MacBook Pro - Which specs should I prioritize?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by MatteoT, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. MatteoT macrumors newbie

    Jul 22, 2017
    Dear all,

    after 6 wonderful years with my MacBook Pro 15-inch (early 2011), its graphics/video card decided to stop working and Apple cannot replace it for me because the computer is considered to be "vintage". Moreover, I have been told that the replacement of this hardware will cost around £ 500 and it might be wise considering to buy a completely new notebook. The problem is that I am not very familiar with all the specs and I don't know what should I look for.

    I use my MacBook mainly to edit RAW pictures (LR/PS) and to edit short video using GoPro footages (FCPX). Considering that I would like to maintain my budget as low as possible, I might be willing to move to a smaller screen.

    What would you suggest? Which specs should I consider when purchasing a new MacBook for my particular uses and needs? Memory, storage, processor, etc.

    Playing a little bit on Apple Store I came out with the following specs:

    13-inch MacBook Pro

    • 2.5GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
    • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
    • 256GB SSD storage
    • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
    • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • Backlit Keyboard - British
    • Accessory Kit
    • Force Touch trackpad
    What do you think? Any suggestion is more than appreciated.

    Thank you.

  2. psynnott macrumors 6502


    Jun 18, 2012
    If I were you, I'd go for the 15".
    Base model would be fine for RAW editing.
    They are pricey but I think you will appreciate the bigger screen for photos. Unless of course you are hooking it up to an external screen?

    By the way, as you are in the UK you have up to 6 years to lodge a consumer law replacement claim for defects. Graphics card failing would be deemed suitable for a consumer law replacement. So if you are just inside the 6 years I would go to the store and explain you consider this a defect at time of purchase and a MBP should last longer.
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Aside from your budget, I'd say the 15" MBP is a better solution for your stated needs.
  4. MatteoT thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 22, 2017
    Thank you both for your suggestions.

    Among the 15-inch MacBook Pros which one would you recommend? Is the new 2.8Ghz considerably better than the standard 2.2Ghz version?

    What about the storage size and graphics cards?

    A smaller storage (i.e. 256GB) can be enough if I will be storing the heaviest files like pictures and video on an external HD?

    Thank you and sorry for the probably stupid questions I have.
  5. Sterkenburg macrumors 6502

    Oct 27, 2016
    Judging from what you wrote and from your intended usage, I concur that the 15" would be the best choice for you (base model or refurb if budget is a concern). You will no doubt benefit considerably from the larger screen, the discrete GPU and the 4-core processor.

    Whether the 256GB SSD would be enough depends on how many pics/videos you want to have available on the go. Take what you use now as a reference, add some leeway and try to judge whether the 512GB upgrade would be worth the money.
  6. pixelatedscraps, Jul 22, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017

    pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    As a photographer going through an upgrade to studio hardware myself, I can lay out a little of my thought process to you below. I too was thinking about the 13" MacBook Pro (as we have 2x 15" MacBook Pros already) thinking of lighter suitcases and backpacks but really, 2x USB-C ports simply is not enough - even if you shell out another $300 for a dock.

    Traditionally, I urge all budding or professional photographers to consider workflow, budget and also how far ahead into the future you want your hardware to last and making every piece of hardware last as long as it can. Spend as much as you can afford, upgrade every last part of your Apple computing hardware (even if it hurts the wallet - then save a little more until you can!) and eek every last drop out of that hardware before upgrading again:
    1. We use Dropbox for storage of all our Lightroom Catalog files and Client Imagery to enable every computer synchronised access. Google Drive is used for Accounting, Portfolios (and requisite low-med res JPEG imagery) and misc. purposes.
    2. A lot of our work is regularly shot tethered on location - and quite often with two of us in different countries (hence the need for multiple MacBook Pros)
    3. We shoot a mixture of Canon 1D X II (25Mb+ .cr2 raw files) and Canon 5DS (50Mb+ .cr2 raws) bodies. We store all raw imagery on external Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 drives and not on the internal hard drives.
    4. We use Lightroom / Photoshop CC across 6x computers: 1x Mac Pro (2010), 2x iMac 27" (2010), 2x MacBook Pro 15" (2014/2015) + 1x new MacBook Pro (2017) arriving next week. Dropbox is stored on the secondary internal hard drives where possible (on the MacBooks, it has to go on the main SSD - which creates space problems for us).
    5. Storing all Lightroom catalogs (with Standard / Smart Previews built and backups) on Dropbox means our Dropbox usage regularly sits around the 200-250Gb mark - and thats just for the previous 3 months worth of work. Every month or so we must archive Lightroom Catalogs and Final Imagery off Dropbox and onto one of the many external hard drives and the 2x NAS units we have in the studio / office.
    6. With so many apps creating caches (Spotify Premium with high quality streaming alone is regularly 20Gb+!) and even using DiskWave to free up space, we are left with little more than 100Gb available on the MacBook Pro drives - day to day.
    7. Our computer hardware is as follows: 1x 2010 Mac Pro 12-core 3.33Ghz, 32Gb RAM, 2x 120Gb SSD, 1x 4TB HDD, etc etc) aka 'The Beast' - used for rendering contact sheets, 1080p / 4k video, exporting files, etc.; our 2x iMac 27" 2010 computers have a minimum 256Gb SSDs used for MacOS installation and programs + additional internal 2TB 7200rpm HDD; 2x MacBook Pro 15" (2014/2015, 16Gb / 512GB SSD), with 1x new MacBook Pro 15" 2017 (16Gb / 1TB) arriving next week. I would say the biggest thing holding us back is not the 2010 Mac Pro or iMac CPUs - it's the connectivity of USB 2.0 on the iMacs - our Mac Pro has a USB 3.0 / USB-C PCIe already.
    8. You'll notice the upgrade to the new MacBook Pro SSD above: glancing ahead to the future and keeping my fingers crossed that we continue to expand our studio capabilities, I cannot see how our studio system can survive on 512Gb SSDs - at least for the laptops as we quite often shoot overseas where bringing multiple external hard drives simply isn't an option.
    9. We are about to either sell the 2x iMacs or use them as secondary displays for the MacBook Pros. We've got plenty of CPU grunt, USB 3.0 / USB-C / Thunderbolt connectivity to last us moving forward now.
    To summarise that overly long breakdown: buy the fastest CPU you can afford and the biggest SSD you can afford. I would set a minimum at 512Gb for the SSD and maxing out the CPU. If you can't afford it now, save up another week until you can. You will thank your choice in about 2 years time once Adobe stuffs up and slows down their flagship products even more.

    Hope this helps in some weird, convoluted way...;)
  7. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    Just keep in mind that the general forum response when they hear the words "RAW photos" or "video footage" quickly gravitate to recommending the 15-inch MBP with dGPU. However, the 13" is still a very capable computer for those tasks if the workload isn't super heavy.

    If you're literally editing dozens of high-MP photos every day and/or all-day, and/or you're creating videos every day or they're complex with a lot of edits and effects, yeah, you'll probably appreciate the 15" performance (if you don't mind the larger size).

    OTOH, if you're a low-volume photographer and mostly doing light editing, mostly color adjustments, cropping, etc., and if it's a couple simple several-minute videos a week that don't involve a lot of editing, then the 13" is likely more than capable for your usage.

    Regarding the specs, again, without more usage details, it's difficult to make recommendations...
    • the i7 on the 13" is generally considered a poor value for the performance boost.
    • If your usage is closer to the lighter side of what I suggested, than 8GB and 256GB SSD should work great.
    • If it's on the heavier side, then stick with the 16GB and I'd recommend the 512GB SSD option as moderate to heavy work (and/or concurrently working on several videos) with FCXP/Premier eats up a huge amount of storage space and may lead to a lot more wear and tear on a smaller drive (I'm referring to actually working with the files... obviously once you've completed the project, you can archive it to an external drive)... but if you're already doing this workload on your current computer, you should have a pretty good sense of your local storage needs for working on projects.
    Good luck!
  8. MatteoT thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 22, 2017
    Thank you guys! You are helping me a lot.

    My usage of softwares like FCP X and/or LR will be "occasional". I am not a professional photographer or videomaker and all my projects are limited to editing holidays footages and photography. Based on past experience, I would say that I use both sotwares for 4-5 small projects a month. For the rest of the time I use my computer for work (i.e. spreadsheets, writing, etc.), to surf the web, to watch movies and to listen to music.

    Is the cost for a 15-inch still justified or should still consider the smaller version? Despite being happy to save some money, I expect to keep my next computer for years (fingers crossed...) and I prefer to spend a little bit more if this will result in a longer product life. For instance, my broken MBP lasted 6 years.

  9. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    Get the 15" and 512Gb SSD and don't look back ;)

Share This Page