macbook pro + external screen for photo editing

Started Jun 28, 2013 | Discussions
lnguyenh
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macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
Jun 28, 2013

Hello,

I am looking for a new computer to do photo editing / app development.

I plan to buy an external screen, 24 inch (probably Dell u2412)

Lightroom and photoshop are the critical applications.

Basically, it is between:

  • 13 inch retina , i5 2.5 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 128 SSD drive (+ pbbly a USB3 external drive)
  • 13 inches non retina, i7 2.9 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 750 GB drive
  • 15 inches non retina, i7 2.3 GHz quad core, 4GB ram 500 GB drive

I have never owned a mac yet. I have currently a 6 years old Dell laptop :). I have an Ipad with retina display.

Any opinions, with performance for photo editing in mind? Budget wise, I cant go higher than the listed items.

Samsung i7
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Erik Bailey
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

Think about deferring the monitor and putting the money into a higher-end laptop. I have the 3.0GHz 13" Retina and thought I would want an external monitor, but simply haven't seen the need. Lightroom works great on the Retina display (I don't use Photoshop though), and I'm glad for the extra speed when it's cranking through a large export. You will enjoy whatever machine you get - I have gone back to Mac after 20+ years of Windows and will never look back - but definitely go for the Retina if you can... --Erik

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Tom_N
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

lnguyenh wrote:

Basically, it is between:

  • 13 inch retina , i5 2.5 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 128 SSD drive (+ pbbly a USB3 external drive)
  • 13 inches non retina, i7 2.9 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 750 GB drive
  • 15 inches non retina, i7 2.3 GHz quad core, 4GB ram 500 GB drive

Any opinions, with performance for photo editing in mind?

If maximum performance for heavy-duty photo applications is the main concern, then of the three you listed, the 15-inch non-Retina MBP is the way to go.  It has a quad-core CPU and a dedicated GPU and you can order it with a "hi-res" anti-glare screen.  Add 8 GB or 16 GB of third-party RAM and you would be good to go.  (Later you could replace the HDD with a 2.5" SSD.)

The 13-inch Retina MBP has the advantages of an IPS screen and much lighter weight.  It may also be able to drive two large DisplayPort monitors (to the others' one), like its 15-inch Retina MBP cousin.

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Tom_N
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to Tom_N, Jun 29, 2013

Another option might be to get the 13-inch non-Retina MBP, then "load it up" with 16 GB of RAM and a large third-party SSD.  (Both the RAM and the HDD bay are user-serviceable on non-Retina MBPs.)

If you're not processing absolutely huge photo workloads (lots of D800 files, huge panoramas, etc.), it may not matter too much that the 13" models have dual-core CPUs and integrated graphics.

One drawback of the 13" non-Retina model is that the screen has only 1280 x 800 pixels.  This is enough for Web browsing and writing papers, but I have seen people comment that it is a bit cramped for using certain photo programs (e.g., Lightroom) on the go.

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wazu
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to Tom_N, Jun 29, 2013

Tom_N wrote:

lnguyenh wrote:

Basically, it is between:

  • 13 inch retina , i5 2.5 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 128 SSD drive (+ pbbly a USB3 external drive)
  • 13 inches non retina, i7 2.9 GHz dual core, 8GB ram, 750 GB drive
  • 15 inches non retina, i7 2.3 GHz quad core, 4GB ram 500 GB drive

Any opinions, with performance for photo editing in mind?

If maximum performance for heavy-duty photo applications is the main concern, then of the three you listed, the 15-inch non-Retina MBP is the way to go. It has a quad-core CPU and a dedicated GPU and you can order it with a "hi-res" anti-glare screen. Add 8 GB or 16 GB of third-party RAM and you would be good to go. (Later you could replace the HDD with a 2.5" SSD.)

The 13-inch Retina MBP has the advantages of an IPS screen and much lighter weight. It may also be able to drive two large DisplayPort monitors (to the others' one), like its 15-inch Retina MBP cousin.

Good advice Tom

I bought the non-retina for both the anti-glare screen, dvd and user seviceable parts. I replaced the internal drive with a 240gb SSD upgraded the 4gb ram to Kingston (cheap) 16gb and added a network connected external drive (1gb ethernet cable) since I am still waiting for TB drives to come down in price.

I'm using a 27" TB display mostly but have the 15" display as an auxilliary screen. I'm confident I could edit photos while mobile on the 15" screen but would be sceptical about doing same on a 13" (even if it is a retina model).

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lnguyenh
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

Thanks for the answers. It is as usual hard to take a decision. My plan is to also use the new computer to work from home. that involves linux development ( with a mac i could remote desktop to my linux computer which sits in my office, not at home). I also want to be able to do app development, and it seems for anything iOS, you need a mac. Performance/price wise, a gaming windows pc like a asus rog g750 would be a better deal than a MBP, but then, iOS development would be impossible. As said, I want to use an external screen for serious photo or development work. I am a little worried that the 13" + 24" (mbp + screen) experience would be a bit weird compared to 15" or 17" + 24" (bigger mbp or windows laptop + screen).

i do value performance and long term life of this new computer, but i also realize that be it a rMBP or not, it will always be an immense improvement compared to my current setup (Dell inspiron, 1.83ghz cor 2 duo)

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Tom_N
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

lnguyenh wrote:

I am a little worried that the 13" + 24" (mbp + screen) experience would be a bit weird compared to 15" or 17" + 24" (bigger mbp or windows laptop + screen).

Get a 27" or 30" screen and stop worrying so much about using the notebook screen at the same time.  

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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to Tom_N, Jun 29, 2013

Tom_N wrote:

lnguyenh wrote:

I am a little worried that the 13" + 24" (mbp + screen) experience would be a bit weird compared to 15" or 17" + 24" (bigger mbp or windows laptop + screen).

Get a 27" or 30" screen and stop worrying so much about using the notebook screen at the same time.

Yep.

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Michael Eckstein
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

I am currently using a 13" Macbook Pro late 2009 model with Core two Duo 2.26 ghz and 8 megs of ram. I removed the CD player and installed a 240GB SSD drive as my main drive and moved the 500Gb drive to where the CD drive was and use it as my photo storage drive. Additionally I have 2 external drives a 1TB and a 3TB for storage and backup. These four drives are on continuously. I also have two more external drives of 2TB which are only turned on when I want to back up raw images. Also I have two printers, one color 13" x 19" and one mono laser for non photo images. An Asus 24" monitor, a Wacom tablet, Neat scanner and keyboard and mouse as well as a sound system. Sometimes I use the computer screen as a second monitor.

All have been running flawlessly since I bought this system and other than the dual drives in the computer, which were added about 6 or 7 months ago. Besides the boost in performance from the SSD as my main drive, the computer runs 35 degrees cooler with it installed. This system is usually running for 15 hours per day.

This setup is used with CS6 and Aperture 3, as I am heavy into photo processing and website management.

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lnguyenh
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

If some people use an external screen for photo editing, with the 13'' MBP without any dedicated graphic card. Do you notice a big performance drop when having dual screen setup? How about when you ONLY use the external screen?

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Michael Eckstein
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

lnguyenh wrote:

If some people use an external screen for photo editing, with the 13'' MBP without any dedicated graphic card. Do you notice a big performance drop when having dual screen setup? How about when you ONLY use the external screen?

I use external screen for editing, Asus PA248Q 24" and sometimes use 13" MBP screen as second monitor.  I don't see any difference in performance with or without 2nd screen.

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noirdesir
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Re: macbook pro + external screen for photo editing
In reply to lnguyenh, Jun 29, 2013

lnguyenh wrote:

I am a little worried that the 13" + 24" (mbp + screen) experience would be a bit weird compared to 15" or 17" + 24" (bigger mbp or windows laptop + screen).

If you want to use them side by side as equals, then maybe. But you laptop screen will anyway sit lower on your desk than any external screen and I find the following arrangement quite useful:

Which, btw, this is a 24" and a 13" screen. Though it is useful to be a rather tall person to avoid the upper edge of your monitor setup being higher than your eyes (I've used a 15 + 24" setup as well, which has the same combined height as a 13 + 27" setup, but that might be the upper limit for me).

This arrangement is also the most natural one in regard to the placement of menu bar and Dock, ie, the menubar going across the whole upper edge of your monitor setup and the Dock being centered at the bottom.

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Jacques Cornell
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13" non-R MBP 2.9GHz i7 + SSD + 27"
In reply to Tom_N, Jun 29, 2013

Tom_N wrote:

Another option might be to get the 13-inch non-Retina MBP, then "load it up" with 16 GB of RAM and a large third-party SSD. (Both the RAM and the HDD bay are user-serviceable on non-Retina MBPs.)

This is exactly what I did, and I'm very happy with it. 13" non-Retina 2.9GHz i7 with 16GB RAM and a 512GB Vertex 4 SSD in the optical bay for OS, apps and (referenced) Aperture libraries, driving a 27" NEC PA271 display. All images on TB RAID backed up to USB3 RAID. Laptop in clamshell mode when docked on desktop. This sucker is a pocket rocket. I run hundreds of 10-21MP RAW files per job through Aperture on this without so much as a hiccup. The money saved on the MBP bought a lot of extra peripherals. And, with a SSD + HDD onboard, I've got 24/7 backup on the road.

One note, the HDD and optical bays are user-serviceable, but they're not intended to be. Getting at 'em is a bit of a chore and voids the warranty.

If you're not processing absolutely huge photo workloads (lots of D800 files, huge panoramas, etc.), it may not matter too much that the 13" models have dual-core CPUs and integrated graphics.

Yes, for high-volume D800 RAWs, quad-core helps, and a new Mac Pro would be better.

One drawback of the 13" non-Retina model is that the screen has only 1280 x 800 pixels. This is enough for Web browsing and writing papers, but I have seen people comment that it is a bit cramped for using certain photo programs (e.g., Lightroom) on the go.

Whether Retina or non-, 13" is small. That said, I recently processed about 3,000 images during a 6-week trip without difficulty. Aperture in full-screen mode works really well on smaller displays.

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noirdesir
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Re: 13" non-R MBP 2.9GHz i7 + SSD + 27"
In reply to Jacques Cornell, Jun 30, 2013

Jacques Cornell wrote:

Tom_N wrote:

One note, the HDD and optical bays are user-serviceable, but they're not intended to be. Getting at 'em is a bit of a chore and voids the warranty.

Not the HDD bay. The printed manual for the MBP that comes with it has instructions on how to change the HDD. I don't think they can claim it voids the warranty if it is described in the manual without such a warning.

And in locations where there are third-party certified Apple service centers, if you let them put things in, they will not complain if you bring it in for any warranty work. Otherwise they would in a way blaming themselves for having damaged something and they also have no incentive to deny warranty claims. They get reimbursed for parts and labour from Apple (they probably have to send in the defect parts they replaced) if they declare it a warranty case.

One drawback of the 13" non-Retina model is that the screen has only 1280 x 800 pixels. This is enough for Web browsing and writing papers, but I have seen people comment that it is a bit cramped for using certain photo programs (e.g., Lightroom) on the go.

Whether Retina or non-, 13" is small. That said, I recently processed about 3,000 images during a 6-week trip without difficulty. Aperture in full-screen mode works really well on smaller displays.

I have the same setup (well, 24" instead of 27") and Aperture is really useable on the 13" screen but LR is more cramped because it does not go completely fullscreen and any controls require a extra click to appear (can't be moved around) whereas in Aperture's fullscreen mode both navigation and main control panels appear by just moving the cursor the top or bottom of the screen (and disappear again when you mouse away again).

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Jacques Cornell
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Re: 13" non-R MBP 2.9GHz i7 + SSD + 27"
In reply to noirdesir, Jun 30, 2013

noirdesir wrote:

Jacques Cornell wrote:

Tom_N wrote:

One note, the HDD and optical bays are user-serviceable, but they're not intended to be. Getting at 'em is a bit of a chore and voids the warranty.

Not the HDD bay. The printed manual for the MBP that comes with it has instructions on how to change the HDD. I don't think they can claim it voids the warranty if it is described in the manual without such a warning.

Good to know. Thanks for the correction.

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Tom_N
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Re: 13" non-R MBP 2.9GHz i7 + SSD + 27"
In reply to Jacques Cornell, Jun 30, 2013

Jacques Cornell wrote:

One note, the HDD and optical bays are user-serviceable, but they're not intended to be. Getting at 'em is a bit of a chore and voids the warranty.

"User-serviceable" and "easy to service" are not always one and the same thing.

"User-serviceable" means that Apple considers the item to be thus, and that as long as you do not damage the computer, you won't void your warranty on the Apple-supplied part of the computer.  There's no guarantee that the job will be easy; just that it's not impossible.

For instance, consider three series of Apple minitowers:  the PowerMac 8500/9500s, the PowerMac 8600/9600s, and the Mac Pros.  The 8500s/9500s had a reputation of being painful to upgrade.  The 8600s/9600s had a drive assembly that swung out of the way so you could easily get to RAM and PCI slots on the motherboard.  The Mac Pros have a design where the HDDs/SSDs themselves are mounted on slide-out trays so you don't have to futz around trying to screw the drives in place within the narrow confines of a case.  All of these designs are user-serviceable, but the Pro design is the easiest to service.

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