December 20, 2016
review

The New MacBook Pro: The Complete Filmmaker Review

Apple has released a majorly redesigned MacBook Pro, and we put it through in-depth testing to see how it holds up for filmmaker needs.

The MacBook Pro has been a mainstay for filmmakers, so for this review, we’ve decided to compare the new 15” MacBook Pro (nMBP), specced to the maximum, for a retail value of $3950, against a 15” 2013 MacBook Pro (oMBP), specced to the max, available at launch for $2700, purchased used refurbished for a little under $2000. The oMBP is a workhorse of the film industry. Feature films have been edited and (yes, really) color graded on it; countless blog posts, screenplays, and novels have been written on it. It’s everywhere.

Apple is hoping to hold on to that ubiquity with the new MacBook Pro, even including a presentation from the Final Cut Pro team and from Adobe at the launch event. But does it stack up against the machine that has come to so heavily dominate the world of filmmaking?

There are some design decisions that are frankly kind of surprising, and filmmakers should think long and hard as to whether the upgrade is worth the cost.

It is a beautiful box.Credit: Apple

Overview

The main reason the oMBP took off in the way it did was the dual graphics cards. In order to power the Retina display, Apple designed the Retina 15” MacBook Pro to have both a mobile graphics card (originally an Nvidia, then an AMD) and integrated graphics (Intel iris). To save battery power, it would use the real mobile card when plugged into power, and the integrated graphics when on battery power. However, smart programmers immediately took advantage of the horsepower and designed programs that would use the integrated graphics card to power the GUI on screen display even while plugged in to wall power, and use the real graphics card (in the 2013, an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M—M standing for mobile) for graphics processing power. All of the sudden, you could run DaVinci Resolve and other GPU heavy programs on a laptop, as long as you kept it plugged in to wall power.

With the increasing focus on powerful GPUs in mobile workstations, the area of "on set mobile video processing powerhouse" is about to become a battleground, with Apple the current market leader hoping to hold on to their place at the top. With its 4GB of maximum video RAM, ultra fast Thunderbolt 3 port, and redesigned cooling system, the new Macbook Pro looks poised to stay on top, but there are some design decisions that are frankly kind of surprising, and filmmakers should think long and hard as to whether the upgrade is worth the cost.

Size

Old and New side by side, ever so slightly thinner.Credit: No Film School

While the physical size of the oMBP already thin, having abandoned the internal disc drive in 2011, the nMBP managed to be even thinner, as can be seen in the side-by-side photo. However, it weighs in roughly the same, and “feels” the same size, more or less. It doesn’t feel very dramatic going from the oMBP to the nMBP, unlike, say, switching between an Air and a Pro. It is still a "substantial" feeling machine (not like the old 17", but way more than an Air), and sits comfortably on a desk without slipping and sliding.

Old and New Side by SideCredit: NFS

Speed

The first thing you notice about the nMBP is that it doesn’t feel any faster. That’s OK, though, since computers seldom “feel” noticeably faster than the previous generation anymore. Most of the touch points, the on screen GUI interface, the responsiveness to typing, don’t tend to lag, so “feel” isn’t huge. However, considering the price in this case, we really do expect it to feel snappier. The machine starts up nearly immediately, but so did the 2013. It runs a 2.9Ghz Core i7, which just isn't that much faster than the 2.3Ghz Core i7 in the 2013, so processing isn't going to be that much faster. It is still limited to 16GB of RAM, which Phil Schiller discussed in an interview was to ensure the longest possible battery life.

The 16 GB RAM limitation is the first hint that this machine might not be the best choice for filmmakers. 

The 16 GB RAM limitation is the first hint that this machine might not be the best choice for filmmakers. Traditionally, the first thing you do when buying a Mac is to get the lowest RAM you can from the Apple store (since their RAM is so expensive) and buy the most RAM you can afford at another retailer. RAM is vital for filmmakers working with and manipulating big video files. We also don't tend to worry too much about battery life on our laptops. Unlike an iPad or iPhone, which lives on its battery all day, the "mobile" beauty of a laptop isn't about battery life but the portability of power.

The "pro" mobile gives you better performance on wall power, and when they are used on a film set there is almost always a power source available. Few filmmakers will be editing features while sitting on a rock in the mountains miles from power (even this amazing filmmaker wasn't trying to edit in the wild). What we want is to have a powerful machine we can carry with us to different sets and offices (and even in transit on planes or trains), and plug in while we're there. So, limiting to 16GB for battery life is very frustrating, since you can't update these machines later; You're stuck with a likely insufficient amount of memory.

You won't be able to install any upgrades like this in the new Macbook ProCredit: Other World Computing

Real-world speed tests

In order to test real world situations and see how the machine actually responds to common filmmaker uses, we set up projects in both Premiere and Resolve, using a variety of H.264, ProRes, and RED RAW files. We worked with both files on the internal SSD, and also with files on external drives, both common situations for filmmakers. While it’s hard to put a number on the "feeling" of snappiness, and both our older 2013 and the newer 2016 felt "snappy" with the ProRes and H.264 footage, one thing that is easy to measure is render time, and most creatives working with video spend a lot of time watching the render progress bar. Filmmakers regularly buy new machines and hardware just to speed that render up—if you can save yourself an hour every day of waiting on render, that's a tremendous amount of your life you can get back.

Note that we considered testing FCPX, especially since Apple is famous for its tight software/hardware integration, but chose not to. While the 10.3 release is a major upgrade, and FCPX seems to be gaining ground with the pro market that it lost, it's still just not that common a professional tool anymore. Premiere and Resolve have a real hold on indie workflows at the moment, and testing how those tools perform on this hardware made the most sense. Potentially you could get better performance by switching to FCPX, but most filmmakers don't want to make their color and NLE decisions based on hardware.

Premiere speed test

With Premiere, we set up two timelines. The first one was using exclusively ProRes and H.264 media on the internal SSD, designed to replicate quick run-gun situations, or web-based workflows where you download media, work on it, and upload it back all from within one machine. The second was a more typical setup for longer projects, with a combination of H.264, ProRes and RED RAW media on an external hard drive (a CalDigit Tuff drive). We then performed identical functions on each machine, using the newest version of Premiere CC 2017 and Resolve 12.5.4.

Caldigit Tuff was perfect for the tests with native connectors for new and old USBCredit: Caldigit

The worst performance from the new MacBook Pro was surprisingly from the internal SSD. Working on a Premiere project off internal media, encoding to H.264 right back to that internal media, the export time for our sample project on both the 2013 and 2016 were identical at 2:35. This is in line with the results gathered by other testers (such as digilloyd, who has been thorough in testing every aspect of the 2016 macbook pro before deciding to return his) where CPU-heavy activities aren't any faster at all, and in some cases are slower, with the 2016 model than they are in earlier generations.

CPU-heavy activities aren't any faster at all, and in some cases are slower, with the 2016 model.

There have also been some reports that performance decreases over time; as you repeat the same heavy processing activity over and over, performance goes down, which could indicate a software bug or perhaps Apple throttling speed in order to keep the device cool. While we didn't notice that frustration in our testing, that is more likely to be a headache for photographers applying the same filter or process over and over in Lightroom than it is to be an annoyance for filmmakers. One thing we did notice was that the temperature (measured with our trusty Kingtop) was surprisingly consistent generation to generation. The 2013 machine hit around 119° when rendering, and the new machine hit around 113°.  The older machine's charger got much hotter at 135° compared to the 124° with the new machine, but that is likely at least partially due to its age.

The New Charger stayed slightly cooler than the old one.Credit: NoFilmSchool
If your job requires a lot of H.264 encoding out of Premiere, working with exclusive ProRes and H.264 media, and frequently writing from or to (or both) the internal drive, it appears the 2013 and 2016 are identical machines for your purposes. The new one was occasionally even faster, though seldom more than a second or two, and not enough to matter critically.

Where the 2016 machine really shines is with RED RAW .r3d files.

Where the 2016 machine really shines is with RED RAW .r3d files. We downloaded sample files from the RED site to be sure we had the newest .r3d format files in a mix of 6K and 8K. We then made a mixed format timeline with .r3d, ProRes and H.264. Renders out of Premiere were about 30% faster with the new machine, with a render that was 11 or 11:30 on the old machine coming in at 7:59 or 8:02 on the new machine. If you are working with RED media, this is a tremendous speed bump, and something to strongly consider. 

Sample .r3d files to download.Credit: red

Resolve speed test

Resolve showed even better results, with a render that the 2013 machine took 4:48 to accomplish flying out of the 2016 machine in 2:28. Shots that would play at 2-3fps (full resolution) on the 2013 machine would play consistently at 6fps on the new machine. Instead of having to lower the resolution to 1/8 res to get full framerate playback, 1/4 resolution worked, though not consistently and it would of course slow down again if complicated effects were applied. 

This is hands down the strongest argument in favor of the 2016 machine. If you are a colorist using your MacBook Pro as your main machine (and we know there are a lot of you out there), working as a DIT on set cranking out .r3d dailies, or doing other GPU-intensive jobs, there is a noticeable increase in speed with the 2016 release with working with raw media. 

There is no other way to say it. The Touch Bar is a complete fail.

The Touch Bar...

Touchbar in it's best lightCredit: NoFilmSchool

...is terrible.

There is no other way to say it. The Touch Bar is a complete fail.

Apple’s design goal has always been minimalism, but underlying that has been an acknowledgement that certain hardware interfaces are required. Even the iPhone, which has only four hardware interfaces (home, lock, volume up and down) acknowledges that volume up and down are worth keeping.  It’s among the four last remaining ones, even after Apple got rid of the headphone port. They will even be there after Apple gets rid of the home button. They are essential.

Even the iPhone has hardware volume controlCredit: NoFilmSchool
Moving volume to the Touch Bar is dumb.

There are countless times when, as a professional or a human being, you want to change your volume quickly. Muscle memory is a huge part of how we interact with machines, and instead of the muscle memory of just hitting the volume button, you now have to find it on a screen, which requires looking down. It takes extra time just when you don't have it, and it worsens the experience. Especially since the Touch Bar often goes to sleep, so instead of just hitting the button once and getting instant feedback, you have to repeatedly touch it to wake it up before you get to adjust volume.

Limited volume palette in "app mode."Credit: NoFilmSchool

Even worse, with the Touch Bar you have the choice of either leaving the “function” controls up full time, or using the app controls, but to make this change you need to go to the System Preferences, and it’s global.  This means you either have the full controls all the time, and miss out on the fun app-specific controls, or use the app-specific controls and only have limited function button. This is especially frustrating because if you choose the app control mode, you get a small palette that doesn't have volume up/down buttons, just a “volume” button that brings up a slider, so you now need to look down and click twice to do something you used to be able to do without looking down at all.  If you don’t care at all about the Touch Bar special controls for Text Edit or Word or Safari or iMessage and would much rather have the full set of function keys, but do want the full panel for Resolve and Premiere, you need to keep going back to the System Preferences. Every time.

This is a frustration not just with volume, but also with brightness. If working in an uncontrolled light environment, a typical filmmaker might adjust screen brightness several times a day without even thinking about it, and that interface is now on the Touch Bar, requiring more thought and effort. 

Apple engineers all spend 90% of their time worrying about the iPhone and they've forgotten what using a laptop for heavy duty work is like.

While this might improve with experience, users currently report accidentally changing things on the Touch Bar.  For instance, when resting hands while reading an article, the "dim screen" button is frequently accidentally hit. New resting positions can be learned, but it is frustrating.

These compromises would be worth it if we got amazing functionality from the Touch Bar, but we just don't. It's not there in the native OS, and even when developers clearly put tremendous work in taking advantage of its possibilities, like Blackmagic did with Resolve 12.5.4, it just doesn't speed things up or make things feel "magic" enough to be worth all the drawbacks.

Touch ID 

Kind of cool?  What is a definitely lifesaver on the phone isn't really that interesting on a laptop where the burden of typing in a long password isn't that frustrating since you have a keyboard. Touch ID is where it really starts to seem like Apple engineers all spend 90% of their time worrying about the iPhone and they've forgotten what using a laptop for heavy duty work is like. Yeah, it's a nice upgrade, but there are many other things that would've been appreciated on this machine before Touch ID.

Keyboard

The keyboardCredit: NoFilmSchool

The MacBook Pro keyboard is loud.  Noticeably loud. The test oMBP was loud, too, because the space bar is starting to break, but it was still quieter than the nMBP. In a very unscientific test, when typing next to someone who is sleeping, the keyboard was loud enough to wake them. When attending a talk recently, taking notes with the 2016 machine clearly disturbed the people sitting near the reviewer, which is something that has never happened taking notes at events with the oMBP. 

It’s loud to the point where it comes up in conversation with others who own the laptop, whether you bring it up or not. One friend claims “you just need to type more gently, it’s a new discipline,” and he demonstrated how he is able to slow himself down and meditate into a state of quiet typing, but even that felt louder than the old keyboard.

Here is a video comparing the old MacBook pro keyboard and the new one.

See?  Noticeably, terrifically, loud.

As a note taking device in a classroom or an event, for writing in a room while others work around you, for basically most things, the MacBook Pro keyboard is just slightly too loud. For filmmakers who work in shared spaces, who might want to send off emails from a color suite while supervising a grade, or who might want to be typing up notes on takes on set as they happen, this is going to be harder with this keyboard than it was before. Sound recordists will hear this from further away than you are used to. 

Trackpad

The Trackpad is larger, and the feel of the touch is quite different.  When first taken out of the box, the click and drag basically didn’t work, and while it has improved, we aren't sure if it was a matter of breaking it in or learning to use it. The “click” itself feels like it takes more work (no matter how you set it in the preferences), but any kind of click and drag is so difficult as to be nearly impossible. Whenever switching back to the oMBP it was a tremendous relief to work on a functional trackpad again.

Touchpad space at the topCredit: NoFilmSchool

There’s a space, maybe 1cm wide at the top of the oMBP trackpad, for resting your thumbs. The nMBP touchpad goes all the way up to the keyboard, leaving you nowhere to rest your thumbs, and users kept resting their thumbs on the trackpad, moving the mouse unintentionally. When editing a document, this frequently means the cursor randomly moves to another spot in the document, sometimes while you are typing a sentence.

USB-C/Thunderbolt 3

Many reviewers have harped on the lack of ports and the requirement for dongles, and while that is problematic, filmmakers have always needed adapters and dongles and new cables, so we're probably best equipped to handle the transition. 

In an ideal world, this machine would have all the ports of the oMBP, replacing T2 with T3, and pretty much everyone would be happy. That’s not the Apple way, however, and in this case it's actually not a catastrophic mistake. Dongles will abound for a year or two, but eventually most peripherals will support the new, superior format, and we’ll be OK. We will likely always miss the internal SD card reader, especially since it could easily fit into the thin new design, but in a few years more cameras will do their full sync via wifi, and that will be OK too.

However, there are two major problems with the USB-C on this machine that make using it a really frustrating experience. First, the ports are too close together. This is foolish. While, yes, most cables are narrow, many aren’t, and more than once I found myself not being able to plug two USB-C devices into the same side, which is very annoying on a machine intended for this level of versatility. Spacing them out would’ve been very easy and made life so much better.

The Type-C connectors are too physically close to each other for many connectors to fit.Credit: NFS

MagSafe

The second issue is MagSafe.  You’re either someone who can’t imagine life without MagSafe, who depends on it every day, who thinks it’s the best single modern design around, or you aren’t. If you are at all clumsy, MagSafe is simply a repeat lifesaver that can be depended on to both stay in and connected, but also come perfectly apart when you trip on the cable. 

Griffin Tech's almost wonderful magsafe replacement, and aftermarket purchase to fix something Apple got rid of too soon.Credit: NFS
It's a shame that Apple dropped MagSafe. Yes, there is a workaround, the Griffin adapter, but it both ruins the simplicity (the nubbin that lives in the computer sticks out), and it doesn’t work anywhere near as well. It only connects in one orientation, and is much, much more likely to accidentally fall out than the old connector. Also, it doesn’t light up, telling you magically that a connection has been made.   If Apple really wanted rid of the MagSafe port (which was the wrong move IMO), then it should’ve come out with its own MagSafe for USB-C.

The simpler, cleaner, more Apple-y solution would've been a smaller MagSafe port that stayed in the machine, and keeping the four T3 ports, and the SD card slot. Still dropping USB-A, still "moving to the future," but helping us get there. Dropping it altogether is a bridge too far.

Audio

The speakers sound nice—not dramatically better than the old machine, but ever-so-slightly better.  Most filmmakers either have a headphone they are obsessively devoted to (the Sony 7506, for instance), or some other set of strong opinions on audio that will mean the on-laptop speakers never measure up, so this is probably one weird area that matters less to filmmakers than to the rest of the market.

Picture Quality

One of the features that Apple has touted about the 2016 MacBook Pro is a move towards the expanded P3 color space. This offers a wider gamut of color options for the monitor to display, and not coincidentally it is the color gamut used for theatrical release through digital cinema packages. We tested this claim using the popular Calman calibration software and the X-Rite i1Display probe, testing several times but getting the same result, which is that the display is not particularly accurate. With an average deltaE over 4 (with 2 being considered accurate), and peak deltaE over 9, this is a display that isn't consistent in how it displays image color. 

DeltaE ReportCredit: Calman
Which is fine. It's a computer monitor. You shouldn't be doing final color grading on your image using its display as your final evaluation tool anyway; you need an accurate broadcast monitor. However, many people will base image making decisions on this monitor because it's the only tool at hand, and Apple is marketing it as such. The P3 color space was part of it pitch to sell this upgrade, and they have even talked about how the tight integration with Final Cut X means that now FCP-X has wide gamut support enabled and a complete DCI-P3 workflow. Unfortunately, the results of our tests were that it's just not accurate enough to be calling itself P3.

The P3 color space was part of it pitch to sell this upgrade, but the results of our tests were that it's just not accurate enough to be calling itself P3. 

The machine might be capable of showing all the colors in the P3 space, but if it's showing a color that is supposed to be orange as being pink, it's still not a good tool for filmmakers. If P3 was never mentioned once in the marketing, that would be fine, but since it is, and there is the real possibility that a client will ask "why can't I just evaluate it on my MacBook Pro monitor? It's P3!" it's important to remember that it's not accurately so.

Calman Display Graph Macbook ProCredit: Macbook

When reading the chart above, the boxes are the "target" colors. Colors that have a specific way they are supposed to be displayed. The dots represent how far away from their ideal position they were displayed by the device you are measuring. Generally dead set in the middle of the box is ideal. Looking at the chart above, the white area is clearly very accurate in creating a neutral D65 white point, but the rest of the spectrum varies wildly between accurate and inaccurate. While you could calibrate the monitor with a LUT or color profile to get it to more accurately recreate P3, that isn't what Apple claims in the marketing. Apple claims "P3," not "capable of delivering P3 if calibrated using additional hardware." The image below is another view of the same data: the shorter lines are more accurate, the longer the line, the less accurately a particular color is displayed. Here again we see the most accuracy for the greycale.

DeltaE of various ColorsCredit: Calman NFS

Conclusion

If you aren’t making video from raw files on your MacBook Pro, you are wasting money to buy it. The MacBook Air (or just the plain MacBook) has plenty of power for writing, browsing the web, and watching video. It’s even powerful enough for occasional Photoshop; you wouldn’t want to process thousands of photos on it, but it has the power for lightweight photo editing. But the purpose of the MacBook Pro is to make things. The “Pro” stands for professional. So, you either buy a MBP because you want everyone to know you have $2400 to spare on a laptop, or you spend $2400 on a laptop because it’s going to save you so much time at work it’ll be worth the upgrade. If the machine saves you an hour ever day when you render out RED RAW dailies, it's easily worth the purchase price for all the time you'll get back.

If you are video professional, but you are not working with raw files every day, there really isn’t any reason to buy this machine.

If you are video professional, but you are not working with raw files every day, there really isn’t any reason to buy this machine. You’ll likely be better of with a 2014 or 2015 oMBP, purchased off the Apple Store Refurbished with Apple Care, than you will with the nMBP.  Combined with something like the BizonBox 2S and an NVIDIA 1080 with 8GB of RAM for $1500, for the combined total of $4000 you’ll have a machine with way more power (twice the video RAM), and, more importantly, superior flexibility. Even if you are planning an .r3d feature the option of a GPU box with the last generation MBP is something to strongly consider. That BizonBox 2S can be upgraded to a 3 later for use with a new iMac once they come, or a PC laptop. Hopefully that iMac will have 32GB of RAM, and 8GB native video card, and you can use your own keyboard.

Don’t forget, Apple has a 14-day return policy. If you did buy a nMBP, but find yourself frustrated by the Touch Bar, the keyboard, or the trackpad, it’s not too late to consider changing. In the meantime, it's probably time to start taking PC options more seriously, since the cost/benefit scenario of options like the Surface Studio or the Razer Blade are starting to become very appealing.

TL:DR

  • Touch Bar is annoying and not worth the effort
  • Same speed as older models unless using the GPU
  • If you need the GPU (for RED RAW, in our tests), there are actual real speed benefits
  • P3 color space not accurate
  • MagSafe & SD card reader, we miss you
  • T3 ports great but too close together
  • Keyboard is loud
  • Maybe time to give Razer a look and learn how to use a PC
 

Your Comment

46 Comments

now compare with a real computer

December 20, 2016 at 2:39PM, Edited December 20, 2:39PM

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December 20, 2016 at 2:50PM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

Yeah I've seen numerous tbMBP reviews from film industry guys saying exactly what the guy in your video is saying, Tyler.

It's as if NFS is... well I don't know, and don't want to speculate.
But testing the transfer rate and read speeds of an external drive with a slower connection standard than the New MBP is capable of is just skewing the results.
'See it transfer files at the same speed as the old MBP'
No crap, NFS! But if you would plug a TB3/ USBC 3.1 gen 2 drive you would get more than double that. Sandisk 900 (Same as in the video posted above.)

I was intrested in NFS's take on the monitor though so not all bias, I guess. And to not even cover FCPX! What the heck?! That programe runs circles around Pr when it comes to large files. LOL You do know you are test a MAC and not a PC right?

December 20, 2016 at 4:14PM, Edited December 20, 5:12PM

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Timothy Cook
Self employed storyteller.
177

Well, you'll noticed we didn't report on transfer speeds (and we tested them galore, sometimes getting some real improvements over T2, depending on the drive), but those drives just aren't that common. Most filmmakers in the "indie" space are still using Lacie Rugged Raid drives (around 750mb/s on T2 or T3), or the Tuff at around 350mb/s either way, or G-tech. There are definitely going to be applications for T3 in the future, but for the drives we see most often used today it didn't make sense.

The Caldigit tuff is a common drive, USB-C native (that's the port on the body), and we tested common workflows. From internal to internal was tested as well, to take external ports out of the rotation.

The internal SSD to internal SSD test was most disappointing, since it was slower than the 2013!

I wish I loved this machine. I really don't want to buy a Razer and learn Windows 10. But it just didn't live up to real world situations.

December 21, 2016 at 9:00AM

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Charles Haine
Director/Writer/Colorist

Charles, first off thanks for taking the time to make the review.
Second let me say this and please don't take it out of context cause I say this in a professional way. But your lack of imagination on this subject has limited you on understanding the possibilities of this new MBP.

Touch Bar: who wouldn't want something that is going to increase their workflow production built in native to their workstation? Would you rather have 14 plastic keys that are always the same or a row of dynamically changing option depending on the program you are using?
Davinci Resolve has already updated their software to include TB functions and I'm sure others are going to follow. On top of that the TB literally just came out. I'm sure what and how you work with it is only going to get better.
You literally wrote, "it's terrible". Really?

MagSafe: Magsafe removal is nothing but a positive in every way. Before with MagSafe the only way to charge your MBP was with a MagSafe and that was it. It didn't pass data along it didn't do anything but charge, and take up space doing nothing as a port. If you were out somewere the only way to charge your MBP was with a wall socket to plug in your MagSafe. And the only option for a MagSafe was from Apple with the large brick connected at the end.
Now you can charge you MBP with a V-Lock battery lying around on set. D-tap to USB-C :) and endless other devices already on the market.
And with one single cord pluged in, USB-C, you can charge, transfer data, and run multiple 5K displays. All at the same time. Yeah for technology!

As for the internal drive. I'm not sure what you are doing wrong, but there are countless articles on it now with the PC and MAC world agreeing that the New MBP has the fastest "stock" internal SSD on the market, by a pretty goood margin. And several review sites showing video of the new SSD duplicating files way faster than the 2015 MBP or and PC stock laptop. For now at least.
Just google '2016 MacBook Pro SSD' and scroll through the pages.

And just a reminder, there are two different, maybe three, standards for USB-C, with gen two being the latest. Gen two is the only one that will get you the transfer rates for compatible external SSD's I mentioned yesterday. 800 plus read and write.
So even if you're using a USB-C drive it very well may not be compatible.

Once again great job on the article, but try to open your mind to the possibilities this new machine will bring to the film and video industry.
Tim

December 21, 2016 at 10:15PM, Edited December 21, 10:30PM

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Timothy Cook
Self employed storyteller.
177

Thank you for the review and time putting this together.

However, regardless of your feelings on the topic, no mention of FCP X performance relative to Premiere on the nMBP is a disservice and glaring oversight for a "Complete Review."

December 20, 2016 at 2:46PM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

Great point, Tyler. We added this note: Note that we considered testing FCPX, especially since Apple is famous for its tight software/hardware integration, but chose not to. While the 10.3 release is a major upgrade, and FCPX seems to be gaining ground with the pro market that it lost, it's still just not that common a professional tool anymore. Premiere and Resolve have a real hold on indie workflows at the moment, and testing how those tools perform on this hardware made the most sense. Potentially you could get better performance by switching to FCPX, but most filmmakers don't want to make their color and NLE decisions based on hardware.

December 20, 2016 at 3:57PM

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Liz Nord
Editor-in-Chief & Lead Producer
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

That's odd for you to say. Some of the most talented editors I know prefer FCPX. Tends to be the less committed producer/editor folks who shun it because they don't want to invest any time in learning anything new. In any case, it's a waste that you went all this trouble to test the machine without providing any results from FCPX. The main reason so many creators have stuck with Apple is the tight integration of hardware and software. Ignorantly stating that "pros" don't use it is a poor excuse.

December 20, 2016 at 4:34PM

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Jamie LeJeune
Director of Photography
145

I agree Jamie.
And here is a more die hard PC review site trying out FCPX on a 2015 MBP and almost having a "Wait! What?" moment.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P5UWEKSUXo

As he said it's not a Mac vs PC video but more of a 'I had know idea FCPX was this powerful'

December 20, 2016 at 5:11PM

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Timothy Cook
Self employed storyteller.
177

> it's still just not that common a professional tool anymore.

Says who? The jokers at No Film School?

December 20, 2016 at 5:08PM

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Nobody is saying FCPX can't be used as a professional editing tool - use whatever you want and get the job done, but there's no need to get worked up about it. In London the majority of edit houses, freelance editors, in-house suites... they're on Premiere and (less so) AVID. Most freelancers I know have made the leap from FCP 7 to Premiere, and very few have moved to FCPX - so it seems like a safe assumption to say that most editors will be using these Macbooks for the CC suite. In that context, a Macbook doesn't look worth it any more. I haven't bought a PC in 15 years, and I really don't want to go back - but I also don't want to be sat up for hours waiting for After Effects to finish with a RAM preview....

December 20, 2016 at 5:37PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3144

I had to move to PP not just cause I didn't like FCPX but also because of the tight integration with Photoshop and After Effects.

December 21, 2016 at 4:06AM

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Kayode
707

You miss the point. The HEADLINE promised a "total review."
Failure to deliver as promised shuffles this instantly from journalism to "click-bait" puffery. It's the writer telling the reader what is safe to use - rather than laying out an objective analysis and letting the reader make their own choices. That moves it from journalism to marketing. Period.

December 21, 2016 at 2:53PM

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Thank you for the reply Liz, and I understand your reasoning even if I disagree from the standpoint of constructing a well-rounded analysis.

Certainly, one cannot test all variables or all potential solutions / setups.

To reiterate though, a point on the synergy of Apple / Mac software: to ignore this combination is to ignore the key advantage Apple holds. Perhaps the only reason to purchase an Apple computer dare I say.

Apple is not simply a hardware manufacturer of PCs and Phones, it holds an advantage in spec vs. spec because of it's software/hardware development in both mobile and desktop spaces. That's if you believe they have an advantage.. some don't.

Many do believe Apple hardware performs better with Apple software than any other end to end solution on the market, I happen to be one of them, especially when it comes to usability, experience and performance combined. The sum of parts.

It really is about software at the end of the day for all devices, if it weren't about software, everyone would be running Linux with complete control, building their own PCs for the best performance per $, etc.

As journalists looking to educate a filmmaking audience I would think testing a variety of editing tools, as well as which tools in what scenarios perform better, as you have done, would be priority, (with one glaring omission, Apple's very own software..)

Now, I'm a firm believer in using whatever software you like, go to it. We should all enjoy using the tools we choose.

Regardless, the actual advantages of running Apple's FCPX over other NLEs with the nMBP should be stated, noting its potential pitfalls as well. Educating the audience you serve here is important, and a real benefit to someone getting into this field, so they can make an educated decision, not an incomplete one.

Sidenote: I don't understand it, but I see some elitism out there and a negative connotation surrounding FCPX which is really unfounded in fact or reason. These are computers and just tools after all.. objectivity when it comes to workflow is absolutely necessary.

To each his own, Cheers.

P.S. I'm a tech enthusiast and I run Mac + Windows, including having built a Windows PC with some of the components others have mentioned in comments. I think we are living in great times and have quite the tools at our disposal. Don't lose sight of that :-)

December 21, 2016 at 12:04AM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

I'm going to repeat myself. Educate yourselves. Seen as all of you seem to have very little education on FCPX. It IS being used, and the user base is growing

http://www.fcp.co/fcp-user-stories/tag/User%20Stories

December 21, 2016 at 2:13PM

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Sam Woodhall
Video Editor & Motion Graphics Artist
112

Thanks for that link, even though it's not working. I figured out it was FCP.CO
I've never seen that site, looks like lots of really good info for working with FCPX.

December 21, 2016 at 10:26PM

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Timothy Cook
Self employed storyteller.
177

@Lis Nord sorry buy your comment makes no since at all!
Every professional App or tool decisions is based on hardware.

No matter if it is a monitor for color grading or it is a mac or pc! Actually software is the easy replaceable link in a workflow. I think you need to change your title from Multi-platform to Single-platform.

By the way the only reason you find Resolve in indie workflow is because there is a free version! Before it was Apple Color (wait don't base your color decisions on hardware). WOW speechless!!!

December 22, 2016 at 3:34AM

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And here are totally different results from another reviewer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHYmtgik1iY

December 20, 2016 at 3:01PM

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Brad Jones
Director/Producer/Writer/Editor
500

This laptop does not do well with C300 mark II 4k video files. I have it at 1/4 quality and it is still a little choppy.

December 20, 2016 at 4:49PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1011

Try those same files in FCPx

December 21, 2016 at 3:20PM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
755

I appreciate the in depth review, but I have the new MacBook Pro (it replaced my 2014 MacBook Pro) and I love it.

I'm a filmmaker, teacher, and Final Cut Pro editor. The integration with Final Cut Pro is phenomenal. Plus, everything about the new Mac is faster.

Additionally, I've only been using the laptop for a month now, but I can't imagine not having the touch bar. Using it in Final Cut Pro, Pixelmator, or even in Keynote, Numbers, or Pages, has sped up my workflow dramatically.

I suppose if you're a Premiere user (which is where you did most of your testing), it probably would make sense to use a PC instead.

As for me, I'm really happy with it.

December 20, 2016 at 5:05PM

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Chris Messineo
Director
81

I actually quite like the touch bar as well.. it's a natural evolution of the keyboard and it will only get better as more developers support it.

December 21, 2016 at 12:12AM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

Even with the BizonBox the GTX 10xx series is still incompatible with Mac on the software level. So you will never get that to work as of now.

December 20, 2016 at 5:18PM

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Jack Finlay
Cinematographer/Director/Producer
1

Remember it is still early days and proper TB3 compatibility has issues.. USB-C is the standard mostly on that front..

We are on the forefront of external GPUs, even with USB-C, let alone TB3 in the Mac space. I look forward to the innovation in external TB3 display devices, sooner than later hopefully.. I dream of an external TB3 display that runs a GPU internally.. *knock knock* AMD.

December 20, 2016 at 6:01PM, Edited December 20, 6:01PM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

i could have saved you the time and space, and summarized thus: apple abandoned it's professional customers years ago, and continues along that vein. the end.

December 20, 2016 at 5:32PM, Edited December 20, 5:32PM

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stephen knifton
owner / creative director
362

MacCrap! *cough*

December 20, 2016 at 6:43PM

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Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2111

I appreciate this review. I was considering the purchase, but will hold off now. I am the exact person you are speaking to in this review in that I use mix of red, h264, prores and am a premiere Adobe suite guy. Thanks for taking the time!

December 20, 2016 at 6:47PM, Edited December 20, 6:47PM

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I could not disagree more.

This is the best MacBook Pro I have ever owned.

I love:

- I love the super thin design. It's perfectly balanced... a work of art.
- The new space gray color is perfect. I like the new subtle apple logo better than the old one and I like that they removed the chime.
- I love the fingerprint sensor. Super fast access.
- I love the Touchbar - it's a HELL of a lot better than a row of function keys. Very useful in FCPX.
- I like that they got rid of the magsafe - it scratched up the side of the computer anyway.
- I love the 4 new USB-C ports - apple is always two steps in future and I'm there with them. Being able to charge from any port, having one style of port for everything, plug in the cord either way, Thunderbolt 3... GENIUS.
- The screen is incredible.
- The speakers are awesome.
- I type faster on the new keyboard because the keys are closer together. Best keyboard I've ever owned. Clicky? Yes. Don't type next to someone while they're sleeping.
- Large trackpad.
- I got the maxed out 15" and it's faster than any MacBook Pro ever made. That's good enough for me.

This new Mac has gotten a ton of bad press, but it's the nicest computer I've ever owned. And I've owned a new Mac, every year, since 2003.

Highly recommended.

December 20, 2016 at 8:30PM

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So you're on your 14th new Mac? lol

December 22, 2016 at 7:34PM, Edited December 22, 7:34PM

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According to your article, "...smart programmers immediately took advantage of the horsepower and designed programs that would use the integrated graphics card to power the GUI on screen display even while plugged in to wall power, and use the real graphics card ... for graphics processing power."

Do you have a source or a link to more information on this?

December 20, 2016 at 11:14PM

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G A
74

How about real RAW using Codex or ARRIRAW !?

December 21, 2016 at 12:16AM

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Got the nMBP 15" AMD460, 2.7ghz, 16GB ram yesterday and have already been having major issues when actually using it for editing in Premiere. If anyone is wanting to test the crash cause that I've found on my system here is the recipe.

Premiere CC newest version, 4k footage (preferably h.264 from a GH4, DJI OSMO/X3). Find a clip thats a few minutes long, play it out in the source monitor and see if it crashes! Mine does every single time... Whats even better is the screen now flickers almost all the time.

December 21, 2016 at 1:18AM, Edited December 21, 1:18AM

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Sean Loftin
Cinematographer
24

Can you really use both GPUs at the same time on a Macbook Pro Retina? I have never heard about it before and I can't find anything on google.

"However, smart programmers immediately took advantage of the horsepower and designed programs that would use the integrated graphics card to power the GUI on screen display even while plugged in to wall power, and use the real graphics card (in the 2013, an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M—M standing for mobile) for graphics processing power. All of the sudden, you could run DaVinci Resolve and other GPU heavy programs on a laptop, as long as you kept it plugged in to wall power."

December 21, 2016 at 5:38AM, Edited December 21, 5:38AM

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This can't be a "complete" review due to the omission of fcpx as stated by others. And the given reason may be indicative to the reviewer's experience, but is certainly not accurate to many, many others.

December 21, 2016 at 5:40AM

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Kirill
Filmmaker
134

Exactly, this is a pro-Adobe site it seems; sadly!

December 22, 2016 at 2:51AM

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I'd rather use what most post houses or production companies use so that I am able to work with them, and I'm yet to meet one that uses FCPx, so Premiere it is.

Personally I appreciate this article, and am going to hang onto my 2014 macbook pro, you've saved me some money for now. When it's time I'm definitely going to look into PC's this time. Having allegiance to one manufacturer is so pointless. Just use what works.

December 21, 2016 at 6:17AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
626

FCP-X was a tough call, but eventually it just didn't make sense. It's really uncommon in post houses, so even young up and coming editors spend more time getting good at PP so they can work on the more common application.
I have even been to post houses that were in the ads for FCP-X showing it off who actually ran a combination of Premiere, Avid and FCP-7 and didn't use X.

Apple will keep going on X, and hopefully will regain some professional ground, but right now you just don't see it on sets, in post houses, and on pro jobs, with very few exceptions.

December 21, 2016 at 9:05AM, Edited December 21, 9:05AM

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Charles Haine
Director/Writer/Colorist

This attitude is part of the problem actually, a cycle of self-containment, an echo chamber. When for small teams, FCPX's workflow is better contained and actually better performing spec for spec, with one app (+plugins) able to do almost every task outside 3D effects.

One would think a better performing software, especially for small teams or individuals would get a plug by an independent / grassroots publisher.. Not because it is or isn't used by an established one.

This group think simply feeds more of the same, not innovation nor meaningful progress. Competition and change is good for every industry, especially in tech.

Adobe, Avid, Apple all adapt and improve because of each other, this competition is absolutely necessary, dare I say the most important thing of all.

Cheers.

December 21, 2016 at 11:44AM

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Tyler McCool
One Man Show
310

Just do us all a favour, educate yourself on how FCPX is being used in the industry, because you simply have not got a clue. Use the better journalist website for it too.
http://www.fcp.co/fcp-user-stories/tag/User%20Stories

December 21, 2016 at 2:11PM, Edited December 21, 2:11PM

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Sam Woodhall
Video Editor & Motion Graphics Artist
112

So, the baseline cost for this new Mac is $1500....I think I'd rather spend my money the following way...

https://pcpartpicker.com/list/sbX6NN

December 21, 2016 at 9:18AM, Edited December 21, 9:18AM

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Joseph Arant
Writer
239

I was looking to upgrade my field laptop, but after the recent release, for serious editing/GFX work the nMBP just won't cut it/isn't cost-effective. I'd love to see NFS post a comparison of laptop alternatives...Razer Blaze Pro, MSI, Alienware...basically, the best options out there utilizing nVidia 10xx series/Pascal, Kabylake (after the new year), 64GB RAM, etc...Not that I want to switch to Windows 10, since I love Apple OS, but performance-wise PC is beating Apple and in the field I need more power/performance than the nMBP delivers.

December 21, 2016 at 1:37PM

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Apple has abandoned professionals and this article further confirms that.
Mr. Cook better put on his "Trump Wig" and gather a roundtable of design, film and sound pros and listen very carefully because he’s running out of time. The PC guys might have already done that. Apple needs a new Mr. Jobs.

December 21, 2016 at 2:46PM

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To me, comparing it to another older Mac is waaaay beside the point. There a LOT of much better machines out there tailor made for serious Work, and in 2016/7 they will all be a Windows 10 machine. I read these reviews and just shake my head at how many excuses that keep popping up for bad design "features," poor performance, and on and on.

December 22, 2016 at 6:22PM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
142

Why did you guys do a full-on computer review when you clearly don't understand computers? The amount of incorrect speculation and iffy hunches that ended up bundled together into a "review" is staggering.

I'm not pro/anti- Apple, but I am pro-competence, and this was simply painful to read. Not testing FCPX? Are you kidding? I don't use it, but I do know it's gained a huge following with the years of significant updates and improvements. (Vegas Pro bring sold for scrap didn't hurt FCPX either.)

I would also be shocked if you didn't completely botch the review of the monitor. There's no possible way it could be as bad as you've reported. Even a mediocre $200 office display performs better than your test. Visit LiftGammaGain and ask for some help.

The only case you made for the '16 MBP is a specific scenario, within a niche of users. The only *real* case to be made for "filmmakers" who want a new Mac, is for those who edit on FCPX. That's all you really needed to cover. (It might've also helped you make sense of the "failure" of the touch ribbon.)

December 22, 2016 at 7:27PM

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Let us be careful not to ignore FCPX too much. We tend to forget that when Final Cut Pro first came out over 15 years ago it also seemed everyone in the industry saw as a toy. That is until a few brave editors proved that it had the power to compete with the big boys.

Yes, FCPX did have a bad release but eventually, editors will see its amazing power, speed & solid stability. Once the word spreads out about how FCPX is a thousand times better than FCP legacy, it will gain back its popularity.

For those that still believe FCPX is not professional, I the highly recommend they watch this film by a real industry pro, Michael Cioni, who has many years of film experience explain the hidden power of FCPX: https://vimeo.com/161710321

December 24, 2016 at 4:38PM, Edited December 24, 4:40PM

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Deyson
112

One thing that isnt mentioned in this article is that the new Macbook Pros with Touch bar seem to have a major issue with current Adobe apps such as Premiere Pro CC 2017, Media Encoder and After Effects.

From what Ive experienced myself since my Macbook Pro 2016 15' arrived two weeks ago and from what numeral web sites and forum entries have reported the apps will work for a while and then suddenly out of the blue a major graphic error can be ssen after which the machines crash. It looks something like this :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvlyqDNlXrg&feature=share

According to users it keeps happening on Macbooks theyve exchanges already in the store. Also the issue seems to be only Adobe related, apparently FCP X works flawless. I havent had this issue with any other software on my new machine either. An Adobe staff member (Rameez Kahn) is currently commenting in one of Adobe's forum threads on the situation saying: "We're working with Apple on fixing this issue. So far, there is no ETA for the fix."

You can find the thread with Adobes staff members comments here:

https://forums.adobe.com/message/9212594#9212594

Since the Macbook Pro 2016 came out there have been some rather cosmetical only little problems with graphic glitches which apparently were already fixed , but this one isn't. So I encourage everybody who is experiencing this to voice this to Adobes support or leave a comment on their forum.

Some of you may remember the complete disaster with Adobe and Cuda support on the older Macbooks. Its never been fully resolved after more than two years of waiting. I truly hope this current issue gets sorted out a lot sooner.

Unfortunatley as always when something like this happens there is no warning from the manufacturer themselves such as "Some adobe apps are currently not compatible with the new Macbook pro 2016" . It would be a good and helpful thing if nofilmschool could include this in the article or make other users aware of this issue. Thanks

December 30, 2016 at 8:51AM

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Ingo Schmoll
Producer/ Director / DOP
86

I signed up just to let you know that I will be removing No Film School from my favourites, exactly because of this biased and factually incorrect review. You used unoptimised software to see if there is performance improvement on a laptop that the software is not capable of using it's full power. Worst of all you are generalising without actual data (regarding FCPX editors). Perhaps you should have gone to film school and learn a thing or two about misinformation...

December 31, 2016 at 1:39PM, Edited December 31, 1:39PM

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Nick Papadopoulos
Video Editor
81

I'm convinced you made a major error your color measurements. People's measurements on all of Apple's other P3 displays are dead on.

I think the problem is that the color gamut is NOT DCI-P3 but Display P3. DCI-P3 specifies a 2.6 gamma, but Apple uses a 2.2 gamma due to computer use. This accounts for your consistent error away from the white point.

The second potential error (probably less significant) is you used a colorimeter. Wide gamut displays, like Apple's, do not use conventional white LEDs, but use BG phosphor technology. The different spectra means that a different calibration matrix needs to be applied to the filters in the colorimeter. If you used a spectrophotometer, like the ColorMunki Photo, you can eliminate this issue.

Unfortunately, you've now started a rumor that isn't true.

January 3, 2017 at 1:07PM, Edited January 3, 1:14PM

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