Should You Buy the 2016/17 Macbook Pro for Video Editing?
Is the new Macbook Pro with Touch Bar right for video editors?
Is the 15″ Macbook Pro cut out to be my next professional work laptop?
Should I wait for the 2017 Macbook Pro?
If you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy the new 2016 Macbook Pro for video editing, then I feel your pain!
Like many editors I’ve been waiting patiently(ish) for Apple to release a new Macbook Pro laptop and I was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a sleek and powerful new machine.
That almost happened.
Now I’m in two minds as to whether to snap one up, or wait a little longer.
Hopefully the following resources and reviews will help you make up your own mind!
UPDATE – July 12th 2018 – New Macbook Pros!
Apple have just announced a major refresh to it’s ageing Macbook Pro line. The new 2018 Macbook Pro 15″ features the following spec:
- 6-core Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors up to 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz
- Up to 32GB of DDR4 memory
- Powerful Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory in every configuration
- Up to 4TB of SSD storage
- True Tone display technology
- Apple T2 Chip
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
This brings the usually behind the times CPU up to date and apparently the keyboard is quieter too.
If I was going to recommend a spec for video editing this would be it – a boosted CPU, all the RAM you can and 1TB of SSD internal drive space, not too bad at $3,899, but still Apple prices.
UPDATE – Black Friday Sale – save $700 on a Late 2016 Apple Macbook Pro 15″ laptop on B&H. (2.7 Ghz, 512 GB)
UPDATE – July 2017 – My Thoughts on the 2017 Macbook Pro I Bought
I’m writing this update on my new 2017 Macbook Pro. It’s the standard 15 inch with Touchbar with a 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 and Radeon Pro 560 graphics card.
Here are a few quick personal thoughts on what it’s actually like:
- Compared to my 17″ 2010 Macbook Pro it’s light weight and portable
- The screen is fantastic and I don’t miss those 2 inches at all
- I like the Touchbar, although I wish it was supported by more applications, but I’ve not gotten used to it yet
- The speakers are exceptionally good for such a thin form factor laptop. Really substantial bass
- The keyboard feels quite good to type on, but I wish it wasn’t so noisy!
- I’m really looking forward to the external GPU support
I also bought some useful dongles and extras at the same time:
- Nonda USB-C to USB 3 mini adaptor
- CharJenPro USB-C 3.1 Hub Adaptor (4K HMDI, 3 USB 3.0 ports, SD and Micro SD Card Reader)
- Although I wish I’d bought this Satechi Hub Adapter or this CharJen Pro Adaptor
- I also bought this Samsung T3 Flashdrive which is insanely fast.
UPDATE – Newer, faster and slightly cheaper Samsung T5 drives supersede the T3 I bought. They now feature a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface with faster transfer speeds and faster memory.
If you want to be able to compare the relative performance of 5 models of the 2017 Macbook Pro (13 and 15″) and 2016 Macbook Pro, check out this post on Barefeats.com.
They conclude by recommending purchasing a 15″ Macbook Pro but it’s worth noting how the 2017 and 2016 Macbook Pro’s compare:
We included the 2016 models to show how close they were to the performance of the 2017 models. For example, the discrete Pro 460 GPU of the 2016 MacBook Pro actually ran the OpenCL test 6% faster than the Pro 560 GPU of the 2017 MacBook Pro
It begs the question, “If performance is that close, should I buy the new 2017 MacBook Pro or save some $$$ and buy a refurbished 2016 MacBook Pro with equal warranty options?”
UPDATE – JUNE 2017 WWDC UPDATES
At Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference in June 2017, they finally updated their ageing line up of computers, announced new iOS and OS versions and a whole lot more. MacRumors.com condenses it all into 7 minutes for you in the video above.
The 2017 Macbook Pro’s all got a spec bump with faster CPUs, GPUs and flash storage.
The highest end 15 inch Macbook Pro comes with a 7th Generation Kaby Lake 2.9 GHz processor, customised to 3.1 GHz. There doesn’t seem to be any graphics options with the highest end Macbook Pro, featuring as it does the Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory. The new flash storage that comes as standard in the Macbook Pros is supposedly up to 50% faster than previous generations.
The price for the top of the line Macbook Pro is essentially the same. To my mind it’s worth the $200 to bump the processor but not the $1,200 to add in 2TB of flash storage!
Having waited this long to buy a new laptop, I’ll almost certainly finally spring for this refreshed model.
Although if you want to save some money the now older 2016 models, are selling with a few hundred dollars discount on Amazon as merchants look to sell on their stock.
As always technological development doesn’t stand still and the Macrumors.com Apple Macbook Pro page has this tidbit about future versions:
Intel in May unveiled its next-generation Coffee Lake chips. Coffee Lake chips could eventually find their way into future MacBook Pro models.
Intel says its 8th-generation Coffee Lake chips can deliver a 30 percent performance boost over 7th-generation Kaby Lake chips. Intel plans to make its Coffee Lake chips available to manufacturers during the second half of 2017, but it’s not clear when we will see Macs with Coffee Lake chips. Before late 2017 or early 2018 is unlikely.
UPDATE – 2017 Macbook Pro Benchmarks
This MacRumors.com article lists some initial benchmarks comparing the 2016 Macbook Pro with the 2017 updates.
On a model-vs-model basis, the benchmark results suggest the 2017 MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz processor is up to 13 percent faster in single-core performance, and up to 19.7 percent faster in multi-core performance, than the equivalent 2016 MacBook Pro model.
High Sierra (beta)
Apple also previewed the next version of the Mac operating system, called High Sierra. This features (at least) three developments that post professionals will care about.
Metal 2 – This to me is one of the biggest benefits to High Sierra, as it brings with it native external GPU support, which mean that you’ll now be able to supercharge your laptop with a massive GPU in a box, connected over Thunderbolt 3.
I’ve been watching this develop for a very long time and although it was possible before, you had to jump through a lot of hoops to get it to work. I’m excited to see an ‘official’ solution finally appear.
Metal 2 also brings support for VR and machine learning.
This Sonnet Breakaway Box 350 is the third certified Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure we have reviewed. The first two are tough acts to follow.
The AKiTiO Node sets the bar at $300 or bust (for single I/O). The Mantiz Venus does everything we want in an all-in-one external GPU docking station. Since the first-mover advantage has been taken, how does the Sonnet distinguish itself?
egpu.io has a great review of the Sonnet eGFX Chassis here.
UPDATE – Official eGPU Support Coming Spring 2018
— AppleInsider (@appleinsider) June 7, 2017
It seems like official support for external GPU’s aren’t coming till Spring 2018. Shucks.
AFS – Apple File System is a whole new 64 bit file system designed for the flash-based systems of today.
Apple said that APFS makes day-to-day operations such as copying files “instantaneous,” as well as helping to protect user data from power outages and crashes, and keeps files secure with native encryption.
High Sierra will maintain read-and-write compatibility with previously formatted HFS drives, and Apple said that the integration of APFS into macOS has been designed to accomodate for any potential future advancements in storage technology.
HEVC – High Efficiency Video Coding, also known as H.265 is now natively supported in High Sierra.
The $4999 iMac Pro was teased at the WWDC, available in December 2017. The ‘fastest most powerful Mac ever’ will feature:
- 27-inch Retina 5K display
- Up to 18-core Xeon processors
- New Radeon Pro Vega GPU with up to 16GB of on-package high-bandwidth memory (HBM2)
- Up to 22 Teraflops of graphics computation
- Supports up to 4TB of SSD
- Up to 128GB of ECC RAM memory
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 10Gb Ethernet port
Update – Editing 8K Red Weapon Footage on 12″ Macbook
In this video from InfinityLabs you can check out how the basemodel 12″ Macbook Pro performs when working with 4K, 5K and even 8K footage in FCPX.
The test exports seems to be a mix of native format footage and transcoded Pro Res Optimised media, but exporting a 2 minute project 4K project took just 1 minute 20 seconds.
Presumably these are also playing back from the internal flash storage, as there is only one cable connected to the laptop (which I’m guessing is just for power), but that will give a huge boost to the playback performance of the machine.
Touch Bar Macbook Pro 2016 Reviews
This 3 minute review from Wired sets the stage for most people’s complaints, the general situation and the Touch Bar.
My general purchasing philosophy is to buy the best I can and keep it for as long as I can, rather than trying to keep pace with every new iteration, so I don’t mind things being ‘expensive’ as long as I can keep working with them for a good few years to come.
I too was disappointed by the design choice for thinner and lighter, over power and performance. That said, the new screen is ‘the best’ they’ve ever put into a laptop and is a thing of real beauty. The speakers sound much better and the new Touch Bar could even turn out to be useful! (You can see a fistful of hands-on videos below for more on this.)
I don’t even mind the lack of ports, per se. In that, the machine can drive two separate displays, two raids and still charge itself. I’ve been waiting for Thunderbolt 3 too, because it opens up a world of external GPU possibilities.
Anyway, as of today I’m still on the fence.
I can afford to wait a little longer to see if circulating rumours about a 2017 price drop and RAM bump to 32GB, turn out to be true (or not!).
This official Apple launch video will take you through the design, performance and new features of the 2016 Macbook Pro in just over 3 minutes.
UPDATE – ‘Magsafe’ for the New USB-C Macbook Pro
The lack of a Magsafe connector on the new Macbook Pro is considered a real loss to many, who would rather have the peace of mind of knowing their laptop won’t come crashing to the floor if someone accidentally trips over the cable.
Griffin have leapt to fill that gap with the Griffin BreakSafe Magnetic USB-C Power Cable, which is a replacement USB-C cable that fits between the Macbook Pro power adaptor and the laptop itself.
The cable has two parts – the cable itself and the power ‘nub’ that fits into the Macbook Pro – and so it can thus break safely apart if tugged, tripped or pulled.
From the initial Amazon Reviews there seem to be a few things to consider.
- The cable only delivers power, not data.
- The cable effectively replaces the charging cable that sits between the power brick and the laptop, and is a bit stiffer than the original Apple cable
- For some the less than snug fit due to the nub is pretty ugly, you can always put the magnetic end at the power brick, but I’m not sure this is will be effective at stopping the laptop moving?
In summary it seems like the execution needs a little work (Apple’s was so perfect!) but if you’re desperate for a replacement solution to protect your investment then it could be well worth the money!
Can You Edit 4K Video on the New 2016 Macbook Pro?
If I was going to buy one today, I’d spring for the 15″ Macbook Pro in Space Grey (why not) with the upgraded Processor (2.9Ghz i7), Graphics Card (Radeon Pro 460) and a 1TB SSD drive (which is supposed to be incredibly fast). This comes to £3,329/$3,499
Why would I do that?
Because of the following real-world test and reviews.
This article from FCPX Editor Thomas Grove Carter is written from the perspective of someone who has actually used the new Macbook Pro to edit with.
So rather than speculating about specs, he’s had the chance to test it out on real jobs. And he think’s it’s more than adequate.
First off, It’s really fast. I’ve been using the MacBook Pro with the new version of FCP X and cutting 5k ProRes material all week, it’s buttery smooth. No matter what you think the specs say, the fact is the software and hardware are so well integrated it tears strips off “superior spec’d” Windows counterparts in the real world. This has always been true of Macs. If you’re running software with old code which doesn’t utilise the hardware well, you’re not going to get great performance
He even likes the Touch Bar!
The more I’ve used it the more I’ve replaced certain keyboard shortcuts. Why would I use dual-hand/multi-finger shortcuts if the button was there in front of me? And it’s contextual. It changes depending on what I’m doing. I’m editing picture; it shows me relevant trimming shortcuts. I’m editing titles; it shows me font, formatting and colour options. All without the need to open other menus. It works, it’s faster and it’s more productive.
So although Thomas is cutting in FCPX (and I spent the majority of my time in Adobe Premiere Pro), he’s getting real world video editing use out of it and he loves it. A helpful reassurance!
If you’re also an Adobe Premiere Pro editor scroll down for another surprising and reassuring speed test in the next section!
If I do buy a new laptop, I’d also have to snap up one of these Dongle/Adaptor strips to make everything else work. This one from Satechi looks pretty good. It’s got actual USB ports, Ethernet, pass-through charging, a card reader or two and 4K HDMI. All from one USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port.
Like I said before, I don’t mind being pushed in to the future a little bit, as long as I can slap on an adaptor until everyone else catches up. I still even use the FW800 port on my desktop USB hub.
UPDATE – There’s a great, forward thinking post by Adam Geitgey on the multitude of possibilities that the new Macbook Pro’s USB-C connections offer to the ‘hacker’ minded user.
I’m not here to change your mind about the MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s probably too expensive and more RAM is better than less RAM. But everyone posting complaints without actually using a MBP for a few weeks is missing out on all the clever things you can do because it is built on USB-C.
Over the past week or two with a new MacBook Pro (15in, 2.9ghz, TouchBar), I’ve been constantly surprised with how USB-C makes new things possible.
It’s a kind of a hacker’s dream.
UPDATE – FCP.co editor on working with the 13″ and 15″ MBPs
FCP.co editor Peter Wiggins has posted a length and detailed review of his week spent editing on both the 13″ and 15″ Macbook Pros in FCPX.
Peter includes data on hard drive speed tests, thoughts about the Touch Bar vs touch display, dongles, RAM and much more, delivering a very thorough review.
Peter sums up the entire experience in a rather British understatement
Rather uneventful editing really, they both worked, both were quite snappy and just got on with the job. Not one lockup or quit either. I’d be more than happy looking at the 15 inch monitor all day if I was holed up in a hotel room.
Larry Jordan has posted a couple of different articles looking at the new Macbook Pro including one specifically breaking down the functionality of the Touchbar in FCPX.
The post that interested me the most was on his thoughts on how best to configure the new Macbook Pro for video editing. It’s well worth reading through the whole post to see Larry’s rationale for the following conclusion, so be sure to click through.
If you are working in 4K or higher resolutions, do lots of effects work in After Effects or Motion, and are principally focused on video editing, the higher end laptop with 512 GB of storage and a top of the line GPU will be a better choice. This raises the price to $2,899.
If it were my money, I’d go with the $2,899 system:
- 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor
- 512 GB SSD
- Radeon Pro 460 with 4 GB of VRAM
New Macbook Pro – In-depth Review
If you are looking for another in-depth review of the new 2016 Macbook Pro from an experienced professional editor then Brady Bretzel’s recent article on Post Perspective.com is where you need to go.
Brady covers all the bases you would expect and delivers a measured review when considering both the new bells and whistles (such as the Touchbar), performance gains and general usability.
Apple has made a great new MacBook Pro. Is it worth upgrading if you have a new-ish MacBook Pro at home already? Probably not, unless the Touch Bar really gets you going.
The speed is not too far off from the previous version. However, if you have a lot of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C-connected peripherals, or plan on moving to them, then it is a good upgrade.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should be one, then Brady’s review probably won’t sway you one way or the other, but will fill in some details on the requirements from a laptop that an editor will stay up nights worrying about.
Keyboard Covers for the New Touch Bar Macbook Pro 2016
Macbook Pro 2016 Keyboard Shortcut Covers Giveaway!
The good people at EditorsKeys got in touch to offer the readers of my blog a chance to get their hands on their brand new shortcut keyboard covers for the Touch Bar enabled 2016 Macbook Pro.
These ultra-thin custom moulded silicone keyboard covers feel great under your finger tips (I should know I’ve reviewed them previously here) and fit the keypad precisely.
EditorsKeys currently provide keyboard covers for FCPX, Avid Media Composer and Premiere Pro (as well as numerous other creative apps) and were kind enough to offer six lucky readers the chance to win one of their choice! These normally retail for $29.99/£27.99.
All you need to do to have a chance of winning is to sign up to the blog’s free weekly newsletter before February 14th 2017 and I’ll pick six winners out at random!
To sign up just drop your email address into the box that looks like this –> at the top righthand side of the blog.
If you want more info or to see the covers up close, check out the EditorsKeys site here.
NLE Speed Tests on New 2016 Macbook Pro
If you want to get a sense of the power of optimised software for specific hardware then these excellent video comparisons from Jonathan Morrison will deliver just that. This optimisation is what editor Thomas Grove Carter was talking about, above.
In this tech review Jonathan compares the new 13″ Macbook Pro to the HP Spectre. He exports a 5 minute video clip from FCPX on the Macbook Pro and the same 5 minute clip from Adobe Premiere Pro on the Spectre. The FCPX/Macbook Pro combination is much faster, and that’s his point. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison but it does demonstrate what the machine can do.
The results, and the later SSD and speaker comparison are well worth the 6 minute watch.
Adobe Premiere Pro on the 2016 Macbook Pro
In this updated video Jonathan reviews the 15″ Macbook Pro specifically. Helpfully he runs some ‘real-world’ benchmark tests including duplicating files to the internal SSD, playing video games, transcoding and exporting files in Adobe Premiere and FCPX.
He also covers the Touch Bar and the current limitations of the Macbook Pro – mainly the need for adaptors/dongles. Ultimately Jonathan recommends thinking of the new Macbook Pro as the version 1.0 of the 2016 Macbook Pro.
So unless you really have to, he recommends not rushing out to buy one just yet.
Here Jonathan took 2 minutes of RED 5K RAW footage and exported it to a 4K H.264 file inside of Adobe Premiere Pro. He also runs a similar test in FCPX which again delivered faster results on the new Macbook Pro.
These kind of performance improvements go along way to making me think that the 2016 Macbook Pro would be a real boost compared to my ageing 17″ Macbook Pro.
In the final video from Jonathan demonstrates how to set up your edit suite around a Macbook Pro with some very aesthetically pleasing gear.
My take aways from his gear set up were the Samsung T3 portable SSD drive (also recommended by Thomas Grove Carter) which he mounts to the back of his monitor. The HooToo USB-C hub (also in Space Grey) mounted under the front of the desk is also a great idea.
But I’ve never seen an edit suite ever look that clean and tidy. Never.
UPDATE – 2016 Macbook Pro vs 2015 Macbook Pro
Max compares all of the major benchmarking tools, temperature gauges and more, as well as some ‘real world’ testing with both FCPX and Premiere Pro.
Max is coming from a video editor’s perspective and also loves to get into the technical details of how the machines can perform and what they can achieve under different scenarios.
Max concludes that if you’re an FCPX editor then you should run out and buy the new Macbook Pro for the performance gains. He also thinks that the hoopla over the lack of ports and the use of dongles, isn’t as big a deal as everyone is making it out to be.
Well worth a watch if you’re considering purchasing. Max also suggests springing for the upgraded graphics card over the upgraded CPU.
2016 Macbook Pro Vs Razer Blade Vs Dell XPS
Jarred Land, President of the RED Digital Cinema Company, has run some speed tests on ‘America’s finest Thunderbolt 3 Laptops’, which includes the 15″ 2016 Macbook Pro with Touch Bar, The new 14″ Razer Blade and the 2016 Dell XPS 15″.
You can check out the full specs of each machine in Jarred’s first post, but he’s recently shared some early numbers and thoughts after having worked with each of the laptops for a while.
1 min 8K 2:1 to 16 Bit 4k DPX FULL Quality render time:
Old Macbook Pro 2015 – 10 min 58 seconds
Dell XPS 15 – 8 min 58 sec.
New Macbook pro 2016 – 7min 52sec .
Razer Blade internal GTX 1060 – 7min 12sec
Razer Blade + Razer Core + GTX1080. – 6 min 20sec
Razer Blade + Razer Core + RedRocket-X – 0 min 59 sec.
12 core Trashcan 128gb mem – 3min -15sec.
PC 10 core 3ghz w GTX 1080 128gb mem – 2min 25sec.
It’s revealing that the Razer Blade beats out the 2016 Macbook Pro by 40 seconds just from it’s own internal GPU, and at a $2000 discount! (The MBP Jarred tests is the full spec’d $4299 machine vs the $2399 Razer Blade)
Jarred had this to say about the Macbook Pro specifically:
Macbook Pro 2016
Most expensive.. by far.. and as much as I want to hate it.. it is the one I find myself picking up for pretty much everything.
Best screen of the bunch. Awesome for Photoshop. Awesome for web and email and FCPX seems to be faster than it should be.
Battery life great. And I love the keyboard that everyone else seems to hate.
Thunderbolt 3 integration is a clusterfuck. As in it just doesn’t work. But eventually if they fix that..look out.
Its great being able to charge the laptop from any of the ports on either the left and right side.
Touch bar adds an extra step to do pretty much anything. I miss the old keys.
Internal SSD (2TB on mine) is stupid fast. Stupid Stupid Stupid fast.
Love you Apple but Fuck you Apple for taking away the SD slot. That screwed me so many times this weekend.
And it’s why I don’t have a photo for this post.
Am I going to buy the 2016 Macbook Pro?
For now, I think I’ll wait to see what happens next…. Unless my laptop dies before another refresh occurs.
It does look like a very capable machine for video editing and would be miles faster than my current machine. Also it will be interesting to see where the development of the Touch Bar goes, Apple obviously has a vested interest in making it work with as many applications as possible! It’s great that DaVinci Resolve was also mentioned in the launch keynote.
UPDATE – JUNE 2017
So with the updated chips, faster GPUs and a growing lack of patience I am going to spring for a 2017 Macbook Pro. But the thing I’m most excited about is the new native eGPU support in High Sierra (coming in the Autumn) which should allow me to turbo charge the laptop’s performance with an external GPU.
Hands on with the New Macbook Pro Touch Bar
In this first video from FCP.co editor Peter Wiggins you can get a really good hand’s on look at the new Touch Bar inside of FCPX 10.3.
It’s interesting to see the matte finish to the Touch Bar and I hope the customisation that was demoed in the product launch video extends to specific apps as well.
Premiumbeat.com’s always great value blog has a nice write up on the new features in FCPX and how to use them in conjunction with the all new Macbook Pro laptops with Touch Bar.
Running on the new MacBook Pro, Apple claims a 76% increase in editing speed and up to 57% faster 4K 3D title rendering.
The post also includes feature demonstration videos from Apple’s official FCPX page, which is handy if you’ve not seen them!
There are a few more videos coming from the Cupertino demo of editor’s playing with the new Touch Bar in FCPX 10.3
UPDATE – Touchbar on an iPad
This post from Macrumors.com highlights the latest release of Duet, the iPad app that turns your iPad into a seamless second screen for your Mac laptop, that now includes a virtual version of the new Touchbar.
Like the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, the virtual iPad Touch Bar will change contextually based on the app because it is tapping into actual MacBook Pro Touch Bar functionality.
It’s a bit more cumbersome to use a Touch Bar on the iPad than it is on the Mac because it requires reaching over to tap on another screen, but it does unlock Touch Bar specific commands that are not accessible to those without a new MacBook Pro.
Duet is currently on sale (for a limited time) at $9.99/£7.99 and usually costs about twice that.
— Double Precision (@DoublePrecision) January 8, 2017
FCP.co has a good review of working with the Touchbar that you get with Duet on your iPad, which is well worth a read.
Back in November I think I was a little lukewarm towards what the Touch Bar can currently offer, however the more I’ve played with it the more I find myself using it with the icons often providing a more visual prompt that “learning” a keyboard shortcut ever does. So, here’s a great opportunity for everyone with a Mac and an iOS device to explore the potential of using the Touch Bar before the big jobs for 2017 begin rolling in and you consider purchasing that all new MacBook Pro. – Chris Roberts