New computers for Graphic Design

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tobefirst, Jul 24, 2018.

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Which Laptop for Graphic Design (print)?

Poll closed Aug 16, 2018.
  1. 2.2GHz with Radeon 555x and 32GB RAM

    3 vote(s)
    75.0%
  2. 2.6GHz with Radeon 560x and 16GB RAM

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. tobefirst macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #1
    Can you guys and gals help me spec out some computers for graphic designers working primarily in print (almost exclusively in InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat)? We are getting ready to upgrade our now 4.5 year-old machines and I'm not positive what we need. The last computers we got were essentially hand-me-downs, so it has been 9 years since I've spec'd out a computer for work. The new computers will need to last an equivalent amount of time, and I'd like to offer an iMac and a MBP option.

    A few questions:
    • Do I need 32GB RAM, or will 16GB be enough?
    • Do I need the discrete graphics of the 15" model MBP, or will the integrated graphics of the 13" be enough?
    • On the iMac versions, is the fusion drive okay, or should I absolutely spend more to get the SSD?
    • Would an upgraded 21" iMac be a suitable option, considering the statement below?

    We will be purchasing new monitors to go with the computers (regardless of desktop or laptop). The budget per computer (not including the external monitor) would be around $3k (before tax) each. I do realize that the iMacs Apple sells now are due for an upgrade. I'd like to spec them out now though, and then if we get bumps before a purchase decision, all the better. I sort of have to spend the money while it is available and before it is taken away, if that makes sense.

    Are there any other questions I can answer to help you guys recommend me a MBP and iMac model to offer a choice between?
     
  2. ignatius345 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2015
    #2
    I've worked a lot on those same Adobe apps. Honestly, I think you can get away with pretty modest hardware. At my last job I was just working on a Mac Mini. It had 16GB of RAM and I was driving two 1600x1200 monitors no problem.

    For $3K per machine, I'd just get iMacs and call it a day unless you plan on moving them around a lot. I have the 5K iMac and it's an awesome, immersive display with plenty of real estate for whatever you're working on and all those Adobe control palettes. As far as 21" vs 27" iMac, I'd say get the extra size -- your designers will appreciate it.

    The Fusion drive is very very quick in my experience, and I'm never really waiting for anything to happen unless I'm spinning up my external USB drive. The logic of the FD is that it moves stuff you're actively using onto the SSD part of the drive. Be aware of this though: the 1TB Fusion drive has a tiny 32GB SSD while the 2TB Fusion drive has a much larger one. Details here (https://tidbits.com/2017/08/07/imac-1-tb-fusion-drives-have-smaller-ssds/).

    I'm using my Mac for basically exactly what you are and the 5K iMac seems perfect to me. Buying a laptop to use as a stationary machine seems like you're just unnecessarily using hardware that prioritizes size and low power use over everything else. Ergonomics are also terrible, unless you elevate it and use an external keyboard and at that point you've just got an awkwardly set up desktop computer.
     
  3. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #3
    Thanks a lot, @ignatius345. Thoughts (or questions) from others are definitely appreciated.
     
  4. cb3 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2017
    Location:
    Texas
    #4
    What I'm using for graphic design - working great!

    iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015), 4 GHz Intel Core i7, 512 SSD, 32 GB 1867 MHz DDR3, AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4096 MB Running an additional 27 inch monitor on the side. USB External Hard Drive for additional storage - this is the slow part - speed not needed here.

    The SSD is awesome!!!!!! Biggest bang for your buck. Get that and cut elsewhere if you have to.
     
  5. robvas macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2009
    Location:
    USA
  6. 960design macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #6
  7. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #7
    Have to stick with Macs for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that we have control over our machines. If we went with Windows, our IT department would be all up in them. They ignore us because they are stuck in the early 2000s in believing Macs shouldn’t be supported by an IT department...and in many respects, I’m fine with that.

    Appreciate the suggestions though. I bought the Surface Pro 4 when it came out as I really like what MS is doing with their hardware. But I just couldn’t get used to Windows. I sold the machine a year later and picked up a Retina MacBook...very high up on my list of favorites computers ever.
     
  8. 960design macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #8
    One of the reason I have Macs / iPads in my office; a little lifeboat in a sea of Windows.
     
  9. mono1980 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2005
    Location:
    Lansing, MI
    #9
    My answers:

    • Do I need 32GB RAM, or will 16GB be enough? 16 GB should be enough for graphic design. 8 GB is not enough, though.
    • Do I need the discrete graphics of the 15" model MBP, or will the integrated graphics of the 13" be enough? 13" should be fine.
    • On the iMac versions, is the fusion drive okay, or should I absolutely spend more to get the SSD? I would go all SSD if you can. It is worth it.
    • Would an upgraded 21" iMac be a suitable option, considering the statement below? Upgraded 21" would be fine.
     
  10. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #10
    Thank you, @mono1980. Others' opinions?
     
  11. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    NYC
    #11
    How large are the files your designers work with in Photoshop? I could justify putting 32GB of RAM in a workstation used by a heavy Photoshop user, especially if they keep the other design applications open at the same time.

    Discrete graphics help out a bit in Photoshop, but I've found their GPU support pretty buggy over the years.

    I would recommend splurging for pure SSD instead of the Fusion drive. I personally have developed a serious aversion to spinning rust over the past few years. Fast storage I/O makes a big difference in the overall responsiveness and usability of the workstation.

    For desktop machines, I would really stick with the 27" models. Besides having a smaller built-in display, the 21" models are far less upgradable after purchase.
     
  12. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #12
    I did a lot of InDesign work (larger projects, typically books) on a late-2014 5k iMac with 24 gb, 1tb SSD, i7, and whatever the top graphics card was in those days. It was always responsive, and the 5k screen was a big plus.

    I replaced it with an iMac Pro (for various reasons, none of them being the old iMac's inability to handle my design work) and the iMac Pro works very well, too. No surprise there.

    I think you'll want to give your designers a look at the 5k screen. I'd guess that that will show you the way to go.
     
  13. dwig macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2015
    Location:
    Key West FL
    #13
    I'm also in the "get 32gb RAM minimum" camp. I also wouldn't want to have to do work in Ps, Ai, or Id on a dinky little 21" monitor, much less a 15" or 13". Yes, it can be done, and I even run Ps and Ai occasionally on my 8" Windows tablet, but productivity falls off massively when i have to deal with the reduced screen real estate. Adding an external display along with a real mouse, good keyboard (read: non-Apple), and possibly a Wacom tablet to a MBP can mitigate the productivity issues. Even this wouldn't achieve the screen real estate of a 27" iMac with a second similarly sized second monitor.

    Even given the smaller Ps files you need for most print work, compared to the 1-12gb files I work with, you need the RAM if the users are going to be running Ps, Id, and possibly Ai at the same time. I do occasionally work on print products (brochures, ads, ...) and having 32gb in my iMac (27" late-2015, 32gb RAM, 1tb SSD, second display, ...) lets me have the publication open in Id and use both Ai and Ps smoothly. I'll often have Lr open as well.
     
  14. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    #14

    I agree totally. I did upgrade the old iMac from 24 to 32 gb (in my futile quest to get LR to handle D850 images smoothly in LR).

    When working on a book, I typically had ID, LR, sometimes PS, Muse and usually Word all running (not to mention Mail, Firefox...). And even the old iMac didn't barf at that load.

    I haven't used a second monitor but I regularly wish I had one. Soon...

    You don't mention storage, maybe because you have what you need. If you need it you'll want to think ahead to USB3 or TB enclosures. I used an OWC Thunderbay 4 drive box, which worked well, but now I'm using an Akitio TB3 box, which works just as well (as it should, because the OWC boxes are really Akitio). Mine sit on the floor, out of the way.
     
  15. tobefirst, Jul 26, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2018

    tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #15
    Thanks for the replies @dwig, @monokakata, and everyone. I think something is being lost here by some, so I'd like to clarify. We will be purchasing external monitors whether we go with the iMacs or the MBPs. So, whether the computer's screen is 13", 15", 21", or 27" doesn't matter as much as it could easily be the palette and email monitor, while the work is done on the external monitor.

    Are some dismissing the 21" iMac just based on its screen size? If so, would that 4k screen plus an external 4k (probably at 24 or 27") screen change your mind at all?
    --- Post Merged, Jul 26, 2018 ---
    Mostly less than 100MB. Sometimes between 100MB and 1GB. Occasionally over that, but not very often at all.
     
  16. zweirad macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    #16
    I'm in same boat as you, but I've narrowed down what I want in a new iMac. For me, the 27" 5K iMac is the right choice. I've managed a small in-house studio (three Macs in a sea of Windows), so I understand what you're dealing with regarding the IT guys. It's just easier to take care of your Macs and let them worry about bigger threats. (The Windows 10 computers mentioned above would work great with Creative Cloud.)

    I'm not planning on adding a second monitor at this time. I have used one of these 5K iMacs with a second monitor and it was OK, but the 2nd screen resolution wasn't as high so things were a little different in scale. Make sure the second monitor can match the screen res of the iMac you choose.

    The larger iMac is a better choice because I can add RAM myself and avoid the Apple tax on it. The 21.5" iMac isn't user upgradable. Having 32GB of RAM is a must. I'm currently using an ancient 2010 27" iMac with 16GB of RAM and it hits the RAM ceiling often with those apps. The funny thing is, I'm still able to use current Creative Cloud apps and get work done on this ancient machine. It's just slower when I ask it do processor-intensive things. That's the real reason I need a new iMac, to speed up the work I do.

    One of the last things I've been researching is whether or not to buy an SSD instead of a 2TB Fusion Drive. The SSD is much faster all the way around, but it adds about $500 to the cost. I'm also waiting to see if they announce anything in September. Either way, I'll end up with a new (possibly refurbed) iMac soon. Happy shopping!
     
  17. 960design macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #17
    Yes, for graphics design.

    5K 27 should serve just fine for all but the highest end solutions ( PIXAR level ). The display is large enough to view two 'full size' web pages within the same view. No need for two monitor 'tennis head' design. Wasted time, effort, energy ( human and electrical ). I believe the two monitor design setups are a hold out from the 1024x768 days of old.

    I use spaces and can quickly move between 'six' virtual monitors.
    https://support.apple.com/kb/ph25574?locale=en_US
     
  18. Expobill macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 30, 2018
    #18
    what ignatius345 said is great advice.
    happy upgrading!
    personally i use a MBA 2010 with CS4, a mac mini as a port and a sketch iPad app for graphic design and cartooning.
     
  19. tobefirst thread starter macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #19
    Everyone in the office decided they want laptops. So, the choice for us is between the 2.2GHz 15" with 32GB RAM and the Radeon 555X or the 2.6GHz with 16GB RAM and the Radeon 560X. Thoughts?
    --- Post Merged, Aug 13, 2018 ---
    Tagging @Expobill, @960design , @zweirad , @monokakata , @dwig , @Silencio , and @mono1980 to get their opinions. Everyone else, too!
    --- Post Merged, Aug 13, 2018 ---
    I recently got a Wacom Intuos that was the same aspect ratio of my main monitor and I have been working with my current laptop closed for the last couple weeks and I'm liking it. I'm using two spaces. I wish that the CC programs worked better with Spaces, but it is what it is.
     
  20. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #20
    Opinion simply based on my own experience and a bit of reading -

    Yes, RAM does matter. Previously, GPU was not a big deal except for a couple of filters so it was CPU intensive. As the program likes to gobble up space, fast access to data is important (especially with RAM for large histories) so think about the size of fast volumes (SSD etc.). As for the CPU, honestly, more than hex core is not needed for all but the most extreme large projects. Typical folks can get along nicely with fast quad to match the RAM and SSD.
     
  21. 960design macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #21
    No doubt the Wacom makes some good stuff, I used them for years. I believe I have gone through at least five generations of Wacom Intuos tablets before I picked up an iPad Pro 10.5. That thing blew me away for the price. Still smile every time I sketch something.

    My wife is a pro artist and has had a hard time moving away from physical canvas to digital, but the IPP 10.5 has at least tempted her. She casually sketches on it from time to time. Not a daily driver for her yet.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 13, 2018 ---
    Tough choice, I would go with RAM over GPU as rendering will cap less often than RAM in most workflows. Having said that, you'll have to look at what your artists do more. Deep field 3D rendering ( 560X ) or 2D palettes with multiple layers and/or largish images ( 32GB RAM ).
     
  22. ignatius345 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2015
    #22
    At my last job they gave me Admin access for my Mac because it kept me out of their hair :)
     
  23. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #23
    Do you need 32GB? So many people are using Macs with lots of performance with 8 and 16GB. Since last year, I see people clamoring that they need 32GB, some say that use Chrome with lots of tabs open (no joke) and absolutely need 32GB, others want it just to be safe.

    You'll not notice a huge difference in raw computational speed between the 2.2 and the 2.6, if your workflow relies on the GPU, the 560x will be a better choice. From what I've seen here at MacRumors, the 2.2 runs cooler, both thanks to the slightly slower cpu clock rate, but also the 555x. In many benchmarks, the 2.2 actually beats out the 2.6
     
  24. dazzer21-2 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2005
    #24
    For the type of work you do - and I speak as a daily, fairly hardcore Adobe CC user - I use a 2015 5K iMac, 3.3GHz i5, 16GB, 2GB graphics with a 2TB Fusion Drive. It's never slow and I don't really find the Fusion to be a bottleneck either. That said, I'm economical with my files (hate having duplicates or unnecessarily massive files about the place) and I don't keep completed work on the iMac's drive. So my Apps and ongoing work take up a fraction of the overall space (currently I have 1.3TB free) so maybe that keeps the disk running nice and smoothly - chances are, if it were to be a little more crammed, then I'd see it slowing down a bit. PLUS the 27" 5K screen is a no-brainer - I couldn't even contemplate using the smaller iMac.
     
  25. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #25
    Max out 21.5" 4K iMacs. So, Core i7, 32GB RAM, Radeon Pro 560, 1TB SSD (unless your workflow is such that you're cool with a 512GB or 256GB SSD because you have access to reliable network storage). Definitely do SSD; don't do Fusion.

    On the MBP side, a maxed out 13" (save for SSD size) should be adequate; if more power is needed, get that person an iMac because that'll be the best bang for buck. Unless you have people on your team that do HEAVY work from other locations.


    So, a few things here:

    (1) Adobe products function IDENTICALLY in Windows and macOS. The only functional differences will come in the form of plug-ins. Otherwise, the programs themselves are identical and by design. It has been that way since the pre-Creative-Suite days.

    (2) You will get FAR better performance out of a PC for the cost of even a decent 21.5" iMac, let alone either MacBook Pro because Apple would rather a thin machine than a machine with actual power that is a little thicker. Furthermore, Adobe favors NVIDIA GPUs for performance acceleration for just about all of their design programs and Apple hasn't used NVIDIA in any of their products since the Mid 2014 15" MacBook Pros.

    (3) Regarding the notion that Macs shouldn't be supported in an IT environment, if they're thinking that Macs won't do what they want them to do out of the box with a traditional Active Directory environment and nothing else, they're absolutely right. Especially given what Apple has done since Mac OS X Lion through the present (by incorporating Mobile Device Management technology into macOS), an IT department that hasn't made any effort to add in things like JAMF to make Mac management not a huge pain, would be better off leaving the Macs alone or not having them altogether. This much is correct. HOWEVER...

    (4) Having worked with Macs and PCs in various IT jobs over the years, I will say this: don't fear your IT department. Don't fear what they want to do with the computers that you technically don't own personally. Just about all of it is to maintain information security, and stability (all of which are good things regardless of what platform you're on). They're not there to be mean; they're there to keep the lights on. If IT is locking down something, unless your IT department is comprised of jerks who do a bad job, it's probably a good thing to lock down and there's probably a business reason to do so that the head of the company approved. If that's not the case, then you can probably go over IT's head to make whatever you'd want to have happen on a PC that you can freely do in wild wild west Mac land be allowed to happen. IT works in service of the company first, and then its users. If it is doing something counter to both directives, unless the business culture where you work is so toxic, you should be able to overrule any draconian directive that you have a valid reason for hating. Otherwise, the fear of not having control of computers you don't even own personally is, sorry to say, ridiculous. If you need it to do your job, at the end of the day, it's IT's job to make sure you get it, whether they lock it down or not.

    (5) Windows 10 has come a long way and, when it all comes down to it, it's not dissimilar to macOS. Instead of a dock, you have the task bar. Instead of Launchpad, you have the start menu. The home folder structure between the two OSes are practically identical, which makes virtually any practical task you'd want to perform between the two differing in only minute differences that only your IT department would care about and a couple aesthetic differences. I get that it's preference based, but the idea that you can't do something in Windows and can in macOS is asinine unless it's a program that ONLY runs in macOS (and these days, that description doesn't apply to that many programs).

    (6) IT itself is undergoing a radical shift between being about what users can't do to being about what users can do. Apple's platforms are spearheading this with MDM technologies, but Microsoft is following rather quickly. If the type of "IT gives you the sandbox and you choose what you do or don't do within that sandbox" tech lifestyle is what you really want at work, then that's something that will inevitably be a cross-platform thing at your place of work.
     

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