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What hardware is needed? #1
jemostrom's picture
by jemostrom
November 26, 2011 - 2:30pm

I'm using Aperture on a MacBook Pro (approx 2009) 2.66 GHz with 4GB of memory - one problem I have is that the color wheel is spinning … often. When running Snow Leopard I had the same problem but I thought it was a problem with that installation. But I have the same problem after having made a clean install of Lion (no migration at all of preferences etc) I have the same problem.

I'm thinking about setting up a desktop machine where one of the main uses would be running Aperture and other photo related software. However, money is always an issue so I've started to think about what hardware is needed to get a decent user experience.

I've looked at the current Macs and the Mac Pros are a bit too expensive (I'm also a bit doubtful about the performance, love the extensibility), the iMac line is not too expensive but I've never been fond of all-in-one computers, the Mac mini are not too expensive but I don't know they are an alternative for running mainly various photo apps.

My question are:
+ Which of the iMac would you recommend for running mainly Aperture?
+ Is the Mac Mini a realistic alternative for a “photo workstation”?


Kenneth Lim's picture
by Kenneth Lim
December 1, 2011 - 4:37am

I’m glad this was posted as I have raised the same debate in my head recently. I’ve been asking around with a few iMac users and have came to the same conclusion - the iMac is a nice value point for stuff like heavy post-processing and editing.

I dread getting an all-in-one type of system also, but at the moment I use MBPs and upgrade them every 2-3 years, and in that time span I usually only end up upgrading the RAM and hard drive each once.

I’ll try to post back here after making my decision. Oh a website that was suggested to me for checking out estimated product release cycles:

Based on that, I may need to wait 2 months or so to pickup the iMac =)

jemostrom's picture
by jemostrom
December 1, 2011 - 7:12am

Thanks for the answer, once I started to think about various things to improve the performance of my MBP I suddenly remembered one thing: it has two graphics cards and I’ve been running the slower one all the time. Switching to the faster one has decreased the appearance of the color wheel … unfortunately it has increased how often the fan runs also (expected but still …).

So for now, I’m not as desperate as a few days ago but I need to get a “photo workstation” some time.


David Edge's picture
by David Edge
December 3, 2011 - 4:53pm


I have a 2009 iMac and have just upgraded from 4GB to 8GB RAM for GBP30. The machine has gone from barely tolerable to just fine. So if money is tight I’d suggest you do the same and probably get another year or two out of your machine.


Adam Andersen's picture
by Adam Andersen
December 10, 2011 - 12:51pm

Another thing worth trying out is switching your HDD with an SSD. I have a mid 2009 macbook pro with (originally) 4GB, just like you. I was going through the exact same thoughts.
I upgraded to SSD (and installed 8gigs of RAM while I was at it). Now it runs perfectly fine.
Regarding the issue of cost pr gigabyte in the SSD’s you can actually have your cake and eat it to - if you don’t need your (so called) superdrive.
I did just that, so now I boot and rum apps from the SSD, AND have the old 320 HDD installed instead of the superdrive.
The last thing is a bit more involved, but anyone with a little bit of courage can do it. It requires no soldering or anything like that.
Works a treat!

jemostrom's picture
by jemostrom
December 10, 2011 - 12:58pm

I should perhaps have mentioned one thing :) - to upgrade the MBP isn’t an option … since it’s not mine. It’s the laptop I get from work :D


PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
November 26, 2011 - 7:50pm


Before you upgrade, do be sure that your MacBook Pro doesn’t have other issues. I’d make a new Library just to test things out with, and also do some cache clearing (a utility like OnyX can go a long way towards speeding up your Mac). You might be pleasantly surprised how much snappier your Mac is after a little care and feeding.

As far as new hardware, an iMac is a superb choice. I think the new Minis are quite sufficient as well, however without digging into the specs I don’t know offhand. Compare the graphics card specs between the two systems, and of course be sure you’re including the cost of the display when comparing.

For the iMac, screen size comes down to cost, but the 27” is a glorious thing to have. So if you can afford it, do it. You’ll not regret it.

Whatever you choose, definitely upgrade to the i7 processor. Big difference.

4GB RAM is OK, 8GB RAM is a lot better. 16GB may be a bit more than you need to be honest. Of course if money isn’t an object, then by all means go for it, but I think 8GB is sufficient.

Hard drives come down to what you need for storage. If you can afford the SSD+HD option, that’s awesome and it will make your whole Mac feel faster (I’m often shocked by how snappy my MacBook Air feels, which is just a Core 2 Duo processor, because of the SSD drive). However since you won’t be storing images on the SSD (just the OS and the apps, and maybe the referenced Library if you have a small Library), the biggest time lag will be accessing the master images off the internal or external drive. Best option would be a 2TB HD + 256MB SSD, but that’s a big up-spend. Masters on an external FW drive will be slower to access than the internal HD, no matter how fast the drive or RIAD is, because of the FW800 limitation. The only way to get better performance there is to go Thunderbolt, but those drive are few and far between, and still quite expensive. A fast Thunderbolt RAID is I’m sure amazing… but at the cost they’re currently at, I can’t tell you firsthand.

If you got with the 27”, you can upgrade the graphics for a small fee, and definitely do that. It’s worth it to get the extra VRAM, which Aperture relies on heavily.

Basically… go large.

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