you're pretty much be working at a desk. If you were to get a laptop, you'd need to buy at the very least an external monitor and most likely an external keyboard and pointing device just for comfort and ease-of-use's sake. The iMac sounds like the right option for you.
  9. VandaG macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2016
    Thank you for replies!

    They have two campuses, for one students have to buy laptop, they stated MacBook Pro from at least mid 2012, Intel 4000/Nvidia GeForce GT 650M, 8gb RAM. And for other one (which I will attend) I don't have to buy it because we will practice in a lab on desktop computers, but I want to, so I can practice when I'm at home and I want to get ready for the classes in advance. At least to get used to macintosh. I don't have a laptop now, I gave my old one to my parents because anyway I need to buy a new one. We will do some video editing as well. In future, I want to focus on web & graphic design. It's not that I have a lot of money, I've never had a really good computer and I was always buying cheap ones (from 2001 until now, I had only two PC's and one laptop). But now I've put aside some for a good laptop. The one that I left home was Toshiba Satellite bought in 2012, Intel i3, with integrated Intel HD and 4gb RAM. So, buying Mac is a big step for me. I don't think I would buy a new one as soon as it comes out. It has to be a laptop for now. I am international student.

    So, as I understand, it's not worth buying 2015 edition with AMD only because of PCIe flash memory (I thought it would give me better performance in general).
  10. fierarul macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    @nikishniki: Normally the employer would provide you with the hardware. If you are self-employed then you need to see this as a business expense and determine if the money are worth spending.

    I would not buy both a desktop and a laptop at once.

    You already have a laptop so you just need upgrade it to the max and see what it's actually capable of. Then decide if you can live with it.

    Spend $100-$200 to get an Intel SSD for it and replace your old hard drive. This is probably the main reason it feels so slow!

    Your MacBook Pro also supports a maximum of 16GB RAM most likely. This only costs $60-$100 (OWC).

    Even an external monitor is pretty cheap: $100-$200 (Dell Ultrasharp).

    So, if you spend wisely $200 - $500 you should have a much nicer setup.

    When you do upgrade it wouldn't hurt for business to have a Retina screen. If you will still be working from your home office then get a 27" iMac which has at least a Fusion Drive, but preferably only Flash Storage.
  11. nikishniki thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 30, 2016
    Neverland ∞
    Hi, so you are saying my macbook pro (bought it last 2010, still running on OS X 10.6) still has a chance? Like, I can just spend $200-$500 to upgrade rather than buy a new one? 'Cause the latest ones are really expensive for what I'm earning. It would take me 1 and a half months to earn the price of the cheapest mac book pro. I'm thinking of just upgrading it for now with what you said and just buy a new one when I can really afford it.
  12. smirking macrumors 65816


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I think fierarul is on to something. Even the older Macbook Pros are surprisingly fast once you replace the old hard drives with an SSD. That said a 13" 2010 MBP is a bit long in the tooth, especially if you plan to do any video editing. I don't think the 2010 13" has a dedicated video card. Does it? That alone would be an issue.

    If you're just doing Photoshop and Illustrator type of work, it'll probably be ok. I have a 2012 15" non-Retina MBP with a 2TB SSD. I do plan on upgrading if the new MBP's that are expected later this year are to my liking, but I could live with my setup for another year or two if needed. There's a pretty significant difference between a 2010 MBP and a 2012 MBP though. The difference between my 2012 and a 2015 model isn't quite as sharp.

    I'm a mostly a Web developer and photographer that handles occasional graphics and video work. I can't imagine doing any visual work on a 13" screen. I have a hard enough time when I have to rely on a 15" screen.

    I have one of the old school 30" Apple Cinema Displays. I just find that I'm far more productive with a single big screen. A 24" Dell Ultrasharp as fierarul suggested isn't that expensive and would be a huge step up from your current screen.

    You should also be aware of the Apple refurbished store. You can get a pretty good discount on some items in there:

    If you're just starting out and you need to keep the expenses as low as possible, you should definitely consider a refurbished or used machine. It's not like before when a 2016 model would blow away a 2014 model so much that you had to upgrade or be left behind.
  13. fierarul macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Of course. And since you are actually working on that laptop any upgrade will feel great. Particularly the SSD!

    You are actually a bit lucky that you laptop is upgradeable. All these newer Apple laptops are just like iPhones -- you cannot upgrade a thing.

    nikishniki didn't mention the exact laptop, but I see the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" Mid-2010 does have a NVIDIA GeForce 320M.

    Indeed, in the future an Apple refurbished machine might be good value for money.
  14. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Its never going to be as fast as a new one, but replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive & making sure it has at least 8GB of RAM should make it feel a lot zippier than it is now. Neither of those jobs is particularly hard to do yourself (just make sure you get the correct screwdrivers).

    Nerd notes: If you recall, NVIDIA used to make motherboard chipsets that included graphics but used main memory for VRAM - a sort of halfway house between integrated-on-CPU & discrete graphics. Intel killed off 3rd party chipsets when they dropped Core 2 and introduced i3/i5/i7. If I recall correctly, the 2010 13" was the one where Apple stuck with the older Core 2 processor + NVIDIA because it was faster overall than the i5 + Intel integrated graphics.
  15. smirking, Jul 14, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016

    smirking macrumors 65816


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I'd attest to this. I also have a 2010 MBP as a backup. When I replaced the HD with an SSD, it was like a completely different computer. That said, that machine isn't counted on to do anything too heavy, but for everyday things like using a Web browser, email, and the such, it's very very servicable.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 14, 2016 ---
    I missed this part of what fieraul said. This is important. If you're freelancing, make sure you factor in your equipment expenses when you set your rates! I've been freelancing for over a dozen years and this was one of the things that never even occured to me in my first few years.
  16. dwig macrumors 6502

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL
    I agree with fierarul that you old MB likely still has some good service life left. I agree with his suggested "upgrades" provided you also add 2 external hard drives as well. One to use as a TimeMachine backup and the other to serve as an archive backup that is kept offline when not actually doing a backup. When working professionally you need to be massively careful to backup files. Loose files and you loose reputation and without a good reputation you'll have no clients.

    I wouldn't expect the old MB to be usable very long. How long depends a lot on the type of work you do. I do print work, mostly large format art prints (40x60"/1x1.5m) and larger. I need RAM and a big monitor. Budget to replace it with either another notebook or with a big desktop in the next year or two.

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