MBA for photo editing

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by BiteDisAppleD, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. BiteDisAppleD macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2014
    Hey im starting to do a lot of photography, and i was wondering if the base model mba 11" or 13" will be enough for photoshop or lightroom(mostly lightroom)? Thanks
  2. Woochoo macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2014
    You can search for some Air + Photoshop experiences on Google, but seeing what I read, it'll do the job if it's just casual editing and non profesional intensive use. Anyways, more than Air vs Pro, I'd be concerned about the RAM & CPU. If you want an Air, get the i7 and 8GB if you want something "less casual" but not with profesional requirements (in that case you should go for a 15" MBP).
    Otherwise, if you don't need it to be mobile, wait a bit (at least till the 16th event), I'm sure we'll see something soon about Mac Mini.
  3. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    I don't see how the i7 upgrade is a good deal for anyone, even if you are a power user and money is no object. It's only 14% faster than the base model. Who would even notice that?

    Similarly, I don't see the need for 8GB of RAM even if you are a professional photographer. What is the biggest RAW file that the highest-resolution digital camera outputs these days? Maybe 50MB? 50MB vs. 4GB is still a pretty small ratio, don't see a need to go to 50MB vs. 8GB...
  4. anarti macrumors regular

    Nov 28, 2012
    I was having the same question but bought 13" Retina for better screen.

    Screen in MBA is a joke for photography so for couple hounded bucks more you can have way better laptop.
  5. Woochoo macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2014
    Well, under lines I understood he meant photo editing. So if he means only photography, then its quite different.

    But about CPU's and your "it's only 14% faster", I'd say not to trust the benchmarks. It's only that, a number. There are a lot more things to have in account when executing applications and FX's, not only raw power (like data chains, thread numbers, the app parallelism, etc). So if a i7 is 14% better in benchmarks than the i5, it doesn't mean that it will perform 14% faster, it could be much more (or even less if you are executing something on a single core, or apps/code without parallelism).
    An analogy: MBPr 15" outperforms any MBA in benchmarks, but almost anyone that has tried both laptops will tell you that MBA is more fluid and smooth for usual tasks (internet browsing, casual stuff, etc). So again, don't use benchmarks as the only truth.
  6. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Re: photo editing: 4GB of RAM should be more than enough to do any editing you want to basically any resolution photograph.

    As for the i7 being 14% faster... I'm considering benchmark numbers but also simple common sense. Look at the Intel ARK pages for both the processors in question. Other than a small clock speed difference they are almost exactly the same chip. The i7 has some vPro stuff which is only useful if you're running virtual machines, some "matrix storage technology" which sounds like it's a hardware RAID accelerator or something (irrelevant for MBA), and something about TSX extensions which seems like a way to speculatively execute critical sections in multithreaded code (unclear what kind of performance impact this makes or whether or not its even supported by OS X yet).

    So based on the fact that they are essentially the same chip I think you'll have a tough uphill battle to argue that the i7 upgrade is worthwhile to anybody.
  7. Woochoo macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2014
    I wouldn't consider 4GB enough these days, seeing that my MBP with mavericks with 4 small startup programs eat almost the half of my 8GB RAM just on the start up. Yes, yes... mavericks uses RAM in a different way, it compresses unused stuff when it runs out, etc. I know all that, but it still becomes slow soon when using safari with a few tabs if the RAM is all used, so I wouldn't say 4GB is enough for Photoshop & Lightroom if doing something serious. Might work? Yes, but how many time do you think that a laptop will last with 4GB RAM (without expanding possibility) at almost 2015? If you are paying almost 1K$, it should be a must to go with 8GB to last as long as possible, if you're not planning to use it just for casual use (mails, internet browsing...).

    About CPU, yes, might not be worth upgrading it to i7 in his case, but i don't see a 15% bump negligible (if we trust benchmarks), seeing that between iterations, Intel is not going further than 6-10% each new model compared to the same category old model...
  8. HurtinMinorKey macrumors 6502

    Jan 18, 2012
    Truth is, any laptop screen isn't ideal for editing photography, even the RMBP. You might consider teathering your laptop to an external monitor. That being said the hardware should be able to handle most of your basic editing needs (get 8GB of ram). However, their may be some operations where you hit a performance wall.

    CPU doesn't matter, unless you are rendering tons of files at once. GPU is more important, but even the sad integrated GPU on the MBA should be up to the basic tasks of photo editing.

    As a matter of personal experience, I did some serious damage to a 2012 MBA by rendering a long sequence of 5D2 RAW files for a stop motion project in Lightroom. It overheated so badly that my heat sensors failed and now my fans run full speed all the time...
  9. BiteDisAppleD thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2014
    Your machine had only 4 GB of ram?

    And guys i'll be more specific. I do digital art, and such. So i'll be using lightroom and photoshop about 3-4 days of the week.


    Yea thats what i plan to do. If they release retina airs. We know damn well its gonna be expensive
  10. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    No it can't. In fact, it will usually be much less. The benchmarks are isolated, often simple algorithms which are designed to test certain aspects of a CPU. They are usually able to fully load the CPU, the new data comes in as quickly as the CPU can process it. Once we look at real-life tasks however, the execution units of the CPU often spend considerable time waiting for the data. As the result, utilisation efficiency drops and the relative performance gain of a faster CPU is reduced.

    Any perceived lack of smoothness on the rMBP is because it needs to perform around 4 times more work for its retina display. An application can get away with using a bad rendering algorithm on a normal screen, but it will become quite disturbing on the retina one. Apple's own App Store is a prime example. Resizing it lags on any Mac, but its very clearly visible on a retina one.

    That is essentially correct, but the other way around. Meaning — a faster CPU will be much less faster IRL than an artificial benchmarks such as Geekbench will show. There are much more representative benchmarks, which build on real-life applications and workflows.
  11. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    You are misinterpreting what Activity Monitor is showing you.

    OS X does its best to use all your physical memory because there's no point to having unused memory. So it will allocate as much free memory as possible to the programs you are running, or to disk cache, or whatever.

    So if you're running some programs and you still have a small amount of memory free, you shouldn't be thinking, "wow, good thing I bought all this memory!" You should be thinking "wow, I bought so much more memory than I actually need that the operating system literally can't think of ANYTHING to do with it all."
  12. barmann macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2010
    It still depends on the size and complexity of your projects, but I'd suggest getting something more powerful than an MBA .

    With a laptop, I assume you will have an additional display to use it with ?

    As for RAM, I'd go with 8GB as the absolute minimum for any digital art projects, better 16GB . RAM is affordable for MBPs and larger, and there is no substitute for a good amount of RAM .

    The MBA is for portability, not performance, even though it can be surprisingly usable in a pinch .

    I once did extensive retouching on a few large image files (100MB base size, plus lots of layers), on my MBA 3.1 (2010ish) , 11" / 4GB, attached to a 20" Cinema display, and it worked ok .
    That was running Snow Leo, now with Maverick it became a bit sluggish .

    However, it is still slower than my 2008! MBP 15" with an SSD and 6GB RAM in PS and Raw processing, and no competition at all to my pimped out 2008 MacPro .

    Newer MBAs will certainly be more powerful than mine, but I wouldn't choose it as a main computer for regular work that involves any image editing.
  13. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    This isn't too much of a surprise if you look at the specs. 2010 MBAs still used relatively slow and outdated (even at the time) Core 2 Duos. Your 2008 MBP should have been about 50% faster based on CPU speed alone. I don't know if your extra 2GB of RAM was helping that much.

    Apple moved to i5s and i7s for the MBA in 2011 and that was a quantum leap in performance, although for large jobs they would get too hot and experience thermal throttling. But for 2013 they switched to Haswell i5s and i7s which means they run cool and fast with no thermal throttling and much better performance than a 2008 MBP, and pretty comparable performance to the current 13" MBPs.

    But to be fair, working with 100MB base images is kind of an extreme case, isn't it, even for a professional photographer?

    I stand by my comment that a base model MBA with 4GB RAM should be enough for (let's say most?) professional photographers.
  14. Woochoo macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2014
    You just quoted the half of my sentence, on the other half I let it clear that when doing something that hogs your RAM (even something as simple as opening various safari tabs) there's nothing to do even if Mavericks compresses RAM and all its mecanisms. So again, I know that if the activity monitor shows 100MB free, it doesn't mean that it won't use more RAM if it needs it. What I'm saying is that 4GB can be burned relatively easy with some process/app that requires storing amounts of memory (like internet browsers). Working with photographies doesn't mean that if a photo you're gonna edit is 100MB, it will only take 100MB RAM... You have to take in account the processing and all the stuff that you do to it, plus the app you are using (Photoshop + its FX is not a light app...), plus the SO that already takes 700-800MB, so 4GB RAM is not "so much" these days. Also, it's not the same working with 1 image and using X effect on it, than working with multiple layers and all that stuff.
    But ignoring all this: do you want to buy a laptop and make it last as long as you can, even if it's for 3-4 days a week use, or you just wanna it to work for a year and then change it? In the first case, 8GB is a must.
  15. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Of course but as an example, I almost always have 15-20 tabs open in Chrome and I'm almost always running 10-15 different applications, including some heavy duty ones like XCode and Photoshop in addition to Chrome. And my memory pressure is at around 30%, very solidly in the "green" area.

    Maybe you can give us more details about what exactly you're doing to explain how you can have a fraction of the tabs and applications open that I do, but you still run into much more memory pressure?

    Of course you need more than 100MB RAM to work on a photo that's 100MB. But 4GB is more than 100MB. Even if you just use 1GB of RAM for editing that photo, that's 10 layers at full resolution. How often do you have a PS project starting with a 25 megapixel photo that has 10 different full resolution layers (not filter/adjustment/effect layers)? Or 20 different layers, because that would also fit comfortably on a 4GB machine?

    It's not the 90s anymore. You don't have to upgrade your RAM every other week just to be able to run current software. 4GB has been a fairly standard amount of RAM for the last ~8 years and it's been more than enough to run almost anything. If you can give any data on software requiring more and more RAM over that time then please share, but if anything, they seem to require less and less RAM. For example, with Lion -> Mountain Lion, Apple did a bunch of optimization so it would run better with less memory, and again with memory compression in Mavericks, OS X runs better with less memory.
  16. barmann macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2010
    100MB is what I get by converting 16 bit to 8, from a lowly 36 Mpx digital back .
    That's not the point, though, with layers, the files usually grow to 1-2 GB, which is not extreme at all .

    In PS, you always need a multitude of your image size for RAM, to handle history, caches, filters, brushes and such .
    On an MBA, the lack of a dedicated fast scratch disk will also be an issue and use up some RAM .

    Mavericks has done bugger all for memory usage , unless you run Apple apps that were optimized for it - maybe .

    Not to mention that OSX has become more and more memory hungry .
    2-4 GB is the minimum to run OSX , and don't ever try to be productive with app nap on .
    I agree the activity monitor is not helping here, just not how you describe it .
  17. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    I stand corrected, I didn't know many/most professional photographers were using 36 megapixel cameras at 16 bits per channel. My apologies.

    This comment doesn't make sense to me though. The MBA has a PCIe SSD which writes over 300 MB/s and reads over 600 MB/s. That's pretty close to the theoretical peak performance for the SATA 6 Gbps interface, which is how most SSDs are connected. What do you use that you consider "fast"?

    No, Mavericks' virtual memory system compresses pages before swapping them out to disk. This applies to all software. Software can't be specifically optimized to use this feature. This usually makes a pretty big difference in the amount of physical memory available to programs. If you haven't noticed a difference, then maybe you already have enough RAM. But to say that Mavericks doesn't free up RAM is contradictory to every review and test of Mavericks that has been published online or elsewhere.
  18. nc.fjizzle macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2012
    I use Photoshop almost daily, albeit lightly, for work. I've had zero issues so far. iMovie runs considerably slower.

    MacBook Air, 1.8GHz i7, 4GB RAM on OSX 10.9.5

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