I do a lot of photo editing on a 13" Macbook Pro. When making photo adjustments I spend a lot of time waiting for the image to re-render. I'm wondering which hardware upgrades will have the greatest impact on adjustment performance and why. (Preferably ranked.)

I use Aperture, but the question should apply just the same to all photo editing software.

Note that I'm taking specifically about performance when making adjustments. I don't care about the time to first load images into the app or the time to export because I can walk away while that is happening. Also, at of the time of this question, all Macs come with flash storage, so recommending an SSD isn't helpful in this situation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ After the recent news(apple to cease development of Aperture), I don't know if I would focus on hardware upgrades for that suite. Just a thought. See also: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/52371/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 3:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt, that question is three years old and most of the answers suggest getting an SSD. You can't get a Mac without flash storage, so all of those answers are irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question can be interpreted as time related (as you say, in few months the answers can be irrelevant). Also you don't give the specs of your Mac. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 9:27

1 Answer 1


Short answer:

Hardware upgrades:

  • (perhaps) more memory.

Why? It can reduce the need for swapping/fallback on storage.

  • (perhaps) a secondary SSD

Why? It can be used as scratch disk and/or library disk etc. in order to offload the OS disk. A slow OS disk can have a general impact in speed of the system (think about swapping) not only on load/save times.

Other things to consider:

Well, in order to not be time specific (otherwise the question will be closed), and, also, because you don't give any specs of your Mac you must do your research on several lines:

  • get a faster program: Aperture is known to be slow. Lightroom is faster, AfterShotPro much faster. There are also other free offerings (darkTable, digiKam, Photivo etc.). See what fits you. But you talked about hardware upgrades.

  • get a faster OS: optimize your version and if you do not have the latest one, upgrade. But (again) you talked about hardware upgrades.

  • get a faster CPU and/or GPU (if the program can work with GPU's cores). By "faster" I don't mean more GHz only but also a new generation of the instruction set with specific instructions to help in image processing (SSE etc.). But you talked about hardware upgrades and for your laptop this means a complete replacement. Perhaps the best path (if you can follow it) is to go for a desktop computer (Mac or not).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer, @JohnThomas. When I say "upgrades," I don't mean upgrades for an existing computer. Rather, I mean upgrades over the base model while configuring a new computer, so the CPU/GPU answers are exactly what I'm looking for. Knowing that, would you change the ordering of your proposed upgrades? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris Calo
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 17:25

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.