Which small/powerful laptop should I get?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by macstatic, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. macstatic macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    I'm trying to decide on a laptop. I already have a Mac Pro 5.1 which is my main machine, but I need something portable for photography use when away from home (mainly dumping memory card contents, simple organizing using Adobe Bridge/Lightroom and the occasional Photoshop editing). I do have a Powerbook G4 (1.67GHz), but I find it almost useless now because it's so slow for everything.
    An 11" or 13" Macbook Air looks tempting because of its small size and weight.

    I also plan to use the laptop as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) using Logic Pro, Cubase, Pro Tools or whatever (haven't decided yet) as my music gear is in a different place than my Mac Pro. Making music is a hobby, so I'll settle for something "good enough" rather than "the very best (and most expensive) you can get".
    Here I assume the Macbook Air would be too limiting with its small screen and I'm not sure how powerful I would need the computer to be.

    I don't want to spend too much money on this, and an older second-hand laptop would probably suffice. I find my Powerbook G4 quite heavy, so something lighter would be nice, but I definitely need more power than I'm used to with my Powerbook G4. Aren't Macbook Pros still quite heavy?
    Then there's expandibility -I don't like how newer Macs can't be upgraded (replace HDD with SDD, upgrade memory), so a 2-3 year old computer might be the way to go which will also save me some cash I think.
  2. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    I'm not sure you'd find one, but I used Logic on my 17" cMBP with 16GB RAM. It had the large HDD, and yes, it's a hefty beast, so maybe the 15" screen might be a better bet for you.

    Other options include the newer ( but last generation) rMBP's I currently have a 13" with 8GB RAM and a 500GB SSD. It runs Logic well, but you might find that the screen size is too limited..I don't personally. Even second hand these are still a major investment, so it's going to depend on what your budget is really.

    Check out the Apple store for Re-furbs in your area too. These are fully warranted and you might even see a 15" or 17" cMBP there too.
  3. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    13" retina MacBook Pro sounds like the perfect balance between lightweight and powerful.

    You could go to the 15" rMBP if you really needed quad-core power -- it Geekbenches about twice the score of the 13" -- but the 13" is no slouch and it is certainly leaps and bounds better than the G4 PowerBook!

    This was the exact decision I made and I'm very happy. My sister, who works with CS6 full-time as her job, went for the extra power of the 15".

    The nice thing about the retina display is you can scale between different resolutions without things looking too blurry. The default scaled resolution feels like 1280x800, but you can scale it up to look like 1680x1050, or hack the driver to get the full panel resolution of 2560x1600, though everything would be tiny.

    Max out the RAM when you buy it because you'll never be able to upgrade it later. The SSD is technically replaceable.
  4. yoak macrumors 65816


    Oct 4, 2004
    Oslo, Norway
    I don´t know how much power you need for you sound apps, but I got a 11" air to use at location so I can dump my RED EPIC footage quickly. I can still play back and do simple editing with 4K and 5K material on this thing. It amazes me how capable it is. I bought it as a demo model from a local shop. Paid the same as an iPhone 5S would cost me.

    The screen might be too small for your needs tough, but it´s surprisingly capable.
  5. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    If you're only using it for music in one location, you might consider an external monitor for extra screen space. That gives you a very portable machine but good screen real estate when you most need it.

    I've used laptops as my primary computer for 20+ years and always had an external monitor in my primary location. It allows me to have a screen that's good enough while traveling but ideal when performing my core work.
  6. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    If only the 11" Air had an SD card slot, it would be the perfect choice -- but that's one more USB adaptor that I'd need to carry around and that kind of goes against the idea of grab-and-go portability.
  7. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I would get the 13" MacBook Pro (Retina) if you want something powerful and portable.

    The 13" Macbook Air is fast too, but I don't like the screen resolution compared to the 13" MacBook Pro (Retina). The only MacBook Air I would even buy is the 11" and that's just too small for real work.

    Something powerful would be the base model 15" MacBook Pro (Retina).

    Anyways for me, I have a Mac Pro for serious work, and the 15" MacBook Pro when I'm from the former. I also have a 11" MacBook Air. The latter does work, but the screen is too small. I don't find the weight.

    The 15" will be lighter than your PowerBook and just about any computer is faster than a PowerBook these days.
  8. bigeasy_uk macrumors 6502

    Sep 8, 2005
    Leamington Spa, England
    An older 13" MBP will do the job quite nicely, but if you can afford it the new 13" retina has a better screen and is a bit lighter.

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