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Wednesday, 05 January 2011


If my memory serves me correctly, in order to take full advantage of the memory on the new Macs and PCs with the Core "i" series chipsets, memory modules must be paired and of equal size or the systems actually take a performance hit.
So recommending upgrading an iMac to 12GB of RAM would not help as much as you think! Instead, going for the full 16GB will make it scream. RAM prices are such that I upgraded my new iMac to 16GB for around $205 (US) and got the same RAM as comes from Apple.

I wouldn't bother getting OWC to hack an eSATA port onto the iMac unless you're regurlarly shifting terabytes of data.

You'll get a more noticeable performance increase by replacing the hard disk with a solid state drive/

If I EVER see anyone successfully using their 27 inch iMac on an AIRPLANE, taking a photo of it will be my first priority !!

Let's say I am doing postproduction work on a Macbook Pro display. What types of problems am I likely to run into?



And, to confuse the issue further, there is the Mac Mini. That way you can just go directly to the NEC monitor and don't have to deal with the hard to profile, iMac monitor.

Very good description of the potential problems and trade offs Ctein.

I would not buy a second display however with the Laptop configuration but rather a second computer. Another iMac (smaller maybe) would be a better fit for me (I am talking about my preferences here) and it would have the advantage of having a second computer in case something goes wrong with the other.

However it is pricey and I would not be able to afford it probably, but dreaming is free!


I should know better than to try and talk to Apple fans, but buying the good screen and a non-apple computer is a lot cheaper, and a lot easier to upgrade in the future. For the same money, you can put together a computer with much more power and memory than either that Imac or the Powerbook, won't have to mess with eSata, as you can simply put fast disks inside the computer.

And when the PC is getting outdated, you simply replace the offending components and are set for another few years, without having to throw out the screen, drives, and everything else along with it.

All you miss out on is the Apple operating system, but be honest, is Photoshop on Windows really that different from Photoshop on a Mac? If it really is, install MacOS.

Note that my previous comment is mostly in regard to the Imac. The Powerbook, as stated, has its own advantages in its portability, and is only a bit more expensive than comparable Windows laptops, and very well built.

I've recently seen the latest version with the matte screen, and wonder if maybe Ctein has experience with an older model, cause that one was very good, even under very extreme viewing angles. (And that's saying something, coming from a CRT user like me).

The Imac however simply has the disadvantages of a laptop (bad upgradability/expandability), combined with the disadvantages of a desktop (bad portability).

On the shiny display of the iMac:

When I got mine a few years ago, I had heard of that problem, but figured it would not bother me so much. Over time it has come to be a bigger nuisance. I have to keep curtains closed for any photo work, but even to use it at all during certain times of the day or else the reflections off my display become so strong, it is hard to read. Almost like looking in a mirror. I cannot move it to another location in the room due to lack of outlets---most Japanese apartments have very few---and would run into cable problems (it has the problem that a number of iMacs' have of not being able to reliably operate wirelessly so I am stuck---in 2011---with ethernet).

That laptop with a decent screen now looks very appealing...

FWIW, I have a 15" MacBook for work and it's quite large - significantly larger than I'd want to carry around. The 17" is truly humongous.

If the OP wants a laptop for its portability, I'd strongly advise sticking with the 13" MacBook Pro - I have one, and it's a very nice size and plenty fast.

There are high-quality IPS displays available for less than $1k. I personally have and like the HP LP2475w (1920x1200). Here's a list: http://www.pchardwarehelp.com/guides/s-ips-lcd-list.php

While the topic isn't Macintosh vs. PC+Windows cost (for the record, count me among those that don't see a Windows-based computer as all that cost-effective, when productivity and hassles are factored in ...) Bernard has a point.

Any photog who is also comfortable assembling computer parts should seriously consider a Hackintosh. It's not a true Mac replacement, but in some ways it can be. See the various tonymac guides for recipes: http://tonymacx86.com/

Alberto, you forget that the second display is especially needed with the laptop because the quality of most laptop screens (and, apparently, these particular laptop screens) isn't good enough for serious photo work. Adding a second laptop does not address this problem!

(I can certainly testify that my own Lenovo T60 screen displays less than 24 bits, I can easily produce banding in gradual gradients. It also displays the other issues Ctein mentions in regard to these Mac screens, like big changes in gamma based on viewing angle. I'm told there are laptops with screens suitable for photo work, but you have to hunt them down. It's in no sense Mac-specific, it's universal.)

Mike Johnston, didn't you recently upgrade your computer? I'd be interested to hear how that's working out if you did.

... or an early 2009 Mac Pro for $1799 at B&H.

Second the Mac Mini comment. The new ones can drive *two* monitors quite easily, which is fun - I just hooked up a 24" LED monitor as my main and use my old 22" monitor for my other apps, or for examples or tutorials or whatever is nice to have on the screen while your image is on the other one. Plus you can pick your own monitors!

Obviously, the Mini is last-generation tech (Core Duo as opposed to the iX processors in the other machines, 8GB max memory) but unless you're going to do serious multitasking or are worried about CGI or video editing before you buy your next computer, it's just fine for Photoshop or Lightroom. Plus with the money you save you can upgrade it to a Solid State Drive, which makes them WICKED fast, Core Duo or no Core Duo.

Yes, there is definitely a tradeoff in how images look on an iMac and one of Apple's MacBooks.

I have a 27" iMac for home, but have wanted for some time, a laptop to have with me when I am on the road, so that I can work on images, and not have to wait until I am home. So, in the Autumn, I purchased Apple's latest 13" MacBook Air. Yes, I know they are not the most powerful, and faster laptops out there, but that wasn't a major concern with me, as I just wanted the ability to get to, and work on photos while away from home, knowing heavier workloads will more than likely still be done while home on the iMac.

I use Apple's Aperture, with the whole suite of Nik Software plugins as my photo editing tools, and honestly don't experience any issues in computing speed and the like, on the Air. And get a lighter and thinner laptop to carry around along with all my photo gear... as well as being cheaper to purchase (it was between the Air and a 13" MacBook Pro, but really prefer and wanted the Solid State flash drives as opposed to the traditional hard drives, especially for a laptop that is going to be lugged all over the place and jostled - I wanted less moving parts as possible to be potentially damaged. So, upgrading the 13" MacBook to a SSD drive, made it more expensive than getting it natively in the new Airs).

But, as mentioned, the way my photos look on either screens is easily noticeable. I did several calibrations on the Air to get it to match that of my iMac as close as possible, and still the colors are weak, less saturated, color temperature is still colder, and contrast is higher on the Air. So that has to be kept in mind when I am working on photos on the road, that their representation I am seeing and getting on the Air, is not going to be a true representation, and to not try and compensate for things, for instance, bumping up the saturation for dull colors to make them pop as I thought they were when I took the photo, for example, and the like, and just keep in mind these differences in screens, and just wait until I am home on the iMac, to do any necessary tweaks. But, still at least be able to get the bulk load of the work done on the Air, while not home... so, in the end it still works out, and fits the bill for me... just have to bear in mind the tradeoffs.

Does the video card make any difference? I do some gaming too, so I like the discrete video card. I don't know if a discrete video card affects editing software though.

I use a PC with an 7300 Dual Core processor and a old Dell display (I bought the shit for 300 euro + a second hand 2800 Epson printer for 250 euro, printing paper from the supermarket at 10 euro for 50 sheets (A4)). I know the limitations of the system and my prints come out the way I want them to be. Others acuse me of using extrenal print specialists so I guess i'm doing all right. Maybe just maybe if I was willing to stick my neck in a credit nose once again (which i'm verry much not) I could get around to buying an Apple desktop. But would the marginal increase in quality be wearth the 2000 euro or more? Nah, not verry likely. For instance I use Gimp instead of P-Shop, so eat your 24 bit depth....., my advice, if you have money to blow out the window invest in time or travel in order to take picture en callibrate your working proces on the things you have not on the things you desire. Learned that lesson the hard when I absolutly needed a Gibson Les Paul in order to further my guitar playing skills. That turned out to be nonsense as well. What I needed was time and skill not wood. Same with a camera, computer, printer setup. Invest in optimizing your skills not in optimizing your setup. But if you must (computers tent to go down the spout once in a while) than buy a second hand, one to two year old computer of the desktop variaty. Easy to install new stuff like, a videocard, drives, memory etc. even a mainboard and a processor can be upgraded if needed and when a part breaks down it can be maintained by yourself (just replaced a cooling fan). And before you buy anything, reed Benjamin Barbers "Consumed". And NEVER EVER BUY A LAPTOP FOR ANYTHING OTHER THEN IMPRESSING YOUR FELLOW TRAVELERS :-).

Greetings, Ed

The thing that really sticks out to me is the gap between the Mini and the Pro desktops. What I really want from Apple is a small tower with all the right ports and upgrade-ability. The only option now is to buy a 2009 vintage Mac Pro, since the Mini is IMO not capable enough.

@Rob White
Just to go all nerdy; Yes you are correct. All i* have at least two memory channels and matching RAM (not just slots filled but size too) is recommended. However all tests I could find have shown that more RAM trumps less but matched RAM. The one exception can be when the RAM is shared by the onboard graphics card. The iMac in question here however does not have that problem.
Intel currently sell i7-8xx and i7-9xx. 9xx have three memory channels and are much more dependant on equally filled RAM slots. This does not effect iMacs as they only use 8xx. Mac-Pro (not Macbook-Pro) is another story.
Intel now have a second generation iX-2xxx which are currently all dual channel again.

computer nerd out.

After years of despising MS, exacerbated by my wife's laptop running Vista, I took a serious look at Apple several times in the months between when I decided it was time to upgrade and when I actually did it. Every time I did, I just couldn't make it make sense. A couple hundred; a few hundred $$ for the usability of an Apple would be fine. But it was never close. Part of the problem was that I have a hard time going with the mini or iMac and making everything external.

On the flip side, you can't easily get custom Windows machines any more. Dell & others make cheap, simple computers with much more limited customization options in the past, and load up the install with tons of crud that needs to be cleaned up to have a smooth running machine (driving me back to consider Apple). So I finally took drastic measures. I have two degrees in computer science, programmed assembly language on PET machines in the 80's, but have never built my own computer before. I have a clean Windows 7 install on machine with an Intel quad core CPU, 8GB memory, a velociraptor boot drive and 3TB data drives, and a Blu Ray burner ... all inside a nice steel case, for $1100. Plus some extra for external backup using USB3. Maybe $1500 with backup drives.

There are "boutique" outfits that build quality machines to spec, but they would have cost $500-1000 more than DIY. Still comparable to an Apple and you get exactly what you want inside the box.

I don't intend to say Windows machines are better. I still wouldn't mind using one. Maybe if they sold what I wanted. A $2400 entry level Mac Pro is overkill, but that's their cheapest machine that's internally expandable. My first answer to "which apple should I get" would be "are you sure you want an apple ?" (I seriously thought about the laptop option with external data storage, but I have little need to work on LR anywhere but in my office).

BTW, Windows 7 is solid and enjoyable, especially without all the crud that manufacturers pile on top of it. After I got a little confidence from building my own desktop machine, I upgraded my wifes laptop. For $400, I maxed out the RAM (only 4GB), replaced the 128GB HD with a SSD and put Windows 7 on that, and it turned a 2 year old machine that was agonizing to use into a speed demon.

I totally agree with Bernard. In addition, I find Windows 7 on a properly configured PC to be significantly nicer to work with (my personal preference, of course) than the current Mac OS, particularly in terms of windows management. My current experience with Mac is limited to my friend's Mac Mini, which I find quite disappointing performace-wise. I'm sure, of course, that performance is better on a Mac Pro.

Bernard wrote:
> And when the PC is getting outdated, you simply replace the offending components and are set for another few years, without having to throw out the screen, drives, and everything else along with it.

I've determined that there's more myth than reality to that ideal. I have a not-too-old Buffalo Terastation with 4 250GB HDs in a RAID 5 array. It cost around $500 new. Now I have a pair of 1.5TB drives in my new machine that cost me $79 each ! I was looking to see what purpose the NAS could serve after upgrading my computer ... it's slow & small for backup ... but it turns out the biggest HDs you can put in it are 400GB each. IDE. Not cheap. The computer I'm upgrading from uses IDE drives. I bought all SATA-II; the new motherboard has support for SATA-III. The motherboard will support certain CPU upgrades, but pretty much what's available on the market now. It won't handle new CPUs coming out next year. I could always upgrade the MB and CPU and memory together ($$$) and use them with what will then be considered slow SATA-II drives. Hopefully my ATX case will be good for a while - a friend who's been building machines said that ATX replaced something else that renders older cases & power supplies hard to use if not obsolete.

I think the window for upgrading is small; past that, stuff that works with your system gets hard to find and correspondingly expensive. And the degree to which your upgrades make a difference is dependent on the degree to which you overhaul your system.

I built my system with the idea that I could expand it if I wanted to add certain things, but that I'm more likely to replace it (or most of it) in 5 years rather than do incremental upgrades. But the customization options you have in the first place are amazing.

It all comes down to what you require from your computer, if portability is the issue it's a no brainer if it isn't then I would opt for the iMac. It's the computer I have and it handles everything I throw at it with consummate ease.

I would certainly recommend upgrading the ram, and going for the largest hard drive you can afford. I use CS5 with various plug ins and it's very quick. My camera is the pentax K5 and the files are always raw, I would never use any other computer.

What I'm waiting for is an updated MacBook pro with no super drive, and an SSD drive and a high capacity standard drive.

Ctein, do you store your photography files on the MBP's hard drive or an externals drive? My MBP hard drive is starting to run low on space and I may have to move those files to an external drive.

Those glossy screens are really bothersome. My MBP has the matte screen - much better. But I also use an NEC for more serious work.

I've gotta agree with Bernard ... the more I read about Apple products, the happier I am with Windows. I run two desktop units side-by-side; both have been upgraded; one runs Win XP and one runs Vista; no problems with either.

Ctein, thanks for the specific info on the limitations of laptop screens. The same is true of Windows laptops, of course.

Excellent article!

I went through this decision once CS5 was released that allowed better use of more RAM on a Mac.
I got the iMac with 16 RAM using your dollar logic, especially since I could still keep and use my four year old 15" MacBookPro for travel.
I had a very nice external display with the laptop, but it is now attached to the 27".

While Mac makes it very difficult to upgrade computers, the old stuff is still very usable and functional. It's not like it stops working. OWC also provides nice cost efficient upgrades as you point out.

this is a good summary, but i would like to help put a finer edge on it ...

first, you don't mention the portability benefits of 13" MacBook Pro or even the MacBook Air models; while there is a clear power trade-off (not just the CPUs but the GPUs are a notch slower than the 15" and above can reach), they are much more comfortable to carry regularly and easier to use in crowded situations; as a fairly mobile power user (software developer and photographer), switching from a 15" to a 13" MacBook Pro 18 months ago was truly liberating; 8GB of RAM helps make it a small powerhouse, but i do hope they 13" model gets an anti-glare display option and a better GPU soon

second, i disagree with your $1000 all-or-nothing approach on the external display -- i think a "good enough" 24 inch display is a great addition to a MacBook Pro; i found a used Apple 24", put it on a VESA arm, and when i'm not on the go i have a pretty good photo editing workstation

lastly, generally those who need basic-level advice on choosing a Mac are probably not going to benefit much from an eSATA interface; i use an eSATA card with my older 15" MacBook Pro, which i use as a backup computer and a home server; frankly, eSATA's speed doesn't make a huge difference in most work, and it's significantly more hassle; eSATA plugs accidentally disconnect much more easily than FireWire, the drives can't be chained, and with most ExpressCard adapters the drive must be plugged in before you boot; i don't think it's worth it unless you have a clear need to access something like a RAID array at maximum speed; and as noted solid state drives (SSDs) internally are much faster simpler option (you can add one yourself to any MacBook Pro with modest technical know-how)

>>when the PC is getting outdated, you simply replace the offending components and are set for another few years<<

"Simply?" You're joking, right? Since when has anything like that been simple for the average computer user? That's like saying I can simply replace the brake pads or the piston rings once they wear down. Maybe you can and I can, but for most users it's not a realistic option.

As a would-be user of a the "laptop plus external display" setup, there is one major caveat: my cat always seems to be sitting/sleeping on my MBP (what is it about cats and computer anyway?), so I just keep it closed and use the external (HP ZR22w, which I rather like but have no reference as to its absolute quality, but the price can't be beat).


this suggestion comes up every time an article discusses Apple, and I really don't understand why. The people who are interested in assembling their own boxes will do it without any encouragement, and those who aren't interested won't, regardless of encouragement. I've done it, and what I learned was that I'm really not interested in learning the quirks of a new OS and associated software. What I have mostly does what I want, and mostly stays out of the way so that I can spend my time making photographs. If what you have works the same for you, great. I'm not interested in converting you to my system, and I don't know why you would want to convert me or anyone else to yours.

My friend had his Hackintosh set up as his music server. That is until last week when his wife updated the system. Now he has a doorstop and an ex-wife.

I'd really like to know what bit output the mini display port is on the Macbook pros. The screen on my 15" is great, but the banding in color gradients is not... apparently it's 6bit color to the built in display
I had hoped that this machine could be my go to machine for prints, but alas I still have to print on my PC with a 5 year old Lacie 24" CRT to get my prints to look the way I want them to.


I'm in the market for a photo-dedicated Mac. The thing that befuddles me in reading about it is the "performance" issue. I absolutely accept Ctein's judgment that iMac performance can be better both absolutely and dollar-weighted, but what does "performance" mean? If you're not a studio or photo professional, and all you want to do is some simpler Photoshop work (straightening, color adjustments, selection, some some relatively simple compositing) what does a faster computer do for you? Does it mean that a default two-hour session on a MacBook Pro, making the above changes, will only take you an hour and a half with a powerful iMac? Or does it mean that it will take you an hour and 58 minutes? Will you save two minutes, or 30? I understand that if you're a wedding professional and you're batch-processing hundreds of hi-res photos, you need a lot of performance. But what if you're importing, say, thirty photos, making eyeball selections, and then working on, and printing, only one or two? I think that's the reality for a lot of us...Any help would be appreciated. (Ctein: Thanks for this column. For me, it was very timely.)


I recently went through this "debate" and settled with a 8-core i7 iMac (and iPad).

There are trade-offs all the way around but the simplicity of the set-up and the performance of the iMac were just too good to pass up.

Dear Bernard,

You're in the wrong place. The Religious Wars forum is two doors to the right. You'll find the Mac versus PC people fighting it out one table over from the Catholics versus Protestants.

In the second paragraph of my article, I write that the general issues and principles given in the article apply whether you're looking at a PC or a Mac manufacturer. Compare the laptop versus desktop offerings for most manufacturers, and you'll come up with a similar list of pros and cons.


Dear Rob,

The current iMacs have four slots. So you are “pairing” memory when you go to 12 GB; the first two slots contain the factory-installed 2 GB modules, and the second two slots contain the user-installed 4 GB modules. I've benchmarked the system. If there is a performance hit from this configuration, it's insignificant.

There's a huge advantage in 12 GB over 8 GB because you avoid going to scratch disk a lot more of the time. 16 is even nicer, of course, but you have to pull out the modules that Apple sold you. The 8 GB you gain from going from 4GB to 12GB cost you about $125, but the next 4 GB also cost you about $125. That's why I consider 12GB a “sweet spot” in the price/performance curve.

Yeah, though, mo' is bettah.


Dear Weiran,

As I've explained in several previous columns (you can start with the one in mid-December and work back from there), there is a substantial improvement in Photoshop performance using a SATA scratch drive rather than FireWire, even of the conventional sort. Of course an SSD is even better. The external SATA port is about a $150 upgrade. One could also have a third internal drive installed. Make it a small SSD, and it wouldn't cost you much different. I like the flexibility of having external SATA, but a good argument could be made for either course of action.


Dear Ben,

Poor color gamut and large changes in gamma from the top to bottom of the screen. Makes it impossible to do precise color correction or accurately evaluate and control shadow detail. See my previous column about why I got an iPad to use as a second monitor for much discussion of this subject


Dear John,

In my opinion the Mac mini is underpowered for this purpose. Cheap, yes, but you end up with as many if not more performance limitations as with a MacBook Pro, plus you don't get the benefits of a portable machine. I have had no trouble accurately profiling my 27 inch iMac monitor.


Dear Alberto,

Hey, that might just be a brilliant idea. Any readers here know if you can use an iMac as a secondary display with another Mac? Yes, I know there are ways to synch/slave the computers, but I've never looked into this particular question.

If it is possible to use the iMac as a second display, I would note that a 21" iMac is about the cost of the NEC display I'm recommending. Yes, the NEC display is nicer, but the iMac Display is sufficient. Then for the same amount of money, my questioner would be getting a desktop system, a dual monitor system, and a portable system.

If it works it's a mighty clever idea you had. Thanks!

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

My aluminum iMac (24-inch) just left me shortly before reaching his third birthday. The original service and repair manual suggests to replace the logicboard (i. e. the mainboard), a common problem, just try to google it yourself. It´s too expensive, could even buy a new MacMini for that money, but unfortunately I will have to replace the display, too.

Loved the machine, but would not buy an All-in-One-Solution from Apple again, not even a MacBook. Rather prefer a MacMini with an external display. In case you don´t need a quiet machine with the elegantly crafted Mac OSX interface, a PC will be cheaper for sure...

Just my two Cents...


"Mike Johnston, didn't you recently upgrade your computer? I'd be interested to hear how that's working out if you did."

No, I'm still in full procrastination mode, and dreading the switch. I'm just not up for all the work I know I'm going to be in for.


I can't speak for Macs but on Windows many processor intensive tasks such as RAW conversion and stitching panoramas seem to scale quite nicely across four cpu cores (at least in the 64-bit version of CS4 I'm running).

Also worth noting, in PC land it's cheaper to buy a powerful desktop for photoshop and a so-so laptop for portable computing than it is to try and by a high end laptop to do it all. If laptop screens aren't suitable for photoshop on the go anyway, then you've lost nothing in functionality and gained in performance and redundancy.

OK, cranky editor, I re-read the first paragraph, and I still don't see the part that says "No comments about PCs will be accepted."

If someone asked me "Can you give me advice on which Cadillac to buy?" for many reasons I wouldn't restrict my answer to just Cadillacs.

But that's just me.

Oh, wait! Apparently it's not just me.

Now you've gone and made me cranky.

Yunfat asserts that disk i/o is more important than CPU speed for photo work; i think it depends ... it is actually the GPU (video/graphics processing chip) that most retards my 13" MacBook Pro for photo work, but i use Aperture — the GPU is used less by Lightroom (so far), so it depends what tools you are using

also, a low-end MacBook Pro (to which you can add your own SSD more easily than to a Mac Mini) is usually a better bargain than a Mini, unless you are non-mobile and starved for space; the minis and the 13" MBP are similar in power, but you get portability, a display, a built-in SD slot, easier upgrades and a high-quality battery backup

The MacBook Pro 15" and NEC PA271W is a great combination with lots of flexibility and a no-compromise screen. I've used this myself. Though an upgrade to SSD (like OWC) is mandatory.

If I was in the market for a new setup though I'd wait for the next model which will (hopefully) take 16GB. A modest CPU speed bump wouldn't hurt either but the existing combo is more than adequate for most users ... except those who spend more time running diglloyd's benchmarks than working on their photos.

Let's just migrate the topic to Canon vs. Nikon or whether Leicas are worth the price, then. Surely you're aware that Apple-vs.-PC is an eternal hot-button argument that, once it infects a discussion, can send it off the rails entirely. If you don't know that this happens, then consider this to be me telling you that it does....


What about video. I use a 6 Gb MacPro 1,1
Dual-Core Intel Xeon - 2 GHz with the standard NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT.

Can anyone advise if it is possible to upgrade to handle HD video (from Canon 5D MKII) without it stuttering on display.


Dear Yunfat,

Thanks for the very helpful suggestions. Most of them apply whether or not one is buying a laptop or desktop, so they aren't points I would've brought up, but they're still good.

In summary, regardless of the type of monitor or computer you're using, you need a way to profile the screen if you want really good results. And, regardless of the system or configuration, if you don't have an off-machine backup for your photographs, you're a fool. Especially if/when you take it in for servicing.

That's an interesting point about not wanting too good a monitor depending on your clientele. Not an issue in my case, but it seems the equivalent of sound engineers having cheap car speakers in their studios to check how a recording will sound under “typical” conditions. Fortunately a spare LCD monitor of that ilk for auditing purposes is very inexpensive. You shouldn't be spending over $200.

An SSD will not make a big difference in Photoshop performance until you run out of RAM and have to start swapping to disk. In my previous performance tests and upgrades on Photoshop, I checked out the situation; until I get into serious disk swapping, the throughput of the hard drives is almost irrelevant. An SSD will make a machine peppier all-around, but running out of RAM is the big bottleneck. Agree that CPU performance runs third, at least if the only difference in models is clock speed rather than CPU type.

I agree about getting the Apple Extended Warranty. It's always paid off for me. Not because Macs are less reliable than your average PC; it's because I have that reviewer's “talent” for having something fail if it's at all inclined to do so. Useful when doing product tests; not so much in real life [wry smile].

Regarding Apple warranty, having long experience with that, an owner or third-party modification or servicing of your machine does NOT void the Apple warranty. Apple will refuse to honor the warranty only if they determine that the outside intervention was the root of the problem. That's what the OWC warranty is for; to protect you in that case.

Last spring, while in Minneapolis, my MacBook Pro's keyboard died. I borrowed DDB's screwdriver set and field-stripped my MacBook Pro, cleaned out dust bunnies, reseated cables (I did find one that was coming loose), etc. Reassembled the whole thing, and it didn't work any better. When I took it into the Apple Store the next morning, I told the techie what I had done. His reaction? “Thanks, you saved me half an hour.” Now, if he'd found when he opened up the machine that I'd torn a cable or something, that would be another matter.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear folks,

The various suggestions for a 13" MacBook Pro are not a bad alternative, either. I would find that amount of screen real estate very constricting when traveling, especially with Photoshop palettes taking up a good chunk of the screen… But for the difference in price between the 13" and the 15" MacBook Pros, you could buy an iPad, ala my previous column, and have a dual display setup in the field, with one of them being a studio-quality display. It's an interesting idea.


Dear Scott,

I have not found graphic card performance to make a big difference with Photoshop, at least through CS5. Who knows what will happen in the future. But Aperture and Lightroom can both make significant use of the GPU/video RAM. I don't know how much difference that makes in throughput; perhaps someone who uses these programs regularly can add their comment, please?


Dear Andrew,

Both. For no rational reason, I've become enamored of the idea that ALL my digital photograph files can be with me at all times on my laptop. Yes, I know that makes no logical sense; it's about as rational as wanting an MP3 player that will hold your entire life's collection of music. Nonetheless, it's where my head is at, and it has caused me to periodically upgrade the hard drive in my laptop. It's also what keeps me from going to an SSD–– 500 GB SSD's are simply way too expensive for my blood, at this point in time.

All my photo files, though, also go onto an external backup drive, and stuff periodically gets burned to DVDs and taken over to my friend, Laurie's, house. Belt and suspenders.


Dear Steve,

The display outputs are full 24-bit. The problem is entirely with the displays built into the machines.


Dear Bill Rogers,

Personally, I get quite annoyed if I ask someone a specific question, with clear knowledge of what I'm asking and why, and instead they insist upon telling me the question I should be asking and what their answer would be to that. In the question I chose to address, the issue was not Macs versus PCs.

Yes, sometimes a questioner is ignorant enough that they need broader guidance. I've had people ask me questions about buying Camera A vs B, in such a fashion where it's clear that I need to inquire if A or B is really what would suit them best. But that's not relevant to the situation here.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Hmm as one of those that helped to move this thread off the rails, I'll add that we have plenty of laptops with second monitors here too, all for web programmers and sales people!


I think the newer iMacs have a displayport input and can be used as a secondary screen for a Macbook with a displayport output.

As for "upgradeable" PCs... my blog partner had this to say a while back, and it's still true.


Dear Michael,

I print professionally. Hell, let's put false modesty aside-- I print better than 99% of the professionals out there... and I get paid for it accordingly.

My custom-profiled iMac 27" display is an extremely close match to prints from both my Epson 3880 and 9800 printers, which also have good custom profiles.

I just wrapped up a $19,000 printing job for a client, involving about 35 photographs and twice as many Epson 9800 prints. I had very few remakes due to a discrepancy between what I saw and what I got. I definitely averaged less than one test print per final print. Most of the errors were due to the inherent mismatch between emissive RGB and reflective CMYK renderings that I mis-estimated, a problem I'd have with any monitor.

If someone is seeing a poor match between their iMac and their prints, either they've got a crap printer or they don't have their setup calibrated properly.

So, please, do your back a favor and stop cringing-- I'd hate to be responsible for anyone's chiropractic bills! My advice is good. I bank on it every day I work.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I'm quite happy with my HP LP2475w monitor. It needs to be profiled - it seems to have a pink bump in the light grays otherwise , but once you profile it , it is great and pretty cheap. Not as cheap as the awful HP stuff you can buy in local retail stores but cheap compared to Eizo , or even Apple.

Dear Reid,

An important thing to remember is that all IPN displays are not created equal, any more than all TN displays are. IP is the minimum requirement for an acceptable display, but it's not sufficient, in my judgement.

Color gamut matters, and that varies considerably with the display. And, if you're doing a custom profile, internal bit depth per channel. Yeah, there's only 8 bit per channel out, but if you don't have enough guard bits on the color space mappings going on internally, you'll lose color and tone discrimination in the display, maybe even see a bit of contouring in some circumstances.

I've seen exceedingly mixed reviews on most of the cheap IP displays. Unfortunately I can't tell if that's meaningful or just net noise. After all, on average the cheaper displays are going to be bought disproportionately by less sophisticated users. Neg reviews may simply reflect user error (look at the number of folks who incorrectly claim you can't use an iMac display for critical professional work). Or not. Dunno, so it makes me cautious.

pax / Ctein

A few people may have philosophical objections to (legal) tax avoidance, so if you do, and live in California, you may want to skip this...I'm very serious about getting a dedicated photo computer in the next few days, so I followed this thread closely, and shopped around a bit. I've found that if you go to Amazon, rather than Apple, you can save about $300 on the standard top-end 15-inch MacBook Pro, the 2.66gHz one, with 4 megs of ram; and it's shipped from Amazon, so if you live in California, you'll save another two hundred bucks in sales tax (I think Apple Store Macs are shipped from California, which means you have to pay the sales tax -- but I'm not sure that they're shipped from California.) Amazon also sells Apple Care.

Although Amazon sells several 15-inch models, they all are standard -- you apparently can't request the options available through the Apple store, such as the anti-glare screen, the solid state drives, and so on. I don't need that stuff, so my only remaining question is, can I take it to an Apple store and have them plug in the other 4 megs of RAM?


I think there are a few issues with this article.

First, it compares an iMAC to a laptop, assuming a PC is the same as an iMAC. PC is more like a MacPro than an iMAC. With all the benefits and drawbacks that come with it.

Second, it should clearly state that it is Mac centric and due to whatever-reason you can't comment on PCs. I think it's the best way to avoid the PC-vs-Mac annoyance.

Last, it ignores basic question about the type of work that is required. Most people don't deal with 2-3GB files or need super high quality screen.

The basic rule of buying a computer for any type of work, is to define what you want to do with it, how long you hope to use it before you upgrade and how much money you can spend. If you have PC/Mac preference than it should define which computer you select and how you need to compromise (Because you will and no matter what you choose 2-months later there will be something better).

My two cents: Lenovo Thinkpad T510 with the 1920x1080 wide gamut display. Got mine for $1000, will put an SSD in for the boot drive, and replace the DVD with an ultrabay drive adapter housing a regular hard drive.

Love Macs, have used both platforms.

The T510 is an outstanding machine.


can I take it to an Apple store and have them plug in the other 4 megs of RAM?

No. It'll come with with two 2GB chips in it. If you want 8, you have to replace both. Much much cheaper to do it yourself than to have Apple do it.

Dear Hugh,

Thanks for the report on the HP display.

Do you know what its gamut is? I can't find that in the HP info, which always makes me suspicious.

The NEC display I'm fond of covers essentially 100% of AdobeRGB, which is about as close a match as you can make between a display's and a printer's color space. If one is after the ever-elusive WYSIWYG, this comes awfully close. Most IP displays are more like 80% of AdobeRGB.

pax / Ctein

Dear JC,

That's a good choice of machine. I'm assuming that you meant GB, not MB. If not, Amazon's ripping you off [g].

The Apple Store will happily install RAM for you after the fact, but Apple will charge you $400 to go from the original 4GB to 8GB! Dunno if there's an additional charge for installation.

Other World Computing will charge you a bit over $100 for 8GB of RAM. You can install it yourself-- it's really easy:


pax / Ctein

Sorry if I gave the impression of starting Apple-vs-PC wars. As I said, I think the Powerbook is a very good choice, it's just the Imac concept that offends me. There are similar Windows devices, but they never really took off (thankfully).

Sean Murphy:
I don't think it's fair to compare a business environment to a home user. For a company, these devices are written off, and the extra 1000 bucks they cost weighs off against the extra downtime of an upgrade compared to a replacement.
For a home user, there's a significant difference between a 2000 dollar machine+screen combo, and only having to replace a 1000 dollar (or less) machine, keeping the screen(s), even if you replace the entire machine, not just parts, which, as mentioned, is not practical for every user.

I think it's very sad Apple doesn't make any normal workstations besides the Mini (I'm not counting the Mac Pro models, which aren't within the price range of us mere mortals), as I'll gladly admit that for many users they are a much better choice than your average PC.

@John Camp:

Apple store folks will install the RAM for you only if you buy the RAM from them. I have personal experience in this matter. But what they did in my case was to show me how to do it and I did it right there (with some help). So even though he officially did not help me, he kinda did.

Hi Ctein,

Good advice and worth reading for anyone looking for a single CPU solution.

Frankly some laptops are only portable in name only. In a practical sense they are really "transportable" which is not really the same thing.

I went for a binary solution, an i7 based high end workstation ($1000) at home and a cheapish ultraportable laptop ($500) on the road.


I could not approach the combination of performance AND portability with a single laptop. The nearest I could get cost over $3500 and I would still have needed a screen.


Have a workable backup system (full connectivity plus eSata)

Fits in a normal camera rucksack. Don't need a laptop slot. 1.3kg is manageable enough not to leave in a hotel.

It runs View NX OK so I can review and display work on the move.

Runs office just fine. For my regular job it's a godsend. However, it also makes a good image bank (250GB).

I can check that my JPEG portfolio is going to look OK on a customer site and the web.


Duplicate office licenses, insurance etc. Not a huge deal with multi-user licenses.

Don't have CS5 installed on laptop, though in emergencies, Elements is OK to rush out some online proofs.

Remembering to transfer files before and after a trip.

That's it.

Note, I did a similar calculation for both Windoze and Mac and the total cost for Mac was only slightly more (24" iMac and basic MB Air). The inclusion of the display really does go a long way to balance costs and the Air is lighter still than the UP.

The only downside was connectivity (eSata) and expandability. It was not quite as versatile as the Windoze setup, and I lost the backup potential because of the built-in screen.

However, if you are a Mac user, a two unit solution works for all the same reasons it does on a PC.

My photography has changed from a want to a simple need. Find the 15 inch MacBook Pro adequate for my needs. Recently disposed of my 27" iMac; too large, too unweildy for my limited needs. What may look good from a distance may not be so closeup.

"Last, it ignores basic question about the type of work that is required."

What? It doesn't at all ignore the question of what type of work is required. It's going to be used for digital imaging. The questioner even specified the types of software he intends to use.


"I think it's very sad Apple doesn't make any normal workstations besides the Mini (I'm not counting the Mac Pro models, which aren't within the price range of us mere mortals)"

I agree with you Bernard, as I have written before. The iMac is expected to plug the huge gap between the Mini and the Pro, which is fine unless you want a 2-piece machine. That's where I am. I've been using Macs since 1984, but Apple doesn't currently make the product I really need. I'll probably bite the bullet and get a Pro, but it's too big for my space and the only reason it's feasible at all is that it's a business expense.


"Frankly some laptops are only portable in name only. In a practical sense they are really 'transportable' which is not really the same thing."

Uh, Steve, how is that not the same thing? The former word is derived from the latter and the dictionary definitions are the same. Your distinction isn't quite clear....


I am an advertising photographer. I hung onto my 30" monitors and G5 and xserve RAID forever. Last year I switched to the 27 Imac, and it's an amazing machine. The monitor is light years ahead of the 30" Apple Cinema, much tighter. The Imac calibrates very easily to 120/6500; just know that you'll have to turn the brightness down radically from the default shipping brightness. The only downside of the Imac27, to me, is the lack of ports in the back.

I have terrabytes of advertising images, from many years of digital work. I consider myself pretty demanding. I'm almost embarrassed to admit how great the 27 Imac is, because it's not really "pro" quality like the G5 box. But it's so simple and quiet, and the monitor quality is amazing.

Ideally, someday, there'll be a 30 or 32 Imac, with more ports, and SATA, but for now, I vote yes on Imac.

Good luck in the search. Also, I have had no problem with the Imac, but have had problems with my traveling MacBookPros. I'd certainly buy AppleCare in the future, on everything.

My theory has always been that Apple does not sell a "mid range" desktop machine because there is no margin in it. Any two piece machine you would want them to sell has to be both more powerful than a mini and cheaper than the iMac *and* be as profitable on a per unit basis. There just isn't that big a window there.

Also, people tend to use the term "transportable" to mean a laptop which is so large you don't really want to carry it further than from your house to your car to your office to your car. So a 17 inch macbook is transportable. A macbook air is really portable.

I think a lot of people missed this in ctein's post:

"Either machine will work quite well for serious digital photography work, but there are trade-offs both ways."

Folks should just make a decision and get on with it. How many brain and heart cycles are lost to staking out a religious position? One could be shooting actual photos.


Eh Mike, your welcome to come over and schlep my HP8240 DRP system around for a while (with the 2 pound power converter of course) in it's laptop bag. I'll even include a free cup of coffee. Then afterwords I let you schlep my Asus UMPC and I guess you'll know the difference :-).

BTW, one thing can be said about I-books, they are portable.....and that comes from to carry around.....and not transportable.....which is more U-haul kind of stuff!

Greetings, Ed

I remember being told, LONG ago, that the Ampex 600 tape deck was marketed as "portable" because it could be moved by two strong men (it still needed AC power). It apparently opened up lots of new opportunities in field recordging. (They were sold from the late 40s until at least the late 50s, I believe).

So what constitutes "portable" is kinda relative :-) .

I remember the term "luggable" being used for things like the Osborne and Kaypro CP/M systems that were more the size of a suitcase (and they needed AC power, they didn't have batteries). But I also remember people trying to use "transportable" to describe that level system.

Today's laptops, even the 17" monsters, are much, much lighter than that, of course, and DO run on batteries.

I said...

"Frankly some laptops are only portable in name only. In a practical sense they are really 'transportable' which is not really the same thing."

Mike said...

"Uh, Steve, how is that not the same thing? The former word is derived from the latter and the dictionary definitions are the same. Your distinction isn't quite clear...."

Hmm. I reckon it's clear enough....

Portable. adj. that can be carried. easily carried or moved, esp. by hand:

Transport. v. to carry from one place to another, esp. over long distances

Transportable. adj. able to be transported

I think the distinctions are "easily" and "by hand" and "from one place to another".

I could have said mobile, but that's more confusing still...

Mobile. adj. moving, or capable of moving or being moved, from place to place

A ship is mobile, cargo is transportable, neither are generally described as portable.

A 3kg laptop is indeed portable by the strictest definition, but it's pushing it a bit to imply it can be "easily" hand carried for any length of time, or conveniently used away from a desk and a mains supply.

So it really has to be taken from one place to another before it can be used, hence "transportable" seems more appropriate.

Am I missing something?



I guess you can print......but to me this:

pesky and inherent problem is agrevated by a small fact most "hobby" printers don't consider......LIGHT! A monitor however bad (and my Dell 19 Inch flatpanel for office use is bad enough) will always be a different experience compared to a picture on the wall. Not only the CMYK/RGB redering is te blame but also the fact that is picture is seen under lighting conditions.....these are never perfect and usually never constant as well especially if daylight is involved. So I use a big 150 watt incendescant light to judge my prints since these sort of lights are usually used in order to light my prints. But when a print needs to be seen in dimmer light I have to lighten up the print accordingly. So sometimes my printed results are a lot more dull then the "original <- for what its worth" and sometimes they are a tad brighter. How do you take that into account (I know it's of topic Ctein, please forgive me, but your remark just made me ask this, I could't contain myself),

Greetings, Ed

P.S. I wonder wether I can get your book via the bookstore here in Holland. A link leads to Elsevier so it should be possible I guess.

What's "simple", and what level of hardware replacement people are comfortable doing themselves, varies a lot. But component replacement (hard drive, memory, optical drive, power supply, video card) in desktop systems is generally quite simple, and relatively low risk. Laptops are much hairier, but often are constructed so that a few specific tasks (memory upgrade and hard drive replacement, mostly) are simple enough.

Most people who won't consider doing this work themselves are being cautious and giving lots of elbow room around their known areas of ignorance. Or else are financially sound enough that they don't think saving a few hundred dollars is worth the time and risk.

Nothing wrong with either position, and if you're comfortable where you are, I don't really want to urge people to rip their computers open and start swapping things around.

On the other hand, if you'd kind of like to but aren't quite sure you could manage it, then I encourage you to try. Component replacement is really quite simple.

I bought my very first PC, back in 1985, as a bundle of bits and pieces from various sources, and assembled them, and got it to work easily. It's much simpler today (fewer pieces, and essentially no config jumpers. Oh, and fewer ribbon cables).

I think most folks know right away whether they want a laptop or a desktop computer-- if they don't have both. My wife and daughter love to hole up for hours with their feet up on an easy chair and a warm computer on their lap. I prefer to sit up straight at a desk. When I owned a laptop, years ago, I developed upper back agonies from poor posture, with my head tipped down all the time. Those pains went away the day I switched to a desktop monitor raised above desk level. I ran that monitor with the laptop, until it was time to upgrade and I bought a real desktop computer.

This debate is also moot for those who jobs and travel habits demand access to a computer on plane flights, in hotel rooms and in the field. I supplement my un-portable iMac with an iPhone for remote web access. An iPad would do that even better.

I'm not knocking laptop users. Let them enjoy the least cost-effective products in Apple's line, and boost my small stock holdings accordingly. But for me, laptops are too small to be ergonomic and too big to be handy.

Mike, there are different levels of digital imaging, each has its own requirements.

I as an amateur for example do not need the same computer and screen Ctein requires. In fact, even if I had a super-high-end screen like an EIZO, I'm not sure I'd notice the difference from my current calibrated IPS screen.

That said, it is the same with most technology equipment, the needs and wants are usually very different.

Ctein, if you're ever looking to test more loan equipment for TOP, I'd love to read your professional evaluation of an NEC PA display used with NEC's free MultiProfiler software. The combination has been receiving very positive comments over on Apple's ColorSync list (a tough crowd to please, including as it does Chris Murphy, Bruce Fraser's co-author on Real World Color Management book). Colour calibration hardware is much talked about online but in the real world, it's ignored by far too many working professional photographers. (Hard to believe, but true.)

If the factory calibration of an NEC PA241W is good enough and the software does a decent job of allowing for the display characteristic's changes over time, it would represent a big win for photographers I work with.

>...buying the good screen and a non-apple computer is a lot cheaper, and a lot easier to upgrade in the future.

I went MacBook Pro in August 2009 and it's better than any PC laptop I've ever used for everything...except photography, for which it's no better than any Windows machine with a decent screen. I don't see any upgrade issues, though; I think we're there now in terms of raw machine performance and hard drives are seriously easy to upgrade on the MacBook. It's one of the few things Apple actually tells you how to do in the printed booklet that comes with the machine.

Dear Erez,

Ummm, so you think the title, "Apples vs Apples" and the first sentence, "... what Mac to purchase, i.e. Macbook Pro or iMac...." didn't give people a clue that "Mac-centric" would?!

Plus, as I wrote in the second paragraph, "... the general principles will apply to choosing between most PC laptop and desktops...."

If a reader can't read that clearly enough to avoid the knee-jerk response, adding two more magic words won't help. Though I sure wish you were right and it would!

The iMac offers a similar price/performance combination to a PC desktop plus high-quality display. Except for the internal upgradability issue (which contrary to what the geeks believe, the vast majority of computer purchasers don't care about) it's the generalizable case. The Mac Pro is sufficiently different in cost/benefit ratio as to make the generalization fail.


Dear Ed,

A most interesting question, but so far off topic and complicated to answer that I'm going to have to pass. Maybe some future column...

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Bernard,

Very few computer users replace their equipment on an annual basis. I know some that do, and for good reasons. But they are about as common as professional photographers who need to upgrade their equipment every year (and some do). It applies to a truly miniscule fraction of the readership. And, at some point in the future, I might write a column directed at those folks. If I do, just like with this column, it will be pretty clear the audience I'm talking to.

Most people who buy towards the high end of the spectrum (and make no mistake, a 27 inch quad-core iMac is a very high-performance machine) replace them on a 3-4 year basis. In that case, the difference in cost between replacing the entire system and replacing the computer but not the monitor amounts to a few hundred bucks per year. In terms of the very general economic analysis I'm doing, that's just not enough to matter; it's +/- 10-15% on the cost estimates. Remember, these are GENERAL guidelines, not specific to-the-moment purchasing guides.

Now let me get another point that comes up often. I don't know if you run your own business; if you do you already know this, but people who don't mostly don't. So indulge me.

“Writing off” equipment is not a free ride! Neither is a purchase that is “deductible.”. You would be amazed how many people, for reasons I entirely don't understand, honestly think that this means it's magically free. It's not.

I get to deduct most computer or photographic equipment I buy as legitimate business expenses. All that saves me is the incremental taxes on the income. In my case, that amounts to saving about one third over what mere mortals would be paying. But I'm still out the other two thirds. When I bought an Epson 3880 printer in the fall, $800 after rebate, my real cost will end up being closer to $500. But I'm still out the $500! And if next year Epson should come out with a 3990 printer that is so geewhizwow better that I decide I must have it, I'll be out another $500, after the deduction.

So, the situation between a business and a home user isn't much different, in terms of the general principles in my column. My reader gave me lots of information about what they planned to do that I didn't include in the column, but one of the things they didn't tell me was what they did for a profession. I didn't ask, because it was irrelevant to the analysis.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

>>component replacement (hard drive, memory, optical drive, power supply, video card) in desktop systems is generally quite simple, and relatively low risk.<<

I completely agree if you're talking about upgrading or replacing the components in a current system (i.e. bought within the last year or two) with current components such as the ones you mention. Where it gets hairy is when you try to upgrade older computers with newer components they were never designed for, such as Firewire ports and quad-core processors. When it comes to that, I abide by the old saying, "Fools walk in where angels fear to tread."

In either case, it's obvious from some of the preceding comments that some folks are nervous about doing something as simple as adding more RAM to a Mac. That doesn't make them idiots or cowards (not that you used those words), just people who know their own comfort level and don't feel any compelling reason to exceed it if they don't have to.

Benard--"I don't think it's fair to compare a business environment to a home user. For a company, these devices are written off, and the extra 1000 bucks they cost weighs off against the extra downtime of an upgrade compared to a replacement. "

Hi Benard
A business watches its dollars like anyone else! We have to buy computers with cash (not write offs) like everyone! Our larger capital outlays, like an 80" thermal platesetter and the like absorb those tax depreciation credits. We treat computers like a consumable, and wring them dry. In the upgrade cycle I mentioned only 2 Macs being replaced were Intel based Macs, the rest were PowerPC based. They were top of the line when bought.

So unpacking what I was trying to say, is that I agree with Ctein, pick the computer by your task, and remember:

1 RAM there is no substitute - put all you can in
2 Murphy's law of disks- there are two kinds, new and full.

Thats why if portability is not needed, go with the right Imac for your budget, with big RAM and disk, they are great computers. If they will work in our environment, they will give you years of service. Just get it out of the box and get workin'. Every hour one spends computeratin' is an hour not mastering your tools or shooting. A high end Imac is two dollars day over 3 years to sit on your desk, not bad for such a great avocation. And you can do more than photo tasks with it, unlike those fast super wide zooms we lust after!


Ctein, in my head Apples vs. Apples just triggered a comparison not specific to Apple. My mistake.

I tried reading all the comments and all I can say is that you are probably right about iMac vs. Laptop Mac. I haven't got enough knowledge about Apple products to say which one is better or how it compares. You obviously did much more research then I'd ever do about a computer.

I also agree that upgrade options should not be part of the decision. Technology changes so quickly it's hardly makes seance to worry about it.

And last, lesson learned for the next Apple discussion. I'll keep out ;)


Point taken. I'm probably not the most average computer user. :-)

@Sean Murphy (and Ctein's comment regarding cost and writing off)
That's of course very true, though I've seen at the company I work that the extra cost of replacement vs upgrade is usually taken in favour of the costs caused by the downtime you get when upgrading (as you pointed out, by replacing all machines, you only had a few hours downtime). In my experience, most home users are willing to take a day downtime for granted if it means saving 500 bucks or more. But this may differ from person to person (and depends if the computer is business or pleasure).

To conclude, and get back on topic:
Of the above options, I'd get the laptop + screen, but I guess you'd figured that out already.

Steve's distinction is pretty clear to me. Currently for work I have a very portable laptop which frankly needs more horsepower in order for me to do the work I need to do (and which seems allergic to third party RAM). I can take it pretty easily on the bus and on the subway to customer sites.

In the past, I've had a much larger laptop which had more than the necessary horsepower. However, it was so big that carrying it through the airport was a strain on my back.

Forgot to mention--I bought some extra hard disks and I'm going to try running a hackintosh on my gaming PC/VMware lab. The hardware is supposed to be a good fit for that. Should be interesting...

Dear Erez,

Thanks for the compliment, but please don't give me too much credit for hard work and research. One reason the reader asked me this particular question is that I have mentioned in several columns over the years that I've been using a dual-display 15" MacBook pro setup as my primary system for over 3 years and 15 months ago replaced our very old Windows desktop machine with a dual-boot 27" quad-core iMac.

Incidentally, that Windows box was nearly nine years old and had undergone so many internal mods over the years that I'd more than once clobbered activations on some of my programs (grrrr... hate activations).

But, ya know, I've got better things to do with my time than hack hardware. Just my opinion, true, but who's in a better position to judge?

(Aside to Bernard-- you're right: I *HATE* downtime-- I've spent too much of my life wrestling with evil computers.)

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein,

Coming in a little late here, and off topic, kinda.

I just re-noticed your signature line and the bit about MacSpeach in training.

So, in your opinion, how well does it work for dictating text? Also, do you know if the Mac OS has a built in speech recognition feature like Windows 7, and if so, is it any good for dictating text?

I’m thinking of migrating to an iMac sometime in the future, but this is a critical point for me (& my right arm).

Thanks for your time.


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