Used Mac Options for FCPX
Hi - I’m looking for the cheapest Mac that will run FCPX. I will only be shooting simple videos, but want multicam editing, so iMovie is out.
Here are the options I’m considering, but open to suggestions—
1. Purchasing a friend’s used mid-2012 MacBook Pro 13” non-Retina ($150), maxing it out to 16GB RAM ($80), getting an SSD ($140 / 480GB Extreme Pro 6G), and replacing the battery (~$100) = $470 total
- If anybody is using a similar setup for FCPX 10.4.7, how well does it hold up?
2. Maybe an old Mac Pro, Mac Mini, or even iMac? Hadn’t thought of these until I started reading some here, and I don’t know much about them.
- If I go this route, which models / specs should I look for?
- Also, how much lifespan is left in something this old? For instance, the ~2012 Pro towers. I know the laptop I’m considering above is also from 2012, but I have friends who still use that model for Photoshop, animation, and other visual software. So I’ve seen the MBP holding up so far, and I feel like I can get at least 2-3 years out of my $470. I don’t have much experience with the desktop Pros of that era, so not sure how to judge the risk.
3. A newer used MacBook Pro, or non-notebook Mac? It's not worth getting one with less than 16GB RAM, which probably makes it cost prohibitive. Also frustrating that MBPs are not upgradeable as they get newer, if I understand correctly.
- Any leads on models / specs for this option? Ideally, I don’t want to spend more than $500, but since a newer MBP should have a longer lifespan, I will consider this.
4. Don’t really want to add non-Macs to my research, but should I consider that to stay as close to $500 (excluding software) as possible? Which then means I need to research non-FCP options, too. It would be awesome to not go this route, but will have to see.
Thank you for any ideas!
The nice thing about FCPX is that it is optimized for the Mac and will run (albeit slowly in some cases) on pretty much any Mac. I have a Mac Pro for real work, but my test machine is a 2014 i5 Mac Mini with only 8 gigs of RAM and it runs Final Cut just fine. You will need background rendering turned on if you want real-time playback, but Final Cut has been totally stable for me even with things like denoising and multiple layers of color correction.
I think you have a lot of choices available. In addition to used, you should consider buying refurbished from the Apple store online. I buy all my Apple products that way and have so for the past 10 years or more, and have never had a problem.
[Jon Lango] "looking for the cheapest Mac that will run FCPX. I will only be shooting simple videos, but want multicam editing,"
Assuming you are using H.264 or HEVC, you will want a sufficiently new machine with Quick Sync hardware acceleration for this. No older Mac Pro tower or trash can has this.
You could probably get a 2015 iMac 27 on eBay for maybe $500. That has the retina screen and avoids the sometimes-problematic 2014 models.
The 2017 iMac 27 has the Kaby Lake CPU which has enhanced Quick Sync so is about 2x faster on decode of H.264 than the 2015. If you are willing to accept a 1TB Fusion Drive (yuck!) you could probably get one on eBay for maybe $700-800. You can always upgrade the RAM yourself.
The 2013 iMac 27 can be quite capable but doesn't have the retina screen or Thunderbolt 2. I'm not sure if the nVidia GPU is Metal-supported. In general you want a machine that can run the Metal-optimized version of FCPX which started with 10.4.7.
"Assuming you are using H.264 or HEVC, you will want a sufficiently new machine with Quick Sync hardware acceleration for this."
I didn't even think of that, it's an important point.
I think of those as delivery codecs, not something I'd ever want to work with in an NLE, but I know plenty of people do. If I were using an older machine I'd transcode to optimized media; all the footage I work with is shot directly in Prores HQ and my underpowered Mac Mini with integrated Intel graphics has no problem with that.
I’d go for a 5 K imac 2015 & up . You can add in an SSD drive ( I did on my 5K , its not very hard) max the ram adn you’d be good to go. I have an older 5k Imac with TB, maxed ram, and an SSD drive which handles 4 K C300 Footage , BMPC 4k footage in Resolve without problems. Its not the fastest machine, but it get s the job done and its very reliable.
Thank you very much for your thoughts on this, guys. I’m definitely not getting the 2012 MacBook Pro, since that same $470 could go toward something with major hardware benefits, plus a longer life expectancy. Not sure yet if I can switch to a desktop, but the iMac sounds promising.
I started writing back with new questions yesterday, but ended up reading a ton so I could understand the points you brought up. Also a lot of my questions became irrelevant as I started to rework how I’m thinking of this project.
Brad, thank you for mentioning your old Mac Mini specs and setup. I might look into the 2014 / 2015 Mini, not sure yet. And refurbished Macs from the Apple Store would be great, but are currently out of my price range.
Ridiculous question, but what is a test machine?
Brad, you mentioned FCPX will run on almost any Mac. Any chance I can somehow get it to run on my current 2010 white MacBook7,1? Since I'm pretty sure this is impossible, I'm going to put my specs and the rest of this question way at the end of this post.
Joe, thank you for bringing up QuickSync. I’m brand new to all of this terminology, learning a lot right now. Also thanks for the tip on the specific iMac models and years, and the warning about 2014, super useful and exactly the kind of info I’m looking for. Mark, thanks for seconding the iMac and the year details. Also glad to hear you replaced the SSD, I was reading about that last night and it's great to know it’s not too difficult.
Regarding price, everything on ebay is currently more expensive, but some recently sold items were close to your ballpark figures, Joe. If I go with a desktop, I’ll have to keep an eye out.
Another ridiculous question—are you guys mostly using Thunderbolt / TB 2 / 3 for backups? Or running external monitors? Or what, exactly?
If it’s for backups, how big are the TB drives you’re using? I imagine you would use far larger than I expect to need, since I’m planning to make pretty basic videos overall, but need FCPX specifically / solely for multicam editing, at least for now.
Regarding whether it’s possible to run FCPX on a 2010 white MacBook7,1—
- definitely not Metal compatible, according to Apple. So the only way this might work is if I can purchase an older version of FCPX to avoid the Metal requirement. Do I understand this correctly, and if so, is that even possible?
- only 256 MB VRAM—but I _definitely_ don’t need 4k editing (720 or 1080 will suffice for now), 3D titles, or 360º video editing. Is this a dealbreaker?
- not on Catalina, but I recently heard about a way to patch older machines and get them onto the current macOS
- 16GB RAM (not an official configuration, but it works—search "OWC" within this Everymac page for details)
Probably not possible, but any ideas? Legacy / outdated versions of FCPX or otherwise
I had a mac mini that was a core duo i7 with 16 gb of ram that did just fine with HD, even in multicam working with proxy files.
Get yourself some reasonable hardware, a 5 year imac 5k and it will carry you farther than you think, plus when you are ready to heave around some heavier files, you won’t automatically need to get another machine...As for upgrading the iMac SSD, ig you go that route. Get the kit from OWC and follow their video tutorial ita. Pretty simple upgrade - took me about 45 minutes and the switch from fusion drive to SSD is quite noticeable .
"Ridiculous question, but what is a test machine?"
That refurbished 2014 Mac Mini is my daily personal computer, the one I use for email, web browsing, office apps, etc.; I have a separate (also refurbished) top-of-the-line 2013 Mac Pro that is dedicated for my audio and video work. The Mini is more energy-efficient and I bought it a few years before I got the Mac Pro. I have Final Cut and DaVinci Resolve (and a few audio DAWs) on the Mini, which I use mainly for following along with tutorials, testing plugins, or reviewing new footage without having to fire up my production computer and RAID. That's all I meant by "testing machine." Final Cut runs fine on my Mini, but I'm working only with HD footage and it's all shot in Prores HQ. DaVinci Resolve 16 struggles on my Mini, but that's to be expected with its specs; it works fine on my Mac Pro (I mainly work in Resolve, not Final Cut).
I don't think Final Cut will work on your 2010 notebook and you should upgrade that machine anyway as I doubt it's getting security updates anymore. I agree with the recommendations to get an iMac 5K.