Is There a Low-End MacBook for Photographers?

Apple don’t have a flagship product at the low end, so which one should you pick?

The MacBook Air took over the MacBook’s place in a DVD-less decision that divided opinions. It wasn’t a low-end machine, just a low-end Apple product. As a result, it wasn’t a bad option for photographers.

Wasim Ahmad lamented the lack of MacBook Air upgrades last year (although saying that it was at least the only one left with an SD card slot). While he hasn’t been granted his wishes, the Air is finally back. Unfortunately, we’ve sort of replaced it already, so it’s a little late to the party.

The Choices

The new MacBook Air comes in at $1,200. Then the MacBook at $1,300. Finally, the MacBook Pro starts at $1,300 (without a Touchbar). Confused? We all are.

At first, I guessed that the MacBook would be killed off. Our beloved MacBook Air was here to save the day, right? However, it turns out that the MacBook Air is actually thicker than the MacBook at its thickest point. So will the MacBook Air be retired again?

Imagine the conversation at your local Apple store. “I’d like a thin, cheaper laptop please” will be replied with “which one?” There's just too many minute details to comb over, and it's going to depend on that specific person's needs.

Minor Details

At this point, I’d recommend avoiding the MacBook. It doesn’t have any Thunderbolt 3 ports, inexplicably only has a 480p camera, and a smaller battery. Still, it’s the lightest and thinnest of the three (though it has a smaller screen). As an alternative to an iPad Pro (which is another encroaching product category), the MacBook would make a decent laptop. I just don’t imagine photographers will want to cheap out on the cheapest MacBooks available. I’m with Luke Larsen from Digital Trends; this can’t last.

Are you thinking about buying one of these options? Let us know your thoughts.

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44 Comments

Previous comments
olivier borgognon's picture

No, not sensitive seriously and not playing the victim card, just asking for basic discussions without needing to prove someone wrong or being sarcastic when someone says something.

I did take it a bit roughly, maybe a bit much, looking back, but that being said... for what it's worth... the definition of harassment is not what we do, it's how the person receives it. Again, I'm not stating this is harassment, not at all, but it reminds us of the importance, when we write, of the receiving end of things.

Just asking to stick to a point, with a basic netiquette, why shout (sentences in uppercase), why sarcasm on the cloud simply. If your comment was global it would make sense, but it was not, it was in response of my own comment.

My comment on the life statement was more generic (this is why I mentioned "anyone").

Now back to the point of the cloud, which is what we're more interested in

Let's not forget we are just having a chat on something we have absolutely no control on, products from a private company, creating products and generating craving needs from users, as any great marketer would do.

The thing is, on this specific topic of security, whoever it's from (and security elements such as ID/retina scan to unlock phones), people are giving out their soul for sake of laziness.

Now for cloud, it's simply storage. We can store in storage boxes (unsure how it's called in the US, those huge hangars with storing blocks), and cloud is just an evolutive concept of the same thing. Space rental.

The question is more, in my humble opinion, what we store in there than the fact of using a cloud based storage.

(You could rent a hammock hotel bed under the Brooklyn bridge if you owned it, that's a really cool concept by the way :D).

Studio 403's picture

I hope Adobe is not sold to apple. This reminds me when Mercedes Benz bought Chrysler. A train wreck

You don't get a low-end Macbook because you never told Apple "no". As fanboys, you always justified Apple's high prices instead of telling Apple "Hey, this is getting out of hand". Apple can just plop out whatever they want and the community just eats it up.

olivier borgognon's picture

let's not be rude to people online here if I may say. It's not because someone has a point of view (different than yours maybe, or not) about a product or a machine they are using (and are happy with) that they are Fanboys, just like you're not a PC/Microsoft Fanboy, you're just a user, happy with the tools you're getting and with the whole experience.

Linux users on Ubuntu or suse, debian or others would smash others apart too in that sense.

let's be kind ?

Studio 403's picture

Proud to be a fan/boy, but I "ain't" stupid either

Martin Peterdamm's picture

it is 2018. when you look at the industry and not only what apple provides, then you might realise that apple has build a hughe paywall for performant systems. If you are a creative / photographer who needs some "omph" for getting things done, the etry fee is around 3000 bucks (15/1tb because 2018) or 5k for an I mac pro. everything else is just to slow in 2018 in a world with relly fast and non thermal throttling pcs for less than half the price. this was different until they started to glue everything together. before they offered comparable performance for a okish price.
and buying a mac mini 6c/12T and then have to buy a external gpu ... seriously.
the reality is that the creative business is often not so well paid, especially when you start out - for these apple become a no option. this is sad. apple become a company for the "pc guy" (remember the ads) the one who is doing spreadsheets and writing reports , accounting, ... .
I wouldn't be wondering when they drop fcpx and logic in the future, because they demand computers apple don't like to build.

Tony Clark's picture

As a photographer, I'm looking at the performance aspect of a laptop and then the display. I would not buy anything with an i5 processor or just 8GB of RAM. The upgrades for processor and RAM pushes the price up to MBP levels. The new iPad Pro may evolve into an option but it cannot drive an external display for when I shoot Commercial projects let alone tether a camera to Capture One.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

They don't even allow a processor upgrade on the new Macbook Air!

Tony Clark's picture

Which confirms that I would not even consider it.

Matthew Saville's picture

Best "low-end" Macbook for photographers on a budget: A 2-3 year-old, tricked-out Macbook Pro. Or a PC. :-P

Personally, I never buy brand-new Apple products. I've been buying 2-4 year old Macbooks and MBP's for 10+ years, and have never had any problems. Always get a screaming deal, and the computers despite their age still manage to outlive the various PC's I've also used at the same time...

So my first point is, be it Apple or PC is not a fu***ng religion, its a tool. I have been a PC user for 25 years and have always invested in well spec'ed systems and they have served me well. Far too often I have heard people moaning about their 3 year old really cheap pc and how amazing their £2000 MBP is.... There was a time in my view the MacBook pro's were good hardware, with good support at a premium price. Now I believe they are average hardware with built in obsolescence (non upgradeable ram and ssd) and poor support...

I think there is very little difference between OSX and win 10, they just have different was of doing things with all the tips and tricks that go with it..

I have been using Lenovo Thinkpad's for 15 years now and they just keep going.. I have just invested in a new Lenovo P1 with a 6 core xeon E-2176 64gb ram, Quadro p2000 and 2tb storage. This came in £1000 less than the best spec'ed MBP and comes with 3 years onsite world wide warranty...

So if you do go the mac route, you are paying 20% to be trapped into their ecosystem.

The ipad pro is going to be interesting. The CPU benchmarks are impressive, however the GPU performance and only 6gb of ram may limit what you really can do with photoshop. With no access to external hard drives in my view is going to be a major stumbling block. However the battery life will make it very useful for many things.

trapped in the sense of proprietary technology with poor cross platform compatibility.
GPU performance on Geekbench 42038 where my laptop is 78854

The way IOS uses ram is the same way as everything ells that require computation, there are just no apps that require large amounts. If its not in ram it will page it to storage, this is slow and latent. In Photoshop, big files with lots of adjustment layers will challenge the ram limits.

Apple have said the USB C port will not support external hard drives...

ken weil's picture

Boy did you get That wrong. You said all 3 were within 100 of each other and yet you said the new MBP 13 had a quad core. It does, starting at 1799. The dual core is 1299 but thats last years.

Stephen Kampff's picture

I suspect Luke Larsen edited out part of the video and left that in, or just forgot that the non-touchbar MBP isn't a quad core machine.