Photographer's sluggish Intel MacBook Air needs Apple silicon relief [Setups] | Cult of Mac

Photographer’s sluggish Intel MacBook Air needs Apple silicon relief [Setups]


Gabriel's computer setup packs a large array of gear.
Gabriel's computer setup looks relatively tidy, but it packs a large array of gear.
Photo: Gabriel B.

Gabriel B., a 13-year-old student and photographer in Baton Rouge, La., sent pics and commentary showcasing and describing his well-equipped MacBook Air-and-dual-display setup to Cult of Mac this week.

He noted his Intel MacBook powers an “army of peripherals,” but it’s not quite up to the work he asks of it. And how has he already filled 3TB of digital storage space, anyway? Well, that’s what heavy photo and video editing will do.

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MacBook Air setup drives dual displays and powers ‘army of peripherals’

Gabriel runs a 2020 Intel i5 MacBook Air (8GB RAM, 512GB SSD) to drive a couple of displays — a 4K Sceptre U275W-UPT DisplayPort monitor running at a 70Hz refresh rate and an “old ViewSonic 1080p VGA monitor that is mostly used as a photo frame.”

He also marshals quite the array of input devices, audio-visual equipment, connectivity and charging hubs, many terabytes of external storage (on just one drive he’s already filled up 3TB out of possible 8TB) and more.

Intel MacBook Air struggles

He told Cult of Mac his Intel MacBook Air isn’t quite cutting it for his main uses — photo and video editing, web browsing, Shortcuts programming, Finder organizing — so he’s hoping to trade up to Apple silicon soon.

“My main problem with my computer is that it runs slow 40% of the time, and beachball 20% of the time,” he said. “Mostly because I click things really fast and have all those peripherals connected, and of course Photoshop and [Final Cut Pro].”

He’s no amateur

You might wonder how a 13-year-old gets so into photography and videography (and ends up managing more of a computer setup than many adult contributors to society own). Turns out there’s a good reason. He gets paid for it. That means he’s a professional, not an amateur.

Gabriel takes photos for his family’s property-management and home-sales brokerage and sometimes shoots videos for a local construction company, his mother said. That’s in addition to when the home-schooled teen acts as IT guy for his family’s 5-employee company.

Which M1 or M2 computer, though?

No wonder Gabriel wants a brawnier computer. But the question of which one remains somewhat up in the air.

“I’m looking at the M2 Mac minis and MacBook Airs,” he said. “I do understand that [some] M1/2 laptops have the limitation of one external display, so I will probably use DisplayLink to get around that.”

Let’s not forget the cameras

Though the cameras Gabriel uses for his photos and videos aren’t primary parts of his setup, we wanted to mention them anyway.
He uses an Olympus TG Tracker for videography, rain or shine, and a Canon Rebel T7 with 10mm lens for real estate photography.
But that’s not all. He also flies a DJI Mini 2 drone “for anytime I need a high or unique shot. (I also use it on vacations and personal use).”

More of Gabriel’s tech menagerie

The MacBook Air sits on a cooling pad to dissipate heat.
The MacBook Air sits on a cooling pad to dissipate heat.
Photo: Gabriel B.

Here’s some of Gabriel’s setup equipment, including his shattered but functional Magic Trackpad 3, with his notes about use where appropriate:

  • “My Magic Trackpad is shattered from a slide onto hard tile,” he said. “It works fine, but I’m going to replace the glass sometime in the near future.”
  • Logitech C920 1080p webcam
  • “The sound system consists of an AudioTechnica ATR2100-USB microphone and Amazon Basics USB speakers.”
  • “Storage devices include a Seagate 8TB ‘Gaming Hub’ HDD and a super-fast Seagate Barracuda 1TB SSD, as well as a 512GB memory card used for Time Machine.”
  • “The USB on the desk is a Unitek 7 Port USB hub, with Ethernet. The card reader is a Unitek USB/MicroSD/SD reader.”
  • “There are lots of chargers as well. The Unitek hub has one dedicated charging port. Behind the ViewSonic monitor is a Seenda charging station with a wireless charger with USB-C, Lightning, and a Micro USB. In the hutch are Nikon, Olympus, and Canon battery chargers, made by BM Premium. Next to those is a DJI 3-Way Charging hub for my Mini 2. There is a secondary GoMovi (Office Depot) wireless charger for my Kindle Paperwhite 11th Gen Signature Edition.”
  • “Pointing and Typing devices are a Seenda Mac backlit keyboard, which has RGB lights and three-device memory, an Allsop mouse pad and wrist rest, a Logitech MX Master 2s [wireless mouse], a spare Apple Mighty Mouse (Wired) that I use when my Mac’s Bluetooth gets stubborn.”
  • “2 Blink Sync Modules to control an army of Blink cameras (which are used as birdhouse cams rather than security).”
  • “A UBeeSize ring light that I repurposed as a desk light.”
  • “A Govee DreamView G1 that is the monitor backlight. (It has a color sensing camera to sync with colors on the display).”
  • “A laptop cooling pad for my Intel Mac (which runs at 212f and 3000rpm whenever I use it).”
  • “Behind the desk is a 9 in 1 USB C hub, which runs two additional hubs, which run all the devices on my desk. It’s all powered by a Belkin 12 plug surge protector.”

Upcoming changes:

  • New Apple silicon computer
  • Repaired Magic Trackpad 3
  • Keyboard upgrade to the Logitech MX Keys for Mac
  • “I also need to get get a high speed card reader, as my hard drives are 200mb/s and my memory cards are 150mb/s but my reader is only 30mb/s.”
Input devices are a Seenda keyboard for Mac, a cracked Magic Trackpad that works fine, a Logitech Master MX 2 wireless mouse and a Mighty Mouse (backup for when "Bluetooth gets stubborn").
Input devices are a Seenda keyboard for Mac, a cracked Magic Trackpad that still works pending repair, a Logitech Master MX 2 wireless mouse and a Mighty Mouse (backup for when “Bluetooth gets stubborn”).
Photo: Gabriel B.

Shop these items now:

Computer and cooling pad:

Displays and webcam:

Input devices:

USB connectivity/charging devices:



Lighting and photography:

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches, challenges and plans for new additions.

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10/03/2023 12:24 am GMT


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