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Buying a Computer for the Digital Photographer PT 3
April 19, 2011 - Dave Hecei
Part 3 – The Desktop Mac
I will admit, I am slightly biased towards the Mac. However, I do use both Mac and Windows. I see computers as a tool and you need to select the right tool for the right job. I do most of my work on a Mac, but I do have a Windows laptop and I also have Parallels on my Macs. Parallels is virtualization software that allows you to run Windows on a Mac. But like many other professional and semi-professional photographers that I know and admire, my digital photographs are on my Mac.
The Home Mac for Digital Photography
Choosing a Mac is actually less stressful than buying a Windows PC. Just go to an Apple Store and you’ll see what I mean. They’re big, bright, clean, and full of very helpful and knowledgeable people. You don’t have to worry too much about specs when it comes to a new Mac. Pretty much any Mac will do, you just have to decide on desktop or laptop.
For the desktop there are three models, one of which is really only for the true professional. For the home or home office, the most popular Mac desktop is the iMac. This is an all-in-one design where the monitor is the computer, and the computer is the monitor. The iMac is sleek and beautiful. It is also very powerful. The mini is Apple’s lowest price Mac and also one of the smallest desktops you can buy.
The iMac is available in two screen sizes, 21.5-inches and 27-inches. The 21-inch models starts with the Intel Core i3 running at 3.06GHz, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, slot-load DVD burner, and ATI HD 4670 graphics card. Trust me when I say that this can handle Photoshop Elements with no problems. The next step up in the 21-inch model adds a 3.2GHz i3 processor, 1TB hard drive, and ATI HD 5670 graphics. Other options available when you custom order are – a 3.6GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive.
The 27-inch iMac starts with an Intel Core i3 processor running at 3.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, slot-load DVD burner, and ATI HD 5670 graphics. The next step up adds a quad-core Core i5 processor running at 2.8GHz, and ATI HD 5750 graphics. The 27-inch iMac also has some unique options available when custom ordering. There is an additional drive connection inside so you can have both a standard drive and a second solid-state drive. You can also opt for the 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, and up to 16GB of RAM.
The displays of both the iMac are stellar. They are very clear and crisp and well suited for photo editing. The 21-inch model shows a true HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The 27-inch model has even higher resolution at 2560 by 1440 pixels. Both iMacs have mini DisplayPorts so you can add a second monitor (but with the 27-inch iMac where would you put it?).
The Mac mini is one of my favorite Macs of all time. The latest model has been redesigned to be even better. Apple took the original mini design and squashed it down a bit and made it slightly wider. Doing this allowed them to put the power supply inside the case so there is not a huge power brick to deal with anymore. The mini is also the only Mac that has a built-in HDMI video port. This makes the mini great as a media device, along with a nice big-screen HDTV.
Inside the mini there is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.4GHz, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive, a slot-load DVD burner, and nVidia GeForce 320M graphics. While the mini might be small in stature, it is a powerful computer. There are plenty of ports – USB, Firewire, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, analog/digital audio in and out, SD memory card slot, and Gigabit Ethernet. Custom order options include – 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor, up to 8GB RAM, and 500GB hard drive.
The mini comes in a very small package since it only includes the computer. Apple sells the mini with no keyboard or mouse. The idea is that the mini makes a great media computer or a replacement computer. If you already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, then just add the mini and you’re up and running. If you don’t have these components already then adding them can rapidly get you to the same price as the low-end iMacs. If you don’t like the all-in-one design of an iMac, then the mini might be just the thing for you.
Any new iMac or Mac mini can easily handle your digital photography needs and run a program like Photoshop Elements with ease. Another great thing about the Mac is that along with its amazing OS, Mac OS X, it also comes with iLife 09, Apple media suite. It included iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, Garage Band, and iWeb. These are great tools for working with your digital photos, movies, and music. They also help you create music CDs, slide shows, movie DVDs, and a whole lot more. iLife 09 is free with every Mac.
To top this all off, if you have, or purchase separately, a copy of Windows XP, Vista, or 7, it can be easily installed on any new Mac. This can be done in two different ways. It can be done with virtualization software, like Parallels, VM Ware Fusion, or the free Sun Virtual Box, or with Apple’s Boot Camp. Boot Camp allows you to partition off a part of the Macs hard drive and install Windows there. With that done, you can now choose to boot into Mac OS or fully into Windows OS, just as if it were a true PC computer. This makes the Mac a very versatile system indeed.
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