One Mac or Two?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Dave410, Sep 18, 2015.

  1. Dave410 macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2015
    Hi All,

    I’ve been a PC user since 1984, but I’m planning to switch to Mac later this fall or most likely next spring after Skylake arrives. I’ve been reading the MacRumors Forums for a while and I’ve been impressed with the level of expertise here, so perhaps you can help me with my dilemma: should I buy one Mac or two?

    Right now I have an overclocked homebuilt PC desktop for home use and a Lenovo PC laptop for travel. I travel for a living and spend about 15 days a month on the road, so the laptop gets plenty of use. I normally use just the desktop when I’m home and then sync all the files with the laptop just before I leave on a trip. I use the laptop while I’m gone and then sync all the files back to the desktop when I get home. The laptop then goes on the shelf until my next trip. My system works, but it’s a bit cumbersome. I do all the normal low-demand computer stuff, but I’m also a pretty serious amateur photographer and I want the performance to make Lightroom, Photoshop and some high-demand add-ons fly.

    Ideally, I was thinking I should buy a souped-up retina MacBook Pro for travel and then just dock it to a nice monitor and keyboard when I’m home, but I wonder if it will be fast enough for my photography. Like I said, I want it to fly. The kid in the Apple store suggested a 15” rMBP to take advantage of the dedicated graphics card, but those larger MacBooks are more awkward for travel and I travel a lot. A 13” MacBook would be much more convenient, but again, I worry about performance. Finally, it would sure be nice to have just one computer to avoid having to sync files and also for the option to undock, sit on the deck and write witty emails while I toast the sunset.

    Alternatively, I could buy a hot 27” retina iMac with plenty of power and a moderate 13” or 15” rMBP for travel and do most of my serious photography when I’m home. The downsides here are having to sync files again, less performance for half the month, missed sunsets, and that 27” display on the iMac is only average for photography.

    So, what to do? Will a MacBook Pro be fast enough for my photography? Will Skylake make a 13” MBP fast enough that I won’t need a graphics card? (I know, I know. Those are judgement questions that Internet trolls love to pounce on, but I’ll bet you know what I mean.) Is syncing files so unbelievable easy on Macs that I shouldn’t worry about having two machines? Is there another alternative I’m missing?

    Many thanks in advance for any assistance or advice you can provide.

  2. pjfan macrumors regular

    May 24, 2009
    Columbus OH
    Hello Dave, I hope you enjoy your conversion to Apple as much as I did!

    I'm not serious into photography, so I hope you get solid responses from the many experts here in the forum with such a similar passion or career. But here is my view point from a hardware perspective.

    The 13" rMBP would handle your needs smoothly. The skylake potential is an expected 10% speed bump and a slew of "innovation opportunities" with Intel's world view of security and charging. There will be a battery life advantage and better 4K support - Is it worth waiting for? I personally wouldn't, if I were in a similar situation as you. Photography work doesn't benefit from a dedicated GPU to my knowledge, and I suspect you wouldn't be too negatively affected by the lack of four cores in the 13". I believe you would be very satisfied with a 2015 13" pro's ability to "fly."

    Now, here is where my view point changes a bit. If you're serious into amature photography, I would be all in on a retina iMac -- I'm surprised you felt that it was "only average." Perhaps I've been under a rock, but I thought the retina iMac is amazing. Perhaps others can advise.

    Seems as though if you invest in a rMBP, and then see if it appeases your "fly" needs. If so, throw a great monitor setup into your home mix and be happy. If it doesn't, buy a retina iMac (with SSD or Fusion, do not get it without) for that use as well. The 13" travels very well (not MacBook well, but great in general) and is a speedy machine.

    My vote: Jump in now, you have fourteen days if purchased at Apple to return if you regret it!
  3. Dave410 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2015
    Hi PJFan,

    Thanks for the reply and I'm glad you're happy with your transition to Mac. I'm looking forward to the switch too. It's interesting, however, that you implied the 13" MBP has a single core processor. I haven't really looked at those specs very much, being focused on the 15" rMBP, and that's a big deal, so I'll have to dive into that a little more. Lightroom, Photoshop and many other photography programs are multi-threaded now and can make good use of multiple cores. Four is good and six is better. And recent versions of Lightroom can also use the very fast processor and RAM in a graphics card to off-load the CPU, so a dedicated GPU can help with performance too. Speaking of the display on the 27" retina iMac, I think it's pretty amazing too when I see it in the Apple store (certainly much better than the monitor I have now), but the guys on my photo websites say that for the $1000 a Thunderbolt display costs (which I assume is just an iMac display without the iMac), you can do much better. Something else I need to research.

    Thanks again for the helpful comments and take care.

  4. phrehdd, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015

    phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Seems we have similar backgrounds as I left the other camp when Vista came out and continue along the Apple line. As well, I too am involved in the photo venue.

    You have a couple of adventures here to take -

    1) moving data between home and on the road

    2) Desktop and laptop choices to handle photo needs

    First, I don't know what applications you are using for your photo work but I'll for now assume*
    you are perhaps using Lightroom and Photoshop CS or CC.

    Laptop - I would suggest which ever laptop you get, you consider 16 gigs of RAM (mostly for Photoshop) and
    at least 8 gigs minimum. Many photo applications love to gobble up memory. Whatever you decide, make sure
    to tweak your programs to mach your hardware. I use the 2.5ghrtz rMBP with 16 gigs, 512 SSD. I find this
    is the sweet spot for the rMBP of present with respect to performance and cost. The Skylakes might be a different
    story but for photo work, I see just a marginal gain. My laptop of course is the 15" and that CPU is a quad not a dual.
    If smaller is more important to you, honestly I would consider a non Apple laptop that has similar specs to the 15 inch model. Interestingly enough, many of the "gamer" laptops are excellent performers for photo work as they are oriented towards speed and graphics.

    Desktop - I'll be as fair as I can be. I think the iMac is a beautiful computer with enough going for it to make buyers happy. However, for photo work it has one huge flaw - the screen. If you are serious about your photography, then you know that screen calibration is important and it should be done regularly. The iMac screens are beautiful but don't compare to some counterpart screens that are more graphics oriented. People here have often defended the iMac screen but in reality it is true and measurable. If you get an iMac, please do consider a second screen that can be properly calibrated. Sadly, Apple has castrated the Mac Mini (which I also own that were quad models) which are nice tidy little powerhouses in their day. Apple no longer sells a quad core. So, again this just leaves the iMac and the Mac Pro and either way you would want to get a good monitor (or perhaps maybe you already have one) that can be calibrated. While I have the NEC Spectraview which is outstanding, Dell, HP and a few others make some very good monitors that are fine for standard photo work. I think the Dell Ultra series is a great buy.

    Transferring data. There are so many variations on a theme here -

    1) do as you have been doing with a manual transfer at home
    2) upload your files to the web if you have wifi or cell access on the road
    3) create a home "cloud" via some NAS offerings (network attached storage)
    and so on...

    Putting the laptop aside, you may opt for a refurb Mac Pro or one of the new Mac Pro along with a good monitor.

    My comments are only meant as food for though and some shared experience. The primary apps I use are Capture One Pro and Photoshop CS6. My hardware NEC Spectraview Monitor shared with Mac Minis and rMBP. My past hardware included back when Mac Pro, iMacs and other minis. While I do photography, most of my work these days are photo restoration.
  5. pjfan macrumors regular

    May 24, 2009
    Columbus OH
    Sorry for the confusion - let me clarify two things from my post:
    1) the rMBP 13" is a dual core processor, certainly not a single core.
    -- the 15" rMBP is quad core. I did not like (and pretty much never) used it on plans or commutes, as I dealt with ios instead (15" is too big for me, and certainly not good for tray tables, even for 747 trays. My opinion though.)
    2) the iMac I'm referencing is the retina iMac. The Thunderbolt Display is not a retina screen; it's a good screen, but not retina. The retina iMac, in order to obtain "Apple retina" status, is a 5k display.
    -- I agree, don't go non-retina Mac, and many better external monitors are available than the Thunderbolt Display.

    I'm curious - what are your current machine specifications? I think he 13" would scream for you, and you would be happy.

    Sorry to have mislead you on the original post.
  6. Dave410 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2015
    Hi PJFan,

    No worries, you didn't mislead me. Many thanks for the information. I hadn't looked at the specs and I just assumed the 13" rMBP was single core. That really didn't make any sense anyway since it's hard to find a single core CPU these days. My mistake.

    Good point on the Thunderbolt display. I thought it was the same as on the retina iMac. I'll ask the boys at the photo website what they think about it. As I remember, however, even the retina iMac display has problems for serious photographers, but I'll check.

    To answer the question, my homebuilt PC is seven years old now and has a quad-core Intel Q6600 and 8 Gb of RAM, which is all the RAM the motherboard will take. Normal clock speed is 2.4 GHz, but I'm overclocking to a little over 3.3 GHz now. (Can't do that on a Mac!) I also have a dedicated graphics card with 1 Gb of fast RAM, but the card is so old Lightroom can't use the GPU. Beyond that, I have a 256 Gb SSD for Windows 7 64-bit and a 1 Tb SSD for data. Most things run just fine, but some of my large image files are a little pokey. I suspect the bottleneck is bus speed and mostly lack of RAM.

    And hello Phrehdd,

    Thanks for the info. So, you're using a 2.5 GHz 15" rMBP (that I assume has a graphics card) for Photoshop and it works well for you? That's exactly what I wanted to know since I was concerned about performance. My Lenovo laptop is a 2.4 GHz Core i5 with 16 Gb of RAM and a 1 Tb SSD, and it's faster than my desktop (it's a lot newer), but still not fast enough for my photography. Perhaps the PCIe protocol that Apple uses makes the difference. Many thanks.

  7. driceman macrumors 6502


    Mar 13, 2012
    My answer: One really nice 13" Pro, customized on so it has the best specs available for your photo editing (and at that point I suspect you won't have any issues). It doesn't sound like money is the primary focus here, so I'd do that and then get a nice external monitor if you want a bigger screen to work with when you're home.

    Apple's answer: Buy three, not just two.

Share This Page