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Best Mac For Rendering of 2024

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When it comes to rendering software, you need a lot of processing power so here we’ve looked at the best Macs for rendering of 2024.

3D modelling and rendering is incredibly resource-intensive and only the most powerful Macs can handle it.

It’s therefore important you buy the right Mac to handle the demands of 3D modelling and rendering, but with so many Macs with different chips on the market, it can be confusing knowing which one is best for it.

Some of the most common reasons for rendering include:

In this article we’ve looked at the best Macs for 3D modelling and rendering for a range of these use scenarios.

In our testing and research, we found the M2 Mac Studio is the best Mac for doing rendering in 2024 especially with the incredible processing power of the M2 Ultra chip.

Can Macs Be Used For Rendering?

Macs are ideal for rendering and some of the best rendering software now work on Mac including Keyshot, Enscape, Maya and Adobe Substance.

Macs are therefore an excellent choice for 3D rendering, especially the latest generation of Apple Silicon Macs.

The M1, M2 and M3 chips are the most powerful chips ever produced by Apple and are more than enough to meet the demands of rendering.

Which Mac is Fastest For Rendering?

Without doubt, any Mac with the M2 Ultra chip is the fastest Mac for rendering. Currently the only Macs with the M2 Ultra chip though are the M2 Mac Studio or the M2 Mac Pro.

However, even the slightly slower M2 Pro and M2 Max are more than capable of handling the most demanding rendering projects as you can see below.

 

How To Choose The Best Mac For 3D Modelling & Rendering

There are a several important factors to consider when choosing which Mac is best for your rendering needs namely, including the software you plan to use, processor, graphics card, memory, storage capacity and display.

Apart from the Mac Pro, Apple Silicon Macs are not customizable after purchase so it’s crucial you get the customization right when you buy it.

Nowadays, there are very few Macs on the market that can be upgraded later. The exceptions include the older 27 inch Intel iMac, the Intel Mac Mini and the the latest M2 Mac Pro which has six additional PCIe Gen 4 cards.

Many older obsolete Intel Macs can also customized however such as the Classic Mac Pro.

Here we look at these factors in more detail and explain why they’re important.

  • Software

If you use a specific rendering software, then the most important step is to make sure that the developer offer a native Apple Silicon version of the rendering software you will be using.

Most rendering packages have historically been optimized for Intel chips but Apple moved away from Intel to its own Apple Silicon chips based on ARM architecture in 2020.

The good news is that more and more rendering software now works natively on Apple Silicon M-series chips. Natively means that it’s designed to work specifically with Apple Silicon chips for optimum performance.

However, even if the rendering software you use doesn’t have a native Apple Silicon version, all is not lost. macOS uses a clever tool called Rosetta 2 to “translate” Intel only apps to work on Apple Silicon.

However, there is a trade-off in performance during this translation process and when it comes to the intense demands of rendering, ideally you want to use software that’s designed to use Apple Silicon chips natively.

Apart from this, you’ll also need to check that the rendering software supports your version of macOS. Sonoma is the latest version of macOS and you may find that not all developers have updated their rendering software to work with it yet.

  • Processor

A fast computer processor (CPU) is the number one requirement when 3D rendering and modelling.

The biggest change to Macs in recent years has been the replacement of the Intel chip with Apple’s own faster ARM Apple Silicon chips in November 2020.

Apple Silicon chips are much faster than the Intel chips offering up to 24 CPU cores in the top of the range M2 Ultra chip although the Ultra chip is only available in the M2 Mac Studio and Mac Pro at the moment.

Why is this important? Because the more cores you have, the more tasks your Mac can handle at once.

This means you can be running several rendering projects at once running simultaneously and not notice any slow down while using your Mac.

The more cores it has, the faster it will render the project too.

At the moment, different versions of the M1 and M2 chip are available in different models of Mac and the currently availability is as follows:

  • M1 Chip with 8 CPU Cores: Available in the 24 inch iMac, MacBook Air, 13 inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini.
  • M1 Pro Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro.
  • M1 Max Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 14 inch and 16 inch MacBook Pro and Mac Studio.
  • M1/M2 Ultra Chip with 20/24 CPU Cores: Available in the Mac Studio and Mac Pro
  • M2 Chip with 10 CPU Cores: Available in the 13 inch MacBook Air, 15 inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13 inch, Mac Mini
  • M2 Pro Chip with 19 CPU Cores: Available in Mac Mini M2 Pro
  • M2 Pro/Max Chip with 16 CPU Cores: Available in MacBook Pro M2 Pro/Max and M2 Max Mac Studio

Apple only sells refurbished versions of the M1 chip Macs now (apart from the 13 inch MacBook Air which can still be bought from new).

The M2 models have replaced them in the Apple Store and only M2 Macs can be bought from new.

If you’ve got an older Intel Mac such as the Mac Pro that you can customize the processor in, then you’ll want a minimum of an Intel Core i7 or i9 or an AMD Ryzen processor.

  • Graphics card

The graphics card handles (GPU) the images you see on the screen and the more powerful the card, the more it will speed-up rendering process and the higher quality the images will be.

In Apple Silicon Macs, the graphics card and the RAM are integrated on M1/M2 Macs (known as “Unified Memory”) for much faster performance.

The top of the range M2 Mac Studio with M2 ultra chip supports up to 192GB of unified memory which is more than enough for rendering even the most complex projects.

If you’ve got an older Intel Mac that you can upgrade, then you’ll want to add a high end card such as an Nvidia GeForce RTX or AMD Radeon RX.

Alternatively, any graphics cards with a dedicated memory that can handle complex models and textures will do.

One remaining advantage that Intel Macs have over M1 & M2 chip Macs is that you can boost the graphics capabilities with an external graphics card known as an eGPU.

eGPUs are incredibly powerful although they only work with Intel Macs – eGPUs don’t support Apple Silicon Macs.

  • Memory (RAM)

The Memory (RAM) of a Mac is where rendering software stores data temporarily while processing a project.

Basically, the more RAM you have the bigger the projects you can work on without the Mac slowing down.

The RAM in Apple Silicon Macs is known as “Unified Memory” because it is hard wired with the processor for even faster data processing times.

For rendering, you’ll want a minimum of 16GB of RAM but for intensive rendering work on big projects, we’d recommend 32GB or more.

Base level M1 and M2 Macs ship with 8GB of RAM as standard but you can upgrade to 16GB when you purchase it.

Macs with the M1/M2 Pro chip can be upgraded to 32GB RAM, M1/M2 Max up to 64GB RAM, M2 Max up to 96GB RAM and M1/M2 Ultra up to 196GB RAM.

  • Storage

Rendering project require a lot of hard drive space and the more storage your Mac hard drive has, the bigger the projects you can work on.

You can customize most Apple Silicon Macs with up to 8TB of SSD storage when you purchase it although this depends on the mode.

However storage space is the one thing you can increase externally on all Macs with an external hard drive.

If you extend the hard drive space, make sure you get at least an external SSD drive which are the quickest at transferring large rendered files to your Mac.

Even better, get an external Thunderbolt drive as Thunderbolt offers the fastest transfer speeds with Macs.

  • Display

Finally, the display you use is also worth considering when rendering your projects.

With MacBooks, the Liquid Retina display screen are amazing and offer some of the best image quality of any screen out there.

However, you can also connect an external monitor and if you’re using a Mac Mini or a Mac Studio, then you’ll have to buy one as they don’t come with a screen.

The most important thing to look for when rendering is a monitor with high resolution and color accuracy to see all the detail in your renders.

You should look for a minimum resolution of 1920 × 1080 but preferably get one of these Apple Studio Display Alternatives or a one of these Mac compatible 5K monitors.

With this in mind, here then are the best Macs for rendering in order of ranking.

1. M2 Mac Studio (Best Overall)

best mac for rendering - mac studio

The M2 Mac Studio is Apple’s newest Mac aimed at creative professionals and the M2 Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip is our pick for the best Mac for rendering due to a mix of incredible power and connectivity.

The M2 Mac Studio is squarely aimed at those that need maximum processing power especially creative professionals in the graphic design, video editing and 3D rendering industries.

Apart from the desktop Mac Pro, the Mac Studio is the only Mac available with the unbelievably fast M2 Ultra chip with 24-core or 76-core performance.

Even the base model new Mac Studio without the M2 Max or M2 Ultra chip is pretty powerful with a 12-core CPU and up to a 38-core GPU.

Anyone of these models can easily handle rendering with the M2 Ultra the cream of the crop.

The Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip has a 24-core CPU and up to 76-core GPU which Apple claims offer up to 20% and 30% performance improvements respectively compared to the M1 Ultra.

The M2 Max Mac Studio can be fitted with up to 96GB of unified memory and the M2 Ultra Mac Studio a whopping 192GB of unified memory with 800GB/s memory bandwidth.

You can also max it out with an 8TB internal SSD drive.

The M2 Mac Studio is also jam packed with ports for connectivity including four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10GB Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, HDMI 2.1 and a Pro audio jack.

In terms of speed when it comes to rendering, it really depends on what your rendering and which software you’re using but in tests, we’ve seen around 12 minutes of 4K video footage rendered in little more than 3 minutes – which is pretty incredible.

Pricing for the Mac Studio starts at $1,999 (£1,999) for the M1 Max with the M1 Ultra starting at $3,999 (£3,999).

If you bought a top of the range Mac Studio with M2 Ultra chip, 8TB of SSD it would cost $7,999 (£6,100) so it doesn’t come cheap but you wouldn’t need to upgrade for years to come.

On top of this ideally you would add the 27 inch 5K Apple Studio Display which starts $1599 (£1499) although you could also use one of the many excellent alternatives to the Apple Studio display instead.

Check-out our full Mac Studio M2 review to see what we thought of this unbelievably powerful compact Mac.

Pros:

  • Available with Apple’s most powerful M2 Ultra chip
  • Up to 76-core processing power to handle any rendering project
  • Up to 8TB internal SSD
  • Up to 192MB unified memory
  • Supports up to 5 external monitors
  • Incredibly high image quality when paired with Apple Studio Display

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not upgradable after purchase
  • Requires monitor, keyboard and mouse

2. M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch (Best Portable)

best macbook for rendering

The M2 MacBook Pro is Apple’s latest version of the MacBook Pro released in January 2023 and is the best MacBook for rendering.

You can’t add an M2 Ultra chip to the MacBook Pro but you can add the M2 Max which also packs a hell of a punch when rendering.

The M2 Pro MacBook Pro with M2 Max chip supports up to 96GB of unified RAM with the 16-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro version capable of up to 22 hours video playback on battery power and 15 hours of web surfing.

Apple claims the new M2 MacBook Pros render video six times faster than an Intel MacBook Pro and perform color grading twice as fast.

Compared to the M1 MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip, the M2 Pro chip offers up to 20% faster performance according to Apple with 200 GB/s of unified memory bandwidth.

It also has a 19 core GPU that offers up to 30% more graphics performance compared to the M1 Pro.

There’s also a 40% faster Neural Engine for video/image processing and other graphic intensive tasks like rendering.

If you max out the M2 MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip, it has a whopping 38 core GPU which promises another 30% faster graphics performance compared to the M1 Max according to Apple.

This includes 400 GB/s of unified memory and 96GB of unified memory which will handle the most demanding rendering software.

The display on the M2 MacBook Pro is amazing for 3D rendering with the Liquid Retina XDR display offering 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution, (DCI-P3) color gamut and and professional precision (DeltaE <2).

The display also features TrueTone to adapt colors according to light and with a maximum brightness support of up to 1600 nits, you can work without reflections even in direct sunlight.

With a maximum of 16 inches however, you may want to extend the display. The Apple Studio Display is the obvious choice but there are cheaper external monitors for the MacBook Pro.

There’s also an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port with support for higher resolution external monitors including 8K displays, 4K displays up to 240Hz and 5K displays.

There are also an additional three Thunderbolt 4 ports, MagSafe charging connector and a headphone jack.

Pricing for the base model M2 MacBook Pro 14-inch model starts at $1,999 (£2,149) and the M2 MacBook Pro 16-inch MacBook starts at $2,499 (£2,699)

You can read our full M2 MacBook Pro review for more.

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Pros:

  • Easily able to handle rendering on the move
  • Up to 38 core GPU
  • Up to 96GB of unified memory
  • Upgraded HDMI 2.1 ports
  • Supports multiple 8K, 5K and 4K displays up to 240Hz
  • Lots of ports for connecting external devices

Cons:

  • Price
  • Not upgradable
  • Not customizable with the M2 Ultra chip

3. M2 Mac Mini (Best Budget)

best budget mac for rendering

The M2 Mac Mini is the smallest Mac you can get but it packs an incredible punch and is easily the best budget Mac for rendering.

Released in January 2023, the M2 Mac Mini starts at just $599 making it by far the cheapest Mac for rendering.

You can customize up to 32GB of unified memory RAM with the M2 Mac Mini when purchasing with the M2 Pro chip with storage of up to 8TB.

Remember that since the M2 Mac Mini has no monitor, keyboard or mouse, you’ll have to buy them separately although you can use pretty much any monitor, keyboard or mouse with it.

Check out our guide to the best external monitors for the Mac Mini for more on the best compatible displays with the Mac Mini.

Although it’s more expensive than the basic M2 chip, we strongly recommend going for the more powerful M2 Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip for rendering as not only is it faster but it also supports up to three external displays – two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI.

The M2 Pro version of the Mac Mini also allows you to customize it with up to 32GB of unified memory.

If you’re looking for the best Mac for rendering on a budget, the M2 Mac Mini offers great value for money and portability.

You can read our full M2 Mac Mini review for more on this incredibly powerful budget Mac.

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Pros:

  • Price
  • Great budget Mac for rendering
  • Can support 3 displays simultaneously
  • Up to 8TB of storage
  • Up to 32GB of memory
  • Easily portable

Cons:

  • Requires keyboard, monitor and mouse separately
  • Not customizable with the M2 Ultra chip

4. Mac Pro (Best Professional)

mac pro

If money is no object then the incredible desktop Mac Pro is the most powerful Mac for rendering on the market.

Not to be confused with the portable MacBook Pro, the Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful Mac and the only new Mac that allows you to upgrade the graphics card (the Classic Mac Pro also allows this).

Equipped with the M2 Ultra chip, the Mac Pro is also expandable with with six additional PCIe Gen 4 cards and and incredible EIGHT Thunderbolt 4 ports which are useful for connecting external Thunderbolt hard drives.

The Mac Pro is bulky compared to other desktop Macs though but is available available in both desktop and rackmount chassis models.

Another bonus for rendering is that the Mac Pro can support up to six of Apple’s top of the range XDR Pro Displays although we recommend the Apple Studio Display as a worthy and much cheaper alternative.

Because you can upgrade it, the Mac Pro is one of the few future proof Macs on the market as Apple has locked down most Macs so that they can’t be upgraded.

Pricing for Mac Pro is not for the faint-hearted. Starting at $6,999 (£7,199), it’s by far the most expensive Mac for rendering and strictly for professionals.

Pros:

  • The most powerful Mac desktop computer for rendering
  • Six PCIe card slots for upgrading graphics
  • Equipped with the M2 Ultra chip
  • Eight Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • Support for up to six external displays

Cons:

  • Not portable
  • Price
  • Bulky design

5. M1 iMac (Best Budget Desktop)

best budget desktop mac for rendering

If you’re going to be based permanently in a studio or at home for rendering and don’t have the budget for a Mac Studio, then look no further than the 24 inch M1 iMac.

If you don’t want the expense of having to buy an external display for a Mac Mini or Mac Studio, the iMac is the best value desktop video editor with everything housed within an impressive 24 inch 4.5K display.

Launched in 2021, the M1 iMac also comes with a Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse and Touch ID integrated so you have everything you need to get started out of the box unlike with the Mac Mini or Mac Studio.

Previously, Intel iMacs supported what’s known has Hyper Threading which means more than one core processor can handle instructions threads at the same time.

This made them a popular choice for rendering although the Apple Silicon chip has made them even quicker.

Despite not using Hyper Threading, the new Apple Silicon M1 iMacs is even faster than the previous Intel iMacs.

The M1 iMac comes with silent SSD drives although you can only customize these up to a measly 512GB of storage meaning you’ll definitely need to get an external SSD hard drive for big rendering projects.

You can however customize it with up to 8GB of Unified Memory (RAM) which is as much as any Mac out there.

The iMac also comes with 3 USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt ports so there’s plenty of room for connecting peripherals.

All of this of course is built into the display which makes the iMac such a clean and clutter free rendering workstation.

Note that if you’re looking for the 27 inch version of the iMac you’re out of luck. The 27 inch version of this model is no longer available as Apple has effectively replaced it with the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display.

One thing to bear in mind with the M1 iMac however – there’s no M2 iMac although there are rumors of a M3 iMac coming in 2024 so you might want to wait before taking the plunge.

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Pros:

  • Ideal as a budget desktop all-in-one Mac for rendering
  • Includes everything you need to get started out of the box
  • Generous 24 inch 4.5K display
  • Fast processing power with M1 chip
  • Choice of colors

Cons:

  • Not portable
  • Lack of ports
  • 27 and 21 inch model discontinued
  • No M2 chip version
  • Hard drive only customizable up to 512GB
  • Might be replaced by M3 iMac in 2024


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