David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio

Why did I choose the M1 Max MacBook Pro? Am I delighted?

A tough decision – was it for the best?

M1 Max MacBook Pro

So, I have been a Mac user now for around a decade. I have dabbled with MacBook Pro’s – but never seriously. During that time, my workload, and creative requirements have shifted and grown. My Apple purchases have reflected that too, from the most basic, to higher end machines. Although on my YouTube channel and blogs I often talk about the latest gear, it has been a very, very long time since I have made any serious purchases to add to that arsenal. That is, until now. Currently, sitting in the order section of my Apple cart are two items that, I hope, are going to make a massive difference to my day-to-day life. These decisions, which were not made lightly and took some deliberation. But here, I will work through my thoughts in case you find yourself in a similar position.

The current gear

Thinking back, I believe my first dip in to Apple, besides the iPhone, was a MacBook Air. Subsequently, came my first iMac, which was a 21.5-inch model from 2011. That served me pretty well, and in-fact, I still have it now in the garage. I upgraded the SSD in it, and helped grow my graphic design business. Next was the best Mac I had bought; a 27-inch, pretty well spec’d 2015 model which has been my workhorse for the last, nearly, six years. I have also had two MacBooks and a more recent 21.5-inch iMac as well, which I bought in 2019. Outside the Mac’s, I have an iPhone 12 and an iPad Mini which also figure in my working days to smaller, or greater amounts.

The 27-inch machine has been remarkable and has got through a whole load of work with me over the years. It’s a 5K, 4GHz Quad-Core, Intel i7 machine with an R9 Radeon graphics card at its heart. Over the past few months though, I have noticed it struggling, in particular, as my workflow has moved in to video editing for the YouTube content. In its defence (I am hugely protective of it!), when I bought it, the intention was never there to edit video. But as I now see that as part of my future, I knew a change needed to happen.

The choices

I started to look at buying a Mac seriously again last year with the advent of Apple Silicon. I was watching all these reviews coming out on YouTube showing how quick these machines were. The base, entry-level M1 MacBook Air seemed to be way quicker than my nearly £4000 Intel iMac. It was around £3000 cheaper and only a glorified notebook, but the figures suggested it was running rings around my old faithful machine. For a time, I was tempted with the new 24-inch iMac. Of course, they had the same processor inside, the M1 chip, just in a desktop form and with a bigger, more practical display. But I knew, I was just certain, that more was to come in 2021 with Apple Silicon. And boy, I was not wrong. At the very end of last year, the new MacBook Pros, with the two new chip options, namely the M1 Pro and M1 Max, were unveiled at the last Apple event of the year. Right, now my interest was piqued, and a choice would soon be made. My reasoning said, that pretty much, regardless of where they went from there with Apple Silicon, one of these latest two choices would be more than enough for my demands. There had been a nagging problem for me, though. Even though I knew the computer would be more than enough for me, it was only a laptop. Even at 16-inches, I thought, in time, I would not be happy working on a smaller screen, having become so accustomed to the 27-inch iMac. I could not justify buying a MacBook with that gorgeous 120HZ refresh rate, True Motion, mini LED display and hook it up to a large, sub-par display. That would be sacrilege. Luckily for me, though, Apple came along this spring, and placed the final part of the jigsaw together for me – the all-new Studio Display.

What to choose

It was about to get serious. Everything I needed was there, I just had to figure out what to choose and in what configuration. The Mac Studio was a brief thought, but going against it for me, was the fact it was a desktop. That’s odd, as I have always picked desktops over laptops for heavy work over the years. But, with the recent pandemic, my style of working, like many, has changed and evolved. Now I split my work, pretty much 50/50 between the office and home. The Mac Studio represented almost too much power for me, and a lack of portability. The Studio with the M1 Max would have been the one, possibly, but for the lack of portability. Of course, that too would need the monitor to go with it, and with that added on, I was more or less at MacBook Pro money. I wanted to be sure to future-proof my purchase, having learned from mistakes and buyers remorse over the years. I was going for more unified memory than I thought I’d need now, and also, plenty of on-board storage as well. 32 GB of unified memory was what I had decided upon, with 2 TB of storage. With the added dimension of video editing now a part of my workflow, I wanted to avoid looking over my shoulder when editing locally on the MacBook. I always archive straight away, but the ability, at least, to have a few projects on the go, was an appealing one. Even after six years of constant, heavy use, my iMac, with only 1 TB of storage, is still only a little over half-full. By that metric, then, 2 TB of storage should be more than enough. With all video work archived, and my graphic work stored on Dropbox, I am fairly frugal with my storage needs, actually. Still – more is better than less, and as this was going to be an expensive purchase whatever, I wanted it to last years down the line.

So, my mind was getting close to being set now. A MacBook Pro, 16-inch, with the best display Apple make outside the Pro Display XDR, in some configuration would be the meat of the purchase. That way, I could happily, and easily sit at home and edit on the 16-inch screen, be portable to visit clients, and then, at the office, I could hook it all up to the 27-inch Studio Display. I would then have the choice of working either dual monitor, or put the MacBook in clamshell mode and work purely on the larger display.

Time to order

Finally, last week, I placed my order. I had poured over the technical specs day after day and was certain I had made the proper choices. The MacBook was to be a 16-inch in silver, with 32 GB of unified memory and 2 TB of storage. The Studio Display was the standard configuration, without Nano textured glass or the height-adjustable stand. I never find it easy spending that kind of money on myself or the business, but my quality of working life was struggling. With all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps now optimised for Apple Silicon, and editing at least three videos a week, this was the time to change. With Creative Cloud, I have noticed more glitches since the last OS update. My feelings are that their apps are now, actually, more catered toward Apple Silicon, and they merely support Intel as they have to. The delay on delivery of both items is a pain. I have around a month to wait on the MacBook, and possibly a further month after that on the display. If there absolutely has to be a delay, I would rather it that way around. At least with the new Mac coming first, I get it set up and start to benefit from it.

What am I hoping for?

In a single word – speed! As my general workflow has become more involved, I am hoping to see a massive improvement in the time I spend waiting for work to export. Photoshop and InDesign documents are now taking longer than I’d like to save or export. And then we come to video. Until I started working with video, I had no idea of how demanding, even simple editing is on a Mac. Rendering and exports are such a waste of time for me currently. Typically, my videos are around 10 minutes long, shot in 4K and exported in H.264 format. How long do you think my iMac or current Intel MacBook takes to export that? Around 35 minutes! And more often than not, when watching back the video before uploading, I will see a few parts I want to tidy up, which means another export and another 35 minutes of sitting, waiting around. And, it is actually worse than that, as when exporting, virtually all the machine’s resources are being utilised on that task, meaning working on it, is virtually impossible. From what I understand, my export times could be cut down to around 5 minutes, which would just be astonishing.

As for the display, well, even though it has been met with a very mixed reaction, I am the absolute target for it! It was always going to be an Apple display, if at all possible, for me, and the Studio Display came along at just the right time. Yes, it’s a shame I will only get to use it for 50% of the time, but, as long as it is as good as the iMac display, I will be fine with that. The fact the camera and speakers are not quite what Apple promised them to be, matters little to me, being frank. The camera I will hardly, if ever use, and I have either, powered studio monitors or a HomePod Mini, so again the speakers won’t worry me at all either.

Conclusion

I have a feeling, I will be staggered at what I have been missing out on. I have never even used an M1 machine, so for my first dip in the world of Apple Silicon to be an M1 Max, and coming from a six-year-old Intel Mac, I am expecting big things! Likewise, I know, my workflow will hardly even touch the M1 Max, but I’d rather have years of headroom, than years of regret. Hopefully, in a months time I will be sitting writing this, on my new MacBook, wondering why on earth it took me so long. The wait, I feel, will have been worth it.

Have you tried Apple Silicon after years of being Intel? What was it like? I’d love to hear your stories, and make me feel convinced I have done the right thing!

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Originally published at https://www.talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on April 5, 2022.

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