New MacBook Pros and Aperture

by Josh Anon

Something very exciting happened Tuesday morning for Aperture users looking to buy a new laptop--Apple introduced new MacBook Pros (MBPs). As you'd probably expect, the new machines are faster (they're available with up to a 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo chip). In fact, Apple states that the new machines are 28% faster than the original 2.16 Ghz MBP for processing RAW images in Aperture.

However, there are some great non-obvious improvements for Aperture users. For one, the graphics card has been upgraded to a NVIDIA GeForce 8600M. This card is faster and supports more complicated operations than the card in the previous generation of MacBook Pros. Given how heavily Aperture (and Mac OS X itself) uses the graphics card, this is a welcome upgrade! Secondly, build to order options now include up to 4GB of RAM instead of 3GB (perfect for running Aperture and Photoshop at the same time), and the low-end model comes standard with 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB. Plus, the 17" MBP now has an option for a 250GB hard drive (the 15" still tops out at 200GB).

Yet the best part of this revision is what Apple's done to the screens. On the 17", there's now an option for a high-resolution, 1920 x 1200 pixel screen. That's the same resolution as the 23" cinema display, perfect for viewing your images on the go.

Saving the best for last, we come to the 15" MBP--its LCD screen now uses an LED backlight instead of CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent). Aside from being more environmentally-friendly, Apple states that these new screens add an extra 30 minutes - 1 hour of battery life, bringing the total estimated battery life to 6 hours. They also allowed Apple to shave 0.2 pounds from the 15" MBP's weight, dropping from 5.6 to 5.4 lbs. If that's still not enough for you, the LED backlight starts up at full brightness as soon as the machine is turned on--there's no warmup time anymore. Despite all of these changes, Apple says that the screens look exactly the same as the previous generation's screen (i.e. same brightness, same viewing angle, etc.), but the word on the web is that the backlight is more even and the contrast ratio appears higher (with blacker blacks) on the LED screens. Both changes are very important for photo viewing and editing!

For photo work, I'd recommend the matte screen and not the glossy one, even though both screens are top-notch. Glossy screens tend to give a more saturated and contrasty appearance by default (which is fine for things like watching DVDs on an uncalibrated screen), but that appearance can affect what changes you feel you need to make to an image.

Overall, this revision really made a great machine even better, and if you end up buying one, feel free to share your impressions of how Aperture runs on it!


2007-06-06 08:03:08
I just ordered my 17" MPB this morning, with the Matte Hi Def Screen. I am excited that this will be fast for my Aperture needs. I have been working on the newest dual quad core 3Ghz MacPro, and the speed of APerture as been great, some I am needing fast mobile computing power. I purchased with Matte, since both the 24" and 30" cinema displays are also matte. That way, when doing initial editing in the field, you will have a closer match to the color when doing post production in the studio. I also heard from my apple business rep that the LED for 17" HD will be some time before it comes out since they have not completed development of Hi Rez in LED. But take that for what it is, not fully known.
2007-06-06 08:37:20
I'm looking forward to hearing reviews from Aperture users about these new portables. The specs look great! Thanks so much Josh for writing this up.
2007-06-06 09:29:29
Something to note - the biggest hard drive options for either the 15" or 17" MBP are 4200 RPM - too slow for Aperture. Stick with 5400 RPM or spend the extra money for a 7200 RPM drive. You'll have less space, but the speed will be worth it.
Josh Anon
2007-06-06 09:33:00
Let us know how you like the new machine, Jeff! And Phil, you're right that the drives are slower, but everyone I've talked to who has a slower drive hasn't really noticed a significant performance impact. Similarly, I know a number of people who have opted for the slower drives on the theory that they don't wear out as fast. That could all be bogus, but it's something to keep in mind :) Thankfully, there are a lot of good, large, portable, external drives!
Michael Ball
2007-06-06 14:37:15
yeah I'm bummed. Though I would never have a chance of a MBP (parents think it costs too much) But I guess my MB (2GHZ CD) with its new 2GB RAM is better than one I used for 10 mo.
Thomas Pindelski
2007-06-06 14:50:41
You have already concluded this will be a great Aperture machine before so much as trying it. What value does your column add when it is simply repeating the maker's press release? Suggest you let us read press puff at and the real thing here from users, not publicists. As you know graphics performance with Aperture is key and some real world tests of the new video card would really be interesting.
2007-06-06 15:59:31
Thomas, how else to get that cushy press pass at next year's Macworld, but to shill for the corp? :-)

hey at least it was on topic, with plenty of Aperture references.

Josh Anon
2007-06-06 17:27:02
Thomas, that's certainly a valid question, and it'd certainly be nice to have a machine to give specific numbers with. However, #1, when Apple releases upgrades outside of major press events, many people don't know about them and rely on sites like this to hear the news. Secondly, I'm trying to decipher the information and explain how it's relevant to Aperture users, something the press release doesn't do. I'd like to think that I have enough experience in the tech industry to gauge if something will be beneficial for a given task :)
2007-06-06 19:55:34
Josh, that's a good update with reasonable conclusions. Don't let the whining get to you.
2007-06-08 05:03:53
I am seriously considering Ebaying my last generation (now, anyway) 2.16 GHZ MBP and upgrading-mostly because of Aperture...sounds like the improvements might well be worth it. Does the amount of video ram (128 vs 256 MB) make a big difference?
Josh Anon
2007-06-08 06:27:36
Absolutely! The amount of RAM on the card affects how much information the OS can store on the card. For example, every window on the system becomes a texture due to Quartz Extreme, and if all of those textures can be stored on the card, things are a lot faster than if they all had to be stored in your machine's RAM and copied to the card. Always buy the best graphics card that you can get now, especially if you're using Aperture.
2007-06-08 06:54:45
Thanks for the input, Josh!

Well, this info just moves me a little closer to the new 2.4 15" MacBook :)

Oh, the other thing I was considering was upgrading to the 7200 hard drive, but I wasn't sure how much of a difference this would make...or at least it if it would be enough to warrant the added expense. Also, I figured I could always pick up a 7200 external drive down the road.

Josh Anon
2007-06-08 17:24:42
I personally don't think it's a huge win to get the faster hard drive, but at the same time, it's not a hugely expensive upgrade and does give some improved performance. Personally I would get the 5400 and a faster external HD later on.
2007-06-09 06:19:29
That's exactly the decision I arrived at...thanks again for your input!
Thomas Pindelski
2007-06-09 07:13:08
Following up on on my earlier Comment, below, these early tests suggest that graphics performance in these new MBPs is worse than in the predecessor laptops:

Josh, doubtless many know of the expertise you claim in your response, but when it comes to press releases, any journalist would do well to adopt a great man's dictum: "Trust but Verify". I think you need to address the Verify part in future.

Why not publish some comparative timings based on your tests? All Aperture users stand to benefit. Tell me it's fast, based on empirical data, and I'm off to my local Apple store to buy one.

2007-06-09 13:47:41
I agree with Thomas that this article's connection with Aperture is slightly tenuous - other than emphasizing that Aperture really needs the fastest machine you can get. But you forgot to add something which would have been even more off topic - these new machines will make Lightroom run even faster.
2007-06-10 06:09:11
Given that the New MacBook Pro's are improved in every respect (namely processor, graphics card, RAM, and the LCD screen) I think that it is reasonable to conclude that Aperture, as well as other applications, would run more efficiently. I don't think it has anything to do with bias-just a common sense assessment.

That said, yes, real world benchmarks are very useful in validating performance. Here are a couple more:

2007-06-10 08:51:12
Ok, I've heard two sides to the glossy versus matte screens. I've heard don't get glossy it over saturates. Then I had a friend who is a much more pro photographer then me say he went to a photoshop conference and all the Adobe and Pantone guys had glossy. They said the matte screen can not be calibrated right, that the calibrators miss read the matte screen. So, which is correct? To matte or not to matte, that is the question.
josh Anon
2007-06-11 21:47:00
Hi Brandon,
Sorry for the delayed reply, but I wanted to check with a friend of mine who is a color management expert (he's contributed code to calibration systems, has a day job in photoscience, and knows more about monitors and calibration than anyone else I've met). For calibration, what he said is that perhaps if you could calibrate pixel by pixel, then yes, you'd get better results on a glossy screen. But calibration happens with groups of pixels, and a matte screen will give better results. However, with ambient light, viewing angle, and the fact that the MBP screens are really only 6-bit per pixel (not 8--notice how the Apple marketing matieral says "millions of colors" and not 16 million colors), you're always better off using an external monitor for calibrated work.
trevor weimer
2007-06-14 07:34:02
I've already listed my old G5 on craigslist to generate some cash for the new 17 inch. I've been waiting a long time for Apple to come up with a portable workhorse, and now they have. One question that's been bothering me and no doubt has been asked time and time again is why is Aperture so power hungry? Wouldn't it be advantageous to design the application to suite the majority of the Apple computers instead of just the higher end models?
Daniel Kasaj
2007-06-24 08:07:58
The problem I have with my 15" MBP (the first c2d generation) is that the display tends to overemphasize the reds. Since I mostly shoot people portraits and have a properly calibrated desktop rig, I can't get over that. Digging through colorsync profiles I found out that the default one for the MBP display (Color LCD-4271800.icc) has the video correction gamma tag numbers all over the place - reds bumped over greens, blues reduced. (see what I mean side by side or overlaid).
I don't know how to deal with that. Processing on the desktop gives me exactly what I want even in print, so I tend not to work on my RAW files on the MBP. I would love to find out how to edit the ICC file and get the numbers in place, just to see if that would make my photos look the way they're supposed to. Anyone wanna share their opinion?
josh Anon
2007-06-24 09:23:23
Daniel, do not mess with your default color profiles. You're basically making guesses as to what might make things look better. What you're far, far, far better off doing is buying a device like the Spyder 2 or Pantone Huey and using them to generate a profile for your monitor. Those will be far more accurate than you can create by just guessing, and you can use them to re-calibrate your display as the screen ages, too.