Is There a Low-End MacBook for Photographers?

Apple don’t have a flagship product at the low end, so which one should you pick?

The MacBook Air took over the MacBook’s place in a DVD-less decision that divided opinions. It wasn’t a low-end machine, just a low-end Apple product. As a result, it wasn’t a bad option for photographers.

Wasim Ahmad lamented the lack of MacBook Air upgrades last year (although saying that it was at least the only one left with an SD card slot). While he hasn’t been granted his wishes, the Air is finally back. Unfortunately, we’ve sort of replaced it already, so it’s a little late to the party.

The Choices

The new MacBook Air comes in at $1,200. Then the MacBook at $1,300. Finally, the MacBook Pro starts at $1,300 (without a Touchbar). Confused? We all are.

At first, I guessed that the MacBook would be killed off. Our beloved MacBook Air was here to save the day, right? However, it turns out that the MacBook Air is actually thicker than the MacBook at its thickest point. So will the MacBook Air be retired again?

Imagine the conversation at your local Apple store. “I’d like a thin, cheaper laptop please” will be replied with “which one?” There's just too many minute details to comb over, and it's going to depend on that specific person's needs.

Minor Details

At this point, I’d recommend avoiding the MacBook. It doesn’t have any Thunderbolt 3 ports, inexplicably only has a 480p camera, and a smaller battery. Still, it’s the lightest and thinnest of the three (though it has a smaller screen). As an alternative to an iPad Pro (which is another encroaching product category), the MacBook would make a decent laptop. I just don’t imagine photographers will want to cheap out on the cheapest MacBooks available. I’m with Luke Larsen from Digital Trends; this can’t last.

Are you thinking about buying one of these options? Let us know your thoughts.

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61 Comments

Huawei Matebooks

Chinese company equals a real danger for any computing, networking and many other electronic devices. They should be avoided.

Exactly. Chinese manufacturing is fine. But putting my money in the hands of a Chinese company to make a laptop to run my business from, not fine.

Next we're gonna say don't buy yognuo or godox right? Overpay for profoto?
Dell is a good alternative but less bang for your buck. I don't see the value in Apple computers

Are those two companies making advanced electronics that are inherently vulnerable to security threats?

Reading is fundamental. A chinese company manufacturing parts is wholey different than a company that whos equipment I use to run a business. A speedlite is easily replaced if faulty, carry spares. A laptop where I run my entire business and create the work the client needs? Not that easy. So again, its fine to buy Chinese manufactured things, but certain COMPANIES I cant put my trust in for important essentials.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"Next we're gonna say don't buy yognuo or godox right?"
Um, my TT350 doesn't have all my financial information in it and isn't connected to the internet.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I laugh each time I read this nonsense. The irony is that the US turned out to be the biggest spy among nations, spying on friends as well as enemies.

>> Chinese company equals a real danger for any computing, networking and many other electronic devices. They should be avoided <<

Or alternatively, only use the device while wearing a nice tinfoil beanie.

(Also, the Mac is made in China too, genius...)

Tinfoil? Nope, just reality.

Apple is not a "Chinese company."

Tim, whether you like it or not, Chinese owned electronics companies are a security risk. They are all at risk of Chinese government control. That's fact. Don’t forget the kind of government that China has,

The MacBook lineup Makes no sense. The smallest and lightest is called the MacBook, while the heavier MacBook above it is called the MacBook Air. The new MacBook Air also has no reason to exist beyond the inappropriate name since it is only 1/4 pound lighter than the 13” MacBook Pro above it, which is where any serious photographer should start his or her search for a MacBook for photography. The little MacBooks are also overpriced. In fact, all of Apple's MacBooks are overpriced. If the Mac OS is not important to you then a good Windows laptop would be a better deal.

Apple went downhill after Steve Jobs passed away. Everything they do now is backwards and lacks innovation.

Agreed, but not just Steve Jobs. Scott Forstall, who was called mini Steve Jobs, was forced to resign by Tim Cook shortly after Jobs passed away. Read about him if you don’t know who he is and his importance at Apple.

Tim Cook was great at what he used to do, but he's an awful CEO for Apple and not a tech visionary. He will likely be the undoing of Apple, despite making it the first trillion dollar company. That’s one of his problems, simply thinking about maximizing profits, not thinking about long term sustainability and customer care, another area at Apple that has gone downhill post Jobs. A shame.

John Dawson's picture

Probably not, but there are lots of better and less expensive PCs. ;-) I've got an 15" beast ASUS ZenBook and love it.

What’s better when it comes to computers is not a simple matter. For many the Mac OS is reason enough to say better.

John Dawson's picture

Yes, to many it's a matter of OS preference, but that doesn't matter if it's at the expense of the quality and/or performance of the hardware. A Chevy with a Ferrari interior is still just a Chevy.

The Chevys of today are not the Chevys of prior decades (an understatement), and Ferrari’s are overpriced, over-engineered unreliable cars that can be bettered by more inexpensive cars.

olivier borgognon's picture

I kind of agree on this one with you. I've been a PC users since the start of the XT computers, then switched to apple in 2011 when i had enough of updates, a poor OS, bad User Experience with my PC.

Now after 7 years, and having my maxed out Mid-2012 macbook pro, i was looking into the Zenbook UX580 or UX480, but what makes me hesitate are simple basic things as "airdrop" or being able to appleScript, or Terminal command stuff.

Today i was teaching a class on Premiere and 2 basic features : Right-Click -> move to folder & Right click - Rename... with a bulk selection were not available on Windows 10. Making me waste more time than effort, the minutes lost here and there on a week, month, year, installs, re-installs, ongoing updates, that's what makes me think i'm ready to go with a less powerful computer for more cash (and even though it might sound stupid, but pages, numbers, keynote, included for when I need something work fine when i'm not using google Docs, sheets, slides), and don't require purchasing.

It's an issue, because the best computer would be a blend of Windows, OSX and the power of what's in some PC's (and hackintosh is fun... but not when we don't want to spend 100 hours sorting it all out, making it overpriced for a pro use).

I can’t think of anything I miss about Windows. The biggest criticism I have about the Mac OS is the new version every year nonsense. They often never even get around to sorting out bugs and performance issues before the year is up and then they come out with a new version and rinse and repeat.

olivier borgognon's picture

I don't miss the OS per say, but i do miss the computing power from some PC machines or building my own and applying the OS I wish on it.

Maybe apple will revert to user changeable RAM & HDD, we never know, and we'd be back in talking to pro users (considering the RAM for 64Gb for example in the new MacMini hits you $1400 and you can buy Corsair identical for 600, we can imagine why they are not doing it...).

RAM is user upgradeable on the new mini, though admittedly not as easy as it used to be.

John Dawson's picture

I've always been a PC user, so I can't speak to the Mac OS, but I appreciate your thoughts.

My biggest criticism of Apple is Mac OS. I think its way worse than windows. Its very un-intuitive and simple tasks are often quite hidden. It's not that Windows is brilliant but its fairly consistent. Its in total contrast to Apple phones where the user interface is so good they seem to be unable to improve it.

"Its very un-intuitive and simple tasks are often quite hidden."

The clearly marked option key usually addresses that.

Can you provide some examples?

"It's not that Windows is brilliant but its fairly consistent. Its in total contrast to Apple phones where the user interface is so good they seem to be unable to improve it."

Funny you say "consistent" and "so good" about iOS when iOS is actually far less consistent than the Mac OS, with each new version usually changing things just for the heck of it. As for "so good," there are fundamental bugs in Safari, for example, on iOS that have never been addressed. Posting to forums, where you have to deal with text boxes, is painful. Text selection, copying and pasting is often unreliable or impossible. Meanwhile in Safari in the Mac OS everything I need to work simply works. Sounds to me like you don’t have much experience with the Mac OS or iOS because the Mac OS is far more consistent and far more reliable.

Ryan Burleson's picture

Asus ROG notebook I bought in 2011 is still a beast, nice pc alternative if looking.

If on budget get a PC , Apple is increasingly ripping people off, and the hardware are not as solid as before.
Fstopper just published about sale on HP x2 Zen book. It's possible to add memory and get a touch screen PC with 32 GB ram for 1500 usd or something. Thicker then Mac but most likely will not slow down when you start pushing it. Wish I could get one 1200 dollar but can't get it outside US.

Daniel Mendiola's picture

And there goes the truth of it!

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