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Reader Comment: Which Mac for Video?

See the diglloyd/MPG Mac wish list and top deals on desktop Macs and top deals on laptop Macs.

Michael E writes:

I seem to be getting into video editing (SONY FS5, etc.) and using all my great lenses onit. But I really hanker for ProRes RAW and what it can do. I want to use ProRes and I bet that Apple is going to drag their heels before giving it to ADOBE. ProRes RAW seems to be the way to go these day.

What would be the minimum (but powerful) laptop or desktop Max that would be able to do real-time video editing. I know it has to be OS 10.13.2 or later and probably a lot of RAM, but I am unclear about GPUs for video work.

MPG: the GPU is critical for video work but CPU cores are also really important—both are used. Hence real-time editing really means a fast GPU and 6 CPU cores at a bare minimum, 32GB bare minimum memory.

The 6-core 2018 MacBook Pro can handle video and can take an external GPU too. But unless a laptop is a requirement for on-the-go work, you’ll pay more for less and it is limited to 32GB.

The 2017 iMac 5K is an option, but with only 4 CPU cores, I’m not keen on recommending it for video work versus an entry level iMac Pro, plus its cooling system is vastly inferior to the iMac Pro. Still, for $1599, a usable model is available, though it’s not going to manage real-time editing.

A key consideration is also this: the MacBook Pro has a too-small screen of only 2880 X 1800. Thus a 4K video cannot be displayed at full resolution and must be scaled down, adding a further CPU/GPU burden. The iMac 5K (regular or Pro) has a 5120 X 2880 display, which allows space for palettes in addition to a full res 4K video stream (3840 or 4096).

Realistically, asking for real-time editing of ProRes RAW means allocating $8K or so because footage will be space-gobbling, and that means something like the OWC Thunderbay 4 (at least 24TB mode in RAID-5 mode for 18TB usable) and sometime to back it up also. Plus the Mac itself, AppleCare, software, Thunderbolt 3 Dock (probably), and more. Can it be done on the cheap? Sure, but the stated proposition stated was real-time editing of ProRes RAW.

The entry-level iMacPro as the best value proposition, because by the time you add memory to an iMac 5K or 2018 MacBook Pro, you’re already past the iMac Pro on price with MacBook Pro on price and approaching it with the 4-core 2017 iMac 5K—and that’s before an eGPU for the MacBook Pro or 2017 iMac 5K is added.

Below, Macs I’d recommend for video, both desktop and laptop.

  • I strongly recommend 64GB memory, but 32GB will do if budgetary constraints exist—Apple charges a huge premium.
  • I recommend at 2TB internal SSD so that a large super-fast temporary working space is available. Still, 1TB is sufficient for many purposes, with some care.
  • For the 2017 iMac 5K, add 64GB OWC memory.

See the diglloyd/MPG Mac wish list and top deals on desktop Macs and top deals on laptop Macs.

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