Aperture on a PowerBook, Pt. 1

by Derrick Story

I finally had a chance to spend a whole day with Apple's new professional photo software, Aperture. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I'm using a 17" PowerBook for all of my photo work. This is the first in a series of posts describing my experiences with Aperture on a laptop.

Fortunately, my laptop is only about a year old. It's a 1.5 GHz PowerPC G4 with 1.5 GB DDR SDRAM and a 80 GB hard drive. I have the ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card with 64 MB VRAM. I have Mac OS X 10.4.3 loaded. And finally, I'm using two LaCie FireWire external drives for "vault" backups.

To be honest, I was nervous about Aperture's performance on this computer. The recommended system, a Dual 2GHz Power Mac G5 with a ATI Radeon 9800 XT or 9800 Pro, blows the doors off my 17" laptop. But after a day's worth of work, everything seems just fine.

I currently have 10 applications open, plus a number of Dashboard widgets, and I'm only using about 1.15 GB of my 1.5 GB system memory. Aperture is grabbing about 180 MBs of RAM. Leaving Aperture open in the background isn't adversely affecting my overall system performance. It just rests quietly when not in use.

Overall application performance is quite acceptable. There are times when I could tell more horsepower would help: slow importing of Canon 5D Raw files, (Rebel XT Raws import acceptably), and short delays when loading full size image in the Viewer after I've clicked on its thumbnail. There might be other performance bottlenecks too, but I haven't discovered them yet.

I will say this however, I'm really glad I have a 17" screen. The minute I load the Viewer, or use the Light Table, screen real estate becomes a real premium. I need every pixel on my 1,440 x 900 monitor.

There's lots more to report, and I'll post again in a day or so. But for now, I'm happy to say that Aperture seems to be running just fine on my PowerBook.

More in this series...


2005-12-03 23:43:35
so why the beefy recommended specs?

so why does apple recommend such beefy computer specs for aperture? i know that's for "optimal use," but there must be some things that your PB chokes on, like applying some filters or something...besides just being a little slow, are then any major hiccups? keep us posted. thanks.

2005-12-03 23:51:03
RE: so why the beefy recommended specs?
I think you'll have a better experience with the G5, for sure. And as I further explore the program, I'm sure to hit a bump in the road or two. But after day one, I have to say, I'm rolling along...
2005-12-04 02:19:11
Hard Drive space
One of my concern in using Aperture (on both my 17" Powerbook and my Power PC) is the size of hard disk needed considering that there is only one library (and aditional vaults for back-ups).
Could you elaborate on that aspect?
2005-12-04 05:08:21
How does Aperture compare to iPhoto on the same computer? Is Aperture faster or slower than iPhoto? At what tasks? I think that'll give us a better idea of what to expect from Aperture in the performance department.
2005-12-04 07:56:46
RE: iPhoto
In terms of displaying fully rendered thumbnails or a completely loaded enlargement of a image, iPhoto 5 is faster on my PowerBook. Aperture does provide you with an image right away -- whether it's a thumbnail or enlargement -- then finishes off the loading while you view it. Thumbs often first appear as lorez, then snap into final focus a second later. Enlargements look good on first rendering, but will often continue to load information for a few seconds while you view it. I would suspect that on a G5, Aperture performance is noticeably faster.
2005-12-04 07:59:54
RE: Hard Drive space
It's a concern of mine too, especially because there are many features in iPhoto 5 that I like, and I want to have both applications on my PowerBook. I haven't figured this one out yet. But I do know that an 80 GB hard drive isn't big enough for my needs...
2005-12-04 11:18:01
RE: so why the beefy recommended specs?
64 bit addressing
Core Image on the graphics card

From what I can see of my 90 min with Aperture, it was designed around future hardware, not the wheezing stuff that's available today. It was created well, with lots of thought - today, there's just a bunch of "just missed the mark" features, like the file name import, color space, hot area illumination, etc. It's usable today on a Powerbook, but it'll be limiting - especially as you say, screen real estate.

Derrick, how many images/projects have you got in your PB? 15,000 from a rapidly failing iPhoto library?


2005-12-13 00:23:50
Could you clock sum of the tasks?
I now this is a pain but could you clock sum of the tasks that aperture performs and give us the feed back? Its the only way I can see how responsive aperture is compared to photoshop browser but besides the response time I'm positive aperture is a solid product for a first release.
2006-01-10 10:24:11
I confirm -- Aperture runs just fine on a Powerbook
I've been running Aperture for two weeks, now, on a 1.67 GHz, 15" G4 Ti Powerbook with (only) 1 GByte RAM. I agree that there are times when more power would help, but not often enough that I work about it.

As an aside, I was swayed by the "bad press" Aperture had been receiving, so I initially held off on the purchase. During the first several hours after the install, I begain to wonder whether the nay-sayers were correct. However, once I got the hang of editing sequence (e.g., what modes to enter and what keys to use), I began to realize that this is indeed a slick product. I've always been a fan of both Adobe and Apple for their GUI ergonomics: this application excels nicely in that regard.

Back to the speed issue, I have not yet attempted to import to Aperture the 5000 photos I have in iPhoto -- at least not in one fell swoop. From what I gather, that would be pointless from a management perspective. I'm bringing in photo's one "film roll" (iPhoto terminology) at a time by importing the relevant folder from the iPhoto library.

I've brought in five rolls or "projects" (Aperture terminology) so far and printed books, via a PDF intermediary and a Windows box, to my Epson 2000P. The print quality seems to exceed what I was getting from iPhoto, perhaps because of the pixel resolution, though I may be mistaken in this regard. In any event, the prints looked quite good -- at least as good as anything I got out of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Album and/or iPhoto.

Enough said. For those holding back on Aperture because they "only" have a Powerbook, I say: go for it.