MacBook Air v old desktop

Ken Rennie

Well-Known Member
I decided to compare my new MacBook Air with my 4 yrs old desktop i7 3770K processor( 3.9GHz) 4 real cores and 4 virtual cores, 32 GB Ram, 2 fast SSDs for programs and Scratch disks but HDD for files so loading and saving files should be slower but I thought that working with photoshop should be comparable. The MacBook Air is the slowest of the new M1 chips with 8 cores, 8GPU cores and 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD.
I decided to try using multiple files using Smart objects Median filtering to produce a long exposure effect hand held without using ND filters.
Loading 25 files (60Mp Sony A7R4) into layers in photoshop Desktop 4 min MacAir 1m56s, I was expecting this as the Ssd should be faster than the HDD.
Auto align layers Desktop 3min 46s MacAir 3min 13s, I thought that the desktop would be quicker with 32GB of RAM as the file is now approx 9GB and the Mac would be into some form of swopping files back into SSD.
Convert 25 layers to smart object Desktop 46s MacAir 1min 1s again the increased RAM should help the desktop as the file size is 9GB
Use Median filtering in Smart Object desktop 3min 25s MacAir 1min 41s the file size is now reduced so the Mac should be faster.

I am impressed with the MacAir, unless I am working with huge files it is appreciably faster than what was a top notch desktop ( top notch without going to Xeon processors). Perhaps I should have bought a more powerful MacBook and used it as a desktop replacement as well as a laptop, but we need 2 computers as both my wife and I use them. So this MacBook is more than powerful enough for 90% of what we do and will handle fairly complex photoshop processing. Since I have a good wide Gamut monitor and a huge NAS I need a machine that has ethernet capability which rules out even the largest MacBook Pros so the lowest powered of the new Mac Studios looks perfect unless I can be seduced into buying a lot more power than I will ever need. Ken
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
Interesting comparison. I have a 2016 MacBook Pro with a 2.7GHz i7, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. I was hoping that the SSD as a system disk would be fast enough to make up for the 16GB of RAM but that fantasy has long since smacked into a wall. If I have LR and PS both open I am already well into swap and if the PS layers get deep the swap overhead is highly notable.

I am eyeballing a Mac Studio with the M1 Max processor and 512GB of SSD but either 32 or 64GB of RAM (leaning towards 64GB). I have a Thunderbolt external drive array that is not stressed for bandwidth so I don't need a huge internal SSD drive but I see the RAM as necessary for my images. I already have a 4K external display and a Thunderbolt system hub with a gigabit ethernet link to my house network.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
What an interesting set of tests Ken. It looks like in 2 out of the 3 tests your desktop beat the new MacBook Air? But the MacBook Air was in the running in all of them. How big is the monitor on the MacBook Air? Are you going to run it with an external monitor?

One of my laptops a few years back was really fast, but it had such a small monitor it was hard to edit on. So when not traveling I actually had a 27" monitor plugged into it along with an external keyboard. So I basically had it set up as a desktop, even though it was a laptop.
 

Ken Rennie

Well-Known Member
What an interesting set of tests Ken. It looks like in 2 out of the 3 tests your desktop beat the new MacBook Air? But the MacBook Air was in the running in all of them. How big is the monitor on the MacBook Air? Are you going to run it with an external monitor?

One of my laptops a few years back was really fast, but it had such a small monitor it was hard to edit on. So when not traveling I actually had a 27" monitor plugged into it along with an external keyboard. So I basically had it set up as a desktop, even though it was a laptop.
The macbook feels faster and only when I had a 9GB file loaded into photoshop was it slower. It has a 13" screen and I have plugged it into an external monitor to try it but it was too saturated until I set the monitor to sRGB then it looked fine. I think that I need to play with colorsync. Overall I am happy with it apart from the lack of square bracket keys so I can't use the quick change the brush size shortcut, no doubt there is a mac shortcut. Ken
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
The macbook feels faster and only when I had a 9GB file loaded into photoshop was it slower. It has a 13" screen and I have plugged it into an external monitor to try it but it was too saturated until I set the monitor to sRGB then it looked fine. I think that I need to play with colorsync. Overall I am happy with it apart from the lack of square bracket keys so I can't use the quick change the brush size shortcut, no doubt there is a mac shortcut. Ken
???No square bracket keys? Is this a (mis)feature of a U.K. keyboard? Apple shows those keys in the usual position just to the right of the P on a US keyboard.

I use a color calibrated Apple 4K monitor at home along with a Logitec keyboard and mouse while my MacBook Pro is connected to a Thunderbolt docking station so the smaller screen size on the laptop is not a point of concern when I am not out on the road.
 
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