I currently have a 2008 MBP and am thinking of getting a new computer. I was wondering if the MBA OCT 2010 edition with max cpu (2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo) and 4gb ram would work well with photoshop and some web development? The tools I use are photoshop, dreamweaver, textmate,coda, and transmit, also my MBP from 2008 is 4gb intel core 2 duo 2.4 ghz. Would the MBA be faster then my 2008 MBP?

3 Answers 3


A similar question was asked over at Programmers.SE, though it was about iOS development. Some might say that's not the same thing, but Photoshop is a robust application that allows you to install some very heavy-duty plug-ins and it has some of its own as well. The consensus could be gotten from the top two answers (mine, which has the higher vote count, and the other which was accepted):

Mine with 5 votes:

...leaving aside price, I would recommend a MacBook Pro for any serious development work instead. A MacBook Pro is more easily upgradeable to suit needs than an Air (if it is even upgradeable at all). The Air seems more targeted to lighter-weight uses.

Accepted with 4 votes:

It's obviously not going to be the fastest machine but it's perfectly suitable.

I'd say the 13" over the 11" because reasonable screen size is a big deal for development, and it can go up to 4Gb RAM rather than 2Gb (absolutely go for the 4Gb RAM model on day one and if you can afford it the faster processor as I suspect upgrading later isn't something Apple will be pushing).

Yes it's got limitations (basically the same as any laptop - essentially screen and power are limited next to a desktop) but I have the new one and it's entirely workable and I know others who use them (and used the old MacBook Air) day to day with no problems.

I, personally, still wouldn't recommend the MBA for any type of development work, web or otherwise. I've yet to do anything developing for iOS that causes me to bog down my machine the way Photoshop can and will.

  • 1
    +1 for "wouldn't recommend the MBA for any type of development work".
    – Dori
    Dec 21, 2010 at 7:17
  • 2
    My 13" Macbook Air 2/ 4GB & 2.13GHz is faster than my 17" unibody Macbook Pro w/ 8GB. It's absolutely GLORIOUS to do web development on, including light photoshop work (i.e. smaller, lower-resolution files).
    – coreyward
    Jul 21, 2011 at 15:48
  • @coreyward: yes, and my phone is faster than my first desktop but that's not a reason to recommend it for serious dev work ...
    – Cedric H.
    Aug 23, 2011 at 7:51
  • @coreyward: I am deleting your comment because it is inappropriate for this forum. Be nice. Aug 23, 2011 at 13:22

I use a Oct 2010 Air for development work, that includes working in Coda on RoR sites, light Photoshop, XCode iOS development and C++ work in QtCreator. This is frequently with Ubuntu running in VBox at the same time.

It works, it's not going to be so fast your eyes fall out. I've never seen mine get bogged down at all, it stays perfectly solid unless I'm really really pushing it and that's incredibly rare. Plus, you know, 8 hours battery life, I'll take portable and long life over the extra weight and more power.

(As a side note I opened 50 3.5Mb PSDs in about 30 seconds without the system stuttering, so that might have an indication of the relative speed)


As a web developer who uses a Mac Pro and sits next to another dev who uses just a 13" MBA (MC504LL/A (256 GB)), for web development (especially if you're starting and stopping a server often) the Air often "feels" faster than much more powerful machines, though to be fair, on the Mac Pro (with a single 2TB 7200rpm drive), I have 9GB of ram, and tend to leave more things running/open as a result. This is almost entirely the SSD's doing. So putting an SSD in the 13" MBP would be a big help to overcome that.

So from my experience it works well for web development and some Photoshoping, which is more what I do.

I'm looking to replace a 2006 Macbook I still use for freelance work, but Apple really made it a tough by keeping the lower-res screen in the 13" MBP, that's the only thing that's making the Air look more attractive at this point.

Edit: After seeing this video I decided to go with the Air (Thunderbolt) MBA (Oct 2010) + Photoshop video

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