Recommendation needed for new MacBook (Air or Pro?)


I hope this is not a double post. I checked the forum and couldn’t find any such topic.

As I want to replace my PC (Win 8.1, 2014 built, Intel i5 32. Ghz, 4 GB RAM) with a MacBook I need your help.

In early 2023 I like to replace my PC with a MacBook, and I intend to get one of those:

  • MacBook Air M2 2022 13’’, 10 Core GPU, 24 GB RAM, or
  • MacBook Pro M2 2022 13’’, 10 Core GPU, 24 GB RAM

I will attach an Apple Studio Display to that in any case.

My current PC does a good job with working on photos. As photography is a pure hobby (some pictures per month and some hundreds each couple of months after a vacation), I need no high end full-time photographer equipment.

I have a Canon EOS R at that time and intend to get the R3 at some point in the next years. It is possible (but not likely) that I go for a camera with higher resolution (like R5).

I use Photolab 4 with Nik Collection and will upgrade to PL5 along with the new MacBook.

All photos are on external SSD and I will keep it that way.

Also, it happens (from time to time, not frequently) that I do low light photos which are then subject to deep prime.

The max. numbers of photos that I convert from RAW (.cr3) to JPEG or TIFF at one time is around 500 (again, that doesn’t happen too often).

I do not do video or larger photo editing other than DXO (with all pictures on external SSD).

Now, which MacBook is the right one? I anticipate that both would do the job, so I cannot do much wrong with either of them. The Pro 14’’ (I have heard that it may come in late 2022 with M2) is not an option.

Many thanks for your thoughts!

I have a quite similar situation and happily use PL5 on a 2020 M1 MacBook Pro 13" with only 16GB of RAM. I’m trying to remember, but I think it was PL5 that (in a later build?) introduced an Apple Silicon native version which made a substantial difference to performance.

My camera is 24 Mpix and at times I have done >200 images in one ‘session’ (not one ‘sitting’!) Exporting that many at once, all with DeepPRIME is not fast, but I just go off and do something else while it churns through. It used to take a lot longer on a low end Intel 13" MacBook Pro with earlier PL versions. (And even then, it wasn’t really a problem for me.)

I think the hardware specs of the two machines you have in your list are very comparable and very suitable for Photolab. The main difference in terms of performance is the lack of an active cooling system in the Macbook Air. I have a Macbook Air M1 (also without active cooling system) and have very similar requirements to yours. For image editing in Photolab 5, I do not see a disadvantage of the lack of the cooling system. However, when you export a larger number (>~ 50) of images with Deep Prime, I think thermal throttling is slightly limiting the performance and export times are a bit longer (maybe 20% longer) than I would expect for the Macbook Pro with active cooling system. In general, export times are pretty fast when you apply the neural engine (~4-5 s / image for images with 20 MPix with Deep Prime activated). As the M2 has a much faster neural engine (~40% faster), it should be even faster.
Conclusion: When you can live with the slightly longer export times for large image batches, I would base my decision on other factors than pure performance, e.g. display size, design, quality of the webcam, touch bar, personal taste, connectors, notch, … I think for these factors the Macbook Air has a more recent design, but not everyone likes it…

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Just one addition: To my (limited) knowledge, Photolab 5 for MAC does not utilize the GPU of your system. You may therefore consider to save some bucks and go for the model with only 8 GPU cores. Due to thermal constraints of the Macbook Air M2, it seems that the advantage of the 10 core GPU is limited:


Check the ports and if you want a fan or not.

I’ve got a 2020 M1 MB Air (8CPU, 8GPU, 16GB, 1TB), which is absolutely silent and handles my needs at least as good as my 8-core Intel iMac.


Now that’s what I call quick and helpful replies. Many thanks so far.

@Chris43: great article to read. I will definitely consider that.

I have now been to the Apple store in my city. I have to admit I now tend to the MacBook Pro 14‘‘. Looking at the pricing, the screen, the ports, I think I favor this one as of today. I will wait for the 2022 update on that machine. With 32GB RAM in the smallest Pro version it is only 500 CHF above the Air/Pro 13’‘. Luckily, I have time. But I think that 14’’ MB Pro should even in its smallest version with 32 GB RAM be quicker than the other 2 MB I have looked at so far.

I now made the final decision which device to take:

MacBook Pro 14´´ (2023), M2 chip, 10‑Core CPU, 16‑Core GPU, 16‑Core Neural Engine, 32GB RAM, 1 or 2TB SSD

That should work under all potential future options I go (video is something I exclude as such option).

I am curious to know how you feel about your decision now that several months have passed.


All the equipment works perfect. It was a good choice. I also upgraded to the Canon R5, so the pics have much more size compared to the R. But the MacBook handles this fine. I am now using Lightroom CC instead of PL6. Works all good. The Studio Display was an excellent choice. Love it. The MacBook is also very silent. The fan only jumps on if I denoise plenty pictures at once, but that is not happening too often. And even then it really is kind of quite and it shuts down the fan right after denoising.

I also bought the CalDigit TS4 for handling all the external SSD, the CF express card reader (Angelbird) and stuff. Great choice as well. Works super. Even the Studio Display is attached to it.

When out of my home office, I use the MacBook, take the card reader with me, the Apple mouse, a usb adapter for the ssd and the 96w charger. All great set up and choice.

So, I bought what is perfect for my requirements. Works all faultless and makes fun. If I would have to choose again, I would buy again the same equipment. But I would not take less. I would recommend this set up or even more (which is then a nice to have, but not a must have).

I really appreciate your input. I’m torn between a MBP M2 Pro or a Mac Mini M2 Pro with a good display. Both have pros and cons and cost about the same if you consider the entire system.

Apple is not making it easy to select from all the great products to choose from :sweat_smile:

That’s right. But in any case it is good to see that this stuff always works. Never want to go back to a PC.

I thought about MacBook or a desktop Mac as well, but very quickly went to the MacBook which was the right choice. I don’t take it that often with me, but when on vacation, I enjoy working on the pics right on that day when I shot them. I do not wish to go back to the times when I came home from vacation and had to work on like 700 pics at once. Taking the MacBook plus Studio Display paid out for me definitely. Plus, it is better to take the MacBook and figure out that a Mac would have done it as well compared to the opposite way. Only taking the MacBook with me once or twice a year was enough to go for the mobile Mac. Costs for the Studio Display on top are high, but that one is really good. And no configuration problems or so. All Apple, all works. And the price for the display is “only” corresponding to one good lens.

We’re talking about working with photos.
→ Go for the setup with the larger (both number of pixels and physical size) screen, as long as colour spaces are comparable.

→ Working solely on a notebook screen is considered to be bad for your health because the position of the hands/arms/head is fairly fixed. Some countries do have corresponding regulations against that for work!

@Hummel @platypus I hear both of you! My current reasoning is that the MacBook allows me to do strictly more things than the Mini. I could buy the MacBook now, save some money and later buy a good display to dock the laptop into.

I’m a bit worried though that I will get less computing power with the MacBook than the Mini, but maybe that is an old way of thinking: portable vs stationary? Has the M-line eliminated that distinction?

This site might answer your questions:

Pretty much, yes it has. The only real difference between equally specified systems is a MacBook Air has no active cooling so will throttle sooner under heavy load.

The main distinction between the various MacBooks is the GPU capacity. I found that the M2 Air didn’t render previews sufficiently quickly with PL6, to my regret. The M1 Max or M2 Max do the job. I haven’t tried PL7 on the M2 Air, however.

It’s all relative. Compared to my prior Intel system, my “slowest of all time” original 2020 M1 MacBook Pro is perfectly usable for me.

Wow! The numbers reported there are extremely similar between the MBP and Mini with the same processors! Where they differ, the MBP is even slightly ahead!

It seems like my assumptions were as outdated as it gets.

Can you elaborate on this? Previews with edits enabled? I currently use an old MacBook Pro 2015 on which I have to edit with noise reduction turned off. Is it possible to edit with it turned on and get live previews on the M-systems? :exploding_head: