I’ve had a number of different Macs over the years, none of which have been able to fulfil my needs. Some have come close, while others are about as far as possible from my needs. A new one is on the horizon—will it be my unicorn?
My first Mac was an early 2008 MacBook Pro 17”1. In hindsight, that decision was a mistake, although it did suit me quite well at the time. I was in a point in my life where I was constantly travelling, often between cities, and needed a laptop with a screen big enough to edit my photos in Lightroom and not need an external LCD at the same time. I even opted for the high resolution screen to make my life easier. I should have gone for the 15” model, but I was younger at the time, not much caring for the additional weight.
As soon as I settled down, I bought myself an Eizo 24” monitor which promised to be much better suited for my productivity, especially with the MacBook’s screen acting as a secondary display. This in turn forced me to buy a stand to elevate the Mac to a usable level. Since I was also running low on disk space, I needed an external HDD2. I was also using a Wacom tablet at the time. All of this meant that whenever I wanted to use the MacBook Pro as intended—on my lap— I would have to disconnect anywhere from three to five cables. This soon became a chore, especially in the summer months, when I would love to take it outside. Its size did not make it comfortable to use, but I had everything that I needed on it—apart from my Lightroom archive, which I kept on the aforementioned external drive.
As soon as Apple announced the 27” iMacs, I took the plunge. I chose the top end model3, hoping the new CPUs would make it last for a few years and it finally arrived at the beginning of 2010. I also resigned from the mobility that my former MacBook Pro provided in exchange for an all-in-one package. 2010 was also the year of the first iPad and by the end of the year it easily replaced the MacBook in most of what I needed to do while on the move. This setup proved to be near perfect for the next few years, with the Retina display of the iPad 3 keeping me interested in using it with an external Apple Wireless Keyboard.
The iMac itself was the perfect machine for me. It was elegant and looked great on my desk. It was plenty fast and had ample storage for my data… I soon upgraded the internal SuperDrive to a 240 GB SSD, which became the new home for OS X and my applications. I continued to keep my data and photos on the 1 TB HDD. This mod gave the iMac new life, completely transforming it. It was now faster than ever and most importantly, work was now significantly less frustrating. Unfortunately, it had a flaw…
I sold the iMac in early 2014 and in those four years, when it was in my possession, it had its screen replaced a total of six times by Apple. The flaw appeared to be related to the LCD screen and radiator on the GPU. I often got the fans to spin up when rendering in Final Cut Pro and Lightroom, and this most probably deposited dust on the rear of the screen, perhaps even on the LED backlight itself. In Apple’s defence, they did replace the screens without any trouble on my part… well, almost. I did have to contact Apple UK at one time, because Apple Poland refused the exchange. Nevertheless, this is an issue which has gone unresolved for many years and some of my friends are already reporting problems on the Retina 5K iMacs.
In the meantime, I switched from the 9.7” iPad to the Mini. This meant that writing on it was not as comfortable as before—the smaller screen was not readable enough at a larger distance. Since I’m the type of person who likes to have specific tools for specific jobs, I bought an 11” MacBook Air4 for travel. I basically treat it as a cloud computer—everything on it is either in my Dropbox, iCloud Drive or easily replaceable. A Chromebook of sorts. Should anything happen to it, I would definitely shed a tear for the hardware itself, but everything else is safe elsewhere. At this point in time it’s my typewriter. I also backup my photos to it when travelling.
Since switching to the iPad Air 2, I now have the best of both worlds. I rarely take my MacBook Air with me anymore, preferring to rely on the iPad itself. It does everything that I need and more. I just wish Lightroom Mobile would support RAW files from my camera, so that I could back them up and sort through them on the go.
Since the only “feature” of the MacBook Air which I truly hate is the screen’s vertical resolution—768 pixels is not enough these days—I considered upgrading to a 13” Retina MacBook Pro. It is however not as travel friendly, despite having a vastly superior display. I am however waiting for the now mythical 12” MacBook, which is supposedly coming out in Q1 2015, should the last set of rumours prove true. While it sounds like the perfect 11” MacBook Air replacement, it still doesn’t fill all my needs. Nor does anything else in Apple’s current portfolio, sadly.
The Perfect Mac (for me)
The Mac Mini is too underpowered. The iMac has its own share of problems with dust building up on the screens. It also lacks sufficient internal storage space for my photo and video editing needs—I don’t want to rely on external HDDs or on a DAS/NAS. The Mac Pro has the latter issue in addition to being overkill for my needs. The MacBooks do not a good desktop computer make either. I do however have a dream Mac, which would be perfect for my needs. And I don’t doubt Apple could build it.
It won’t. But it could.
Basically, it would be an iMac with a full GPU in a Mac Pro case. A nice addition would be dual SSDs for ample storage, but I would gladly go for a Thunderbolt DAS for this Mac. Naturally it should support DisplayPort 1.3 and HDMI 2.0—this would enable it to support 5K displays in the future and 4K today.
I’m pretty sure this dream Mac of mine would cannibalise the sales of the Mac Pro. Most people do not require the power that it offers. The Core i7 from the iMac offers plenty, however the screen itself is not up to par with offerings from Eizo and NEC. That in fact is my biggest gripe Apple’s all-in-one.
I completely understand Apple’s current Mac lineup. Four categories of products for consumers and professionals. Two mobile and two desktop. Perhaps this will change in the future, perhaps not. I can still dream however.