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The April 2014 update of the 11" MacBook Air packs refreshed dual-core i5 and i7 Haswell processors and slightly increased battery performance.

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Should I: Upgrade Parts, Upgrade to Used, Wait & Purchase New

Macbook Air, 11” early 2014, i5, 4gb RAM - Battery: Replace Soon 1300+ cycles

I’m a photographer. Often my Air is enough to do what needs to be done, minimal post-processing edits, anything heavier I often have access to a professional work station.

I’m considering purchasing a separate Eizo self-calibrating screen for color-critical work at home. Thus, upgrading for an improved screen isn’t a top priority.

However, faster processing, and the ability to run Photoshop, Lightroom, and Firefox along with Telegram and maybe, gasp, even Spotify, would be nice. That said, my PS and LR tasks are not really that heavy with processing, unless I’m working with a medium format Flextight scan, where the single image file size can be up to 1gb, yes, a single .TIFF at 1gb. I can get the beach ball from clone stamping, but I rarely have to do this, as I go to extreme lengths to make my scans clean. As it stands I only open LR or PS if everything else is closed, and only use one of the programs at a time and I get by just fine.

The only other thing it would be nice to have improved would be the file transfer speeds. I’m using USB 3.0, but even still…


I see I can upgrade my logic board to the i7 8gb RAM option, and I can replace my battery, and I can clean up my fan and vents, maybe put some new thermal paste on.

I could (with advice) purchase a used Air, MB, Pro.

Or I could keep saving and wait to purchase a new computer sometime later this year or early next year. But I’d only be doing so for improved processing power.


At what point in either upgrading my parts, upgrading to a different used computer, or purchasing new, am I going to noticeable difference?

Maybe this isn’t the right question.

Maybe the question I’m actually trying to ask is something like, how much of a difference in performance would I notice between the cheapest new Mac Air compared to, say, a 2018 Air, compared to my current MBA with an upgraded logic board?

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As it turns out I’m a part time photographer. I specialize on diorama backgrounds used for museums and photo studios. I use a 15” MacBook Pro retina with 16 GB or RAM and a 1 TB SSD (OWC) as well as a pair of external Samsung T5 2 TB SSD’s.

While I work on very large image files (knit multiple images together) and do quite a bit of touchup work to bring the images to what I want. It sounds like you are more into portrait and lightweight processing unlike me.

Even still you also don’t want to box your self in. You appear to be willing to spend the bucks on a Eizo monitor which have a few issues if you use them for long periods (they drift).

Maybe the better direction is to get either the coming (any day now) MacBook Pro 14” system which replaces the 13” model.

Unlike your system it offers a better display I/O and you might want to look at the Apple Pro Display XDR as well. I was lucky I got an 24” Eizo used which I use on my 2013 Mac Pro (trash can). I often need to recalibrate it as it tends to drift after a couple of hours of use. I have an older one so the newer ones are likely better. Even still I’ve got my eye on the XDR as a better display as well as being larger which I need. I also use a projector as well so I can get a full wall size image. I have my sights on a 16” MacBook Pro soon as well.

So while I haven’t really talked about upgrading your MacBook Air, I don’t think you’ll get what you want. RAM and storage are more important for photographers to have their project open without being choppy. CPU processing power is not always whats needed depending on the apps being used. GPU performance often is! Or both! Adobe has improved Light Room with the newest release quite a lot and now leverages more GPU unlike the older version which was more CPU bottlenecked. Even still you still want a CPU which is multi-threaded with 4 or more threads concurrently, the more the better as that speeds up processing and rendering.

So if I’m doing portrait work I would want a system with an i7 or i9 with at least 16 GB of RAM and at least 512 GB (1 TB is better if you do a lot of image processing onboard) of SSD storage. As far as ports the market is moving to USB-C as the display standard connection for 24” to 32” with 4k or larger resolution for external displays.

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I think the question isn’t whether you should upgrade, buy used or fork out cash for a new one, but which you’re most comfortable with doing. Are you familiar with Apple’s proprietary hardware? Can you wait till next paycheck?

If you want to upgrade your existing hardware, go for it. But, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew, and end up with not only a broken device, but also hundreds of dollars down the drain.

Personally, I would feel most comfortable (as would my wallet) opting for a used model from a year or 2 ago, as the value is great and performance benefits (at least in the applications you’ve mentioned) would be negligible. Frankly, you don’t need that much processing power to run image manipulation applications, at least not more than a 2017 Mac Air packs.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. Happy camping.


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