Best MacBook for photographers iMore 2022
Every current MacBook now uses Apple silicon, including the two newest models, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. For photographers, we recommend the larger of the two. And yet, there are other possibilities worth considering, including those mentioned below. They're all on our list of the best MacBooks overall of the year.
- Best overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
- Best for mobility: 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
- Best Pro budget: 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1
- Best for student photographers: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
Best overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
For the professional photographer, there's nothing better than the second-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021), which was significantly improved over the first version, which launched in 2019 and is now discontinued. Like the all-new 14-inch MacBook Pro (mentioned below), this model offers either an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC with up to 64GB of unified memory and 8TB of SSD storage. That's a lot of storage for your photos and videos. In addition, you can get up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.
But there's much more. The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 by 2234 pixels) with ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. It's also packed with up to 21 hours of battery life between charges and comes with an all-new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with an advanced image signal processor and computational video.
The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook models (2021), some of the best MacBooks available, also see the return of MagSafe, HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot, besides its three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports. If you're looking for any negatives, understand this is the heaviest MacBook Pro in many years (4.7 pounds). It's also costly, even at the base level.
- Latest and greatest
- M1 Pro or M1 Max, you decide
- 16GB to 64GB of unified memory
- 512GB to 8TB of storage
- A Liquid Retina XDR display
- Most expensive model
- Heavy (4.7 lbs)
Best for mobility: 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
This is the laptop for you if you want everything on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but with a smaller display. It offers the same internals as the larger model for a little less.
For those looking for a MacBook Pro and on a budget, you might want to consider the 13-inch model instead. It's a year older and offers a slightly smaller display. And yet, it still comes with Apple silicon. It's also the final MacBook Pro to provide a Touch Bar.
- Liquid Retina XDR display
- Same great features as the 16-inch model
- Still expensive
Best Pro budget: 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1
The 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020), alongside the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) (see below), were the first two MacBooks to switch to Apple silicon in 2020. This model features an 8-core M1 chip, which means there are four cores for performance and the rest for power efficiency. With it, you get a 2560x1600 resolution Retina display, up to 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage.
The only significant difference between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air is that the Pro has a Touch Bar with Touch ID, and battery life is around 20 hours (versus 18 hours with the Air). So, if you don't necessarily care for the Touch Bar or think that two hours of battery life makes that much difference, you can save some money and get a MacBook Air with M1 instead. Keep in mind that the Pro also has fans to prevent overheating (the Air is fanless), which is helpful if you plan to do resource-intensive work.
Note: Apple's likely to replace or retire the 13-inch MacBook Pro before the end of 2022. This means you should be able to find great discounts on this model right now. (It also means you might want to reconsider buying this product).
- Has Apple M1 SoC
- Touch Bar with Touch ID
- 20-hour battery life
- Retina display
- Scissor-switch keyboard
- Not much different from MacBook Air with M1
- Maxes out at 16GB RAM
- Only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
Best for student photographers: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
The MacBook Air with M1 features Apple's M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which has the CPU, GPU, RAM, and T2 combined into a single processor chip. The base model MacBook Air features an 8-core M1 chip with four performance cores and four efficiency cores.
Even though the MacBook Air is the cheapest MacBook, you aren't missing out on any features. The MacBook Air with M1 still has a Retina display at 2560x1600 resolution at 227 pixels per inch (PPI) and Touch ID. It also includes the much-improved scissor-switch keyboard, and it's still thin enough to fit inside a manila envelope.
Although the MacBook Air remains our favorite MacBook for most people, it's starting to get a bit long in the tooth and is likely to get replaced in the coming months.
- Most affordable MacBook
- Long-lasting battery life
- Has scissor-switch keyboard
- Only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
- RAM caps out at 16GB
- A 2022 model is almost certainly coming
The best for most is the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
The 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) is the best MacBook for professional photographers. It offers blazing fast internals thanks to your choice of the M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC. Both have been optimized for performance and efficiency. The model also offers up to 8GB of storage and 64GB of unified memory.
Add in the fact that you get up to 21 hours of battery life and a sharp Liquid Retina XDR display, and it's all here. It's the best MacBook Pro model you can currently find on the market. It doesn't come cheap, however, which is something to keep in mind.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Here's currently using a 14-inch MacBook Pro. @bryanmwolfe
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