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Which Mac computer to buy late 2023

Explorer ,
Dec 26, 2023 Dec 26, 2023

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I currently have a MacBook Pro 15 inch 2019 with a 2.3 GHz 8-core Intel Core i9 and 32GB of RAM. I've been experiencing a lot of lag in rendering in After Effects, and am considering getting a new machine. I'm open to Mac Mini's or iMacs, as I don't need a laptop on the road anymore.  The other programs I work in are Premiere Pro and Photoshop.  Interested to hear suggestions.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 26, 2023 Dec 26, 2023

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I would get the most powerful Mac you can afford. Personally, last April, I updated my 2-year-old MacBook Pro (M1) for a 16" M2 Max Macbook Pro with all the memory I could have stuffed in it. I've been very happy. I usually trade in my Mac computers when they are about two and a half years old because you get a great trade-in allowance if Apple Care still covers the machine. My new machines are much more affordable than if I waited 4 or 5 years to upgrade when I factor in the performance improvement, the cost of maintenance, and the amount of work I can get done in a day. I haven't paid a dime for computer maintenance and repair in more than 12 years.

 

The days of working for an hourly rate are long gone for almost all of my clients. I get paid for the job, not the hours, so having a high-performance machine makes great business sense.

 

A good friend just bought an M2 Ultra Mac Studio with 128 GB RAM and, I think, 2 TB of storage. He is thrilled with the performance. He works on the same kind of projects all the time, all job-based instead of hourly, and the last project was completed and delivered in a little more than half the time it took for the previous release of a similar program. He told me that the machine is going to pay for itself in less than six months because of his increased productivity, and he didn't have a trade-in because he kept his previous machine for almost eight years.

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Community Expert ,
Dec 27, 2023 Dec 27, 2023

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quote

I'm open to Mac Mini's or iMacs, as I don't need a laptop on the road anymore.  The other programs I work in are Premiere Pro and Photoshop.  Interested to hear suggestions.

By @Allen Birnbach

 

You should experience a nice boost going from an Intel Mac to an Apple Silicon Mac. I went from a 2018 Intel MacBook Pro to an M1 Pro MacBook Pro, and I went from dealing with lags on the Intel Mac to being quite satisfied with Apple Silicon Mac performance in both Premiere Pro and After Effects. However, I’m sure the basic level of video and animation I do is not as intensive as what’s done by many on this forum.

 

The only iMac left that Apple sells today is the recently released M3 iMac. However, there are some limitations that can affect video editing:

  • The iMac only comes with a 24" display. Three years after the Apple Silicon transition started, Apple has still not released an Apple Silicon iMac with a 27" display.
  • The iMac takes up to 24GB of Unified Memory, but especially for After Effects and Photoshop, 32GB of Unified Memory can be a better starting point, especially for larger projects or longer previews.
  • The iMac uses an M3, which is pretty good…but it’s the bottom of the M3 line. The M3 Pro and M3 Max provide more CPU and GPU cores which of course benefits video and animation, more hardware video encoders/decoders, and you can configure them with more Unified Memory. But you can’t get the Pro and Max levels in an iMac. 

 

If those iMac limitations concern you, then next you want to look at the Mac mini, which you can equip with an M2 Pro for more CPU/GPU cores than the M2 and up to 32GB of Unified Memory. However, when you start to bulk up the specs of the Mac mini, it can approach the cost of a Mac Studio.

 

The base Mac Studio, at $1999 (seen for as little as $1795 during current holiday and end-of-year deals), is actually a pretty good deal, and a safe choice. Out of the box it has an M2 Max processor, which means it has lots of CPU and GPU cores for video editing (many more cores than the M2/M3 or M2/M3 Pro); 32GB of Unified Memory, and 512GB of fast internal storage. There are many people who can use that as is without spending any more money, and would simply connect their video storage and cache drives (the Mac Studio has a lot of ports, too). Some might upgrade it to 64GB of Unified Memory (it takes up to 192GB), and a minority of users might have video workloads so heavy that the upgrade to the $3999 Mac Studio with M2 Ultra might be worth it.

 

Don’t be concerned about the Mac mini and Mac Studio not yet using the M3. The M2 Max and M2 Ultra are competitive with or superior to the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. (Apple has not yet released an M3 Ultra, but when they do, it will probably be the most powerful of all of these.)

 

You don’t need to consider the expensive Mac Pro desktop unless your video workload is both very high and involves a lot of specialized cards and storage.

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Explorer ,
Jan 03, 2024 Jan 03, 2024

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Thanks for the help.  I really appreciate the thoughtful response.  I decided to get a Mac Studio Max with 64GB of unified memory and a 2TB drive.  Since I don't do motion graphics full time, I really don't think I need the power of the Ultra.  Hopefully this middle ground is the right course.  Delivery in mid-January, so I have a bit to wait before diving in.  But again, I really appreciate the help.

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