Aperture 3 and the New Macbook Air, Macbook Pro

by Mike on March 14, 2011

“Buy us new Macs and we’ll scratch your back.”

I’m shopping for a new Mac and so I dropped in at the Soho Apple store to play with everything. I’ve been stretching the limits of my 2008-era Macbook, and it’s definitely time for me to take a step up.

Aperture 3 doesn’t run too badly on my computer, but the screen simply isn’t nearly as good as the newer models, and I do want a speed bump for working with RAW files, video editing, and slideshows.

I’m just not sure whether I’m going to go for a Macbook Pro or an iMac, since I don’t travel with my computer very often.

Conveniently, Apple installs Aperture on every computer in its stores, so I got to judge its performance on Apple’s new Macbook Pro models, the Macbook Air, and the entire iMac line.

I kept my testing pretty simple. I loaded up various files from the portrait shoots within Aperture 3’s sample libraries, focusing only on the sample files shot with those super-high resolution Leaf Aptus digital backs. These are 60+ megabyte files that are three or four times the size of the RAW images with which I am typically working.

Aperture 3, even when working withe the huge RAW files from the LEAF, ran smoothly on every machine I tested. On the more-expensive Macbook Pros and iMacs, everything ran perfectly well – adjustment brushes were amazingly responsive, zooming and view changes were instant, slideshows were rendered in a snap, and large export jobs went quickly. I literally have zero complaints.

On the lower-end Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs, Aperture 3 performed well, but not up to the standard of the higher-end models. This was especially true when using the adjustment brushes – they just didn’t respond as quickly or as naturally as with the more expensive models.

In sum, it’s safe to say you can’t go wrong with anything new from Apple if you’re running Aperture 3. I wouldn’t recommend the smaller 11.6″-screen Macbook Air because of the small display, but the 13.3″ model is fine for moderate use.

The model I’ll most likely get, the cheapest Macbook Pro, ran Aperture just fine for my needs. My second choice, the cheapest iMac, ran Aperture screamingly well. Heavy-duty users should look to the pricier Macbook Pro and iMac models which sport faster processors and bigger screens, but for the average person, the cheapies will work just fine.

And one final word – get the AppleCare extended warranty with any Apple computer you buy. Any serious repair on an out-of-warranty Mac, especially the iMacs and Mac Pros, will cost several times the cost of AppleCare.

I’ve spoken to folks at several independent Apple retail/repair shops, and they’ve all told me the same thing. If you own an iMac and the display dies, or if you have a Mac Pro and the motherboard gets fried, you are completely f*cked if you’re out of warranty. You might as well just buy a new computer.

And secondarily, AppleCare will up your resale value if you decide to sell, because you can transfer the warranty to the buyer.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather McKay March 16, 2011 at 8:38 am

As an avid Mac and Aperture user, I can say that a suped up iMac is the best option. With the prices that Apple sells it’s machines these days, it is very affordable to get the highest end iMac. When my 2007 Macbook Pro started failing last year, this is what I bought. It was cheaper than a MacPro desktop and I gained a large display. The 27″ iMac can keep up with my massive Aperture library and I edit an entire wedding with ease.

With the laptops, there are a lot of reasons that it runs slow. One is just the cooling mechanisms. My laptop constantly overheats when I’m churning a huge job on a laptop.

So, if you are not needing to be very mobile, I highly recommend the iMac. Also, Aperture is intensive on the video card, so get the best you can afford.

Like you said, all the machines are amazingly fast these days, but that is just compared to a 3 year old computer….

Mike March 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

Heather, good points all around.

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