Which specifications are important?

At the moment I am using a late 2013 MacBook Pro 15 inch with a quad core intel i7 fitted with 16Gbytes of memory. For reference exporting a large test image file (see DxO DeepPRIME Processing Times - Google Sheets) with deep prime takes 287 seconds. So any new hardware should be much faster.

I no longer really need a laptop so have been considering either an upgraded the Mac Mini M2 Pro or the Mac Studio M1 Max. On first glance the M2 Pro appears cheaper and possibly faster (15-20%) but the base model only has 16 Gbytes of RAM and I have read on these forums that 32 Gbytes is probably the better choice for the long term. If I pay extra to add more memory to the M2 Pro the cost starts approaching the cost of the Studio. Also I have learnt that the M2 Pro runs much hotter than the Studio which has a superior cooling system. Lastly the Studio has more ports and an SD card reader.

I am uncertain as to the importance of the CPU/GPU core counts when it comes to image processing using PL6. The specs are as follows:

Mac Mini M2 Pro 10 cpu/16 gpu may be upgraded to 12cpu / 19 gpu for additional £300

Mac Studio M1 Max 10 cpu / 24 gpu which may be upgraded to 10 cpu / 32 gpu for an additional £200.

There is an implication in the specifications that GPU count is related to maximum amount of memory that may be fitted which suggests that there may be little point upgrading the Studio unless more memory is added at the same time.

I believe that Deep Prime is quickest when set to use the 16 core Neural Engine which is common to both machines but I have little idea how the other functions PL6 are improved by adding more cpu and or gpu cores.

Having typed the above I am leaning towards getting the Studio as I worry about the high temperatures in the MacMini which I fear may shorten the life of the machine.

Any insights or thoughts welcomed

best wishes

I purchased my M1 Mac Mini before the M2 processor was available in any machine at all. I picked it up refurbished and got a very good price, the limitation however was being able to select how much memory it had.

So I ended up with a M1 Mac Mini, 8Gb memory, 512Gb SSD, 8 core cpu, 8 core GPU, 16 core NPU.

I’m a professional photographer so use this machine daily for processing raw images. I’ve Nikon Z6ii cameras, which have a 24mp sensor. I use external Samsung SSDs for storing work that needs editing as this allows me to quickly unlug thre drive and take it with me and the laptop when out and about. Files backup automatically on the Mac to external backup drives when the Samsung drive is plugged in.

When editing in PL5 I typically also have Firefox (often with 10-15 tabs) and Apple Mail running, and sometimes Spotify.

When I updated my machine (from an old Intel Mini) I was using a 1920x1200 monitor and a 1920x1080 secondary monitor setup.

A few months later I updated this to a 4k main monitor and kept the 1920x1080 as the second screen.

I am very happy with the performance. PL5 & 6 have been very well optimised for Apple Silicon. The way these machines utilise memory does seem to be very differnt to how Intel/AMD processors use memory.

I do wish I’d got 16Gb of memory, but that is mostly to slightly ‘future proof’ the machine as we all know that as software progresses it [places higher demands on system hardware. However, for the past 2 years 8Gb memory has worked very well for me.

Is 32Gb memory worth it with Apple silicon - probably only if you are processing much larger files than 24mp (60mp + files), if you wish to run many more applications at the same time compared to myself, or you have other software that has very large memory demands.

The M2 Pro/Max have faster memory busses than the M1 so they can utilise the installed capacity even more quickly.

Expert time is very fast with DeepPrime, 3mins 5s for 32 images from my camera in an export I did just now. My machine uses the NPU for DeepPrime, but I suspect as the number of GPU cores increses at some point it becomes quicker to use the GPU for DeepPrime export (PL chooses which is fastest for you if it is set to ‘Auto’). This is just a hunch on my part, I don’t have evidence to back this up.

I’ve looked at the M2 Pro Mini as well and concluded that the base spec would be the most suitable for me. For me, the extra £300 for the small increase in CPU and GPU cores for the M2 Pro is not money well spent. But the jump from the M2 to the M2 Pro is money well spent.

I memntioned the spec of my monitor setup earlier for a reason. I did notice that the time taken to render an image on the sceen did increase when I switched to the 4k monitor - I now have to wait approx 1.5-2s for it to render. Rendering also takes a small amount of extra time longer after an adjustment is made to the image - approx. 0.5s (with the 1920x1200 monitor as my main screen, when moving to a new image or making an adjustment, rendering was instant - there was no wait time). I guess all those extra pixels need extra processing power.

When editing hundreds of images, each with many small adjustments then that extra time adds up.

Now, what I don’t know is if rendering those extra pixels more quikly requires more CPU or GPU power. Is it CPU power to process how the rendering is to be applied to the image (hmmm, logic suggests all the image was also rendered on the lower res screen and it was quicker, so maybe it isn’t CPU causing the delay), or is it GPU power to display all the extra pixels?

So my conclusion if I were to buy a new Mac Mini today, and using a 4k monitor:

M2 Pro (base spec processor)
16Gb memory
512/1Tb SSD

This would still be either £600/£400 cheaper (depending on SSD choice) than the base spec Studio.

Or I’d wait for a M2 Max Studio top be released (hopefully still at £2k) and spend the extra to get that!

Goodness, that’s a longer post that I expected. Hope it is of some help and doesn’t muddy matters more!

Edit: Basically I don’t find Apple’s pricing for upgrading the CPU/GPU or the memory for the Mac Mini Pro to be value for money. If I were to want to upgrade either of those then I’d just jump straight to buying the base spec Studio.

This is all just my opinion of course, other’s needs and views will vary :slight_smile:

Thank you for such a detailed response describing your experiences with your M1. Its great to know that any of the M range will work with PhotoLab.

Since my initial post I have watched a video by ArtisRight ( DXO PhotoLab & PureRAW M1 Pro & M1 Max MacBook Pro Benchmark - YouTube ) which is a test of an older version of PhotoLab together and also PureRaw. At the time of test PhotoLab used the CPU cores whereas PureRaw which I believe was optimised for Apple Silicon used the GPU cores. I think that PL6 now operates much as PureRaw and uses the GPU cores.

The video, mentioned above, makes a good case, as you do, for doing a cost benefit analysis before purchase. In the past I have tended to buy more capable machines and keep them for a long time but perhaps its wiser to buy cheaper machines and replace them more frequently say every other update. So this is all pointing me towards the base M2 Pro. Well until someone else reports that 32Gbytes is the absolute minimum memory required :wink: .

I do wonder if I’m over thinking things after all any of the current machines will leave my present machine for dust.

You mention waiting for a M2 Max Studio but some web sites are suggesting that it is unlikely to be released any time soon as it will clash with the soon to be released new M2 Ultra powered Mac Pro.

To many choices…

Having been ‘burnt’ twice by waiting for a product that either came at a much longer time cadence than previous releases had (Intel Mac Mini updates), or not at all (Nikon D400) I’m very much in the ‘if you need it, then get what is currently available and enjoy/benefit from it - unless the rumours are so strong that it does seem likely an update is imminent!’

So, I think we agree - waiting for a M2 Max Studio may be foolish at this point in time. It could be a very long wait.

BTW, PL 5 and 6 are 100% optimised for Apple Silicon. The first release of PL5 only had DeepPrime export optimised for their processors, but a mid-year update optimised the rest of the code too. After the code optimisation was completed for the entire app I’ve never had a memory issue with PL5, even with just 8Gb on my machine.

When it was optimised just for DeepPrime export I had to close and restart the app every once in a while as rthe swap file grew to a huge size and the entire app would slow down. A restart of the app would resolve this.

Since the code was 100% optimised I have never had to do this.

If you need more drive space - adding a thunderbolt 3/4 chassi from Acasis in combination with a good nvme disk will easy give 2700 MB/s in read and write.

Long thread but skip ahead to the latter parts.


I’ve bought a mac studio M1 Max end of last year that I returned because of the noise (I tried several ones… same issue each time - relatively loud fans & annoying whining noise).
I recently bought a mac mini M2 Pro with 32 Go RAM (10/16, not the 12/19) to replace it.

I also made some quick tests with my wife’s macbookair M1 (8 Go RAM).

I can’t compare the performance when using the soft (reactiveness and so on).
However, for export times, it’s pretty easy = all 3 of them were really close.

I don’t have huge files (20 MPix only) but it took around 6-7 seconds per file with the macbookair and around 5-6 seconds per file with the mac studio.
I concluded that most of the job (DeepPrime mostly) was done by the neural engine which is similar between m1 / m1 pro / m1 max (only the m1 ultra doubles the neural engine cores, but its pricing is not in the same league).

I expected a little better on my mac mini, same number of cores but faster.
But the result is mostly the same. (120 files in 10 minutes so 5 seconds per file).

My conclusion: for Photolab and DeepPrime with the current version, take the machine you want (m1 or m2, normal pro or max), export times won’t be so different.

I prefered the m2 pro mini over the m1 for the following reasons:

  • more cpu cores for lightroom
  • 32 Go instead of 24 Go max
  • more thunderbolts ports (4 vs. 2)

Talking about temperatures, yes the temperatures go pretty high when exporting a lot of files, but it doesn’t take long. I suppose that if stressed during a longer time, the fan speed would increase.

The Mac Studio is also a very good machine, I liked it a lot except for the irritating noise.
Not everyone hears the whistling noise though, and you probably know if you are easily irritated by whining noise.

I paid a little less for the mini m2 pro - cause I didn’t took the 12/19 CPU/GPU option - but not much.
I think the studio still beats the mini m2 pro if you need GPU a lot, but all the soft that rely on CPU or neural engine would be quicker on the mini.
The difference - from my point of view - would not be noticeable in real life.

To be honest, I think even a normal M2 with 16/24 Go RAM would be a pretty good machine to work with DxO.

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Regarding the whine from the Studio - here’s how to solve it :slight_smile:

I’ve read this, it didn’t work.
I spent hours and hours reading everything I could on the matter, it helped to tone it down a little bit, randomly, not always.
Apple support told me that I could test another one because mine could be defective, so I tried a second one, then a third one, and then I concluded that the best I could do for my sanity was to abandon this otherwise great computer.

Whining noise was not all, the fan are loud at the default level, however putting them at their mini speed with a specific software and putting the studio below the desk, it was acceptable.
(the mini is much quieter, though)

Thanks for all the replies. I followed the link that *Required posted and the whistle is really annoying, my guess is that its a combination of a resonant cavity and the fine exhaust holes on the rear.

Since my first post I have been monitoring the temperatures in my present machine and they ofter rise towards 100 deg c. My machine is now almost nine years old and these temperature peaks have not killed it yet, so perhaps Apple do know what they are doing (sometimes).

I think I’m leaning more towards the Mac Mini M2 Pro, it quieter, will be much faster than my old machine, its cheaper than the Mac Studio and is smaller. For my use I suspect that additional memory is nice to have rather than vital as every report I have seen suggests that Apple Silicon handles high values of memory pressure very well and I’m not sure that the cost of upgrade is worth it.

Problem with Apple is that you cannot upgrade.
So… you are pushed to take more than you need and they make you pay a lot of cash for these options that you don’t really know if they will be useful.

I think that any Apple Silicon machine would be a comfortable computer for photo editing (to put thing into perspective, until last week I used a 10 years PC without dedicated GPU so a DeepPrime export was 2’30" long for a 20 Mpix image).

They will probably update the studio at some time to get more performance margin from the mini m2 pro, but there’s always faster & better things coming anyway.

For my needs, the mini m2 pro was exactly was I expecting when they presented the studio last year, so I’m glad I returned the Studio and waited a little bit more.
Only thing I miss is the SD card reader and the front USB ports… but this is not so important.

OMG, a SD card reader and even just one USB port on the front of the Mac Mini - the dream! I would absolutely love that, but I think pigs might fly first…