Which Macbook Pro to use as a UI/UX Designer?

Hello everyone,

I’m contemplating about which Macbook Pro to get, since my old one from 2014 isn’t doing it for me anymore. I work in UI/UX design, which is what I am mostly gonna use it for. I probably wont do a lot of video editing - maybe some little clips I can add to case studies on behance or whatever, but no editing of entire movies - and also no crazy 3D stuff. Generally I probably need a MacBook that is fine with occasionally having multiple Adobe programs like XD, Illustrator and Photoshop running at the same time, as well as websites that might take up a lot of GPU/CPU. My current one is starting to get more and more overwhelmed with that, especially when I want to save documents.

There are the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips and maybe someone can tell me, what makes the most sense, because I don’t want to end up buying the M1 Pro and shortly afterwards realize that I should have went with the M1 Max. At the same time the M1 Max is “too good” and nit really necessary, so yea…maybe some can help :slight_smile:

Thank you so much in advance!

The most expensive you can afford.

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In this case it is not about which one I can afford, but which one i actually NEED. I can afford both, but I’d rather spend $800 less, if I don’t need the one that is $800 more.

Well, you just answered your own question.

I did not. The question is which Macbook I need for what I want to do, and not about how much money I want to spend. Me not wanting to spend $800 more if I don’t need to, is not about generally not wanting to spend that money, its about not wanting to waste(!) it. I want to spend it, if it makes sense!

Do you really need a Mac?
What software are you using? Is it Mac Specific?
If not - you can get a better PC for less.

You’ve given us a lot of info but haven’t really told us what you do - per see.

I’d be on the fence of ditching the expensive Macs.
But if you cannot ditch it for whatever you reason is then that’s fine.

But some context into your use and software requirements would help with your original query anyway.

The main uses are going to be prototyping with Adobe XD, editing pictures in Photoshop/Lightroom, as well as graphic design stuff in Illustrator - no mac specific software. At the same time, I’ll probably have multiple websites opened, that have large images on them and stuff, maybe Spotify is on…so I need the Macbook to be able to handle all of that at the same time. I also gotta make video calls and guide clients through the designs in Adobe XD and stuff. - Right now, it really slows my laptop down, if I have multiple programs running…

Regarding Mac: I know I can probably get other stuff cheaper, but I want to stick with Mac, since I’m also using there apple products and its just what I prefer, let’s say.

It’s really just about getting the right Macbook for what I’m using it for. I have no idea about about hardware, which is why I have no idea about if the M1 Max is like waaaay “too good” or if it makes sense to get it.

Thank you!

For what you’re doing - processor is not your main concern.
I’d go for the cheaper M1 chip - you won’t need the M1 Max.

But you will need probably a 1tb hard drive and minimum of 16gb RAM - or even 32gb RAM.

Adding RAM and larger SSDs to the Mac is very expensive.

But if I were you I’d go for the most RAM and the largest hard drive you can get.

Macs are not upgradable. What you buy is what you are stuck with.

How important is portability to you? Will you primarily use the machine as a desktop computer connected to an external display? If so, how often?

With me, for example, I’m connected to a couple of desktop displays about 90–95% of the time. However, that 5-10% when I’m not is when I’m running around here and there with my computer, so physical size becomes an issue. When I’m using it as a stand-alone machine, transporting it between jobs, taking it on a camping trip, or strapping it to my motorcycle, I need a computer with a display that’s big enough to comfortably use yet small enough to transport with minimal hassle. Add it all up, and the 14" Mac is perfect for me.

The perfect size for you is a different problem and one that only you can decide. If you’re using your machine without external monitors much of the time, I’d suggest the Mac with the larger monitor.

You mentioned UI/UX design, which doesn’t need the raw power that video or 3d work demands. Are you a gamer who needs an ultra-fast mac? I’m not a gamer, and I rarely do 3d or video editing, so if it were me, I’d probably choose the M1 Pro chip over the M1 Max. However, I haven’t thoroughly researched the difference.

As for memory, with the work you described, you can certainly get by with 16GB. That’s what I’m using right now, and it’s fine. However, I’d still likely increase the memory to 32GB on a new machine to help future-proof it for two or three years.

I don’t need a ton of storage in my computer since I only keep the essentials there and offload everything else to a removable drive, so I’d likely choose the 512GB model. Still, if you do things differently and don’t rely on an external drive, the 1TB is probably better.

Regarding cost, I’m on board with your thoughts. I spend nearly a third of my time tied to my computer, so even though I’m all for saving money, getting the machine I want and need trumps saving some cash. There are other computers cheaper than Macs, but if you don’t like the Windows OS and have a lot invested in workflow and the Mac ecosystem, saving a few hundred Euros/Pounds/Dollars/whatever is hardly a good bargain.

Are you going to use multiple screens? Max drives more than Pro.
M2 Pro should become an awesome chip.

Thank you very much. This was really helpful. Theres is one with the M1 Pro Chip that as 16GB RAM and the other version is the one with the M1 Max and 32 RAM, so I should probably go for that one.

Back in the days when I got my old one, I also went for some upgrades and it really served me well for many years.

Thank you very much!

Portability is important. I don’t connect external hard drives a lot, just on occasion and I also have an Airport thingy where I store stuff. I mostly don’t connect a display either and just use the laptop, so I’ll go for the 16’’ for sure. My old one is 14.6’’ and I don’t want to downgrade from that.

I think it might make sense to go with the M1 Max then, just to be 100% sure.

Yea, I haven’t used Windows in like 10 years an I’m not willing to get used to that again quite frankly haha it would be really inconvenient to change to windows again now, i’m so used to iOS

Thank you very much!

I don’t use multiple screens on a day to day basis. I’m gonna be fine with the 16’’ for now.

The M2 Pro is not our yet, right? Because I need to get the new laptop asap and can’t wait for a few months or so

If you’re doing ps work a lot and I suppose you will be doing ui and ux. The larger the hard drive the better for scratch disk space for PS.

I don’t thing 512 will cut it, that’s why I said minimum 1tb, but thinking again probably 2tb for future proofing.

With 16GB of internal storage space and when I’m working on, for example, a 20–30 MB Photoshop file and doing lots of retouching using lots of layers and masks. I’ll sometimes hit a slowdown where I wish I had more memory, but that’s an uncommon situation.

My biggest memory needs are when I have 20–40 FontLab or Glyphs files open at one time while performing interpolations between masters, but that’s not an issue for most designers.

I just checked, and after two years of using this Mac, I’ve filled up 188GB of the 500GB of available space in my internal drive. As I said, I only keep the essentials there and always have one or two external drives connected where all my working files reside.

If I added up all the data on those external drives and backups, I’d be closing in on half a petabyte. For me, storing files in my computer’s internal storage makes no sense because I’d fill it up in no time.

Not relying on it for anything other than apps, fonts, system files, etc., leaves plenty of space for scratch disk purposes. In those rare instances where I’m working on files that could benefit from even more scratch disk space, I’ll temporarily assign an external drive to the purpose.

As I said, I’d opt for 32GB for a new computer, and I might go for a 1TB internal drive if the price wasn’t much more. I’d probably never use the extra storage, other than for the rare scratch disk need or if I decided to jump into 3d or motion work. Everyone’s situation is different, though. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t need all the available options.

Specifically to the OP’s situation, UX/UI files are intentionally kept small — much smaller than needed print and well below the threshold of 32GB of memory.

Thanks a lot for elaborating. I’ll probably go for 1TB.

Your work definitely sounds more demanding for the laptop than mine does.

Can you (or anyone else) by any chance explain the difference between the following options that are available:

  1. Apple M1 Pro with 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine & 16GB unified memory

  2. Apple M1 Pro with 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine & 32GB unified memory

  3. Apple M1 Max with 10-core CPU, 24-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine & 32GB unified memory

  4. Apple M1 Max with 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine & 32GB unified memory

I get what difference the 32GB unified memory make compared to the 16GB, but would number 2 be enough for what I need then, or would 3 or 4 make more sense?? (In PS I usually don’t do any crazy stuff with like hundreds of layers or anything. More so a little retouching, but occasionally with RAW images, since I’m doing photography as well. But thats really secondary here. I’m not gonna be editing tons of pictures or anything)

Take a look at some speed studies online between Pro and Max.
They aren’t finding more than a few seconds difference when tested (the one I read they were comparing using Premiere.)

I’ve been using a Mac Mini 16gigs with a 1T SSD. I don’t know Adobe XD, but I work with some very LARGE format Photoshop files, multiple layers and effects, gigs in size (they don’t need to be, designers, sigh.) I also run Adobe Illustrator, Indesign, sometimes Excel and always have the internet on some website or 6. I also run onboard music through the Music App (I hate Spotify and all those streaming services, they need to pay the artists more…but that’s a different rant.) I used to have a 500gig drive on my old machine and it wasn’t enough for the software, plus Dropbox (don’t get me started on that!) plus the scratch you need for large photoshop stuff. I just wish I had the 32gig of ram. But mine is used as the prototype machine. We upgrade mine first and see what breaks. LOL.

I’m getting one of these, the Ultra, for my next work office unit.

Those words have to do with the chip’s architecture and basically equate to faster speeds for specific types of functions.

“Neural Engine” is Apple’s name for chip cores organized for neural processing, which is especially relevant to machine learning / artificial intelligence (AI) purposes.

Right now, these are future-oriented capabilities without much benefit for most purposes — at least until software companies integrate artificial intelligence capabilities into their applications. For today, last I read, Apple’s Neural Engine capabilities are mainly limited to Apple-specific purposes that use AI, such as facial/voice recognition.

Cores are more relevant to everyday use. Each core functions a bit like a mini-processor, which enables the larger processor to divide operations among those cores, with each of them, more or less, operating independently from the others. Multiple cores are significant for processor-intensive tasks, such as 3d rendering, since the CPU can work on several things simultaneously. For UI/UX (and most other design-related work), more cores are always better than fewer, but the difference between 10 and 16 might not be all that noticeable.

It’s a bit confusing from Apple here - they’ve put 2 different things into the same line.

The first 2 are the exact same - except no.2 has more RAM

3 and 4 are the same processor - just more cores in the GPU.

Here you have 2 processors to choose from.
And there really hasn’t been a significant difference in Benchmarking

The other thing is the GPU - 16/24/32
The more the better in this case.

And then you have the RAM
The more the better.

As you’re not doing heavy 3d or video work - then there’s no need to go highest on the GPU.

In the list - I’d go with No.2 for your workload.

And I think most agree that 32gb RAM and 1TB is a better option.

Wow - I just priced up what we’re talking about
and with a 16 inch screen


I priced up a 17 inch laptop with a processor higher rated on the Benchmark sites (slightly better)