New Macbook Pro or Desktop PC

I am trying to decide whether to get the new 16 inch Macbook Pro (the higher spec, probably with memory upgraded to 32) or build a custom PC (with Ryzen 3900X, Nvidia 2070, 64GB Ram).
I am curious how far apart in terms of performance these two would be, and how much of a pain would running Grasshopper and Rhino on a mac be (less features, some bugs, less compatible GH plugins, no Nvidia).
Any advised opinion is welcomed, thanks a lot!
PS: I mostly work in Rhino. i use a bit of blender, photoshop, illustrator and no gaming whatsoever
PPS: The cost would be about the same, since if I get the Macbook, I’d sell my Dell Precision (which was a damnation for 3 years), and if i get the PC, I’ll cope with the dell for remote work a bit longer

In your case, it pretty much comes down to which operating system you prefer to use. Do you prefer macOS or Windows? What I wouldn’t do, is buy a MacBook Pro to run Windows on it.

I use a maxed out MacBook Pro (late 2016, 2.9 GHz i7, 16GB RAM, Radeon Pro 460) and Rhino/Grasshopper runs totally fine. I do mostly architectural and design modelling and lots of Grasshopper. :wink:
There are some minor bugs in the current version of Rhino for Mac, but the support from guys like @dan is superb, and updates are released all the time.

From what I can tell, Rhino for Mac is nearly on par with the Windows version. Here are the commands that currently aren’t available. Worksessions is currently also not implemented on Mac, but Dark Mode and Versions are Mac exclusive.
It’s true though that Grasshopper has less compatible plugins. The most popular ones (i.e. LunchBox, Pufferfish, Weaverbird, Anemone, etc.) are available though. I’d recommend you to think about what you use most and absolutely need and research or ask if it’s available.

The Adobe apps always work great on Macs with decent specs, though Premier might be an exception. I use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator myself.
I haven’t messed around with Blender a lot, but I find it to be a slow app at least for procedural, script-driven projects, but hey it’s free. Polymodelling and rendering seems to work great though.
I’m more of a Maya guy myself, which by the way runs flawlessly on macOS.

Performance-wise the custom PC would be stronger. I mean that’s a no-brainer really! You’ve doubled the amount of memory and planned for a full-size beast of a GPU. :smiley:
I don’t know if Rhino prefers “gaming” GPUs or runs better on the workstation hardware though?
In terms of the CPU, a high single-core clock-speed might be better for Rhino, than a high number of cores (?). The Ryzen and the i9 from the MacBook Pro might have an overall similar performance.
Generally, desktop machines are more powerful than notebooks, which makes the comparison kind of weird.

I guess with the MacBook Pro, you get a great performance for a small, portable form factor. A sleek design, super nice screen, a good resale value, and a well dialed-in, super stable operating system with iOS integration, few malwarez, and other annoyances.
With the custom computer, you’ll get more raw power, however it might also be harder to configure everything to work super smoothly together, or not even possible at all with some configurations.
However, this computer would be upgradable down the line, which the MacBook Pro certainly is not.
Windows is Windows! I use it myself, but am simply not a fan, but that’s a personal preference.

If you’re leaning towards the MacBook Pro, you should also read through this.


If you are going to do a lot of grasshopper, I’d say choose the PC. I’m using both Mac and pc, the Mac being a MacBook Pro 2016 with 2.6 i7, 16GB, radeon Pro 450. Ok, not the fastest you can get but my experience with grasshopper is that it was quite slow compared to lower clocked pc with Quadro M4000. As you say, you have access to more plugins as well, but it depends on what you need grasshopper for if this is an issue. Also if you depend a lot on grasshopper you either need 2 or a large screen. I found using grasshopper on a laptop to be cumbersome, since you constantly need to move the grasshopper window out of the way to see what’s happening in your viewport.

Absolutely true! I use an external display too, when I’m at home! The more screens the better!!

I use external monitor(s) anyway. Thanks for your input!

This is a big +


The Macbook Pro is limited by a 90 watt total system power. With the same tech level, it could never perform the same as a desktop. A 8-core desktop processor takes 95 watts. A RTX 1080 takes 215 watts.

It seems that notebook computers cost twice as much for 2/3rds of the performance as a desktop.

Owning an aging laptop and desktop, I am faced with similarly expensive decisions.
A $3000 P73?
A Ryzen 3800x, motherboard, and 64GB memory for my desktop for $900–and hope that my 5-year old W540 lasts another year.)
(I also run science apps which feast on memory.)


what’s that?

Automatic file saving/versioning…

ah that… haven’t gotten used to how that works, found it slow and cumbersome. I prefer manually controlling versions

The PC is modular, you can change parts when they are out-dated, the PC is cheaper.

I don’t find versions difficult to use at all - and it’s true modelling history. Just copy and paste stuff from an older version to your current model. It has saved me a couple of times, when I’ve deleted older stuff and later regretted.



what i find is that when one decides to upgrade a desktop pc, they are usually a few years behind, and end up upgrading 80% of the hardware… Yes, it is better, but not by much I believe

I imagine that not only due to wattage,but cooling as well it won’t perform the same (especially since it is a slim design), but I am curious how large this gap wold be. I am willing to sacrifice 20% for portability and having everything in one place, but 40% or more, i’ll go for the fixed solution

Cooling is an issue, and it’s also an issue that separates the paltry “Max-Q” nVidia GPU’s from their (desktop and other mobile) counterparts. I don’t know AMD’s GPU line, but I am sure that they they have DTP constraints as well.

Though, the faster GPU and CPU parts both have more cores, running at a higher clockrate, which require more power, as well, as cooling.

A few large gaming machines can run unthrottled on both the a fast GPU and 8-cored CPU. These will be north of $3000 US, and likely weigh more than 7lbs (~3Kg).

I do wish they would put more cooling in laptop computers.

[What upsets me: for the price of a competent notebook computer, I could get a AMD 16-Core’d CPU, 64GB RAM, a Motherboard and either a RTX 1080, 64GB RAM, and a some more used GTX 1080s to go with the one I have. At the high-performance price range a 24-Core Threadripper will close in price. I have a few renders that are too big to render on Cycles on the GPU.]

For a desktop CPU, only AMD makes sense. Intel has lost the desktop, but holds firmly to notebook.

So DID I once… until I had one… and needed earplugs and an an extra car battery since the noice level was high and the battery was drained in no time.

The problem with processors is that the more power they drain the hotter they get and the hotter they get the more power they need, so it’s a bad circle in other words.

Big cooling doesn’t have to be loud. “Desktop Replacement” and “Mobile Workstation” computers need large diameter fans, and a little more thickness. In the case of the P52 and P53, they pulled the DVD drive from the computer. They have room for larger fans, and for a few more grams of heatsink area. Instead, there is wasted space where a fan should go.

Propping up the bottom back edge of a laptop often helps with cooling. I don’t recommend those fan cooling pads, because depending on the direction of the flow, they can stall the airflow though the computer. I used to use a mesh letter tray, upside-down for a laptop stand.

Modern notebook computers are usually made to comply with FAA airline standards, for a give weight of lithium, which eliminate the possibility that they can be used untrottled on battery, for long.

[My aging desktop has 2 of 120mm fans, plus one in the 1050 watt capable power supply, and it runs Rhino/Cycles so quiet that I can sleep well in a small 10x12 foot room. It has a GTX 1800 and an old quadcore that takes as much power as something modern. The interior of the rackmount computer is lined with indoor/outdoor rubber backed carpet.]

My 3900x is in the mail, and I’m really excited to try it out.

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