MBA 13.3" for photography. Please advise!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by andygabriel, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. andygabriel macrumors regular

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    Feb 1, 2009
    #1
    Hi all,

    I currently own an early 2008 white macbook 4,1 with 2.4 C2D 4GB(667MHZ) 320HD, Graphic GMA X3100.

    Usage:

    • I'm a amateur photographer using iphoto, Aperture and Photoshop for basic editing
    • Itunes 25GB of music
    • Occasional imovie
    • Email & Web browsing
    • Word processing and Powerpoint/Keynote
    • Download and watch 720p movies. 1080p stutter on my current macbook
    • Skype

    I'm a teacher and i take my laptop to work everyday on a motorbike and i travel quite often since I'm teaching overseas(Taiwan).

    I was wondering if the new macbook Air top end (2.13 Ghz, 4GB RAM, 256GB ssd) will give me significant performance improvement compared to my current Macbook. I have external hard drives for my photos but i like my music to be on my computer. I will use the macbook air as my sole machine and for photo editing i'll attach it to my external monitor + BT Keyboard & mouse. I also connect my macbook to my 42" HDTV to watch movies. Will i be able to do all these with the macbook air?

    I don't want to go with the Macbook Pro 13" because it's not lighter than my current macbook but if i won't see any performance improvement with the New air i'm willing to sacrifice weight.

    I'm considering the Air coz it's light but the processor seems slower than my 2 year old macbook. 2.13GHz vs 2.4Ghz

    I started photography as a hobby and i often take my laptop when i travel to transfer pics and to show to people, i use iphoto, Aperture 3 and PS for basic editing of Raw and Jpeg. If i get the Air i'll sell my macbook to help finance the Air.

    Sorry i don't know much about tech and i'm hoping i get some help here coz i'm gonna buy a new machine in 2 weeks.

    cheers guys
     
  2. jclardy macrumors 68040

    jclardy

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    Oct 6, 2008
    #2
    Well the 1080p video should play easily on the 320M in the new air. The processor is slower but the thing that will be way more noticeable is the SSD, which will make the machine feel way faster. The graphics chip should also be better as well.

    Plus you'll have increased screen resolution at 1440x900 so it should be even better for photo editing.

    Also lighter weight and an SD card slot if that is what your camera uses.
     
  3. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #3
    MBA should be fine. Photo editing isn't very CPU intensive thus 2.13GHz C2D will be sufficient. MBA has much better GPU so that should help in video playback, 1080p should work fine now. MBA should feel a lot faster because of the SSD
     
  4. C64 macrumors 65816

    C64

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    #4
    Yes, mainly because of the SSD. For all the things you do with it, the CPU isn't all that important. Most of the time you'll only use 10-20% of the CPU's power. So going from 2.4 to 2.13GHz really doesn't make a difference. The only time you might notice a slight difference is when you're doing something very CPU intensive like applying certain filters to a huge image file. But unless you upgrade to an i5/i7 MBP, both your current MBP as the MBA will handle it more or less the same.

    The SSD of the Air however will speed everything up a lot, something you'll notice with everything. This is for your use a lot more important. Apps will start up way faster, documents and images will open faster, etc. Everything will feel a lot snappier than on your current machine.

    Yup, without any problems.

    Bottom line: you'll notice a speed increase, mainly because of the huge difference the SSD makes opposed to traditional drives. It can handle everything you'll be using it for with ease, and since it has a pretty good graphics card it can handle movies and more intense graphics stuff as well. And because portability is very important to you, the Air is definitely the way to go.
     
  5. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #5
    Have you ever used Aperture? I've seen it hit 385% CPU usage on my 2.53GHz Core i5 MBP. And it's hitting the GPU hard at that point too. I've also seen Aperture, on it's own, consuming almost 3Gb of RAM. I used to get a lot of paging using it on a machine with only 4Gb of RAM. It's much better with 8Gb, especially if Photoshop is running at the same time.

    I suspect the faster disc access of the SSD will make up some of the difference but I think you might find yourself waiting for Aperture and Photoshop a lot if you are shooting RAW images at 15MP+.
     
  6. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #6
    Photo editing doesn't constantly use that much CPU. Even Safari uses +100% of my C2D when I open a new tab but it uses it for less than one second. The point is, you can't really notice such small difference. 0.1 sec this or that way isn't that relevant. In tasks like video encoding when CPU is constantly being used, you can notice the difference, but not really in photo editing.

    Or have you seen Aperture constantly (lets say for +1min) using 385% of your CPU? Of course it depends how intensive your editing is but OP stated that his editing will be basic.
     
  7. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #7
    Yep. When I do a reasonable sized import (say 80-100 RAW images) from my EOS 7D it'll sit with the CPU basically maxed for a couple of minutes.
     
  8. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #8
    Importing ≠ Editing

    Importing will always take some time, already because of the limitations of USB. One minute this or that way when importing shouldn't be that big issue, you can use the computer for something else while it's importing them. The CPU speed isn't that relevant when you are actually editing them.

    It's good that you brought this up though. As long as you are aware and accept that importing may take a minute or two longer on MBA than it would on iX MBP, it shouldn't be an issue.
     
  9. C64 macrumors 65816

    C64

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    #9
    But in that case it doesn't really matter whether the OP has a C2D 2.4 or 2.13, it'll take about the same time. And yes, it'll go faster with an i5 or i7 CPU, but it's not like it won't work at all on the new MacBook Airs.

    As long as you're fine with things like these taking longer on the Air, there's really no point in buying a heavy and (compared to the Air) huge 15" MacBook Pro. I don't know how long imports like these take, but let's say it's 2 minutes on a quad core and 3 or 4 on the MacBook Air. Not that big of a deal in this case.
     
  10. andygabriel thread starter macrumors regular

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    #10
    Thx for mentioning this but i shoot JPEG most of the time. Will Jpeg max out the CPU as well?

    And my macbook is 2.4Ghz L2 cache 300 vs Mac Air 2.13Ghz L3 cache 600. Is the Mac air processor a newer one. Do you think it's actually faster than my 2.4GHZ because of the cache.

    P.S Thx everyone for the replies.
     
  11. C64 macrumors 65816

    C64

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    #11
    Hard to say without doing CPU benchmarks and comparing the numbers. What I do know is that they'll be very close and you will never notice the difference yourself. It's a matter of a few (milli)seconds with certain operations.
     
  12. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #12
    Here are some cache benchmarks. They should be quite equal because Air has more cache but slightly slower clock speed.
     
  13. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #13
    USB? LOL! Firewire 800 for me (and yes, it's amazingly fast) :p

    I've just tried an experiment: make a single adjustment to an image and lift and stamp it to all other images from that shoot (about 120 images). This is a very common thing to do: make an exposure or colour adjustment and then stamp it to all the other images shot under the same conditions. My MBP sat at 100-200% CPU for a minute or two under this very common operation.

    Why only 100-200% out of 400%? Disk speed: my harddrive was just sat maxed at about 17Mb/s read. An SSD would help that but would put more pressure on the CPU to perform. Also I'd note that during this Aperture was sat at 1.5Gb of memory usage: so a 4Gb machine is a must.

    It won't be as bad as there is far less data to move around and process. My RAW files are 22-25Mb each. JPEGs would be more like 4Mb.

    Edit to add: I've uploaded an attachment showing the sort of CPU usage of Aperture under common usage on a single image. Here you can see Aperture using 115% CPU to use the straighten tool on a single image. Aperture loves CPU speed, GPU power and memory.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. andygabriel thread starter macrumors regular

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    #14
    Do You mean i won't see a noticeable increase in speed for everyday use. I was hoping seeing a big improvement compared to my 2 year old computer.

    One more question, Apple calls the ichat camera, facetime camera now. Has it changed. Can you still use it for ichat and skype? Why have they changed the name? Will they get rid of ichat?
     
  15. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #15
    17Mb/s (are you sure it's Mb and not MB since 17Mb=2.125MB?) can't be the maximum of your hard drive, see this. I think that the task you did is only dual-threaded thus it cannot use more than 200% of your CPU (Apple isn't very goof at adding multithread support).

    FaceTime enables iPhone 4 to Mac video calls. iChat and Skype still work, FaceTime is just a new app for new purpose.
     
  16. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #16
    MB as reported in Activity Monitor. Regardless I think I've made my point: in my experience Aperture loves lots of CPU power, a fast GPU and lots of RAM.
     
  17. C64 macrumors 65816

    C64

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    #17
    I meant there's not really a huge difference between the to CPUs. But the speed of the machine is determined by all the hardware. In that respect the Air will win from your current machine, and will be way faster with day to day things due to the SSD.

    It's the same camera, they just renamed it. They probably created a separate Face Time app so they could also release it for Windows in a while. iChat won't go anywhere.
     
  18. biosci macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I hope someone gets one soon so we can see how aperture and maybe lightroom (Two tools I use often) compare to when used on a Macbook Pro or other computer... I can't wait till more hands on reports come in. I'm especially eager to see if even the slower 11in model can hold up...
     
  19. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #19
    But OP would have to jump for 15" MBP to get a noticeable bump in CPU speed. The difference between his current MB and the new MBA is pretty negligible, 2.4GHz is only ~12% faster than MBA's 2.13GHz when looking at raw clock speed. Thus the difference is only seconds when importing or doing something CPU intensive with Aperture for example.
     
  20. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #20
    If he's happy with the performance on his current machine then I agree: the difference will not be notiecable and he'll be happy on the new one. The problem is that a lot of operations that are interactive lag on slower machines. I know someone with an older Core2Duo MacBook and operations that are wonderfully interactive on my machine (you move the slider and the image updates in real time tracking the slider) take 1 second or so to display on his machine. This makes a massive difference as I just drag the slider till it looks right: he drags it a bit, waits, drags it a bit more, waits, drags it back a little waits, etc. This is partially CPU, partially graphics (his machine is old enough to have GMA graphics).
     
  21. andygabriel thread starter macrumors regular

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    #21
    Thx for all the replies guys. I'm suppose to buy an Air in the next 2 weeks but a good friend of mine said that i should probably wait for the next Macbook pro 13" upgrade coz next year there'll b this new thing calle sandybridge(i don't really know what it is) and he said that the 13" macbook pro might lose some weight next year coz apple will get rid of the optical drive and Mr Jobs said that the macbook air is the future of notebooks.

    He also said that the C2D is going to be EOL and that the Macbook Air(even the top end) is not future proof. I usually keep my laptop for at least 2 years.

    sigh i'm confused. i don't wanna make the same mistake as when i got my white macbook. I got it in August 2008 and Apple upgraded to the unibody a few months later but at that time i didnt check any forums etc...

    Thx anyways
     
  22. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #22
    Sandy Bridge (new microarchitecture from Intel) won't be out before early 2011. That's when the CPUs come but another question is when Apple will use them.

    If your current one is sufficient, you could wait till the update and then decide. If/when Apple adds i3 or even i5 to 13" MBP, it will be much faster than the MBA and you would benefit from the extra processing power. MBA opened a lot doors so there is no way to know what Apple has in their mind about next gen MBPs.
     
  23. thinkdesign macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; IEMobile 8.12; MSIEMobile6.0) Sprint T7380)

    robbieduncan: "I used to get a lot of paging.... with 4GB."

    What is "paging"?

    And was this with the current Relatively new Aperture, or an older edition. When Arperture got updated recently, did that affect up or down how much of a demand it places on an Air's chips and memory?

    I'm thinking I should stick with whatever photo management software makes the least demands... which I suppose means the one that comes with iLife?

    -----

    Jim/: Thanks for the advice.

    A 2nd computer isn't in the cards costwise... but maybe a backup unit for everything.... and a 2nd one stored at a different location, just for archives?

    10,000 pix could be boring? Ah... that explains why....

    Actually, my what used to be called slide lectures have between 60-140 pix in them. 140 over an hour may sound high... but some are just closer, closer, closer views of the same thing. (I don't usually have any need for need PowerPoint or anything like that... just a plain file of pix for each lecture.)

    Back in the days of 35mm slides (so I've heard), some of the better srt and architecture historians would use 2 projectors and have 2 slides on the screen at once.

    I wonder if there's a software made to mimic that? Where you have 2 pix side by side, but you advance one at a time?
     
  24. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #24
    I think he was referring to page outing what means that data has to be transferred from RAM to HD/SSD because. That usually happens because of lack of free RAM and it causes slowdowns (i.e. beachballs) because HD/SSD is much slower than your RAM is.
     

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