MacBook Pro or Not To MacBook Pro

I’m registered to attend Professional Intensive beginning in September and was going to use my 2012 MacBook Pro with a 1TB SSD Iinstalled a few years ago, but the computer recently died. I’m scheduled to take it to the Genius Bar next week to see if it can be salvaged.

In the meantime, I ordered a 16" MacBook. My concern is this: Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated Apple is moving from Intel-based products to an Apple chipset in the next two years starting late this year. I’m concerned that legacy support for an Intel-based MacBook will be cut short due to the move, a concern that is exchoed by a few recent articles in magazines such as Forbes which recommends you don’t buy a MacBook Pro now.

Add to that the fact that it could take more than a year for Apple to make the switch to Apple-based silicon, which makes me think I should just bite the bullet. But then I read this:

"If you’re especially focused on Photoshop or Final Cut

Consider waiting. The only real, solid details Apple offered on the new Arm-based platform was that Adobe was given early access and already had Photoshop working smoothly on the Apple chip, and that Final Cut was similarly up and running in native form. That means that future development of those apps may tilt strongly towards Apple silicon from now on."

So my dilemma: move forward and buy the new MacBook Pro with an Intel-based chip or cancel my order and try to rehabilitate my current, older MacBook with the intention of buying a new MacBook once they are shipping with the new Apple chip? Or is there an even better option out there?

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I was just about to order my 16’’ MacBook Pro so I’ll be curious to hear what some of the RMSP staff recommend. I’ve got a 2017 MacBook Pro which has been fine, most of the time, for photo editing but really struggles with video files, even when converted to Apple Pro Res or proxies. I’m currently still planning to get the 16’’ knowing that it might take Apple a few years to make the switch. With how fast technology advances, once they have the Apple chip it might be time to upgrade lol.

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Ooof that is a dilemma! No doubt Forest will chime in here with his thoughts. He possibly may suggest you switch to PC. I’ll try to address these scenarios as someone who’s used Mac for 20 years, switched to PC for a minute, then went back to Mac, and is now considering PC again, but it’s not decided.

The new ARM chip has certainly thrown a wrench out there for us. I will say: a 2012 machine will be very slow and likely give you problems in Photoshop, LR and especially Premiere - and especially if your 2012 chip can’t support the most recent Mac OS. I recently bought a MacBook Pro and so I’ll be living with it and counting the days until it becomes a paperweight. I will say that Adobe held onto legacy CS6 downloads for a really long time before getting rid of them. (CS6 came out in 2012.) I know this because the only way I could easily burn a DVD was using Encore CS6. But now that DVD players are in thrift stores, computers aren’t being built with them, and everyone is streaming movies - seemed time to for Adobe to dump CS6. But they held on for 8 years! Which is really a long time for computers.

I think one sobering reality that we all face is that we want to believe our laptop will last 10 years and that it’s a long term investment. Truth is, it’s probably more like 5 years, max.

So, if you are thinking on a 10 year investment line, then you’ll be disappointed when they change chips or OS and things get buggy and slow or die. But if you think more along the lines of “this thing’s probably good for 3-5 years” then choose wisely.

If Adobe held onto CS6 legacy for 8 years, there’s a decent chance they’ll hold onto Intel software for a few years, in which case you can squeeze the life out of an Intel MacBook now and get good work done. The 2012 machine will slow you down.

Ok - the next option (which will make Forest & Tony smile with joy) is to switch to PC.

The good:

  1. you can get A LOT more performance out of a PC for the money than a Mac.

  2. You can build extreme PCs that are so fast they might just do the task before you even think of it (!!) for cheap!! — compared to a Mac.

  3. PCs still have ports! Macs keep trying to go thinner and thinner for consumers and eliminating USB, HDMI, monitor, Ethernet and other ports in lieu of 4 Thunderbolt ports, saddling Mac users with dongles forever. Maybe they’ll change and offer ports on future Pro machines, but that doesn’t seem to be the trend.

The bad:

  1. PC OS is a horrid user experience (in my opinion) and is not intuitive (to Mac users). That’s the preference part of the debate.

  2. It also lacks certain organizational features. Like: color coding. I like to color code a file Green for ‘ready,’ Blue for ‘finished,’ and Grey for ‘uploaded to client.’ PC does not have that function which makes managing assets a chore for my process.

  3. If your hard drives (I have 17 of them) are Mac formatted from years of Mac use, you’ll need additional utilities to see those on a PC. Or move your assets to cross-platform hard drives. Doable, but a pain.

PCs are common in video editing and animation houses - but not nearly as common on commercial photography sets. In my 20 years I never ran into a PC because art directors are on Mac. We’ll see if that changes in time…

I bought a Razer Blade 15” laptop for $1900 a few years ago. It absolutely performed and allowed me to do a few shoots with Capture One and I edited a video on a flight without a single problem. But if you are used to the Command-Option-Control keys on a Mac using Photoshop, the PC placement will drive you batty. There’s a script that re-maps the keys on a PC to emulate a Mac but it’s a bit klunky. The keyboard layout was different in terms of key spacing, so typing was problematic. I had to relearn typing a bit to not have so many miss-strokes. But between my Macs, the keyboards are the same.

If you are new to Photoshop then the key placement / keystrokes will be easier to learn fresh.

I sold my PC because I just couldn’t deal with all the preferential differences. My iMac at home, my wife’s Mac - we needed one ecosystem.

Sure you can get a NAS and run two different machines off it, but NASs aren’t portable! (And will add another $1200+ to all this)

In a nutshell:

If performance and a bit more longevity out of your machine and the ability to build your own screamin’ desktop are your primary considerations: PC

If using Mac OS, being used to where the Command-Option-Control keys are, being used to the actual keyboard for typing, some color coding, and the Mac ecosystem are important: Mac. You’ll still have fine photo/video performance if you get one with the top graphics card. More expensive, fingers-crossed Adobe holds onto legacy software for at least 3 years, when you should (realistically, and unfortunately) be thinking about a new machine anyhow. But if you can squeeze 5+ years of life out of it = winning!

If it were me, I’d get the MacBook knowing that in 3 years I’d be getting another. But I’m a Mac guy… until their Apps and dongle issues frustrate me so much that I feel I have to make the switch.

The ONLY reason I’d get a PC (and welcome one in) is for video editing/animation because the software functionality is so similar to Mac it doesn’t matter as much - but the PC performance is much higher. Trade-offs! Funny command key placement vs performance. For my Photoshop work, I just could not deal because I use those 3 keystrokes constantly - but for Premiere, not as often.

(Can’t wait to see what Forest says!)

Cheers,

Jeff

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My reason for ordering the 16" MacBook was partly in the hopes of giving myself a longer stretch between computers. I was loading it up with a 2TB SSD, 32GB RAM, etc. But those efforts seem to be mitigated by the issue with the switch to an Apple chip if support dies out for the Intel chipset.

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Jeff, I sincerely appreciate your input. All great points. You’re right about the old MacBook Pro being more or less a paperweight for use with LR/PS due to old operating system, etc. What I didn’t mention in my previous post (it was already too long) is I also have a 1-year-old Dell XPS. I’m checking to see if the specs on this computer meet the specs for PI now. Fingers crossed that they do. If so, I’m seriously considering canceling the MacBook order and waiting. As far as keyboard layout, etc., that’s not much of an issue for me. I’m fairly quick at adjusting to changes in keyboard layout, etc. as I spent 20 years as a stenographer (think Elton John’s Pinball Wizard with Crazy Flipping Fingers). If the Dell won’t make the cut, I’ll probably stick with the MacBook. If it does, I’ll use it for the time being. But that also depends on other input I get from Forest and Tony. Thank you again for the comments!

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Well crap, my 16” MacBook literally came in week before last :sweat_smile:

(It replaced a 2007 MacBook, I was a tad overdue for an upgrade)

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Candice: If I were you, I’d still be happy about the purchase. There’s no question MacBooks are some of the best…if not THE best…laptops out there for photo and video editing. Jeff’s response above should make you feel better about the purchase. Tie in with that the fact that it may be as long as another 2 years before the MacBook comes out with an Apple chipset, and I think your purchase was a good one, especially since you purchased it to replace an old MacBook (really old!). This way, you don’t need to learn how to navigate a new environment. For me, I use both a PC and Mac to work on my images and can switch between the two without a problem. How do you like your new Mac so far?

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Thanks for the encouragement :slight_smile: I replied before I settled in for the rest of the comments so I feel at ease with the decision again.

I’m extremely happy so far but I haven’t used it for anything more than YouTube and emails. My PC is so bogged down, I’m too scared to do much more than that.

I’m really hoping RMSP will teach us how to properly maintain a computer, I’m screwed if I have to figure it out alone :joy:

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I have absolutely no doubt the staff at RMSP can help you with anything you need on your computer. I’ve taken some of their courses in the past and was impressed by the fact there wasn’t a computer issue they weren’t able to help the student resolve. But you’ll see that when classes begin in September.

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A lot of great stuff here. I agree with everything that’s been said so far. Jeff has some great points.

There are really only a few things that I need to add:

First, @candiceilia we got you. I absolutely love computer maintenance and completely enjoy teaching others how to maximize the lifespan and speed of their computer.

Second, while the Apple announcement is big news (it’s also something @trix has been predicting for a while now :sunglasses:), I don’t think it should matter too much for PI this year.

There is always another big change coming down the line for computers that will make the previous models obsolete. As photographers and videographers, we just need to come to terms with the fact that a computer is a short term investment if you plan on working professionally.

I usually plan to buy a new computer every 1-3 years and I sell the old one for usually around 50-60% of what I paid for it originally. This makes it pretty cheap to always have a fast new machine with all of the bells and whistles.

I know this approach isn’t for everyone, but it does make it so that I’m never missing out on the newest tech.

Additionally the resale value of computers drops very slowly for the first 1-2 years, and then falls off a cliff after that. So if you are looking to sell a computer, usually right around 1.5 years is the sweet spot of resale value to length of time you get to use it for.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think it really matters too much. If you get something new now and then want to sell it in a year to get the new Apple chipset, do it. You’ll most likely get 75% back on resale and you turn right around and buy the new one. :+1:

Or just buy a super fast PC and join us in the dark side where we get the maximum price to performance ratio!

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I’ve never thought to sell my computer to upgrade! I’m having a moment right now thinking about this…

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I’m currently running a late-2011 MacBook Pro, upgraded from 4GB to 16GB memory, and it runs Lightroom classic and Photoshop without any trouble. I have thought of upgrading it, but at the moment I’m content. Memory and CPU are not really taxed in this configuration.

This vintage of MB Pros had a problem with a bad graphic processing unit chip. It was a known problem with this vintage. Apple replaced the motherboard once, but the new board also failed. (My wife’s MB Pro, same vintage, also failed twice.) Apple stopped supporting this machine; their repair centers wouldn’t touch it. However, I discovered a fix from online searching that I applied to both mine and my wife’s and they are both working fine. I mention this as I’m wondering if your 2012 MB Pro is experiencing the same issue. The fix was to disable the GPU, but amazingly LR and PS still work just fine with the on-board GPU. I’m happy to discuss this possible remedy with you in case you want to try to rescue your 2012.

The problem with new MB Pros is that they are not upgradeable in anyway. You cannot add memory or replace the internal drive as these are now soldered in place on the board. So whatever you buy is what you live with. My 2011 would be toast by this point without the 16GB memory.

A while back I compared PCs to Macs, and you can get equivalent horsepower, memory, disk, etc. in PC form for about half the price of a Mac. However, you don’t get the higher resolution display which is critical for image work when traveling and not using a high-res monitor at your desk. And of course you have to live with Windows. I have both Win and Mac systems, but only use Mac for photography.

Hope this perspective helps. Reply back if you want to discuss your 2012 machine.

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Kevin, it’s time for a new MacBook. As a longtime PC user at work and Apple user at home, I wouldn’t actually spend my own money on a PC. Your laptop is probably in the vintage product line and Apple won’t want to fix it. You could take it elsewhere; you could see if it boots from DiskWarrior or your backup drive. If it does, and your SSD is dead, you could buy a 2 TB SSD from macsales.com and install it your self (I did for my 2015 MBP in preparation of the 2020 Summer Intensive, LOL) but still do you want to trust an old machine for the course? Hard to know how long Apple will support the Intel chips, but there are a lot out there, so I would hope my MBP and iMac won’t become obsolete overnight. BTW, I dropped my MBP one week before Applecare expired and cracked the screen and case. When I took it in to Apple, they said there was some problem with the processor under warranty; so for $600 for the screen and case, the only original parts remaining is the keyboard, memory and SSD (which I upgraded). Thus a newer machine. Or by now I would look to upgrade. Easy enough to get an adaptor if you need more ports.

Jared, thank you for your thoughts on this. I took my 2011 (I thought it was 2012) to Apple, and yes, it was out of warranty. But as usual, the Apple tech went above and beyond. He ran diagnostics on the computer to figure out what the problem is. It’s the graphics card. The only way I could repair it is to see if I can find a card that fit, but Apple no longer sells them. So we bit the bullet and bought the new 16" MacBook Pro! As a matter of fact, I’m typing the response to your note on it. It arrived earlier today. Since its arrival, I’ve been uploading the Adobe Photography apps, Microsoft Suite, etc. I also ran a speed test on the hard drive (2789.3 MB/s write speed, 2662.2 MB/s read speed on the internal 2TB SSD) as well as the LaCie Rugged 2TB SSD Thunderbolt 3 external drive (1935.0 MB/s write and 2264.6 MB/s read speed). I tested the transfer to the external hard drive and uploaded a 4TB movie in 2 seconds! The touch bar is…well, it’s amazing. I’ve never had a computer with one before. It’s very intuitive.

A few things about this computer and Lightroom though. Adobe incorporated a custom configuration for the touch bar in Photoshop, but for some reason, not Lightroom (I would have thought it’d be the other way around). I’ll be working on either learning to make my own custom configuration for the touch bar for Lightroom or using one someone else has made if I can find one I like and they’re willing to share.

The second thing I found out was the first time I attempted to use Lightroom with this new MBP, I noticed it seemed generally all-around slow, especially when using the adjustment brush tool. Under Lightroom Preferences > Performance > Use Graphic Processor, AUTO was selected. Further investigation revealed that the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU was not in use. I changed that setting so Lightroom will always use the AMD Radeon. I assume Adobe did this to save battery when not plugged in. Since my MacBook is plugged in all the time at home and I know our computers will be plugged in during PI, that’s not something I worry about. Now Lightroom is running much faster.

All-in-all, I couldn’t be more happy with this computer. Blazing fast is an understatement! Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the sound system on this thing is heads and shoulders better than anything I’ve ever used before. My old MacBook speakers were so poor that I refused to listen to music without headphones. I listened to music on the speakers all day as I worked on the computer! Apple truly outdid themselves on this one. But the one issue still remains: How long will Apple support the MacBooks with Intel chipsets once they move over to Apple chips? But for the time being, I couldn’t be happier.

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