MacBook Pro: The Best Laptop for Video Editing

MacBook Pro: The Best Laptop for Video Editing

When Apple introduced M1 Pro and M1 Max chips for the MacBook Pro lineup in 2021, it easily became the best laptop for video editors. The balance of performance and efficiency made it possible for creative professionals to edit high-res videos on the go. Apple has since updated the MacBook Pro lineup for 2023, with the M2 Pro and the M2 Max chips, maintaining its title as the laptop for video editing.

B&H Recommends…

Apple 16.2" MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip
Apple 16.2" MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip
  • M2 Max 12-Core CPU
  • 30-Core GPU
  • 32GB Unified Memory (Optional: 64GB)
  • 1TB SSD (Minimum), 2TB SSD (Recommended)

The M2 Pro and Max chips continue to improve video editing workflows introduced by the M1 models. The M2 Pro has a powerful media engine, hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, and ProRes video encode and decode, allowing playback of multiple streams of 4K and 8K ProRes video while using very little power. The M2 Max features two video encode engines and two ProRes engines, bringing up to 2x faster video encoding than even the M2 Pro.

The M2 Pro and Max chips make it easy to recommend the 16" MacBook Pro with M2 Pro or Max for video editors.

They Have the Power

As you can guess, the major upgrade from the previous MacBook Pro lineup to the current one is the M2 Pro and Max chips.

Let’s start with the M2 Pro. Built using a second-generation 5nm process technology, the M2 Pro consists of 40 billion transistors, which is nearly 20 percent more than the M1 Pro. It features 200 GB/s of unified memory bandwidth and up to 32GB of low-latency unified memory. The M2 Pro comes in either a 10-Core CPU or 12-Core CPU variant, resulting in multithreaded CPU performance up to 20 percent faster than the 10-Core CPU in M1 Pro. The GPU in M2 Pro can be configured with up to 19 cores, which is three more than the GPU in M1 Pro, and includes a larger L2 cache. This means graphics speeds are up to 30 percent faster than that of M1 Pro, resulting in huge increases in image processing performance.

Need even more power? The M2 Max has you covered. With 67 billion transistors, it has 10 million more than M1 Max. Its 400 GB/s of unified memory bandwidth is twice that of M2 Pro. It also supports up to 96GB of fast unified memory. This means massive files open instantaneously, and working across multiple pro apps is quick and fluid. The M2 Max features the same next-gen 12-core CPU as the M2 Pro, but its GPU is even more powerful, with up to 38 cores, and is paired with a larger L2 cache, so graphics speed climbs up to 30 percent faster than M1 Max.

M2 for 14" MacBook Pro
M2 for 14" MacBook Pro
M2 for 16" MacBook Pro
M2 for 16" MacBook Pro

Whether you pick the M2 Pro or the M2 Max, both provide performance and efficiency improvements over the previous M1 MacBook Pro lineup.

Power is Great, This Screen is Even Better

Labeled a “Liquid Retina XDR display” by Apple, the screen on the MacBook Pro is, in real-world terms, based on mini-LED technology. This concept takes the idea of local dimming (using multiple light sources to backlight the screen, which can be controlled independently) and turns it up to 11. Using more than 10,000 LEDs, you can control incredibly small areas of the display, improving contrast dramatically. It's close to OLED in terms of performance but without risk of burn-in and a much brighter maximum. There is no gray screen when it should be black during video playback.

Speaking of specs, the MacBook Pro screen can hit a maximum sustained brightness of 1000 nits and a maximum peak of 1600 nits. In SDR (aka most use cases) it will hover at a still-good 500 nits. When HDR kicks in, however, you will see the extra contrast and brightness. Editing in DaVinci Resolve with HDR viewers turned on is an experience you must see to understand.

Tack on brilliant color specs with essentially full support for all the important creative color profiles, thanks to true 10-bit rendering, and you have a screen perfectly optimized for video editing work.

Another note is the screen still has ProMotion—Apple-speak for 120 Hz and variable refresh rate. You can enjoy silky-smooth motion while still being able to lock down to more true frame rates to match your content. Another perk is that the MacBook Pro will dynamically ramp refresh rate up and down, based on content. Reading a long PDF without much movement, it'll kick down to 24 Hz. Playing a game and you'll get the full 120 Hz. This will improve battery life by not running at full speed constantly.

Now, about blooming… This is a potential issue with mini-LED technology because it still relies on illuminating an area of pixels with a single light. If you have something bright white next to something that is completely black, you are going to have some slight bleed from the white area. Fortunately, it appears very well controlled; although there are moments when it is possible to see it, these will be edge cases. Average use won't see this as an issue.

Finally, let's talk about that notch. You can go to settings, and with the taskbar on it becomes a non-issue—once your apps are updated. Resolve is ready and just moves its options across the notch. However, if you have a lot of stuff up in your menu bar, it could be an issue.

Long story short, the display on the 2023 MacBook Pro is still impressive.

HDR Grading on a Laptop

Deserving of its own section is that the MacBook Pro might just be the first consumer laptop to offer ways to grade HDR content accurately and effectively without needing extra hardware and displays. Thanks to some nice upgrades to DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro, you can enjoy HDR video natively in your viewers with the Pro Display XDR.

Please note: Professional colorists will tell you (and be correct) that this is not an alternative to a proper color-managed workflow with various outputs and properly calibrated displays. The MacBook Pro isn't going to replace that $30,000 grading monitor for feature films. However, for everyday use or for YouTube uploads, the HDR capabilities will be brilliant since most people will consume those videos on less precise phone screens and TVs.

If you have ever wanted to try some HDR grading for your projects, personal or otherwise, then the MacBook Pro gives you all the tools you need.

Want to learn how to start doing your own HDR work? Let us know exactly what you want to know in the Comments section, below.

The Ports Remain

Apple has kept the ports it brought back with the last refresh. Here is what we have today:

  • 3 x Thunderbolt™ 4/USB-C
  • HDMI 2.1
  • SD Card Slot (UHS-II)
  • MagSafe 3
  • 3.5mm audio (w/ support for high-impedance headphones)

Transfer photos and videos with the SDXC card slot. Connect to external displays, such as TVs and monitors, with the HDMI 2.1 port, which now supports up to 8K. Plug in accessories and additional displays using three Thunderbolt™ 4/USB4 ports. Charge your MacBook Pro with MagSafe 3. Finally, the 3.5mm headphone jack continues to survive and thrive, still providing support for high-impedance headphones.

Battery Life

We discussed efficiency earlier and the clearest benefit of that is battery life. While there isn't a perfect test of how good these are, Apple states up to 18 hours of video playback for the 14" model and 22 hours for the 16". These are improvements over the previous M1 models. In use, you can feel that the new MacBooks are lasting longer. A full day of mixed-use work is certainly possible with the new MacBooks, although you can still drain the battery if you are solely doing intense video editing. Another thing to note is that the performance is the same, whether plugged in or running on battery power. No throttling necessary.

Something to keep in mind is that these battery-life figures are based on the base M2 Pro chips, not the supercharged M2 Max. The extra GPU cores and dedicated chip components will drain more of the battery over time, even when you aren't making full use of them. If you are going for the full-power M2 Max, you might not see the top-of-the-line battery life. Still, you can get enough power for a regular workday jumping between web browsing, text documents, image editing, and video editing.

For more information about the new Apple MacBook Pro, including additional features, specs, and highlights, be sure to check out the detailed product page for the MacBook Pro. Or drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to answer all your comments and questions.