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Buying a Mac in 2023


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  • What Mac do you recommend for editing photos in 2023?
  • My 2013 Mac is dying, and I need to replace it. I want to stay with Macintosh, what do you recommend?
  • I want a Mac, I'm told they are better for editing photos, what do you recommend?
  • I can't afford spending $5800 on a new Mac, are there any other cheaper options?
  • What about the Mac Studio? Should I get that instead of a Mac Mini?
  • Brian, for the Love of __________! Just tell me what Mac to buy!!!

Fresh off the presses!! This article will probably be updated / tweaked over the next few days, but here is what Mac I would buy if I had an unlimited budget and was using Adobe Photoshop or other Adobe Programs:

First things first, Macs are not "Better," they are just different. Apple still charges you a premium for their products and people gladly pay for them. This article is not meant to discuss the "Whys" you shouldn't buy one; this article is for the folks who want one and want to know what I would buy. While I agree that going the Windows route you could get a Computer, a new Lens / go on a trip somewhere, or pay for all of Damien's classes AND still have money left over...or you can just buy a Mac, will not be discussed in this thread. :D

Now that's out of the way, I'd also like to add that
the word / phrase "Cheaper" and "Macintosh" can no longer be used in the same sentence.  Apple still wants you to "Go Big or Go Home" to get the best value for their products. Prices and Inflation are at a all-time-high, though are a little better in 2023. The good news is we have a cheaper option going forward in 2023 than forking out $5200 for a Mac Studio. Which is....


This configuration is similar to my 2022 configuration, except we replace the Mac Studio with a Mac Mini M2. You will need to use Apple's Website in order to get this configuration and have it shipped to your local Apple Store [recommended] or to the destination of your choosing. You can not buy this configuration at a store. Well, you can get the majority of items off-the-shelf, except my recommended Mac Mini Configuration. To keep things simple, we will purchase every item via Apple's Website.

  • Start with the most expensive Mac Mini, which is the one on the right. Remember, if you opt to go with a lower priced Mac, not only are your choices limited, the upgrades cost more for the exact same item! So in the long run, if you want to "save" money, you need to "spend" more. (Yep, that's Apple.) In the US, this is $1299 model or the one in the right-most column in your part of the world:

  • Click the Select Button in the Right Column and let's change a few things. Keep in mind, when it comes to Apple's products in 2023, THERE IS NO UPGRADING AFTER THE FACT AS EVERYTHING IS BUILT INTO THE M2 CHIP!!! Not only the CPU, but the RAM, HD Controller Chip, Video Card/GPU, etc. are all built into the M2 Processor Chip. Think of the current Mac products as a "Sealed Unit" or "Glorified iPads." If you want to "upgrade" anything down the line, you are buying a new computer. Period. Here are the things we will change/upgrade:
  • Upgrade the Processor to the "Apple M2 Pro with 12‑core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16‑core Neural Engine"
  • Upgrade the RAM to 32GB 
  • Upgrade the HD to at least 1TB SSD Storage

    If there are ANY plans to upgrade your Internet to a 10GB Plan, then update the Ethernet to 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100 more. This will require other things than just a computer upgrade, like a new Switch/Router, New DOCSIS 4.0 Modem, Cat 6 wiring, etc. 10Gig Internet really won't take hold until at least 2025 and even then it won't be available in most Markets. Chances are, you will leave this at the default, which is Gigabit Ethernet. I'm just letting you know so you can make an informed decision. For now, we will leave the Ethernet configuration alone. For Nerds like me who want this sort of thing, it's a no-brainer. But for the average person, 300Mbps Down is more than fine for today's Internet. Some parts of the world cap out at 50Mbps down, like Damien's Internet speed!
  • So for now, the configuration looks like this:
  • The Price for this Configuration in the US is $2199, before AppleCare and Tax. We will click Continue...
  • Add the Apple Studio Display with Standard Glass and the basic "Tilt-adjustable stand."  If you need your screen to be that adjustable, I'd rather you purchase a VESA Mount Adapter / VESA Arm and go that route than fork out the $400 for the over-priced Apple Stand.
  • Be sure to Add AppleCare and choose the standard 3 Year Plan. No sense in getting the Annual subscription; it's the same cost either way...$49/year vs a flat $149. Just fork out the cash and get it over with.

  • Click Add. Then Click Add to Bag.
  • Select the Three Years of Coverage of AppleCare+ in the left column! This is for the Mac Mini. The other AppleCare was for the Display. You must make sure you ADD BOTH!

  • Now, if your Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse are working fine, you can save a little money here, about $298. If you want to go the "Full Monty" and get everything new, add the Keyboard and Mouse. If adding to bag, make sure you choose the color that you want, there are TWO options now. For me, I like the White Keyboard and Mouse so that's what I'm adding. 
  • Now it's time to review your bag. Here is what it should look like:


  • The Sub-Total should be $4304.00 if you added everything that I recommended.
  • Then you have to add your local Tax. Shipping should be free.
  • I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND shipping your new Mac to a local Apple Store if possible. No sense sending $4000 worth of computer items to be stolen by Porch Pirates. I'd also have a store employee walk you to your car for added security.
  • When it's all-said-and-done, my final cost in my part of the World comes out to be $4562.24. Depending on your local Taxes & Fees, yours might be a little different. So let's round up to $4600-ish.

With Inflation and the ongoing Chip-Shortage, plus with everything else, things just cost more and it sucks. Now I will say this, THIS MAC MINI CONFIGURATION IS A BEAST!! This computer should last you a good 7-8 years. Of course, there is talk of a M3 chip at the end of this year, mostly in 2024...you will never win the "Catch-Up" game. The good part is, with the External Apple Display, all you need to worry about in the future is just replacing the Mac Mini; in the long run, you will save money. Unfortunately, you spend a chunk now to have options down the line.

Before you ask, YES!! IT IS WORTH GETTING THE APPLE DISPLAY. Apple changed the way the video signal comes out of the computer and to get the "Full Macintosh Experience" that people are used to, you need to fork out the extra cash and get the Apple Display. (As much as it pains me to type this. That Apple Display is way over-priced for what it is.) There are options, such as a LG Display, but that will cost you $1299...only a $300 savings. From the reviews that I've gotten from people that I personally know that went this route, their opinion is either "It's okay..." or "Eh, I should have went with the Apple Display." "It's not like the Apple Display that I'm used to. It's okay, I guess."

I'm not spending / wasting $1300 for just "Okay." ;)

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What about an Eizo Display? Why a Mac Studio Display is recommended but not an Eizo?

That's a very valid question. At the $1600 price-point of a Mac Studio Display, a single Eizo should be at least on-par with it, right? But here is the catch, the Apple M1 & M2 chips send a different video signal to the display if you are using a cable other than a Thunderbolt 3. Instead of the RGB standard that has been around for decades, it seems that the Apple M1 / M1x / M2 sends a YUV Limited Range signal via DisplayPort, HDMI or if you are using some sort of conversion device, i.e. DisplayPort to HDMI. This primarily causes banding issues and in addition to these banding issues; it also seems that Color Profiles are affected, which means your colors/colours don't look quite right. For more information, check out this article on Eizo's Website and they seem to have some sort of work-around. But in reality, Macs like a 5K Display. 4K just doesn't give you the full "Macintosh Experience" and I really don't recommend 4K displays for use with Macs.

Banding? Color Issues? While editing photos? No thank you, I will pass. Especially with an expensive Monitor like an Eizo and their price-points.

As time goes on, I'm thinking more and more display manufactures will offer a Thunderbolt 3 option but it's really hard to say. This is the primary reason that I'm only recommending the Apple Studio Display and LG 5K Display at this time. One is of course made by Apple, but the LG Display was designed with Apple so it's 100% compatible and both of these displays come with a Thunderbolt 3 port. Trust me, there is a method-to-my-madness when I recommend things. More often than not, I lean towards a Conservative viewpoint, and I will purposely leave out the "other" devices because I'm not 100% sure if they will work or not. ;) 

Edited March 27, 2022 by Brian

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What about a Mac Laptop? Is there one you recommend?

The current Mac Laptops are also M1 & M2 CPU-based, meaning you have to purchase all of the over-priced upgrades at the time of purchase, just like the Desktop Models. Here is what I would configure for a Mac Laptop that is "Good for Photo Editing."

  • Start with a 16" MacBook Pro. As the Mac Mini Configuration above, select the model in the Right Column, this will always be the most expensive option, regardless of location in the world.
  • For this example, this will be the $3499 Version.
  • Click the Select Button and we will change a few things. Remember, no upgrading after-the-fact, if you want to add / upgrade ANYTHING in the future, you are buying a whole new Mac Laptop.
  • Fortunately, there is only one thing I would upgrade, and that's the RAM. While 32GB should be sufficient with a M2 Chip as the M2 chip utilizes RAM differently, I'm still going to recommend the 64GB Route. Upgrade the RAM to 64GB unified memory.
  • The default HD capacity of 1TB is also "Fine," and is perfectly acceptable...but again, since most folks want the portability of a laptop AND would like them to be desktop replacements, it's worth upgrading the HD to 2TB. But again, if you want to save $400, and deal with potential external HDs, leave this option alone. For this example, we will be upgrading the HD to 2TB SSD Storage since we can not upgrade-after-the-fact.
  • As it stands right now, this is how my recommended configuration looks like:
  • Next we will purchase AppleCare+ which is featured in the left column for $399:

  • To summarize, here is what my Shopping Cart/Bag looks like:

  • The Sub-Total should be $4698.00 if you added everything that I recommended.
  • Please keep in mind, this price is US-Based and as of March 17th, 2023. You will also need to add your local tax fees on top of this price.
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What about the Mac Studio? Any changes to your recommendations after the Apple 2023 Keynote?

The Mac Studio is a perfectly fine computer, but in my opinion is a bit overkill for Photoshop work. The intent of the Mac Studio is to put it in between a Mac Pro and Mac Mini. It's meant for those power users that don't necessarily want to for out $7000 - $10,000+ for a computer, and want more "Umph" than a Mac Mini can provide. It's geared towards "Studio" Owners that run professional businesses and deal with higher-end commercial-grade clients. They could be Videographers, YouTube Personalities, Music Producers, Animators, etc. where their files are a bit more involved than working on still Photographs. Time is money, and if you need your computer to compile a job faster, like cranking out 20 minute Videos for a YouTube channel, being able to get more jobs out per day means more profit. So while I still recommend getting a "Tricked-Out" Mac Mini for Photoshop work, you can't really go wrong with a Mac Studio, albeit at a higher price-tag.


So what about future-proofing? Wouldn't a Mac Studio be better long term?

Short Answer, Yes. Long Answer: It's complicated.

Let's see what a Mac Studio gets you: 

  • A more robust M2 Chip, with more / faster CPU & GPU cores which have access to more bandwidth
  • The ability to access more RAM; up to 192GB of Integrated RAM
  • Increased Maximum Capacity of the Main HD; up to 8TB of storage
  • Up to 6 Thunderbolt 4 Ports
  • 10Gb Ethernet that's standard and not an option
  • The ability to have multiple 6K Screens running at the same time, or running 22 Streams of 8K ProRes 422 Video simultaneously.
  • To coincide with the previous bullet point, a Mac Studio will have an easier time with two displays, period.
  • Better Wifi - WiFi 6E

If you really want the full range of Technical Specs for the Mac Studio, check this link out.

Basically, in my humble opinion, a Mac Studio is almost like a "Baby Mac Pro." Who would benefit from using a Mac Pro? I'd say a company like Pixar or Nickelodeon would use a Mac Pro. So if you aren't creating the next Toy Story Movie, you probably don't need a Mac Pro. Likewise, if you are just editing Photographs of Weddings and Family Sessions at the park, you don't need a Mac Studio. :D 

I realize there is always a few that would feel better buying "Bigger;" it's almost like buying a 4-Wheel Drive Vehicle and never really taking advantage of it. So if you are still determined to upgrade to a Mac Studio, you don't need to go overboard and get the most expensive version. Remember, Photoshop needs to be programmed to take advantage of what makes a M2 Max / M2 Ultra Chip so fast; otherwise, you are just wasting your money. Please remember, just like the Mac Mini, and all current Mac Products today, there is NO UPGRADING AFTER-THE-FACT! If you need more RAM, HD Capacity, etc. in a few years, you are buying a new computer. Period. So make sure you add any upgrades you might think you need at the time of purchase. So without further adieu, here is what I would configure a Mac Studio for Photoshop and possibly light-video work:

  • Start with the $1999 Mac Studio Model, the one on the LEFT.
  • Upgrade the M2 Max Chip to the M2 Max with 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine.

  • Upgrade the RAM to 64GB


What about the RAM, would upgrading to 96GB be "Better?"

The M1 & M2 Chips treat RAM differently than Intel-based Chips. So you do not "Need" as much RAM as you would on a Intel CPU. Conversationally speaking, 64GB of RAM on a Intel CPU is more along the lines of 32GB RAM on a Apple M1 or M2 chip. You can to a lot more with less RAM on the M1 & M2 Line of Apple Chips, meaning 64GB on a M1 or M2 chip is more like 128GB on a Intel CPU. Make sense? That being said, if you want to fork out the extra money to bump things up to 96GB of RAM, that's fine. You can never have enough RAM, HD Storage Capacity, Processor Speed, etc. Just be prepared for the price-tag increase, which we will discuss below. For now, 64GB is "Fine," even in 2023.


  • Now, if you want to go up to 2TB of storage, that's not a bad idea either, especially if you plan on editing any sort of video. For the majority of us reading this article, a 1TB is still fine; this capacity is what I consider to be in the "Goldilocks Zone," not too expensive, but also not too small in terms of capacity. If your are doing anything creatively, having at least 1TB of storage for your main drive is MANDATORY. Anything smaller, you are asking to have storage problems / error messages in the future.

OK, the cost for this configuration is $2799 for the 1TB version and $3199 for the 2TB Version:


  • Remember, this price is before you purchase the $1600 Mac Studio Display, AND AppleCare! (Plus any applicable tax.) Click Continue.
  • Select the Standard Glass Apple Studio Display for $1599

  • Select the Standard Tilt-Adjustable Stand and add 3 Years of AppleCare for $149

  • Now for the fun part, Click Add to Bag.
  • Here is an important step to not forget: ADD APPLECARE TO YOUR MAC STUDIO!!! 
    Three years of coverage for $169 is fine.


  • Remember, the Keyboard and Mouse are NOT included with the computer. The good news is, you can use your existing Mac Keyboard and Magic Mouse to save a little money, about $300. For this demonstration, we will be adding all three, unless you want a White Magic Keyboard and White Magic Mouse. Those you can purchase separately.

  • Here comes the "Painful Part," Reviewing your bag. For this demonstration, we are using the 2TB configuration since everything else is identical sans the Main HD Capacity. The 1TB model will be slightly cheaper, but I just want to illustrate on just how expensive a Mac Studio configuration is. Here are the particulars:
    • 2TB Mac Studio with AppleCare

    • Apple Studio Display with AppleCare

    • Apple Magic Keyboard and Mouse

The sub-total for this configuration works out to be $5,414.00 BEFORE TAX!!

This price is as of June 10th, 2023. To give you an idea of sales-tax, which is 6%, bumps it up to $5772.68! Currently in the US, the State that has the highest Sales Tax Rate is California, which is 7.25%. (Plus any piggy-back taxes on top of that figure.) That brings the cost to 5806.52 if you lived in California. So let's round that number up to $5850. That's almost $6000 for a Mac!! 

That's right, we are only $150 Bucks away from Six-Thousand Dollars for a Mac Computer. Which seems like a lot, and it is for most people. But if you take a look at the original Mac 128K Computer that was released in January 1984, which sold for $2495. Adjusted for inflation, that would be around $7000 in today's money. So even though this level of money is expensive for the majority, I can say Apple is pretty consistent with their pricing since the beginning. Just think, it's actually CHEAPER to buy a Mac Studio today that has WAY MORE HORSEPOWER (and a color display) that the original Mac in 1984. Truth be told, I'd rather have users spend the money towards the Mac Mini Configuration than to fork out close to $6000 for ANY computer, Windows or Mac.


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My Final Thoughts....

These Mac Configurations are seriously overkill in every sense of the word. They are BEASTS. Technically, you could get away with either choice at their default configurations (the base high-performance model / the one in the right column that I recommended you to start with,) except for one thing: Main HD.

Your main internal "Macintosh HD" should be 1TB at a MINIMUM! Anything smaller and you are asking for trouble! Especially when editing Photos.

Why am I recommending these configurations? Lifespan. Longevity. When I build my computers, I have a 7-8 year time-frame in mind. I do not want to be replacing my computers every 24-36 months. Hell, the manufactures would like you to buy a new one every year if they could have their way! I am not one of those people. I want my computers to last for a good while and am prepared to spend more money up-front, than to spend a little less...only to turn around and spend more money in a few years.

Even the lowest-end Mac Mini Computers will work just fine with the current versions of Photoshop, but I can't guarantee anything in a year or two from now. That's why I go the "Overkill Route." For the people in Ask Damien who have followed my advice for the last 13 years or so, more often than not I receive a message somewhere along the lines of, "My computer that you helped me buy in 2013 is really starting to show it's age. What do you recommend for a replacement?" In this example, that's 10 years worth and I configure my units with a 7-8 time-frame in mind. 10 years is a very good run for a computer, if you really think about it. ;)

Speaking of the lowest priced Mac Mini, which starts at $599. By the time you upgrade the HD to 512GB and the RAM, you are only $300 LESS THAN THE STOCK HIGH END M2 PRO MODEL, which already comes with more RAM and a larger HD. Remember how I stated above that Apple penalizes you for going the cheap route? Yes, the cheapest Mac Mini will get you a "Faster" computer if you are coming from say...a 2013 Mac...but you aren't going to get the lifespan that I'm after. By the time you upgrade the options that I require, namely the main HD -- and should be 1TB for either a Mac OR PC, you are better off getting the more expensive Mac to begin with.

So what does the high-end Mac M2 Pro Mac Mini get you? A better and faster CPU, more robust GPU (Video Graphics) and from what I've read online, around a 30% or so Performance Boost. Not to mention HDMI 2.1 AND FOUR Thunderbolt / USB-C Ports, really sets you up for the next 7-8 years; more-so than going the cheaper route. It's almost like buying a car and spending just $300 more to get Air Conditioning and Butt Warmers in the seats. Sure, the stock model will get you from point A to B just fine, but the one that's just $300 more gets you a lot more comfort getting to your destination.

Buy it Right - Buy it Once.

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