Can the Latest Entry-Level 13-inch MacBook Pro Handle 4K Video Editing?

There has always been a kind of love-hate relationship between content creators and Apple. Maybe you are one of those seasoned professionals who remember the time when almost every graphic studio in the world worked only on Macs, Mac OS did not have the X at the end, and the core inside was not made by Intel but was a Motorola PowerPC instead.

In those years, there were real physical advantages in using a Mac. Currently, MacOS runs on X86 platforms, we saw the birth of Hackintosh custom machines and many professionals moved to Windows workstations. It seems that Apple is trying to gain back that creative user base with the iMac Pro and Mac Pro lately –  a lot of effort went in those machines.

The new upgraded Macbook Pro lineup should also be added to the mix as a viable option for video editing, a particularly demanding task for such a thin and light notebook. Here’s Max Yuryev’s insightful feedback on the topic.

Apple has quietly made a small revolution in the lower section of their laptop lineup. The Macbook is gone, and the Macbook Pro 13″ has moved from an underpowered dual-core to a quad-core CPU, not to mention the new iteration (the third one!) of the butterfly keyboard that aims to resolve the various troubles users had in the past with the new keyboard design.

The computational power gain is huge, making this notebook able to compete with the much more pricier models from a couple of years back, even the much bigger and beefier 15-inch MacBook Pro. If you think that the price of that Mac was $2,800 in 2017, having a better performance in today’s $1,299 laptop is great news for everyone that’s in the business.

Well, we all know that synthetic benchmarks are one thing, and real-world performance is another, so let’s find out how do these numbers relate to reality.

Starting with Final Cut X, the timeline scrubbing and real editing seem to be more than adequate. Of course, it makes no sense to compare this machine with an iMac Pro, or even a regular iMac, but those are much bigger, pricier and thermally efficient machines. That being said, if you factor in the size and the price, this small laptop suddenly becomes a pretty feasible choice.

What’s more, Max plays a 4K long clip with no issues, even at the full quality the stutter is almost irrelevant. When is it then, that things start to get hard? Well, making color adjustments, adding LUTs, that is going to be quite a heavy load on a small computer like this. Also, trying to playback an H.265 clip along with a couple of effects applied will inevitably result in a choppy and stuttering playback.

All in all, the 4K performance in FCP X you get is excellent, especially for simple editing tasks. But what if you’re one of the many editors that are predominantly using Premiere Pro CC? This is not a machine anyone would recommend as an ideal configuration to run Premiere, but for many users, this could be a necessary option.

The most important thing you need to do in that case is checking whether you are making use of Metal, Apple’s framework, as it will increase vastly the MacBook’s performance. A simple playback of the same clips in the test goes smoothly, topping at around 17% of CPU usage. It is definitely choppy, but not unusable. Once you start adding some correction and LUTs, you’ll need to go at a quarter resolution.

How about H.265? If you don’t mind the lower resolution, it’s not impossible to work on that too.

Giving a try to Resolve, the integrated GPU and low RAM take their toll. Due to the fact that Resolve 16 is still in public Beta, it was hard for Max to make a meaningful statement.

At times, it seemed that Resolve was unable to handle the footage, at others, it flew through the timeline with no problems whatsoever. The situation changes a lot once you go to the Color tab. A few adjustments will bring the system to a complete stall requiring too much from the basic hardware the entry-level MacBook Pro has.

In conclusion, these tests confirm that Apple is heading in the right direction. And that is good news for both Mac and PC users since competition is always good for the market, and having Apple aiming only at the high-end means fewer rivals in the segment.

Overall, the 13-inch base MacBook Pro is a powerful ultraportable laptop. For FCP X users, it can be an excellent choice, even if you need to work with compressed 4K files. If you have a small desktop station already, this entry-level laptop could still be the perfect portable addition to your gear cart.

[source: Max Yuryev]

Order Links:

Apple 13.3″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (Mid 2019, Silver) (B&H, Amazon)

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