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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Issues in ditching iMac for portable Mac?

Issues in ditching iMac for portable Mac?
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Yokohama
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Mar 17, 2016, 09:26 AM
 
I've long used an iMac for most of my work and am ready to upgrade. But occasionally I need the portability of notebook. My 6/7-year-old white plastic and heavy Macbook, though, is just about at the end of its useful life.
So I'm thinking of investing in a Mac portable and a large external display, rather than an iMac this time. For those who have gone this route, can you help with the following questions, please?

1. Any major issues to look out for?
2. What ex. display are you using and would you buy the same brand again?
3. What do you miss about going portable vs using a desktop? And will you continue with portable computing?

Thank you!
     
P
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Mar 17, 2016, 12:51 PM
 
I am considering the same thing, partly because there is no DisplayPort in on the new iMacs. Current front-runner for display is Samsung U24E850R.
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.
     
SierraDragon
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Mar 22, 2016, 03:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by Yokohama View Post
...thinking of investing in a Mac portable and a large external display, rather than an iMac this time. For those who have gone this route, can you help with the following questions, please?
1. Any major issues to look out for?
2. What ex. display are you using and would you buy the same brand again?
3. What do you miss about going portable vs using a desktop? And will you continue with portable computing?
I went from Mac Pro plus Powerbook to solely a 17" matter display 2011 Macbook Pro driving a 24" Viewsonic display. I made the move because a fully safe Aperture (now killed by Apple; damn) workflow was less than ideal when using two computers, and I do need to maintain mobile capability.

Thanks to Thunderbolt, that MBP and its 15" sister were the first laptops capable of being true full-strength desktop replacement (DTR) laptops. SSD, 16 GB RAM and i7 make the top MBPs since January 2011 great DTR boxes. I have been doing heavy images work on that setup for 5 years now, and perceive no weakness from the hardware except an inability to use Handoff with iPhone and iPad.

I use the MBP keyboard and trackpad (no mouse, but with an external BT Satechi keypad) with the MBP screen open and immediately below the larger external display, all on a large home-built 44" high stand-up desk. I do use both displays, set to the same resolution and not mirrored. I move windows back and forth between the displays as suits the tasks that I am working on at the time. If the external display is disconnected all open windows just default back to the MBP screen.

Much of my work involves images, which means lots of mass storage and complex off-site backup. Having a single DTR box actually facilitates that because the hard drives at the fixed base location are always being disconnected when the DTR laptop goes mobile.

1. Any major issues to look out for?
- Buy only the top MBP available, with maximum RAM and best available GPU; ignore low end boxes. IMO largest available SSD + a portable drive that travels with the MBP, but I deal with enterprise-critical images and your workflow might get by with less. All that is pricey (more than an iMac), but in my case it has amortized over 5 years already and still strong.
- Laptops are by definition exposed to far, far more risk than desktops. Backup religiously on and off site, and have a quickly implementable plan for what happens when (not if, when) the laptop is stolen or blows up. Consider theft/fire insurance if self-insuring is not comfortable for you.
- Consider how the the laptop display may look side-by-side (or above/below like my setup) with your choice of external display. As an images person issues like display glare, color variation, etc. irritate me very much. However many non-images folks flat do not care.
- You may choose to just use the external display when at your fixed base, in which case the MBP screen can be left closed. Personally even when I do not want the MBP display on (e.g. watching Netflix) I leave the MBP open for best heat removal with the screen set to mirror and brightness at zero.

- My MBP does get very hot when in full-on DTR mode and doing images work using the external display. All my earlier Mac laptops also got very hot under heavy usage. None failed due to heat but this 2011 MBP did have a GPU problem that presented a month ago that Apple repaired for free as part of a known GPU issue.

2. What ex. display are you using and would you buy the same brand again?
Mine is Viewsonic, which was great value in 2011 but it depends on what size and color quality you need and 2016 displays have evolved a lot. The cost range for displays is huge because the color quality range is huge. I would start from scratch evaluating new displays today but yes I would consider Viewsonic as well as others like Apple. No Dell.

Actually the internal display of the laptop is also important to those of us who care about displays, because the laptop display gets used in lots of different not-always-ideal lighting, whereas you can set up the lighting at your fixed base. Apple Stores are set up to make the displayed laptops look good, but pick the laptop up and move it around to see how bad the glare is. There has been large variance among different built-in MBP displays.

3. What do you miss about going portable vs using a desktop? And will you continue with portable computing?
The only thing I miss is having 5 hard drives hidden in the MP tower instead of cables everywhere, but I could do that now with a multi-drive enclosure if I felt like it.

Portability has huge value add to me, enough to be considered mandatory. Obviously taking the laptop to jobsites, edu, etc.; but also even just the ability to sit in the living room with a laptop in-lap is very convenient; or to sit in my office with laptop in-lap when I get tired of standing at the desk. I will always be portable but might again add a MP to the mix at some point if a suitable images workflow were to evolve.

Edit: I have 2 friends that each use iMacs and prefer them because they want their computer work to be only in one place (which would drive me crazy). Different folks have different preferences.

HTH

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Mar 22, 2016 at 04:26 PM. )
     
SierraDragon
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Mar 22, 2016, 03:54 PM
 
Note that breakout boxes are available from folks like Matrox http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/# that allow up to three external displays if you need to exceed the external display capability of the MBP.

Also look at BareFeats.com for useful tests of all kinds of things that may be useful when setting up a mobile + fixed workflow.
     
Yokohama  (op)
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Mar 24, 2016, 01:58 AM
 
Thanks very much for the feedback. I don't need the power of a Macbook Pro and don't like its extra weight, so I'll go with one of the lighter notebooks. If only I could afford both an iMac and portable!
     
SierraDragon
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Apr 1, 2016, 01:18 PM
 
Originally Posted by Yokohama View Post
I don't need the power of a Macbook Pro and don't like its extra weight, so I'll go with one of the lighter notebooks.
I am personally unfamiliar with the external display performance of the latest "lighter notebooks" but in the past many lower end laptops have had poor performance driving external displays. My recall is that laptops without a secondary GPU generally perform poorly. But you could put some effort out to research sites like BareFeats.com tests (answers do not usually just jump out, it takes work).

Your original post stated an interest in "investing in a Mac portable and a large external display." I encouraged you based on selecting high end laptop hardware but my encouragement does not include usage of a low end laptop to drive " a large external display." In fact I would specifically recommend against doing so. If your interest is in low power low weight in a laptop I instead recommend using two devices: laptop + desktop.

Certainly a modern low power low weight laptop might meet your personal expectations driving some particular large external display, even though it might not meet my expectations. After all, we all have different workflows. However my suggestion is that you observe such a setup in real-world operation before assuming how well it works.

HTH

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Apr 1, 2016 at 01:32 PM. )
     
P
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Apr 23, 2016, 08:14 PM
 
Apple, time to get a move on. My iMac just died.
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.
     
SierraDragon
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May 5, 2016, 07:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Apple, time to get a move on. My iMac just died.
Agreed. My business associate and I are both just waiting for Skylake to upgrade to new MBPs.
     
   
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