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What to get
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ampa
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Oct 5, 2011, 11:23 PM
 
I am looking at ether getting an i7 MacBook pro or an entry level MacPro. What I am using it do is hi-res scan merging in photoshop (most are over 40 inches at 300 dpi).

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chris v
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Oct 5, 2011, 11:28 PM
 
A Mac Pro is really overkill if you just need it for Photoshop. Those'll be big files, so just stick a lot of RAM in that MacBook, and it'll do ya just fine. I'd figure you'd want 8 GB at least.

When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift.
     
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Oct 6, 2011, 04:41 AM
 
Current MacBook Pros are faster than the current (actually 3 year old) entry level Mac Pros anyway.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Don Pickett
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Oct 6, 2011, 02:53 PM
 
For 40 inches at 300 dpi you're going to want a minimum of 16 GB of RAM. Mac Pro it is.
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SierraDragon
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Oct 6, 2011, 04:41 PM
 
I use a 17" 2011 MBP as a desktop replacement box and it rocks. However I agree with Don that for really large scans more accessible RAM makes most sense. And scanning, handling large image files, etc. is the kind of thing all that meaty MP hardware is for. The large quiet power supply, cheap and easy usage of 4 internal SATA drives has a lot going for it. Full-time large size scanning IMO would be exceeding the duty cycle of MBPs, even the top 17" like mine.

The entry level MP (the Quad) only has 4 RAM slots making it a generally poor choice. However some huge discounts have been around lately for that way overpriced box; it may now be reasonable, I do not know. Note too that MPs are long overdue for an update.

Personally at 300 dpi x 40 inch scans I would either (a) wait to see new MPs or (b) buy a top MBP and put 8-GB sized RAM DIMMs in it for 16 GB or (c) find a heavily discounted or used MP. Today's MPs are just not good value at the frontline prices Apple is asking.

Whatever you get, for sure get an SSD for boot/apps and for scratch disk. And if you go with a RAM-limited choice like the MBP (or 4x4 GB in a MP) the SSD will work for scratch and will also help ameliorate any page outs.

Photoshop has been able to utilize at least 32 GB RAM under OS X for years; probably much more today. Generally scanning in the scanner software rather than in the scanner's PS plug-in is appropriate. You should check the potential RAM utilization (more is better) of the scanner hardware and scanner software also.

HTH

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Oct 6, 2011 at 05:12 PM. )
     
Don Pickett
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Oct 7, 2011, 02:27 PM
 
Several things:

1) If you get the MP, skip the SSD: they're ridiculously expensive $/GB, and Photoshop is much more dependent on copying to and from memory for speed than anything else. Being able to keep your entire working space in RAM will make much more of a difference than anything else;

2) Photoshop is still largely a single-threaded app. It's better, at the moment, to have fewer cores at a higher clock speed. In other words, for most tasks, a 3.33 GHz six core will be faster than a 2.66 GHz 12-core. That may change in the future;

3) OWC has 16 GB for the MP for ~US $160. 32 GB is about US $530. Factor that into your costs. If you have the money, they have a 48 GB kit for the MP for ~US $1000.
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chris v
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Oct 7, 2011, 09:26 PM
 
You can put 16 gb of RAM in a new Macbook Pro.

When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift.
     
SierraDragon
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Oct 8, 2011, 04:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Don Pickett View Post
If you get the MP, skip the SSD: they're ridiculously expensive $/GB
Agreed, unlike MBPs where an SSD can be had for $100, Apple's MP SSDs are overpriced - just like Apple's RAM is. However, just like Apple's overpricing RAM does not mean "skip the RAM," Apple's overpricing MP SSDs does not mean "skip the SSD." SSDs are not ridiculously expensive via third-party purchase, and the overall operational improvement is very significant.

Agreed, if one is in a PS workflow 100% of the time RAM should be the primary hardware focus. However for folks who also enter any other applications during their workday, or if huge amounts of RAM are not on board, SSD usage is a very big deal.

-Allen
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 8, 2011, 09:20 PM
 
Does PS alone address more than 2GB these days?
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
SierraDragon
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Oct 9, 2011, 02:23 AM
 
Like I said earlier, Photoshop has been able to utilize at least 32 GB RAM under OS X for years; probably much more today.

Many folks thought apps were limited by the 32-bit theoretical 4-GB max RAM direct access but that is not true under OS X.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Oct 9, 2011 at 02:31 AM. )
     
CharlesS
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Oct 9, 2011, 03:49 AM
 
How would that work? The pointers in a 32-bit app are only 32-bits long, and can't hold any value over 4,294,967,295.

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Oct 9, 2011, 08:20 AM
 
My understanding was that fairly recently (two years or so) all the CS apps were still limited to 2 or 3GB each, despite its being theoretically possible to give them tons more.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
SierraDragon
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Oct 9, 2011, 09:01 AM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
How would that work? The pointers in a 32-bit app are only 32-bits long, and can't hold any value over 4,294,967,295.
My limited understanding is that OS X facilitates implementation of a 32-bit physical address extension scheme that essentially creates a 36-bit physical address size, which takes the theoretical max from 4 GB to 64 GB. You could research "physical address extension."

Several years ago an Adobe engineer blogged that he had a Mac box in the lab with 32 GB RAM on board and that the process worked at least up to that amount. I believe that it is OS X interacting with the Intel processor, not an Adobe operation.

IIRC 32-bit Photoshop direct memory addressing OTOH was ~2 GB RAM on Win and ~3 GB RAM on Mac. But I am not an expert.

The main point was that OS X made it beneficial to have much more RAM available on board (in my case, 8 GB in 2007 on a production Mac Pro) than the 2-3 GB direct memory address limit would suggest.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Oct 9, 2011 at 09:36 AM. )
     
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Oct 9, 2011, 12:12 PM
 
Safari ate my old post, arch!
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
My limited understanding is that OS X facilitates implementation of a 32-bit physical address extension scheme that essentially creates a 36-bit physical address size, which takes the theoretical max from 4 GB to 64 GB. You could research "physical address extension."
The OS can address more than 4 GB, but each 32 bit app is limited to 4. Hence, RAM beyond 4 GB would still be useful since you could run several 32 bit apps side-by-side that utilize their full 4 GB. I vaguely remember that older versions of PS could handle files larger than 4 GB, perhaps that's what you are thinking of?

@OP
CPU-wise, a MacBook Pro will be faster than the entry-level Mac Pro. Since Photoshop does not make good use of many cores, getting more cores will not be particularly beneficial. Apps like Aperture or Lightroom, though, can make good use of additional cores. Photoshop also doesn't depend on a beefy GPU.

The three main advantages of a Mac Pro are:
(1) You can easily use 4 internal hard drives at native speeds. While this is possible with any Thunderbolt equipped Mac, it doesn't beat the simplicity of a Mac Pro.
(2) You need more than 16/32 GB RAM.
(3) You want to use more than 3 monitors at the same time.

If you get a MacBook Pro, you also want to get an external monitor. Any good external monitor will have significantly better image quality than a notebook screen (this has nothing to do with glossy vs. matte, panel and backlights are identical).

A MacBook Pro will accept up to 16 GB which should be plenty. If that doesn't suffice, you could consider a 27" iMac whose RAM ceiling is 32 GB. As before, you may want to consider an external screen, many don't like glassy screens for image editing. Both, the larger MacBook Pros and iMacs allow you to connect up to two external screens. Note that if you have an older version of Photoshop, none of this will help you significantly since 32 bit versions of PS can only use 4 GB RAM (see discussion above), you need to upgrade.

I would also second-guess Don Pickett's advice regarding SSDs, you should definitely get one, no matter if you get a MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro. If you fancy a MacBook Pro, install one in place of the optical drive. The latest generation has read/write speeds in excess of 500 MB/s and the access times of SSDs are faster by a factor of roughly 10 compared to hard drives. That's the reason a previous-gen MacBook Air with a puny Core 2 Duo is significantly faster than my Core i5 MacBook Pro.
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Oct 9, 2011, 01:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
My limited understanding is that OS X facilitates implementation of a 32-bit physical address extension scheme that essentially creates a 36-bit physical address size, which takes the theoretical max from 4 GB to 64 GB. You could research "physical address extension."
Physical Address Extension is irrelevant here, as Photoshop (like any other app) cannot directly use physical memory. It uses logical memory, ie its memory addresses are translated to physical memory addresses by a special unit in the CPU. Physical Address Extension will increase the amount of memory the OS has to play with, but it does not increase the logical memory each app has to play with.

What OS X actually does is use the extended virtual address space included in the 64-bit version of x86 (AMD64 is the original name, Intel calls it IA32e and most everyone else calls it x64, if you want to look up the implementation details.)

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
Several years ago an Adobe engineer blogged that he had a Mac box in the lab with 32 GB RAM on board and that the process worked at least up to that amount. I believe that it is OS X interacting with the Intel processor, not an Adobe operation.
He likely had an early 64-bit test version - or he ran a 32-bit Photoshop and used a big RAM disk for scratch, or the process forked off multiple processes that each used 4GB of RAM. To use more than 4 GB LOGICAL memory, your app must use pointers that are longer than 32 bits. There is no way to that on 32-bit x86.

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
IIRC 32-bit Photoshop direct memory addressing OTOH was ~2 GB RAM on Win and ~3 GB RAM on Mac. But I am not an expert.
This is an unrelated implementation detail in Windows. For every 32-bit app, Windows will reserve a chunk of the virtual address space - 2 GB by default, configurable (and I believe the default in newer versions) to 1 GB. This means that any app can actually only address 2 or 3 GB, depending on configuration. OS X has no such limitation, and you can get 4 GB virtual memory. On a 10.2 or earlier, the OS itself could only access 4 GB physical memory, so an app would only ever get 4GB physical memory minus whatever the OS needed. 10.3 upped this to 8 GB, so any app could have 4 GB, and 10.4 was 64-bit to the extent that the physical address limits were moved to the 64-bit limit (16 exabytes, IIRC). What was missing there was that almost no libraries were 64-bit - that came later.

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
The main point was that OS X made it beneficial to have much more RAM available on board (in my case, 8 GB in 2007 on a production Mac Pro) than the 2-3 GB direct memory address limit would suggest.

-Allen
The remains true, because that 2007 MP could use anything not used by Photoshop for itself and the disk cache. The returns for any more RAM would be decidedly diminished, however.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Don Pickett
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Oct 9, 2011, 02:40 PM
 
Photoshop CS4 and earlier were 32-bit applications: Photoshop couldn't make use of more than ~3 GB of RAM. CS5 and 5.5 are 64-bit apps, and will take as much RAM as you will throw at them. I regularly use more than 16 GB of RAM in Photoshop, and last week actually used more than 32 GB. For large pieces, like the ones in the original post, you will very quickly blast past 16 GB.

edit: also note that the MacBook Pros use PCIe 8x to the GPU, while the Mac Pros use 16x. So, when shuttling information back and forth to the GPU, the MBPs have half the bandwidth. I haven't seen any real world tests to see if this is a noticeable limitation, but it's something to keep in mind.
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CharlesS
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Oct 9, 2011, 02:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
My limited understanding is that OS X facilitates implementation of a 32-bit physical address extension scheme that essentially creates a 36-bit physical address size, which takes the theoretical max from 4 GB to 64 GB. You could research "physical address extension."
Like I said, it's impossible for a 32-bit app to use more than 4 GiB of RAM, because even if you somehow could, there'd be no way for the app to refer to anything other than the first 4 GiB, since the 32-bit pointers can't even store any value larger than 4 GiB. You could effectively use more than 4 GiB in a 32-bit app is to spin off additional processes, but I don't know if older versions of Photoshop were doing that or not.

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Oct 9, 2011, 03:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by Don Pickett View Post
edit: also note that the MacBook Pros use PCIe 8x to the GPU, while the Mac Pros use 16x. So, when shuttling information back and forth to the GPU, the MBPs have half the bandwidth. I haven't seen any real world tests to see if this is a noticeable limitation, but it's something to keep in mind.
Where did you see that? I know that the MP has an advantage in that it has more total PCIe lanes available, which is useful for multiple GPUs (you can have 16x each for the first 2 GPUs, or 8x each for 4 GPUs), but you can't have more than 16 for each GPU, and the Sandy Bridge mobile CPUs certainly have that. Furthermore, Sandy Bridge has boosted the link speed of PCIe to 5 GT/s, so each lane does twice as much.

AFAIK, the actual benefit of this in any single CPU, single GPU scenario is zero, because the internal bandwidth is just not a limiting factor, but I'd also like to see some tests.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Oct 9, 2011, 05:19 PM
 
nm. too late.
     
SierraDragon
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Oct 9, 2011, 10:07 PM
 
Some blog posts by Adobe engineer Scott Byer in the 2006-2007 CS2/CS3 time frame, emphases mine:
-----------------------------
If you have the RAM (greater than 4 GB) Photoshop will use that RAM as a scratch disk. Has CS3 improved on this usage?

...[What Photoshop CS2 and Photoshop CS3 will do is if it sees your machine has more than 4GB of RAM in it is flip on the bit that allows reads/writes to the scratch disks to be cached by the OS. How well that works partially depends on how well the OS file caching works. - Scott]

...(yes, applications only control their address space, the operating system controls how that maps to RAM or disk).

...Photoshop is already able to deal with data sets much larger than 4GB by having it's own VM system, so the 4GB address space limitation isn't nearly as much of a barrier for us...

...Note that some of our tests show a benefit of going from 8GB to 16GB RAM on Mac 10.4

...once you can switch to the 64-bit version of the operating system (and have stable drivers for it) that a lot of the capability of the machine can get used at that point - most notably the capability of utilizing more than 4GB of RAM. An individual 32-bit application may not be able to directly address more, but the aggressive file-caching in Vista x64 and OS X 10.4 allow for a good deal of benefit to still be had from having more than 6GB of RAM installed - if you are dealing with images that large.

-----------------------------

Like I said earlier, 32-bit PS can through OSX take advantage of much more than 4 GB RAM even though PS can only directly access <4 GB RAM.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Oct 9, 2011 at 10:17 PM. )
     
Don Pickett
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Oct 10, 2011, 12:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Where did you see that?
Blog of a guy who programs flight sims for a living: X-Plane 10 and GPU Power | X-Plane Developer Blog

Hardware Advice: Make sure you have your video card in a PCIe x16 slot!

The new Thunderbolt Mac laptops have only 8x PCIe to their discrete GPUs; this may turn out to be the limiting factor for X-Plane.
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Don Pickett
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Oct 10, 2011, 12:21 AM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
Like I said earlier, 32-bit PS can through OSX take advantage of much more than 4 GB RAM even though PS can only directly access <4 GB RAM.

-Allen
From personal experience, the performance isn't that great. It's more of a hack than anything else.
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SierraDragon
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Oct 10, 2011, 12:36 AM
 
Originally Posted by Don Pickett View Post
From personal experience, the performance isn't that great. It's more of a hack than anything else.
Agreed. Today we can really access RAM. But in 2006 it was significant. And even today the implications are that more RAM is good.

-Allen
     
   
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