Lately in computing there have been a couple pretty major technology jumps. By that I mean, we’ve got USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and SSD technology all becoming more and more available. The speed upgrades are a big improvement over USB 2.0, FireWire and normal hard drives. I remember when Mac first brought out USB in their blueberry iMacs. Nobody used USB! And then, it became standard for like 10+ years. hehheeheh… 😉 And now, we’ve had another big tech jump offering never before seen speeds which really help the overall computing experience, especially when it comes to editing photos. I was blown away by the performance of my i5 MacBook Air with 128GB SSD, especially in comparison to my aging Core Duo iMac. So before going to sleep last night I started wondering about the ultimate photo editing computer. Could it be done on the cheap?
Ideally, when you say “ultimate” everyone thinks MacPro tower. But they are 1) expensive, 2) seldom updated, 3) physically huge. So what other options exist in the Mac realm for maximum grunt computers? The new iMacs are nice but a 27″ i5 1TB old school HD with 8GB of RAM is 2 grand. You could always nab a MacBook Pro too. But you’ll be spending the mad scratch getting a pimped out model with all the bells and whistles too. What’s left? MacBook Air. Yep, doable. But if you want a desktop option, all that’s left is the Mac Mini. Is it a contender?
Check it out. You can buy the best Mac Mini with 2.6 GHz quad core i7 processor with 4GB RAM and 1TB of old school HD for $899. Canadian. Not too overwhelming. BUT, the ability to kick the mini up a notch is pure awesome. RAM is cheap. You can get 16GB of RAM for the 2012 MacMini from CanadaRAM for $137 bones. But what about the old slow HD? You can pull it out of there and replace it with an 256GB SSD for $219.99. It will require a bit of hacking on your part, but there’s tonnes of good tutorials on YouTube about how to make the switch. So, you get a smoking fast chip, blistering SSD hard drive and a fat 16GB of RAM for a grand total of: $1255.99 before tax and monitor. Not too shabby!
You can buy Apple’s Premium $999.99 monitor or, wait until an updated Retina versions come out. In the mean time, you can nab a sufficient 24″ ASUS HDMI connection monitor for $199.99! 😎 So, for the complete cost of $1455.98 before tax, you are well ahead of the top iMac for $600 less, minus 3 inches of screen real estate. Not bad!
Maybe in retrospect, this little Mac Mini build isn’t the “ultimate” setup. But it’s pretty darn close for a whole pile less money! Who doesn’t like that?! 😀 I think the performance of this little suped-up setup would sizzle for photo editing. The integrated intel 4000 graphics will be fine for Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture apps. Plus, you get scads of ports for external storage solutions from promise pegasus to drobo to g-technology in one tiny little footprint. I think it’s a killer setup!
I was recently spoiled this Black Friday! 🙂 I had been needing a new laptop for a LOOOONG time as my little old white Macbook was likened to an old flee bitten dog with 3 broken legs trying to limp itself back home so it could be shot out of compassion. The battery died and ceased to work at all, the screen was wrecked, I’d gone through 3 hard drives, but it’s still kick’n, even if it is only with one leg. 😉 Long story short was, this past Black Friday I took advantage of Apple’s “generous” $101.00 off deal. I’d been eying up a new Macbook Pro, but didn’t want to spend the long dollar for the Retina display. I need a laptop primarily for work – running presentations and bible studies, movies for the confirmation kids, etc. Nothing really over the top powerful. But I also thought it would be cool to have a mobile computer for photography needs as well. But the more I priced things out the more I concluded that if I’m gonna be slugging through D800 RAW files (price drop coming this December!), I’d need massive grunt power. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to spend oodles of cash. So, I decided to dump the photography needs from the equation and focus on a simple, light and portable solution for work. And, I made up my mind on a Macbook Air.
I had looked at them awhile ago and concluded they were for trendy vegan hipsters whose limp wrists couldn’t hoist the heft of a Macbook Pro at Starbucks whilst sipping a mocha frappa latte chino. 😎 I had concluded that the MBP was the only way to go. I liked the idea of the SSD over the traditional hdd and if I had got the MBP, the first thing I was going to order was a SSD to use in it. But it was an extra expense. Plus, the 13″ version that I was interested in maxed the RAM at 8GB. If I couldn’t have 16, I wasn’t interested. So, I decided to give the Air another look.
But what absolutely blew me away was how fast it is. My main computer is a 21.5 iMac with the Core Duo 2 chip and 16GB of Ram, not a slouch but not the latest kid to the party either. I wanted to test this little Air’s performance and I know of no better way than to try to choke it to death on D800 RAW files. I had an 18GB library of some files I shot with my friends camera. So after I got Aperture 3 installed on the Air, I attached my USB 3.0 Seagate drive and got ready to give the digital Heimlich maneuver. But I never got the chance. I watched as the RAW files loaded up in the library and snapped into focus. There was hardly any long delay waiting for the files to render. I slid the mouse around the file look at 1:1 view and the little computer kept up with no issues. In short, it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!! 😀 With the 1.7 i5 chip and 8GB of RAM, this sweet little computer cooks RAW for breakfast. I was astounded at the performance. But the achilles heel of the 128GB SSD drive is the rather conservative size. Not a whole metric tonne of room for storage. However, with the sweetness of USB 3 and Thunderbolt, you’ve got awesome high speed mass storage solutions. I plugged in my USB 3 Seagate 1TB drive and it ran the Aperture library without a hitch. And, the drives are only $100 buckeroos. Cheap.
So to recap, I’m really happy with the Macbook Air! It was rather serendipitous that it turned out to be an exceedingly capable photography computer as well as basic “light-duty” portable laptop. Ideally, a larger 15″ retina screen would be nice for doing tethered shooting, but the 11″ is just that much more portable. Easily fits in a camera bag with no issues. It’s incredible value for the money I’d say. It was basically $1100 in the configuration I bought. We know that these little computers aren’t going to be upgraded ever, so I bought the max RAM I could. I’m confident that it will serve me for many years to come, just like my old palliative Macbook did. 🙂
Oh and as for “JoJo”? I asked Phoebe what I should name the new computer. “JoJo” was the answer. 😉