Best Mac option for pre-press and a bit of design


I work at a university print shop and my boss is looking into getting new computers for myself and the lead pre-press/design person on the team. Specifically, he’s asked us to look into new Mac laptops. We are currently using a late 2013 iMac (2.7 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5, 16GB Memory) and a MacPro, the cylinder one that I don’t know specs for but it was a refurbished, respectively.

We use InDesign primarily to set up files for print in a mostly digital print environment (Ricoh digital printers). We do use Illustrator and Photoshop as well but not very consistently. Occasionally, I do some design from scratch as well but nothing too complex. The lead designer does a lot more involved design and pre-press work. For what I do, the iMac is okay but I do deal with the occasional slow down or lag.

The question is, should I go for the 14" $2499 MacBook Pro (10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD Storage) or the 14" $1999 MacBook Pro (8-Core CPU, 14-Core GPU, 16GB Unified Memory, 512GB SSD Storage) ?

Also looking at the new Mac Studio at $1999 (10-Core CPU, 24-Core GPU, 16-Core Neural Engine, 32GB unified memory, 512GB SSD storage). Of course, would need monitor, etc. for this one.

I’m not very tech savvy, but obviously the more memory, etc. the better. However, I don’t know that I need that much for what I do. Do you think the $1999 MacBook Pro is a good option or should I go for the more powerful machine if it’s in the budget?


I don’t think there are definitive answers to your questions since much depends on your work and how you like to work.

I’d never buy a laptop of any size without a large desktop monitor to go with it. A laptop will work just fine with the large desktop monitor and have the added benefit of portability. That being my view, I’d probably opt for the 14" MacBook Pro with a 32-inch 4K monitor or something similar.

The only things I keep on my computer’s SSD are apps, email, and random bits of this and that, so I do not need more than 512GB of computer storage space. Instead, I offload all my work files to a separate drive, which is backed up locally to a server.

I still get by on 16GB of memory, but if I were buying a new machine today, I’d opt for 32GB.

Of course, I don’t edit big video files or work in 3D applications, which are more demanding of both storage space and memory.

Another issue is portability vs. non-portability. Again, there’s no right or wrong choice, but that’s a first-cut choice to make. You’ll be paying extra for a laptop’s portability, so there’s no reason to consider a laptop if you don’t need that portability. You’d get more for your money buying the Mac Studio or even a Mac Mini.

I’m a Macintosh user myself, but I’ve noticed that other graphic designers who use Macintoshes tend to want the more expensive, higher-priced equipment when for most graphic design work, it’s just not necessary. Any Mac on the market — including an Air — will perform better than the 2013 iMac you’re using.

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Mac is in the process of changing over to the M1 chipset.
In a laptop, you can only get the 14" and 16" with the M1 at the moment.
If you are talking about the M1 Pro, and if you plan to actually do WORK on it, I’d go with a 16" and the 1TB storage.

I actually use an M1 Mac Mini when I work at home doing large format production work. And we just set up one work station here at work with one and it is just humming along with all the Adobe apps open and with AutoCAD and Fusion, so I’m impressed. It’s a 16gb ram with 2TB SSD. I’m not gonna say there haven’t been hiccups (we use microsoft office software and there was a bit of issue there, and some older printer units’ drivers had to be monkeyed around but all in all very pleased.

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Or like B said, get a larger monitor to hook in. I formerly had a macbook pro laptop at home for work and had a 27" monitor for it. No way I’m gonna do a 40’ thing on a 17" screen

Portability is not a huge thing for me. I believe my boss sees that as an advantage as we do have to work at a different site from time to time (but there are desktop computers there that we can use). I also don’t like working on laptops in general. But if I had no choice, I probably would go with 32GB memory and 512GB storage as we do use external hard drives and google drive with unlimited storage for projects. If I do have choice, however, I might pitch the Mac Studio with similar specs.

Thank you for your input!

I do agree with my learned online friends @Just-B and @PrintDriver

However, I would say if it’s the Mac with the M1 chip then go for the best you can get - as they are not upgradeable.

That is if you get 32gb of RAM that’s all you will ever have as it is not upgradeable.

I’d go full tonto and max out everything.

That’s just me.

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The Macs I’m looking at all have M1 chips, like you said 14" or 16". Perhaps 16" would be best if we go with a laptop given that I need all the screen I can get, for sure. And we do have to run Microsoft office from time to time (variable data on excel, for example).

I may just have to do that! If they’ll go for it, why not?

Just gonna say, the Studio is brand new as of last Friday. I usually give a machine a year on the market before considering it. I didn’t with the mini cuz we needed to play with an M1 as soon as we could for production reasons. And it was kept as a standalone machine, not part of the essential work flow. In an all-or-nothing environment, eeee, think hard on that

Good point. Definitely something to think about. Thanks for all the insight!

In terms of a business cost it’s relatively little for something that has about a 5-10 year lifespan.

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I’m just remembering the early iMacs that caught fire, LOL! (actually it wasn’t funny, my buddy had one that did that.)

Yeh had it happen to a co worker. In fairness he finished his typing before saving and getting the fire extinguisher.

At the time it was scary. But looking back it was hilarious.

Yeah, but have you ever been in the room when a laser cutter catches fire? Hahah.

As a matter of fact, yes. Not a bad one, but have had things flame up.