June 29, 2011
Here’s another post for photographers looking to optimise their 2011 Macbook Pro. As you may have read in a post from a couple of weeks ago, I’ve installed a Crucial M4 256GB SSD in my MBP (2.3 Ghz, 8GB RAM, 750GB 5400 rpm HDD, matte screen).
Simple summary: I’m not going back to HDDs – this laptop now flies, with one small but significant reservation: the beachballs. There are lots of posts about this issue, here, here, here… Every now and then my computer freezes, I get a spinning beachball for about 30s, then it carries on working.
My experience of the beachball hangups is mixed. It’s annoying when it happens, but it doesn’t affect my primary workflow badly. Last week I shot tethered for 7 days solid, and while I had the occasional freeze, they didn’t stop the tethered captures arriving on my laptop, just prevented me seeing them instantly. The annoyance is offset by the huge speed increase – my Hasselblad H3DII-39 RAW files display instantly in Phocus, my digital assistant can zoom to 100% to check focus immediately, and bulk processing times are ridiculously fast.
It’s a different story when using the MBP for admin tasks – email, iCal, browsing with Safari or Chrome etc. For some reason the number of system freezes is much higher when I switch between multiple programmes (I’ve checked the memory use and I’ve always got plenty of RAM free when it happens). When doing anything but shooting tethered or browsing through libraries of RAW files I get enough system freezes for it to be pretty disruptive.
This is less of an issue for me as day to day I use my 2.8 Ghz 8-core Mac Pro, and the laptop is only for location work, but I would hesitate to recommend the M4 to anyone planning to use their Macbook Pro as their main system. Having tiny boot-up times is great, and it’s nice that programmes open instantly, but the SSD doesn’t make a significant difference to general use of any admin programmes. The speed boost is most noticeable when opening/saving files in CS5 or when viewing 20GB libraries of big RAW files in Phocus or Capture One where the 420 MB/S read times actually make a difference. You won’t see a speed increase opening up a 30KB MS Office document, but you will definitely get annoyed waiting for your computer to respond when it freezes every half hour.
To see what I’ve been shooting, click here.