Can the Cheapest MacBook Pro Keep Up With Professional Demands?

The MacBook Pro is the standard workhorse laptop of choice for the vast majority of photographers and videographers, but depending on the configuration you select, it can become a bit pricey. However, Apple makes some lower-priced versions of the laptop, and you might be surprised by what they can handle. This great video will show you just what the cheapest MacBook Pro can do. 

Coming to you from Jonathan Morrison, this great video examines the cheapest MacBook Pro on the market right now to see if it can keep up with more demanding tasks that you might need to throw at it. At $1,299, this particular 13.3" MacBook Pro is much more affordable and features a 1.4 GHz GHz i5 quad-core processor with 3.9 GHz boost, 8 GB of 2,133 MHz LPDDR3 RAM, an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 GPU, 128 GB SSD, and a 2,560 x 1,600 Retina True Tone display. You might scoff at the processor speed and RAM, but it's worth seeing what the configuration can handle, particularly if you're looking for a portable machine that will get you into the Mac ecosystem at an affordable price. Check out the video above to see Morrison's tests and hear his full thoughts. 

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18 Comments

In studio we use most spected up MBP from 2017 and even that is not spectacular .. but than I use Zenbook for 1/4 of MBP price and it is fine for what I need from it when I cant work on home workstation .. so it is just thermal throttling plaguing MBPs and I heard that issue is reduced in 2019 models (at least with i9) so it could be fine ..

Jon The Baptist's picture

I DIT, and 95% of the time we're shooting on location. I have a 2018 6-core i7 MBP that constantly struggles on shoots where we're using cameras like the D850. It's the lifestyle work that needs a ton of resolution because of (insert reason here), and the photogs just motor drive it shooting 4000 frames a day.

Thermal throttling is very real, and I need to have backups of my backups, so when we're in humid places like Louisiana, I can have my main machine shut down on me and while it recovers from blasting away at 100C and 700MHz, I can pull out the 2017, or my 2015 (which actually runs the most stable out of the 3).

Doesn't matter if I run High Sierra or Mojave, these damn laptops are just too thin.

This week I'll be testing out a comparable Windows laptop (amazon prime day specials), but using that, I'll lose the capability of running Luna Display and giving the Art Director a monitor to see what I see in real time.

Outside I tried to put USB powered big fan under it and it helped a bit (or placebo happend) :) .. for clients/artdirct I just run extra Eizo on DVI or displayport .. but that is not always possible of course ..

Perhaps check new XPS 15 .. colleague switched to it from MBP and he is quite happy saying it is way faster just to process previews/thumbnails or to focus after zooming to 100% .. still quite thin and good looking. And half the money

Btw no issues with D850 files on my 2 years old .. Zenbook 14 inch with 7th gen i7 .. but if it was my main PC Id go either for higher specs or that XPS .. Im too used to have desktop

There is one benefit of MBP .. the screen .. it might not be absolutely accurate when you put it next to Eizo but if you send files for to client/production/anybody that is not on set you have quite big chance they wil see what you see :) and it usually looks better than it realy is ;)

Ariel Martini's picture

Hi Nate, what model is your zenbook? How much you paid?

it is older UX430 I think ... 14 inch in size of 13 inch .. there is new version of it and also Pro .. I payed about 1100 USD 2 years ago ... in different currency .. for example if I convert MBP I can buy here it is gonna be 6900 USD, if I check the same configuration on US pages it is 5100 USD ... so who knows what the price was in you country

Jon The Baptist's picture

Yeah Nate, that's the one thing that the current generation MBP's have that's awesome. The screen. It's bright, it's extremely color accurate considering its a laptop, and it's extremely hi-res.

I ordered a Helios 300 off Amazon for $1000, and we'll see how it goes. The 1660ti is on another planet compared the 560X in my MBP, and it's got a similar 6-core i7. Just with way way better cooling.

Jean-Claude Vorgeack's picture

I bought a new high-spec MBP at the end of 2018, and I've never felt like a bigger sucker. Everything that made these premium machines has been stripped, and yet the prices continue to climb higher than ever. The fear leaving Apple's ecosystem convenience got me this time. Not likely to happen again.

Tyler Chappell's picture

The best bang for buck laptops for photography are HP's Envy and Spectre laptops.
Why? Because they are easily configurable through HP's site, and easy to upgrade if you buy a pre-configured one in the store. For under $1,000, you can get a laptop with a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 500GB of NVMe SSD storage, and 1TB of SATA SSD storage.
For the price of these junk Macbooks, you can easily get a 4K touchscreen and double your NVMe storage.
Oh, and unlike MacBooks, they aren't riddled with design flaws and keyboard failures and you can buy 2 of them for the price of one MacBook, so in the extremely unlikely event it fails within the first several years, you can just buy a new one which will have even better hardware than the first one you bought

William Howell's picture

Now I’m not being a wiseass here, but I use the Mac because of the operating system. There is nothing else like it. All three devices sync up perfectly all the time, you know the iPhone, iPad and Mac.
What do you think?

Jean-Claude Vorgeack's picture

Since you asked, I think there's a monetary limit to how long you can voluntarily hold people hostage with that single feature. Speaking for myself, I know that once my MBP is ready for replacement, I'll be looking at alternatives. I've never been so underwhelmed upon receiving a new Apple product as I was with this one.

William Howell's picture

No, you’re right, if they screw up the os, forget about it! My MBP is about two years old, so I’m not ready for a new one, but I probably won’t buy another laptop again. I have high hopes for the new features in the iPad Pro.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Sorry but I could never recommend HP. Nothing but problems with every single one we have had.

Daris Fox's picture

I've dealt with hundreds of HP (and Dell) Laptops whilst I've had the normal wear and tear issues with them they've been pretty faultless for day-to-day usage. Get an enterprise contract and you're pretty sorted.

HP Z series workstations and displays are best in class and nothing comes close to bang-for-buck/reliability/expandibility currently

I always see someone pipe up in these threads but, but HP and Dell have problems. Here's the simple truth *all* computer hardware have problems it's how they are resolved is important and HP/Dell have contracts that are just as good or better than what Apple offers and cheaper. You generally get what you pay for when it comes to PC hardware. I work daily on a Zbook 15 and whilst I sometimes have issues with Thunderbolt systems timing out the rest of the hardware is solid. Those Thunderbolt issues? They're worse in OSX for some reason and it's not pretty having to rebuild the array when the system drops the connection.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Well I have had nothing but problems with HP support. They don't install the right replacement parts and other nonsense. My Dad got a new HP laptop(higher end) and the MOBO died after a few months. It's just on and on and on the amount of problems that we have with HP.

I found that Dell has the best service and they computer last years and years.

Dass Ala's picture

Best Laptops I own are DELL Precision, from the 15" thin like the XPS from the 17" monster M7740, you can buy the cheap one preconfigured and add all the rest you need, on the 17" you can have 3 Hard Drives, 2 of them NVMe M.2, on RAID or just as storage and speed for the OS, in my opinion, the best laptops I own since 2001

Jeff McCollough's picture

Dell is the best ever. Their laptops always last me forever.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

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Ariel Martini's picture

My 2012 macbook pro 15 retina is better specd than this, with a larger screen and costs around $600 for a good quality unit on ebay