Which Mac Suits You Best?

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When it comes to Mac computers, there are people who absolutely love them, and people who have the opposite opinion. You can say what you want about their operating system, their pricey hardware, their sleek, slightly elitist aesthetic—but the fact is, if someone were giving out free Macs, both kinds of people would stand in line to get one.

Apple computers do one thing better than most: they simplify technology to the point of making it accessible to those who may qualify as technophobes. But this isn’t The Lord of the Rings—one Mac does not rule them all. As a matter of fact, Apple does an unusually good job of separating its offerings into specific niches. And although many others in the computer industry do the same, they don’t do it with the panache, style, and brand cohesiveness with which Apple does.

Let’s look at the latest lineup of Mac computers and see where they fill in the blanks for different kinds of users.

The Videographer, Cinematographer, and Professional Photographer

Workflow is the kind of buzzword that sounds good on a project plan, but few people can correctly explain. Workflow is the process from which your work can be achieved from beginning to completion. Every point in that process is part of the flow—from morning coffee to shutting your computer down for the night, and everything in between.

The absolute last worry you should have in your workflow is that your computer can't handle the tasks you need to execute. If there is a break in the computer’s ability to handle your process, then there is a break in your workflow—and all breaks in your workflow lead to decreased productivity, stymied creativity, and eventual loss of income.

So, here you are with 20 hours of video to edit. You have a staff of three, all on the same computer. Someone in the workflow has a complete meltdown, and now the burden of the editing work is on you. Now what?

Get yourself an Apple Mac Pro Desktop Computer. With a 3.5GHz Intel® Xeon™ E5 six-core processor, 16GB of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC RAM and Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, this is a desktop computer that won't let you down. Everything about a Mac Pro is made to impress you—and some of it may seem like overkill, until you actually see them in action. It includes screaming-fast PCI-e based flash storage (meaning that the storage transmits and transfers from an actual PCie slot, and not via a slower SATA connector), and along with the data transfer of 20Gbps via Thunderbolt 2, opens up the lanes for faster video processing, as well as support for 4K editing. It also includes dual (that’s right, dual) AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3GB of onboard memory for each. This ensures that the high-end visuals needed for other processes like high-resolution photo image processing are also covered. With speed and power on your side, your workflow will never be interrupted.

Apple Mac Pro Desktop Computer (Six-Core)

Bringing it down just a notch, the brand-new Apple 27" iMac with Retina 5K Display offers a little less processing power, and a lot more visual muscle. Under the hood, it contains a 4th-generation 3.5GHz Intel® Core™ i5 quad-core processor, plenty fast for everyday work—and still has enough power to handle moderately intensive photo and video editing. It also includes 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 Ram and a 1TB Fusion Drive (Apple’s version of a hybrid drive that combines solid-state and spinning drives) and an AMD Radeon M290X with 2GB of integrated GDDR5 video RAM. It also includes dual Thunderbolt 2 ports for super-fast data transfer and peripheral connection—you can daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 devices to the new iMac. But the real game-changer is the 27" 5120 x 2880-resolution 5K display, capable of putting out 14.7 million pixels. The IPS panel allows for wider viewing angles so more people can enjoy the Retina 5K display without having to crowd around it—perfect for when you want to show your work to a group of clients. What you can’t do, which some users have done before, is use the iMac with 5K display as a separate monitor for an existing Mac system. No other iMac can read the 5K resolution display without a modified cable (yet). This is also a beautiful machine. It's only 5mm thick with that classy Apple aesthetic all around. The iMac with 5K Retina display is the perfect workstation for a small graphic design office, or a secondary computer for a home office.

Apple 27" iMac with Retina 5K Display

If you don’t need the extra wow factor of a 5K display, you still have the late 2013 21.5" iMac Desktop Computer version of the iMac to choose from. With a faster processor (4th-generation 3.1GHz Intel Core i7) and double the RAM at 16GB and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics controller with 1GB of dedicated RAM, this model scales down the backlit LED screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 21.5" diagonal measurement. It also steps back with only Thunderbolt connectivity (still speedy at 10Gbps), but continues to be a powerful and productive machine. This remains a staple in many graphic design firms, and one of the top-selling Macs ever.

Apple 21.5" iMac Desktop Computer (Late 2013)

The mini is Mighty

What if you have your own favorite display already, or you want to hook up a smaller, space-conserving desktop computer, but you still want something with enough of an engine to tackle your everyday work? How about a student who loves the Mac culture but doesn't have the real estate or the money to plunk down for a 27" screen? How about a family that wants to set up a computer and hook it up to the family TV or kitchen, but still use it to be productive?

How about the Mac mini? The Apple Mac mini 1.4GHz Desktop Computer, introduced in late 2014, has the requisite power base—a 4th-generation 1.4GHz Core i5 dual core processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive—but it also includes some larger-than-life amenities, like Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, Gigabit Ethernet jack, and 802.11 ac Wi-Fi. Throw in an SDXC card slot for additional storage, and HDMI connectivity to hook up your monitor of choice, and you have a small-footprint desktop computer that fills some pretty impressive Apple shoes. The stylish aluminum casing and clean front panel only need a monitor, wireless mouse, and keyboard to make it a complete system.

Apple Mac mini 1.4 GHz Desktop Computer (Late 2014)

Mobile Muscle, Apple Style

And while we are on the subject of Mac computers and what niche they fill, let’s not forget users on the go. Mobile computing is quickly surpassing desktop computing as the go-to method of workday computing—but just like desktop computing, if you don’t have the right machine, your workflow could come to a standstill.

If portability is your main concern, the Apple 13.3" MacBook Air Notebook Computer, released in early 2014, may catch your interest. This miniature workhorse features a hefty 4th-generation 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 dual-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe-based flash storage for immediate access to programs and applications. Although it uses an integrated graphics processor (Intel HD Graphics 5000), it’s still tough enough to process RAW photos and handle light video editing. The 13.3" LED backlit display has a native resolution of 1440 x 900, and the laptop also includes Thunderbolt connectivity and 802.11 ac Wi-Fi. An SDXC card slot and USB 3.0 ports will let you add to the system, perfect for extending the storage or adding a secondary monitor. This is the perfect laptop for students of art, graphic design, or photography—a lot of power in a little package, with tried-and-true compatibility with programs like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro.

Apple 13.3" MacBook Air Notebook Computer (Early 2014)

If you need a little more screen space and horsepower, you should look at the 15.4" MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display, released in mid-2014. With a next-generation Crystalwell 2.5GHZ Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCie-based flash storage drive, this laptop is made for more detailed and extensive photo and video work, but has enough muscle to handle everything else, like productivity software, Web surfing, and more. It raises the bar with a 2880 x 1800 resolution IPS LED backlit 15.4" display, so you’ll have no problems working with the graphics this machine produces, or sharing that work with others standing around your screen. To add to its resume, the MacBook Pro also includes Thunderbolt 2 connectivity for 20Gbps of bi-directional transfer speeds, along with 802.11 ac Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 and HDMI ports, and a backlit keyboard. If you’re serious about working in the arts, this is the laptop that will make that dream become a reality.

Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro Notebook Computer with Retina Display

So, there you have a sampling of the Mac-tastic lineup that B&H offers. Whether you’re a Windows-PC fan looking to see how green a Retina screen can make the grass on the other side of the fence, or a longtime devotee of the Mac world, there should be something for you here.

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I would love to know which one is the best for photographer? Pro

Hi Mark -

Any one of the above options could suit the pro photographer.  Budget, workflow and form factor are major qualifiers for deciding upon your computer.  Laptops are great where portability is mandated and often you will need one for use on jobs out in the field.  The ultimate and the most expensive option would be the Apple Mac Pro Desktop Computer.  Remember that a monitor is not included and would need to be purchased as well. An elegant, all-in-one solution, Apple 27" iMac with Retina 5K Display could easily deliver impressive results for years to come.  And last, but far from least, for many photographers - The Apple Mac mini 1.4GHz Desktop Computer, offers powerful processing and a compact design, allowing the photographer to choose a specific monitor display to complement a particular workflow, budget, or personal preference.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com