Basic 14″ Macbook Pro vs. Basic Mac Studio

TL; DR: Considering my first Mac because I want to try an M1 and I want FCP. Debating between a Mac Studio (Base) that has the extra RAM (32GB) that I’d like and a MacBook Pro 14 Base that’s a full-featured computer (including a great display I’d benefit from for HDR editing) but doesn’t only has 16 GB of RAM. I want either device to last me at least 4 years.

Hi all

This is probably going to be long with a lot of facets, so bear with me.

I’ve been PC Guy all my life. I never had a Mac, I never wanted one. I do, however, have other Apple products that I can’t imagine living without now (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch.) Ever since the introduction of the M1 series, I’ve been curious about a Mac. The main reason is that I want to try Final Cut Pro. I kept hoping it would come to the iPad, but it doesn’t seem likely. I tried using LumaFusion but I think it only works really well for shorter projects. (I recently tried editing a longer project in LumaFusion and one place I really didn’t like the experience is organizing and renaming media.)

It’s important to keep in mind my usage for editing: my videos are strictly the editing of my family’s home videos. We have 2 young children and I take lots of extra videos of them when we go on vacation. Video editing is something I really enjoy, but it’s 100% a hobby and it will always be a hobby. Even still, I like to think about it and work on it to try to make it halfway entertaining. The videos I use come strictly from iPhone cameras, and currently it’s 13 PRO that I shoot in 4K HDR/30. (HDR will come into play for some of my decision making in a moment.) I have a 6 year old PC I built with a 1070 GTX card and 32GB of RAM. I’m using a – less than legal – version of Premiere Pro and (strange as it sounds) I’d be really good to BUY some quality software like FCP because I refuse to do the Adobe subscription. (I know there’s also Da Vinci Resolve but I think that’s just too overdone and complicated for me.) I also honestly really want to try FCP.

When I first had this “in my head” (as my wife would say), I thought I’d be happy with a Mac Mini with 16GB of RAM. I have no doubt that it would serve my needs well for a while. I actually bought an 8GB Mac Mini Base just to try out the general macOS as well as the free version of FCP. I haven’t played around with FCP too much because I keep obsessing and researching, but even the base model looks good. I’m currently on it writing this. But from what little I’ve used the OS itself and FCP, it seems fine.

But I’m also a tech guy at heart and wonder if I’d be “happy” with it or want to upgrade in a year or two. (I have enough Apple devices for my wife to let me upgrade.) For the past week or two, I’ve been thinking about investing a bit more and getting the base Mac Studio model. It’s way too much for me BUT I know it would help it last a long time before I want/need to replace it. I hope a Base Mac Studio will last me at least 4 years.

For the Mac Mini or Studio I have my own MX and MX Master 3 keys which allow me to pair with the Mac Mini/Studio without issue and allow me to switch between them and my PC at the push of a button so it’s ‘is good. I was excited at first that “everything” I would need was either the Mac Mini or the Studio and nothing else. I recently got 2 new monitors but they are not very high end and barely 400HDR. They work great for my day-to-day needs, but they’re definitely not “good” HDR displays. On my Windows PC, I don’t even bother to enable HDR. (Enable it for Mac OS, though I doubt it will do much.)

As I mentioned above, I edit home videos, and more recently I now shoot in 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and would also like to edit (and view) my content in HDR/DV. So that got me thinking that if I say my budget is around $2,000, I might be better off with a base model 14-inch MacBook Pro. This is (finally) what I would like your opinion on. I don’t “need” a laptop as most of my work would be at a desk…but at the same time, I wouldn’t mind. I have an iPad Pro with the MK and love having it at my desk in front of my MX keyboard just to quickly check on non-work things during the day. (I still work from home.) The MacBook could replace my iPad as a secondary computer for my personal business during the day. I would still keep my iPad.

At this point, I’d say the Mac Mini is out of the game. I know myself and I just want more immediately. (Even though I don’t “need” it.)

The base model of Mac Studio is more powerful and has more RAM. I admit that the 32GB RAM is more appealing to me than the Base M1 Max. The one thing I know for sure is that ANY M1 would suit my needs, be it the Base M1, the Pro, or of course the MAX that came with the Mac Studio.

The big advantage of the MacBook Pro is that it comes with a great built-in display which of course would be great for the HDR videos I want to do/edit. The only real downside is the 16 GB of RAM. I don’t know if I could convince my wife to accept the $400 upgrade to double it.

I think it boils down to whether I want the extra RAM in the base Mac Studio or the display (and the fact that it’s a standalone computer) in the MacBook Pro.)

I also really like the Magic Trackpad and I’m thinking of buying one for the Mac Studio, which increases the price. If I had a MacBook, that wouldn’t be a problem of course. Another point for the MacBook is that I like the idea of ​​it all being a single unit to complete the experience. I won’t need an external monitor or keyboard or anything. I think this might end up being a better experience for my first Mac.

So this is either a full $2000 laptop with just 16GB of RAM or a very powerful $2000 laptop where I’ll be using my lower quality monitor to edit HDR video. (Can you even edit/scale HDR colors with a monitor that can’t really support it? I’m still new to HDR video editing.)

Thanks for the reading!

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Steven L. Nielsen