Apple’s Mac Pro has the capability to address a massive 1.5TB memory — or, more precisely, random access memory, RAM. Do you need this to process your holiday snaps? No, definitely not. But return to earth and start talking sensible numbers and we are looking at, say, somewhere between 8GB and 32GB. How much difference can you expect in processing times if you upgrade within these relatively modest min/max goalposts?
I was taken to task last week by one reader for saying that my old, discarded 2015 iMac was “too slow”. Yet it does have a sizeable chunk of memory and the processor isn’t all that ancient. Perhaps I was over-egging the pudding as I do, but I did decide to upgrade to my current MacBook Pro because I felt I needed a bit more speed.
Fusion v SSD
It did make a difference. The 2018 15in laptop sitting in front of me has a fastish six-core i9 processor and 32GB of memory. But perhaps just as helpful in overall speed is the 1TB solid-state disk. The old iMac had one of those 1TB fusion disks, with a fast, but small SSD to improve startup times and hosting frequently needed elements. But most of that 1TB consists of a relatively slow mechanical hard drive. Moving over to an SSD is one of the most sensible things you can do to boost speed.
That said, increasing RAM is one of the best (and cheapest) ways of ensuring that Lightroom runs efficiently. But how much memory do you need?
This assessment on PetaPixel goes into detail and I think you will find it interesting, particularly if you are considering upgrading to a new computer. With sensor density increasing all the time and file sizes ballooning (the Leica Q2 and SL2 both eat up almost 100MB of storage every time you press the shutter if you are running RAW and jpeg side by side) upgrading will be on the minds of many readers.
This honourable exception one reader who is still very happy with his Babbage Analytical Engine which continues to handle Lightroom with aplomb.
Returning to my MacBook Pro, I now question the wisdom of buying a laptop when I really needed a desktop. The 15in MBP has sat on my desk for the past year.
It hasn’t been out of the office once. Up to six months ago I was travelling with a 2015 MacBook which has been a wonderful computer, although now showing its age in terms of speed.
But following the arrival of the latest iPad Pro, I am now pretty content to use that when travelling. The arrival of iPadOS, which brings many Mac OS features, including more efficient tiling of “windows” is a huge improvement for most people. As a writer, I find it has transformed my experience of the iPad. I can now write in Ulysses in one pane with reference material in the other.
The reason I chose a high-powered MacBook Pro, however, is because Apple lacks a correspondingly powerful desktop other than the all-in-one iMac. The Mac mini, despite a number of upgrades, is now rather long in the tooth. The Mac Pro, as we have discussed, overkills financially.
I believe a completely new Mac mini, with emphasis on performance, would sell well. The iMac, of course, does provide a fast and very efficient desktop option, but I somehow feel it is wasteful to keep buying a new screen every time you want to upgrade the computer.
While I am very happy with the MacBook Pro as the main computer. I love the Touch ID which greatly speeds work, avoiding the need constantly to input the system password.
I do, however, find the screen just a bit too cramped for office work. My eyesight doesn’t help and I constantly find myself hovering somewhere between the reading and the long-distance lenses. It can be a strain.
To address this problem, I have just added an Apple-supplied 24in LG UltraFine 4K display. This is designed to work with the MacBook Pro, taking data and supplying power through one Thunderbolt cable, and it has been a revelation.
There is a 5K 27in model available, but the 24in base monitor is a good compromise between size and cost. If you do a lot of graphic work and Photoshopping, the bigger, higher resolution screen could be sensible. For me, however, productivity tools are paramount.
The LG display isn’t the most exciting design in the world, but it is inoffensive and efficient. Such is the Mac integration that there are no controls and everything is handled from the computer.
I am using the LG display and the MacBook’s 15in screen side by side, usually keeping reference material, mail and other routine windows on the laptop while working on the larger screen. So far it is working well and I am delighted with the LG, appreciating both the two Thunderbolt sockets (one of which is connected to an OWC Thunderbolt hub) and three USB-C ports. Keeping the laptop open still allows access to the Touch ID soft key.