Questions before buying a MacBook Pro

  • Hi all,

    I think the subject has already been treated several times and I apologize for it. I would like to buy a MacBook Pro to run Isadora and many others exclusive Mac software like Quartz Composer or Millumin.
    I'm already a professional video but in TV, not in live performance. This MBP will be my only tool for all my uses (I also need to run AE or Premiere), so I need a very efficient and powerful one. I'm a bit scared to buy an MBP because the extendibility is very low, unlike a PC.

    What do you think about Intel Iris Pro Graphics? I've heard many things about this technology and I still don't know if it's enough to perform live video. Of course a decicated video card would be more powerful but the prices of the MBP are skyrocketing with one inside. That's why I hesitate...

    And if a dedicated video card is needed, should I take a look to the Apple refurb store? I've heard that many old MBP have better video cars than the current versions...

    I'm also worried about the connections of the MBP Retina. I think the 2 Thnderbolts ports are awesome but there's no Ethernet port, and I can't expect a performance with wireless network... I think it's really to tricky! What do you think about it? Have you already experienced network troubles during your performance?
    Moreover the non-retina MBP have only a 1280x800 screen!

    I hope some of you will read till the end of my message ;)
    Thanks for your help!

  • Get a real video card, for any serious work you will appreciate/need it and you cannot add one later. For all your tv work the processing boost for opencl or cuda driven applications is worth it. The Iris is ok, but side by side a real video card will win.

    I personally was pretty disappointed that apple went back to AMD, I also prefer Cuda to open cl for a few specific application reasons. If you get refurbished get the last model before current retina with the 2 gig nvidia card. Having said that I did not hear bad reports about the AMD card in the macbook pro retina (unlike the horror stories from the cards in the mac pros). You will be one generation behind in thunderbolt though and AMD just announced with thunderbolt 3.0 (not on a mac yet) they will support external graphics accelerators (, some people do get this working with external chasis on thunderbolt 2 and one but with very limited use of a high end gfx cards bandwidth.
    The gfx cards in any mac are way behind what PC users are getting. And yes once you get the macbook pro retina you are stuck with it, no upgrades are possible- many PC laptops are similar these days. The build quality of the mac gear is amazing and there are PC models with equal or better specs and build quality but they will cost the same price.
    Don't worry about the ethernet port, it is a pain but there are USB3 to gigabit ethernet adaptors that are great (but of course something else to buy)

  • Hi Fred,

    Thanks for the advices, it helps me a lot!

    If I understand well, NVidia is best for CUDA and AMD for OpenCL? I found some benchmark tests saying that the AMD Radeon R9 M370X is quite better than the NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M. But 750M supports CUDA & OpenCL whereas M370X only supports OpenCL... So should I prefer the NVidia card? Moreover it's less expensive :p

    I don't understand very well when you say "You will be one generation behind in thunderbolt"... Are your talking about the refurbs macs? Because they have the same components (also Thunderbolt 2) expects the GC.

  • I have the latest Retina Macbook Pro and the 5k iMac both use the AMD dGPUs and both have outstanding performance and I wholeheartedly recommend the dGPUs. The battery life in the MBP is excellent even with the dGPU active. Both computers edit 4k video like it's DV footage from the 2000s, both run Cinema 4D extremely well and are champions with VDMX. I have yet to test Izzy 2.1 or 2.2 on either but fully anticipate excellent performance. The internal flash drives of the MBP and iMac make a huge difference to even an SSD for getting data off the storage and onto the screen and general productivity. Whatever Apple are doing behind the scenes with AVFoundation seems to be paying off with excellent graphics performance in a range of applications with what some might describe as modest hardware. If you have any more specific questions I'm happy to answer.

  • @Arrockant 

    Yes, you are correct, openCL is for AMD and CUDA is for Nvidia. I do not have experience with the AMDs in the laptops or the imacs really. I did a side by side test with blur shaders and the difference between the supposedly 2x faster graphics was not noticable, the new amd does rate well in some fields but not all. I used a nMP for resolve rendering and on OSX the drivers for the AMD were and still are so bad apple is offering constant recalls as they overheat and crash 90% of the time. It was a disaster for a 8k machine.
    Sorry, I was not clear, the AMD equipped laptop comes with thunderbolt 2, then next gen will allow for the above expansion. 
    All in all go for a dedicated GPU.
  • Tech Staff

    If you are purchasing a MacBook Pro for use as your mobile studio and showrunner machine, there's really only one actual option: the top-end 15" Retina model with a 2.5 Ghz i7/ 16 GB RAM// 512 GB SSD/ AMD Radeon R9 M370X. 

    Apple doesn't offer a dedicated graphics card in _any other model_ of its laptop computers, so you don't really have a lot of choice here if you are buying new. If you're on the aftermarket you might be able to hunt something else down. However, since the introduction of the Retina machines Apple has bundled dedicated graphics with the higher-end models so the situation is overall similar -- you just might be able to score an nVidia graphics card on the aftermarket for a cheaper price. 
    Don't stress about Thunderbolt. Personally, I think thunderbolt technology is advancing faster than most peripheral device manufacturers can keep up with right now. Furthermore, these manufactures favour backwards-compatibility so they can market their products to an installed user base anyways. The biggest benefit of the dual thunderbolt ports (+ the extra HDMI port) on the RMPB is the ability to run three displays without needing a TripleHead, which you don't see in many other laptops.
    I don't really think shelling out the extra cash for the faster processor is necessary however, and for the price they are asking for an extra 512 GB flash storage, you can buy a nice raid drive instead.
    If you are going PC or aftermarket you have more options, but right now if you are buying Apple (and have the budget for it) it's a no-brainer, really. On that respect though, I'd echo what @Fred said about PC laptops: the market is trending away from user-upgradable machines in favour of more tightly integrated systems.

  • Hi guys,

    Thank you for your aswers!

    Somehow I have no choice if I want a Mac and performances. The last RMBP with the AMD GPU is the only choice I have... It's breaking my heart, I always complained about Apple :'(

    I'll have to give up CUDA, but anyways I think the standalone R9 M370X  will always be more powerful than the GT750M with CUDA.

  • Arrockant

    Which apps are you using that support CUDA?
    Will you miss it?

  • I use the Adobe CS5... But don't worry I'll still use it, even without a Nvidia GPU ;)

  • I almost certain that OpenCL is preferred for performance in Adobe CS Premiere Pro even if you have a CUDA supported card. I don't use Adobe Apps so not sure what else might use CUDA.

  • For me the main cuda software is resolve, it is not cuda only it can do open cl but there have been some disasters with opencl and AMD (focused on the nMP, but it scares me a little away from AMD).

    Here is an article 
    Here is 2 years of problems using AMD cards, apple admitted there was a problem for some models and it is expected they will extend the repair soon.
    Basically the AMD cards could not function above 50°, this is also personal as every AMD cpu or gfx card I had had problems. The catalyst control centre is way less stable (however more flexible) than the Nvidia control centre (on any OS), so much so that linux releases have now completely dropped support for AMD released drivers, they will only work with 3rd party community developed drivers ( In the wild AMD seems to be going well on imacs and they are super powerful, but not portable.
    For the apple laptops with AMD I was working with some people to iron out a few problems with performance on a show, there were 3 maxed out retinas with Nvidia and one newer model with AMD. In playing a simple HD movie but with a complex sync system, the AMD was always lagging and glitching, the Nvida machines kept up well. (they were all fresh installs with the same software ram disk space and specs), out tests showed all the other hardware and software was functioning properly and timing was spot on for data, it was just the gfx rendering that was the issue and the only variable was the card.
    Both this scenario and the resolve scenario are very specific, and most likely will not have any impact on Izzy users. The fact that I saw these issues scared me off AMD and when it comes time to get a new machine I will have a much more serious look at non apple alternatives that can run OSX.

  • I'm in the same situation : for a new live project I need to advise a Theater to buy a computer in the next month. I was waiting skylake processor and it'll not be on time. 

    My set is this one : 2 BM ultrastudio mini rec thru thunderbolt for 2  720p inputs and one output thru thunderbolt for a Matroxtriplehead2GO DP edition with 3 X 1366X768 max resolution.
    For that, I miss one thunderbolt. I have the possibility to use a usb3 BM input instead of thunderbolt but I never tried it and it's more expensive.
    The latest iMac tested with triplehead on Matrox website is a 2012 model... and the answer from Matrox assistance to my question is :

    "Although we have not tested the MacPro of 2013, and cannot therefore put it into our recommendations, we understand that some of our customers have successfully used it with our device.The same applies to the most recent iMac  - we have not tested it ourselves but we know of people who tell us they are using this combination."

    Thanks a lot Matrox, your answer helps me. I have already a Matroxtriple digital edition which doesn't work anymore with my MBP 2,6 GHZ intel core i7. I can't advise to buy a MBP or an iMac for 3600 € and 1000 € more for externals if it's not strong enough for 50 performances.

    I have 2 besides questions : did someone try 30 m optical thunderbolt wire (from Corning) to put my matrox on stage ? And did someone try a thunderbolt 2 dock like OWC for a 720p input (with BM minirec) and a different output thru hdmi at the same time ? (it's maybe the alternative of Matrox).

    Thank you.

  • Hi all,

    I have some questions about almost same subject. But it's more focused on using Isadora.
    I have to buy a MacBookPro for a music band that will be used to play fullHD movies with 8 audiotracks : one movie at a time, basic vid-gpu effects (chroma,luma,contrast corrections, H/V flip, basic quick corners mapping).
    Of course, the mac will have internal SSD and at least 8Go RAM.

    I'm a bit lost in OpenCL, CUDA (NVIDIA),... I'd like to know what videocard will / will not handle vid-gpu's new Isadora capabilities. If not, what happens. ?

    What about AVFoundation engine on Intel HD Graphics 3000 (MBP 13' early 2011) by example ?
    Does it plays smoother with a dedicated videocard like GeForce GT 650M (MBP 15' mid 2012) ?

    Your lights are more than welcomed.


  • Perhaps and sometimes,, mac is not the only way.....

  • @fifou definitely go for a dedicated video card not the integrated. Mac is way behind in this, current decent cards (even for laptops) are 4 gig of GFX memory, mac is still 2 max, but this is better than an intel integrated.

  • Thanks for your replies.
    Personally I would definitely go for a dedicated GFX card, but we have budget issues.
    My questions are :
    What functions a GeForce GT 650M can handle in Isadora, that an Intel HD Graphics 4000 can't ?
    (by example..)
    For playing a single PhotoJPEG FullHD movie (with QT engine), with basic vid-gpu chroma-luma-contrast corrections, and basic quick corner mapping, I need a SSD drive, at least 8Go RAM, but is a 13' MacBookPro (Intel HD 4000) powerful enough ?

    All the best


  • I did not do any side by side tests. Generally when I have had to use the integrated gfx everything is limited, less effects and slower performance- for non live stuff you watch the render time double. You can not upgrade it later so it is worth the money up front- or buy a PC with much better specs for the same price.