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J. Franks

Hardware Recommendations for Replacement MacBook Pro

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So I've been plugging along on my mid-2009 MacBook Pro (3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8 gb RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M 256 MB graphics), but it's gotten to the point where it just can't handle the things I'm trying to throw at it. I still run VW2015 because 2016 just won't run briskly enough (haven't even attempted 2017). Not being able to upgrade the operating system past El Cap is the final straw - it's upgrade time.

 

Now that new MBPs have been announced, I'm looking at possibly snagging one of last year's models for a little less money. However, the mid-2015 models Apple still sells have only the integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics, and that worries me from a rendering perspective. (I draft mainly in 2D but occasionally draw and render in 3D, and I'd like to do more of that - my current machine just can't handle it). It appears I can still order a mid-2015 machine configured with the AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics in addition to the Iris Pro, and I'm assuming that would be the better option, but I don't really know enough about how these GPUs work to understand how much I need. (VW is also only part of what I'll be doing on this machine - I'll need to render in After Effects/Motion, FCP/Premiere, and run Photoshop and other graphics/sketching programs.)

 

Do I need the additional graphics card? Do I need to max out the CPU? Do I just need to bite the bullet and go for the 2016 hardware? I don't know that I can reasonably expect to eke 7 years out of the new machine like I have with my current one, but I'd hope it to last at least 4.

 

 

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Other than open gl, the graphics card doesn't have anything to do with rendering.  Thats all done by the CPU.  I believe that all of the 15" models had discrete graphics and the 13" did not, but I'm not 100% sure about that.  But all of the retina MacBook pros between 2013 and 2016 (save 13" vs 15") are basically the same.  Get one with 16gb RAM and the largest hard drive that you can afford and you'll be fine.  Those cant be upgraded so you're stuck with what you buy.

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Oh and if you need versions prior to 2017 to work do NOT buy the new 2016 MBP until they release service packs.  Every version prior to 2017 crashes immediately on my new MBP with touchbar.

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Going forward and starting with Vectorworks 2017, the GPU will also be responsible for drawing the 2D Top/Plan views as well as 3D wireframe/OpenGL, so yes I would absolutely avoid the integrated Intel GPUs if you intend to keep this machine for a while. I have the R9 M370X in my Macbook Pro and it works wonderfully.

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Thank you. I had a feeling a discrete graphics card would be the way to go. I have no issues with moving to VW 2017, so it looks like I'll end up going with the new MBP, since after spec'ing everything out there's not much cost savings to be had by going with last year's.

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I have a 15" 2015 MBP w/ 16 GB ram you  mentioned w/ SSD driving a 27" 4K monitior quite happily using VWArch 2017.  Unfortunately the prices of this computer have dropped since I purchased mime, so you are in the right place at the right time.  I checked the recent benchmarks of the new MBP's and they don't seem to be a major speed bump .  Go with what you know works and you should be a happy camper for a few years.

Edited by stevenaia

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I've been using the 2015 15" MBP w/ 2.5 GHz i7, 500gb ssd and 16GB RAM and the discreet Radeon M370X for the last year, and I upgraded to VW 2017 when it was released.  Here are some thoughts:

 

•  2D drafting works flawlessly, no complaints there

•  Hidden line performance seems to have dropped following the move to 2017.  It's still workable with smaller models, but larger models with many layers and symbols can take ~30 seconds to render wireframe.  This seems like a drop in performance from 2016.

•  When running a mirrored display for presentations, Open GL walkthroughs are no longer possible.  I design museum exhibitions and use a referenced file that contains the gallery architecture, so that might have something to do with it, but walls tend to render invisible at random places, etc...

•  Viewport rendering performance is doable with smaller files, but I've really been struggling with rendering even simple lighting conditions in fast renderworks mode.

 

So I guess the summary of my experience would be that the MBP has performed perfectly well for 90% of what I do, but Vectoworks' capabilities seem to be greater than what the the machine can handle.  

 

I'm really interested in the possibility of using an external thunderbolt GPU, but even on the newer MBPs with Thunderbolt 3, Apple seems to have hobbled the ability to do this without some workarounds, but it might be worth considering when looking at machines with thunderbolt 2 vs thunderbolt 3 as they could always unlock the feature at a later point.

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