Advice on new computer for prosumer photo and video editing
My current setup: Mac mini (Mid 2011), Intel Core i5, 8 GB 1333 DDR3, AMD Radeon HD 6630M 256MB, 500 GB SATA
Dual displays - 24” 1920x1200 (for editing), 19” 1280x1024 (for email/text/MS Office), wireless Logitech mouse and keyboard
Cameras: Canon G7XII, GoPro Hero 7, DJI Spark
Apps I currently use: iMovie, Aperture, Pixelmator, Garageband, iTunes, DJI Assistant, GoPro Studio, Handbrake, Hugin, MS Office For Mac
I love my MM (never had a problem), but it's showing its age. I’ve filled the hard drive and am in the process of switching from Aperture/Pixelmator to Lightroom/Photoshop. It’s become very obvious it’s time for a new computer and I’d like to do that in the next week or so.
Highest priorities: 1) high performance photo and video editing, 1A) to own this computer for 5 years
Budget Goal: $3,000, Absolute Max: $4,000 (if I can guarantee 5 years above average performance)
I'm leaning towards a Mac over a PC, but am open. Having used both over the last 20 years, I prefer the reliability and the OS of a Mac and I actually consider PCs (in my case) to be more expensive (when I factor in annual subscriptions to Adobe Premiere Pro and Norton Antivirus Basic over 5 years - $1,190 more than a Mac with FCPX, total).
I shoot photos RAW and currently film in 1080p. In Lightroom, I will make extensive corrections and use Photo Merge. For video, I edit 10-12 projects a year, between 15-45 minutes each, that include stabilization, color grading and titles/effects. The only thing I’m not concerned about are exporting times (whether a final export takes 30 mins or 90 mins makes very little difference to me).
I see myself upgrading from iMovie to FCPX next year (2019).
I see myself moving to 4K in 2020 (and upgrading a monitor to 4K/5K), with prosumer cameras like those listed above (nothing too crazy).
I would love to add a 3rd 15.6” 1920x1080 (portable USB-C) display to stream TV/YouTube/etc, while I’m working between the other 2 displays.
My hope would be to make almost no other additional investments/upgrades for 5 years.
I can BYODKM - my displays, keyboard and mouse are in great working order
I do not game.
Portability - 90-95% of my use is at my desk, but 5-10 times a year I house-sit or rent a house where I’d like to be able to “travel” with the computer (to be clear, for me, this means plugging it into a wall at the destination - not using it on battery in an airport/coffee shop/hotel/etc). My current MM has been great for this. A MBP would certainly be easier, but I don’t love the thought of paying a premium, especially if it meant less performance, to keep it in clamshell almost all of the time. I would never travel with a full desktop.
After my own research, I think my two best options are:
1. 2018 MBP, 15”, Intel i7 8850H 2.6GHz, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD, with Vega 20 graphics. I would add a SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable USB 3.1 SSD for $400. The total would be $3,950.
2. 2018 Mac mini, Intel i7 8700B 3.2 GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD. I would add Crucial 32GB Kit DDR4-2666 SODIMM for $275 (and install myself), a Razer Core X for $300, SAPPHIRE Radeon RX Vega 64 DirectX 12 21275-03-20G 8GB 2048-Bit HBM2 PCI Express 3.0 CrossFireX Support Video Card for $400 (at Newegg, which seems really low?), CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 Active 6’ Cable for $50, and a SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable USB 3.1 SSD for $400. The total would be $2,925.
My biggest concern is whether or not the external graphics would work for me in the MM. I will be miserable if editing performance is slow.
A note on the eGPU I chose above. It costs the same as a XG Station Pro ($330) with a Radeon Vega 56 ($410 at Newegg/Amazon), so that seemed like a no-brianer. I could save $300ish by getting some combination of a Radeon RX 580 (or the new 590) and a Sonnet Breakaway 350 or the GIGABYTE Gaming Box RX 580 8G (which is nicely portable, but doesn’t have the best reviews), but the jump from an RX 580 to a Vega 64 for $300 feels well worth it over 5 years.
Any thoughts/opinions? Thank you in advance!
Given your use is non-portable, I would say the Mac mini is the better choice. Headless and iGPU-only makes the 2018 Mac mini a great candidate for eGPU. In macOS AMD eGPUs are working well. If you need a portable monitor, I'd recommend the ASUS ZenScreen MB16AC 15.6-Inch FHD IPS Portable Monitor which is currently going for $161.02 on Amazon. This monitor can connect directly to the Mac mini for boot screen and TV/Youtube as you mentioned. The dual working monitors connect to the AMD eGPU via DisplayPort cables. You then have two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports for external SSD and peripherals.
I have a follow-up question on the ASUS ZenScreen MB16AC 15.6-Inch FHD IPS Portable Monitor you recommended. Am I correct in thinking that is a USB-C that cannot be attached to any of the eGPU's I'm considering (ASUS XG Station Pro, Sonnet Breakaway 650 or Razer Core X)? Is there any way to connect it through Display Port, HDMI or DVI-D? Or could I just plug my two main monitors into the eGPU and plug the ZenScreen into one of the Thunderbolt ports on the Mac mini?