MBA for serious multi-tasking?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by miata, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. miata macrumors 6502

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    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #1
    I really need to upgrade my old 15" MBP and have been really impressed with what I have seen so far with the 13" MBA. After seeing the MBA I cannot imagine buying a new system with an internal HDD and Optical drive. Just does not make sense.

    On the other hand, I am a pretty serious at multi-tasking and wonder if the MBA will be able to keep up. I've been using higher end MPB class Macs for around 10 years now, and may be taking certain things for granted.

    First, here is my current system:

    15" MBP Early 2008 2.5 GHz C2D 6 MB L2 8600M GT, 320 GB 7200 RPM

    Now, here are the list of apps I almost always have open at work:

    - Mail with one browser, 3-4 notes windows open and 4-5 messages open
    - Adium
    - MS/Entourage
    - MS/PowerPoint with 5-10 slide sets open
    - MS/Excel with 5-10 spreadsheets open
    - MS/Word with a couple of docs
    - Preview with 3-5 docs
    - Camino with 3-5 windows open (Flash blocked)
    - Firefox with 3-4 windows open (Flash blocked)
    - Address Book

    I quit usingFusion, so good so far? Then I go home where I start doing video editing with my 1080 HD AVCHD footage. I don't close any of my work stuff, because I often have late night and early morning calls. At home add the following apps.

    - iMovie for video editing
    - Toast for burning Blu-ray discs
    - Voltaic (AVCHD video encoding)

    The next part is what makes me nervous.

    While pulling in AVCHD footage via an SD card reader in my ExpressCard slot and writing to a Firewire 800 disk I am burning a Blu-ray movie from Toast via my FW400 port. At the same time I might be using Carbon Copy Cloner to update my system to a different 2.5" external Firewire 800 drive. Oh yeah. Time Machine comes around once an hour and wants to backup to my Airport Extreme over ethernet.

    Will I be able to do all of this with a MBA? I am especially interested in knowing if I will have enough I/O bandwidth. I'll be going from a machine with FW800, FW400, 2 USB2 ports, and ethernet to a machine that just has 2 USB2 ports. I did do a little test with USB and it takes 2.5x the time to copy a file compared to FW800. I also verified that iMovie will let me scrub HD video in with data connected via USB2. The only problem was that I did all of this on a MBP. The biggest let down for me from the Air announcements was the absence of a FW800 port.

    Has anybody out there tried to push this much I/O through a MBA?
     
  2. Burnsey macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Location:
    Canada
    #2
    For what its worth I opened every single app (including iLife, office, ichat, Aperture) simultaneously and while that was happening could open 30 safari tabs across 3 windows. The same test would destroy my current MBP. This thing flies.
     
  3. macbook123 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    #3
    May I ask how you are able to import AVCHD in iMovie? I've tried and failed, and found several threads that claimed it was impossible. The only way is apparently (in the case of some cameras) to import directly from the camera.
     
  4. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #4
    First, I'm using iMovie 7.1.4 in case that matters. The AVCHD files are from a Lumix GH-1 which writes to SDHC cards -- doesn't matter if I shoot in 1080i30 or 720p60. I've also used footage from a Canon HF100. You have to import the movies into iMovie. iMovie does not edit the native AVCHD file. I would kill to have native editing.

    Anyways, when you mount the AVCHD SD card iMovie thinks that you attached a camera and gives you a dialog box to import. I import with the 1080i setting and then it takes forever -- about 6 hours for 1 hour of 720p60 clips.

    One goofy thing about iMovie is that you cannot import .MKS files unless they are stored in what looks like an AVCHD card. So, if you save the files onto an HDD you will not be able to import them directly into iMovie. There are two solutions to this problem. First, you can create a dmg image of the SD card with Disk Utility and mount that to import into iMovie. Or, you can use something like Voltaic to convert the .MKS files into a Quicktime format that iMovie can quickly import. One of the versions of Final Cut Express advertises AVCHD support, so maybe that is what Apple wants to sell people.

    I sure wish that Apple had a friendler AVCHC workflow. If you are really into AVCHD on a Mac I would encourage you to check some of the neat little utilities at ShedWorx.
     
  5. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #5
    I also played with a MBA that wasn't even close to being maxed out and it demoed very well.

    The problem is that I could not simulate how Mail would work with my typical 5000 messages in my inbox with tons of attachments. The demo Mail.app messages are all short -- and not many of them. Or if you have a bunch of giant spreadsheets open.

    More importantly, it is impossible to test a system in the Apple Store maxed out with applications AND being pounded by I/Os going left and right. One of the other things is that I have been a total Mac guy and have used Firewire ever since it replaced SCSI. The thing that worries me is that Firewire works very well when daisy chaining many fast devices. I get great aggregate throughput. With only two USB2 slots I'll have to use USB hubs. How will the system hold up?

    Again, the logical choice might be to get a 15" MPB and install an SSD, but it just seems so wasteful to buy a system with HDD and SuperDrive and throw them out. Sure. Apple sells a really overpriced, underpowered SSD drive BTO, but that costs more than throwing out the HDD and replacing it with a reliable, higher performance OWC SSD unit.
     
  6. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #6
    In my opinion, your needs are likely going to be met better by an MBP than an MBA. Not sure actually why you're thinking of MBA. If I were you, I would simply get a high-res 15" MBP and put an SSD in it.
     
  7. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 22, 2010
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    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #7
    I'm coming to the same conclusion. It just seems like such a waste to pay for an HDD that I will not use. When I am at work I spend a lot of time going from meeting room to meeting room. A nice, light MBA has a certain draw and sex appeal. But a 15" MBP is a nice package as well.

    The Anandtech review makes it very clear that the ultimate system in terms of performance and battery life is a 15" MBP with SSD.
     
  8. Thiol macrumors 6502a

    Thiol

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    Jan 26, 2008
    #8
    +1
     
  9. aberrero macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 12, 2010
    #9
    I replaced the hdd in my envy, and the ssd came with a USB 2 enclosure that I put the old drive in and am now using for time machine. Not a waste at all.
     
  10. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #10
    Thanks for the feedback. Now I am really stuck.

    The hard part for me is that you if you don't want to compromise screen resolution you have to double the weight when you jump up in performance from the MBA. There is a huge gap between the 13" MBA and the 15" MBP.

    The other hard part is that I will need to get creative with pricing. I'm buying this for work and am supposed to keep my budget within $2K. The base 15" MBP with OWC SSD will hit around $2,300.

    The option I've considered is to use my existing MPB for heavy lifting video stuff and get a maxed out 13" MBA for everything else. That just makes things a little more complicated with switches, software licensing, etc. This would also mean that I don't get any performance boost for video processing.

    Oh well, decisions, decisions...
     
  11. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #11
    When I read $2k limit, heavy lifting, and video work, I wonder: do you need portability? Seems like a 27" iMac with an i5 processor (or refurbished with i7) would be a much better way to go. And use your MBP when you need to be portable.

    Anyway, that scheme works for me.
     
  12. Jaro65 macrumors 68040

    Jaro65

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #12
    Well, the MBP you have right now is a fantastic machine (I have one as well). You could potentially consider keeping it as your dedicated machine for all your video work. If you could offload all of that video processing from your requirements for MBA, the maxed out MBA wouldn't have issues handling your (mostly) MS Office and browsing multitasking needs.
     
  13. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #13
    Great point. I was amazed at much performance you get out of an iMac for video stuff

    I would look at this differently if this was a personal purchase, but the company is buying. And for work my biggest problem is battery life. I can only last about 2 hours and I am always running from meeting to meeting. With my older MBP I often have to carry my power adapter. With an MBA I could eliminate the power adapter and get a more portable machine.
     
  14. snorkelman macrumors 6502a

    snorkelman

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    #14
    On our GH1s (and I think our GF1) I can either

    a - import directly from camera or

    b - from hard disk using 'import from camera archive'

    worth noting that 'import from camera archive' will only work if I copy at least the entire contents of the PRIVATE folder from the SD card over to hard disk. If I just copy the MTS files over to hard disk then neither iMovie or FCP want anything to do with them.
     
  15. aberrero macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    #15
    Get a base MBP15 and buy an SSD in a few months. They are going to drop in price soon as the next generation comes out with cheaper to manufacture memory. I don't know if the MBA is using the new, cheaper, memory, but if they are then that is probably a large part of why they are releasing it now instead of 6 months ago.
     
  16. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2010
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    #16
    I wonder if the MBP 13" would work out OK

    I was pretty impressed with the MBP 13" after reading the AnandTech review of the MBAs.

    The 13" MBA is pretty impressive in terms of performance and battery life -- and it does have the same IO as the 15" big brother. I have been reluctant to consider a computer with less resolution that my current system, but if I were to make that compromise I could build a system that fits just inside of my $2K budget -- $1955 to be exact.

    - 13" MBP with 2.4 MHz C2D, 8 MB RAM, 240 GB SSD (OWC), 250 GB HDD

    The 15" version of this would be $600 more. Ouch.

    I wonder if this would work?

    Any thoughts as to how this would compare to the base 15" MBP for things like video encoding and I/O throughput?
     

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