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Reasonable Mac Laptop for 4K Editing
  • Hey all,

    I'm looking to get a Mac Laptop for editing/color grading 4K footage (for feature films). How expensive a Mac Laptop do I need to get and still be able to edit and color grade 4K footage? Do you definitely need a quad core? Can you get decent performance from a dual core?

    Thanks guys, Matt

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • @ Matt - What software are you going to use? (Final Cut, Premier, Resolve, other) What codec are you going to edit in? (Prores etc.). Even the fastest Mac laptop will have issues depending what software and codec and how many steams of 4K and how much color correction you do.

  • I think they're supposed to be revving the mbp hardware in a month or two so you might want to wait for that - the newer processors aren't going to be that much faster, but a newer GPU will porbably make a reasonable difference.

  • You mean like? :-) Not Mac, but.

    But it sold out fast already, just wait for deals.

  • Good advice - thanks guys.

  • If Apple is not upgrading their laptops very soon and very efficiently, it will be no good idea to buy one at all – and I'm saying this as a die-hard Mac user. They seem to be more interested in selling phones, watches and music than in the tiny fraction of their business called "computers". Even the MacPro is a misdesigned piece of overpriced crap with massive issues from overheating graphics cards.

    If you plan to use 4K in Resolve, go PC. Sigh!

  • I agree with @nomad. It's a sad day for the die hard mac users, when the best Macs today are the 2010 towers with 12 cores built-in, but the power supply is underpowered for today's GPUs and the top end laptop only has a 2GB GPU and costs 2x what a screaming PC laptop does (6 and 8 GB GPUs are available in them!)

    The best Mac experience I've had was building a Hackintosh desktop.

    The Hackintosh laptops have not yet been able to crack using a discrete GPU, so you're stuck with whatever flavor of on-board intel graphics the core uses (and they usually aren't Adobe approved) in the PC laptops. -I did a lot of research on this for myself about 6 months ago and decided to…. wait (because I can).

  • Yep, seems like Mac is good at giving less power for more money. I need to do some work in FCPX, and was hoping to find a laptop solution (I have an iMac, but don't want to lug it around when meeting with folks I'm working with).

  • @jleo Interesting article. Thanks

  • @jleo - the real problem on older MacBook Pro's is the graphics controller. I have a 2012 MBP with a dual-core i7, but Intel 3000 graphics, so it will never play a 4K project in real time. Maxed-out RAM and a SSD won't help with that. Back to the original problem - it would certainly by nicer of Apple to allow RAM and storage upgrades, but it is not that expensive to order the new machine with maxed-out RAM. There is also this:

  • With FCP-X a MBP with 2 GB VRAM still works quite OK, but don't even try DaVinci Resolve.

  • @nomad That's interesting. How do you think After Effects would fare on a MBP with 2 GB VRAM?(Are you referring to the dual core, or quad core machines?)

  • @matt_gh2

    I really suggest to look for PC note, especially as it will be much more cameras with HEVC and Prores 4K recording formats.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I have a PC note, but I will be working on some FCPX film projects so need something to handle that software.

  • Ok guys. I'm deciding between the $1999 MacBook Pro and the $2499 MacBook Pro. The main difference is the grahpics card - $1999 specs show Intel Iris Pro Graphics and the $2499 show Intel Iris Pro Graphics and AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching. If I'm editing feature in FCPX and using After Effects for color grading, am I really going to notice a difference with 4K footage? If it's only 15% faster I'll take the discount. If it's a massive problem, then I'll pony up the extra cash.

  • I don't know FCPX and do not edit on a Mac but I have not been able to do much with 4K on less the 6GB GPU ram. About the lowest laptop I have seen (unless you are relying extensively on proxies) is this one.

  • I'm not going to try to talk you out of the Mac, but for me the minimum is the HT i7 for 8 cores, with a discrete graphics nvidia chip. Anything less is underpowered. The Sony S15 was one of the few machines I could find with the non-crippled i7 (and you can overclock the graphics chip) but maybe the newer macs offer something just as zippy. The link by @Jspatz has the HT enabled i7 at a good clock speed. I paid $650 for the Sony, used, but the max ram is 12gb so you might want to spend a bit more. As long as it has the cool i7 and graphics card it's all gravy, mac or pc. I purchased for a colleague a high end laptop with super fast chips, tons of memory and a totally knockout 4K display, so there's some amazing tech available.

    The top of the line Mac has the i7, but it also has Radeon. Not such a big deal, but it really is better to go with Nvidia. You will have to really do some research to see if the i7 in the Mac laptops are the four core or the eight core, may be the 4 core, cheaper part, (buy cheap, sell big!) or it may be the better part.
    I spent about ten minutes trying to find the actual chip name (good luck with that), but on this page it does use the term "hyper-threading"
    Being a cynical type, I would want to make sure what's under the hood despite what the advertising claims-- there is an enormous difference between these two chips. There were some unhappy customers a few years back that got the "four core" chips with hyperthreading, but they were dual core HT so total 4 instead of 8. Ouch. Some of the 2015 desktops had some pretty high end specs, with Octachips, so that might be an option as used they might be good deal and you could upgrade them, possibly.

  • Great advice guys. Thanks so much

  • @matt_gh2 since you are editing on FCPX, it has come to my attention recently that FCPX is outperforming Premiere. Something about how it handles H264, vs. Premiere. As someone still on a Mac and on Premiere, this really surprised me. In the Early versions of FCPX I hated how it was always transcoding in the background and I just wanted to edit natively. Personally, I would investigate this before spending time with FCPX again or investing in a machine for it.

    2 videos that demonstrate this edge through Mac's hardware performance. I was surprised myself, with the wimpy GPUs in the machines.

    In after effects, I recall the GPU acceleration in CS6 was only used for Ray-Trace rendering. So I don't think the GPU will matter for you, or maybe that's changed in CC?. There are lots of threads on these topics on Creative Cow:

  • I'm not sure I believe it. You can render any way you want, and there are so many permutations it would take forever to make a proper comparison. You would start by rendering lossless, and checking those against each other. You would have to use at least a dozen different types of scenes, lights, textures, and so on, and then get into the nitty gritty settings for each scene, then repeat them in VBR, CBR, dual pass, substituting x264 and x265 for mainconcept, going with the high end version of mainconcept, and so on. Then you would have to make sure there wasn't some weird hardware hangup--good luck with that :)