Apple’s MacBook Pro comes in 6-core (Intel Core i7) and 8-core (Intel Core i9) configurations. It boasts up to 64GB RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M series GPU with up to 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM. And can be equipped with up to 8TB of internal SSD storage. The high-capacity SSD options contribute to the most expensive configurations, but those sizes may be overkill for most users.
There are great PC laptop choices so it’s very hard to make direct comparisons to laptops with all of these same components. When you can make a direct comparison, name-brand PC laptops are often more expensive. And remember, great gaming PCs are not necessarily the best editing machines and vice versa.
Apple gray, 8-core 16″ Apple’s MacBook Pro configured with 64GB RAM, the AMD GPU with 8GB VRAM, and a 4TB internal hard drive. The two MacBook Pros are physically very similar. They are nearly the identical size, with the 2019 MacBook Pro a bit thinner and lighter. The keyboard footprint of Apple’s MacBook Pro is the same as my five-year-old model. Though the keys are slightly larger on the new laptop with less space between. Apple tweaked the keyboard mechanism on the 16″ model. Typing feels about the same between these two, though the keys on the new machine are quieter. Plus, it has a much bigger trackpad and the touch bar.
Its 16″ diagonal spec is achieved by using smaller bezels. Of course, the newer display is also higher density resulting in 3072 x 1920 pixels at 226 PPI. This 500-nit, P3 display offers True Tone, thanks to macOS Catalina. True Tone alters the color temperature based on ambient light. It’s easy on the eyes because it warms up the image in standard room lighting. However, I would discourage enabling it while working on projects requiring critical color accuracy.
It features four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, like its 15″ predecessor. These connect peripherals and/or power. I don’t know whether Apple had room to add standard USB-A ports or if there was a trade-off for space needed for cooling or the improved speaker system. Maybe it was just a decision to move forward regardless of some short-term inconvenience. In any case, if you purchase a MacBook Pro, plan on also buying a few adapters and cables, a USB hub, and/or a Thunderbolt 3 dock.
How does the 2019 Apple’s MacBook Pro stack up against a desktop Mac, like the 10-core 3.0 GHz 2017 iMac Pro used at my daily editing gig? Both have 64GB RAM, but there is 16GB of VRAM in the iMac Pro. I tested with both the internal SSDs and an external USB 3.0 G-DRIVE SSD. Both internal drives clocked well over 2500 MB/sec, while the G-DRIVE was in the 400-500 range.
For the “real world” tests, I used a travelogue series sizzle edit with 4K (and larger) media, various codecs, scaling, speed changes, and color correction. The timeline was exported to ProRes and H.264 using various NLEs. My final test sequence was a taxing 6K FCPX timeline composed of nine layers of 6K RED raw files. Until the release of the new Apple’s MacBook Pro tower, the iMac Pro had been Apple’s most powerful desktop computer. Yet, in nearly all of these tests, the 16″ Apple’s MacBook Pro equaled or slightly bettered the times of the iMac Pro. The laptop had faster export times and a higher Puget score with After Effects. One exception was my nine-layer 6K RED project, where the iMac Pro shined – exporting twice as fast as the Apple’s MacBook Pro.
Both Macs played back and scrubbed through this variety of files with ease, regardless of application or internal versus external drive. Overall, the biggest difference I noticed was that exports on the iMac Pro stayed quiet throughout, while Apple’s MacBook Pro frequently had to rev up the fans. Apple claims up to 11 hours of battery life. But that’s really just during light-duty computing: checking e-mails, writing, surfing the web, etc. And if you’ve optimized your energy settings for battery life. Apple’s MacBook Pro includes an integrated Intel GPU and employs automatic graphics card switching.
During tasks that don’t generate a heavy GPU load, the machine is running on the integrated card. It switches to the AMD for apps like Final Cut or Premiere. I purposefully set up a looping 4K sequence in FCPX and found that the battery drained from 100% down to 10% in about two hours. While this is more stress than normal editing, it’s typical behavior for creative applications. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t expect to be editing for 11 hours straight running only on the internal battery.
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