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The Best Mac for Editing: A Pro User's Guide to Mac

Updated: Feb 5

Mac Enthusiasts, elevate your creative endeavors with a powerhouse tailored for professional graphic design, photography, and audio and video editing. Whether you're immersed in Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, Avid Pro Tools, or a number of other creative applications, the question remains: Which Mac is your ideal companion for unleashing your creative prowess?


Apple Mac editing station




Let's compare the Mac Pro M2 Ultra, Mac Studio M2, Mac mini M2, iMac M3, and MacBook Pro M3 with a focus on pro users in creative spaces.


 

Mac Pro
Mac Pro

Mac Pro Performance: The Best Mac for Editing?


Mac Pro M2 Ultra: Positioned as a high-end desktop, the Mac Pro M2 Ultra boasts the powerful M2 Ultra chip, offering top-tier performance with multiple CPU and GPU cores, making it an ideal choice for handling complex graphic design projects and large-scale publishing tasks. The Mac Pro comes with the M2 Ultra chipset. 24-core CPU & 60-core GPU or 24-core CPU & 76-core GPU. Unified RAM memory options are 64Gb, 128Gb and 192Gb. Could this the best Mac for editing?




Mac Studio M2 Performance: Greatest value for a desktop.


The Mac Studio M2, equipped with the M2 chip, provides robust performance, suitable for graphic design tasks with efficiency and speed. The Mac Studio comes in both the M2 Max and the M2 Ultra chipset with CPU cores from 12 to 24 and GPU cores from 30 to 76 making this a popular choice among power users. In addition to great choices for the CPU and GPU, the Mac Studio ram memory options range for 32Gb to 192Gb. If you use memory hungry applications like Adobe and other editing applications, the Mac Studio has great memory choices for you. You must order your Mac Studio with the amount of RAM you wish it can't be added later. I found that 64Gb is sweet spot for me. View memory usage in the Activity Monitor on your Mac to get a better understanding of how much memory your applications and macOS are using.




Mac mini M2 Performance: 


The Mac mini M2, featuring the M2 chip, offers solid performance, especially for smaller-scale graphic design projects. Apple offers the Mac mini in the M2 and M2 Pro chipsets using CPU cores from 8 to 12 and GPU cores from 10 to 19, making this a good choice for users on lower budgets due to Mac mini's lower price point. Keep in mind the max RAM memory on the M2 mini is 24Gb of unified memory and 32Gb on the M2 Pro making the M2 Pro the better choice. You must order your Mac mini with the amount of RAM you wish, it can't be added later.



iMac M3 Performance: 


With the M3 chip, the iMac M3 delivers strong performance, making it a reliable choice for graphic design work with its all-in-one design and built-in 24" display. If you go this route, make sure you budget for more memory right from the start. 24Gb of ram is the max and is highly recommended. With only a 8-core CPU and GPU core options of 8 and 10, this might be a little light for larger graphic design projects. You must order your iMac with the amount of RAM you wish, it can't be added later.




MacBook Pro 14" and 16"
MacBook Pro 14" and 16"


MacBook Pro M3 Performance:


One might think that the MacBook Pro M3, would not reach the same level of raw power as its desktop counterparts, think again! The MacBook Pro M3 delivers a compelling level of performance, making it a potent and portable solution for on-the-go graphic design tasks.


There are two screen sizes available, 14-inch and 16-inch and both have many options for you to configure the processor, memory and storage. The 14-inch can be purchase with the M3, M3 Pro or the M3 Max chipset. The 16-inch can be purchase with the M3 Pro or the M3 Max chipset.


Unified memory options range from 8Gb to 128Gb while the CPU core options range from 8 to 40 and the GPU core options range from 10 to 40. You must order your MacBook Pro with the amount of RAM you wish, it can't be added later. Now compare that to the desktops and you can see that the MacBook Pro is a great choice, especially when adding an external monitor, mouse and keyboard. Now you can have both a powerful desktop and portable workstation.


 


Form Factor, Display and Audio:

Looking for a d

Apple Pro Display XDR
Mac Pro shown with an Apple Pro Display XDR

Mac Pro M2 Ultra Form Factor, Display and Audio: 


The Mac Pro M2 Ultra provides flexibility in choosing external displays, allowing graphic designers to tailor their workspace to specific monitor preferences.


Simultaneous support for up to eight displays:

Eight displays with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz

Six displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

Three displays with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz


Thunderbolt 4 digital video output

Support for native DisplayPort output over USB-C

HDMI display video output (per port)

Support for one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz

Support for variable refresh rate (VRR), HDR, and multichannel audio


Audio

Built-in speaker

3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones

HDMI port supports multichannel audio output

Expansion

Six full-length PCI Express gen 4 slots

Two x16 slots

Four x8 slots

One half-length x4 PCI Express gen 3 slot with Apple I/O card installed

300W auxiliary power available:

Two 6-pin connectors delivering 75W of power each

One 8-pin connector delivering 150W of power

Connections

Eight Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports

Six ports on the back of the enclosure and two ports on the top of the tower enclosure or two ports on the front of the rack enclosure

Support for:

Thunderbolt 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

DisplayPort

USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

Internal connections

One USB-A port (up to 5Gb/s)

Two Serial ATA ports (up to 6Gb/s)

Additional connections

Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb/s)

Two HDMI ports

Two 10Gb Ethernet ports

3.5 mm headphone jack


 

Mac Studio M2 Form Factor, Display and Audio: 


With a desktop form factor, the Mac Studio M2 can be paired with external displays for a customized workspace. M2 Max can simultaneous support for up to five displays while the M2 Ultra can simultaneous support for up to eight displays. I personally use multiple displays, Apple 27", Samsung 34" curved, Philips 49" curved and a Samsung 55" 4K . This is a great setup if you need to spread out your work.


More details:

M2 Max

Simultaneous support for up to five displays:

Four displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with 4K resolution at 60Hz over HDMI


Two displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at up to 240Hz over HDMI


M2 Ultra

Simultaneous support for up to eight displays:

Eight displays with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz

Six displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

Three displays with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz

Thunderbolt 4 digital video output

Support for native DisplayPort output over USB‑C

HDMI display video output

Support for one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz

Support for variable refresh rate (VRR), HDR, and multichannel audio


Audio

Built-in speaker 

3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones

HDMI port supports multichannel audio output


Connections and Expansion

Four Thunderbolt 4 ports with support for:

Thunderbolt 4 (up to 40Gb/s) 

DisplayPort

USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb/s)

HDMI port

10Gb Ethernet

3.5 mm headphone jack


On front (M2 Max):

Two USB-C ports (up to 10Gb/s)

SDXC card slot (UHS-II)

On front (M2 Ultra):

Two Thunderbolt 4 ports (up to 40Gb/s)

SDXC card slot (UHS-II)


 


Mac mini M2 Form Factor, Display and Audio: 


Compact and suitable for smaller spaces, the Mac mini M2 requires an external display, offering flexibility in setting up a graphic design workstation. Mac mini with the M2 chip will simultaneously support up to two displays while the Mac mini with the M2 Pro chip will simultaneously support up to three displays.


More details:

M2:

Simultaneously supports up to two displays:

One display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with up to 5K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt or 4K resolution at 60Hz over HDMI

Thunderbolt 4 digital video output

Support for native DisplayPort output over USB‑C

HDMI display video output

Support for one display with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz


M2 Pro:

Simultaneously supports up to three displays:

Up to three displays: Two displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz over HDMI

Up to two displays: One display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI

One display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI

Thunderbolt 4 digital video output

Support for native DisplayPort output over USB‑C

HDMI display video output

Support for one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz


Video Playback

Supported formats include HEVC, H.264, and ProRes

HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG


Audio Playback

Supported formats include AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos

Audio

Built-in speaker

3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones

HDMI port supports multichannel audio output


Connections and Expansion

Two Thunderbolt 4 ports (M2) or four Thunderbolt 4 ports (M2 Pro) with support for:

DisplayPort

Thunderbolt 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA supported using adapters (sold separately)

Two USB-A ports (up to 5Gb/s)

HDMI port

Gigabit Ethernet port (configurable to 10Gb Ethernet)

3.5 mm headphone jack



 

iMac M3 Form Factor, Display and Audio:



iMac M3: An all-in-one design, the iMac M3 features a built-in 4.5K Retina display, providing vibrant visuals for graphic design tasks. Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz.


24-inch 4.5K Retina display

4480-by-2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch with support for 1 billion colors 

500 nits brightness

Wide color (P3)

True Tone technology

Actual diagonal screen size is 23.5 in.


Camera

1080p FaceTime HD camera

Advanced image signal processor with computational video


Display Support:

Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz


Thunderbolt 3 digital video output

Native DisplayPort output over USB-C

VGA, HDMI, DVI, and Thunderbolt 2 output supported using adapters (sold separately)

Video Playback

Supported formats include HEVC, H.264, AV1, and ProRes

HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG


Audio Playback

Supported formats include AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos


Audio

High-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers

Wide stereo sound

Support for Spatial Audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos

Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming

Support for “Hey Siri” or just “Siri”


Connections and Expansion

Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for:

DisplayPort

Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 4 (up to 40Gb/s)

USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s)

Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA supported using adapters (sold separately)

3.5 mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones


Configurable with Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet

_ Two USB 3 ports (up to 10Gb/s)


Keep in mind, if you want the USB 3 ports on the back, you will need to purchase the iMac with Gigabit Ethernet.

ports on back of iMac M3

The iMac also comes with an Apple Magic Mouse and Apple Magic Keyboard. Models with Gigabit Ethernet come with the Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. If you would like the extended keyboard with numeric keypad, that is an upgrade option.



 



MacBook Pro M3 Form Factor, Display and Audio: 


The MacBook Pro M3, being a laptop, comes with a built-in Retina display, offering a

  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and:

  • One external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and:

  • Up to two external displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt, or one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI

  • One external display supported at 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display at 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI

  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and:

  • Up to four external displays: Up to three external displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI

  • Up to three external displays: Up to two external displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display with 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI

  • Support for one display with up to 4K resolution at 120Hz (M3)

  • Support for one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz (M3 Pro and M3 Max)


  • 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display

ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to120Hz Fixed refresh rates: 47.95Hz, 48.00Hz, 50.00Hz, 59.94Hz, 60.00Hz


  • M3 Pro

  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and:

  • Up to two external displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt, or one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI

  • One external display supported at 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display at 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI

  • Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors and:

  • Up to four external displays: Up to three external displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz over HDMI

  • Up to three external displays: Up to two external displays with 6K resolution at 60Hz over Thunderbolt and one external display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or one external display with 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI

    • Support for one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz



 


A great display option!

Add to any Mac.


Lose yourself in on-screen content with the Samsung 34" 21:9 Curved FreeSync VA Monitor with Thunderbolt 3 Docking in white and silver. Featuring a 34" Vertical Alignment (VA) panel, this 1500R curved monitor provides a 3440 x 1440 resolution for a detailed screen space. A 4 ms response time, 100 Hz refresh rate, and AMD FreeSync support ensure smooth movies and games, while support for 1.07 billion colors and a 3000:1 static contrast ratio mean colors are accurate and crisp. Stay comfortable thanks to wide 178° horizontal and vertical viewing angles, a 300 cd/m² brightness, and low blue light and flicker-free screen technologies.

Dock your laptop utilizing the Thunderbolt 3 input and take advantage of up to 85W of power delivery. HDMI and DisplayPort inputs are also present, along with an integrated USB hub featuring two USB Type-A ports and a Thunderbolt 3 port with up to 15W of power delivery for a smartphone or tablet. A 3.5mm audio output accommodates a pair of headphones, while integrated speakers provide onboard audio. Adjust the height and the tilt of the stand to find your perfect angle and use the built-in lock slot to secure your monitor using a compatible cable lock, available separately.

Curved Display

Featuring a 1500R curved display, this 34" monitor provides an immersive viewing experience.






 

Expandability Overview:

  • Mac Pro M2 Ultra: Designed for maximum expandability, the Mac Pro M2 Ultra allows users to customize components, add PCIe cards, and connect numerous peripherals.

  • Mac Studio M2: While not as modular as the Mac Pro, the Mac Studio M2 provides reasonable expandability with Thunderbolt and USB ports.

  • Mac mini M2: The Mac mini M2 has limited expandability compared to desktop options but still offers Thunderbolt ports for external devices.

  • iMac M3: Limited in terms of user-upgradeable components, the iMac M3 features Thunderbolt ports for additional peripherals.

  • MacBook Pro M3: Limited in expandability, the MacBook Pro M3 features Thunderbolt ports for connecting external devices.


 

Portability Overview:

  • Mac Pro M2 Ultra: The Mac Pro M2 Ultra is not designed for portability and is intended for a fixed workspace.

  • Mac Studio M2: While not portable, the Mac Studio M2 is more compact than the Mac Pro, making it suitable for a dedicated workspace.

  • Mac mini M2: The Mac mini M2 is compact and easily transportable, offering a degree of portability for graphic designers who need flexibility in their work environment.

  • iMac M3: With an all-in-one design, the iMac M3 is suitable for users who want a more portable solution within a home or office setting.

  • MacBook Pro M3: The MacBook Pro M3 is designed for professionals on the move, providing a portable solution for graphic design tasks.


 

Price Overview:

  • Mac Pro M2 Ultra: Positioned as a premium desktop, the Mac Pro M2 Ultra is priced at the higher end of the spectrum.

  • Mac Studio M2: While still premium, the Mac Studio M2 offers a balance of performance and price, making it an attractive option for graphic design professionals.

  • Mac mini M2: The Mac mini M2 provides a more budget-friendly option for graphic designers who don't require the highest-end specifications.

  • iMac M3: Positioned as a premium all-in-one solution, the iMac M3 falls within a moderate to high price range.

  • MacBook Pro M3: The MacBook Pro M3 offers a competitive price point, especially considering its portability and performance for on-the-go professionals.


 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the choice among the Mac Pro M2 Ultra, Mac Studio M2, Mac mini M2, iMac M3, and MacBook Pro M3 depends on the specific needs and preferences of pro user in any creative space. The Mac Pro M2 Ultra and Mac Studio M2 provide top-tier performance for demanding tasks, the Mac mini M2 offers a more budget-friendly option, the iMac M3 provides an integrated design with a built-in display, and the MacBook Pro M3 offers a portable solution for professionals on the move.


RAM amounts will depend on your applications, the number of applications open simultaneously, and the size of the files you are working on. It's advisable to purchase more memory than you initially think you need, as it cannot be added later. This ensures that as your needs grow, you won't find yourself wishing for more RAM. It's important to note that the application's memory requirements represent the basic amounts needed to run the application. To optimize productivity, consider investing in additional memory.


Storage can be either internal or external. If you prefer ample internal storage, especially for those frequently on the go with laptops, it's advisable to purchase it upfront, as it cannot be added later. External storage, on the other hand, can be added as your needs increase. However, it's essential to consider how you back up your data. While iCloud, Google Drive, and other cloud services are convenient, it's crucial to assess if they provide a true backup of your work. Imagine a scenario where you accidentally delete a file or if a file becomes corrupted; can you easily retrieve a backup copy? In the realm of computer data, redundancy is king. Hard drives can fail, computers may crash, and data can be lost – an unfortunate reality of the world we live in. A 3-2-1 backup strategy advocates having at least three total copies of your data, with two copies stored locally on different mediums (such as Mac and external hard drive) and at least one copy stored offsite. For a managed offsite backup, consider Pulse Backup powered by CrashPlan.


All decisions should be driven by performance requirements, workspace preferences, portability needs, and budget constraints. The best Mac for editing? The choice is yours. Remember, the product professionals at MacMan are here to help you make an informed decision tailored to your specific needs.


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