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).