Best Mac for SketchUp

I need to buy a new (or second hand) Macbook to replace my ageing MacBook Air and I want to buy something to use professionally with SketchUp for landscape designs for a number of years to come.

I was advised that I should be looking at a minimum of 16GB ram but I wondered if anyone could advise on exactly what I need? I’m currently thinking between a Macbook pro and Macbook air. I need it to be a laptop to be portable occassionally (I’ll have a separate large monitor).

I don’t want to spend too much on a new laptop but I also want to make sure I’m investing in something to last, so will spend it if it helps my business.

I’m going to be making fairly complicated models I guess with lots of planting, some building elements etc which will only get more complex as I gain more experience.

Thank you

I think you would find a new or reasonably recent MacBook Pro a better investment than a MacBook Air.

Your profile indicates you are using SketchUp Make. You need to be using SketchUp Pro.

Hiya, thanks - I’m not using pro at the moment because I can’t use Sketch Up on my current laptop. I’m buying a laptop specifically to be able to use the programme professionally.

I see. So you aren’t currently using SketchUp for your business?

What kind of prices are you seeing for refurbished MacBook Pros that are less than 3 years old?

No - I’ve been practicing a lot and have been trained but I’ve never used it for finished designs because as soon as I put plants in (even the low 2MB ones), it runs so slowly it’s unusable. I’ve finally saved up enough for a new laptop and want to make sure I make the right decision as I probably won’t be able to afford another one for at least 5 years.

I found a Macbook pro for £1,300 with 16GB and 256G, i7 from 2017 which seems good. It’s grade B but I don’t mind about scratches as long as the screen and everything else is fine.

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Are you really stuck on a MacBook? You could get more computer for the money if you buy a PC notebook.


I am a little bit because I rely a lot in my day job on apple photos, which sounds like a little thing but I use photos in presentations, for writing etc every day so it speeds my job up a lot.

Ah… Understood.

If you can afford it, I’d be inclined to opt for the MacBook Pro for two reasons: the Pro comes with a better Graphics Processing Unit than the Air, and the i7 is generally a bit faster than the i5 CPU for the same clock speed.

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Thank you - do you think the processor makes more of a difference to sketchup than the GBs of ram, or should I still opt for 16GB ram anyway?

I agree with @slbaumgartner. I’ve been living with an 8 GB machine for the last several years, though that will change shortly. I believe the RAM becomes more critical when you have multiple applications up and running at the same time; when you’re short on RAM, switching between apps make it switch out RAM to virtual memory on disk which causes a noticeable delay, but someone more knowledgeable might be more help on the subject.

An issue with some of the newer machines is that you can’t upgrade the SSD if you need to, so you have to consider future need versus the outrageous extra cost Apple adds for larger drive capacity. I used to routinely upgrade my hard drive at least once in the laptop’s life before getting a new machine, but now that is an issue.

I’m constantly bargain hunting for Apple machines. You have to be ready to jump at the brief bargains when they appear, rather than only looking when you are in need.

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Both become increasingly important when you work with large models. Memory is crucial if you want to run other apps at the same time, especially renderers. My elderly MBP has only 8GB, of which about 3 is typically available for SketchUp. I can’t usefully work with a very large model. I’d get at least 16 and 32 would be better.

SketchUp will use only one core of the CPU, so single-core speed is what matters for it. That’s why i7 will surpass i5 for SketchUp all else being equal. But some renderers will use multiple cores and would benefit.

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whatever you buy, don’t rely on an integrated graphics system (intel HD) and waive a dedicated one.


Yes we were discussing that at home today, not being able to upgrade the SSD is really frustrating as it means I have to opt for a huge upfront expense now. I was looking at the 250GB storage option as a minimum but even now that feels small, so in a few years… 500GB+ would be better.
Thanks for the advice on the RAM, I think Apple stuff can only go up to 16GB so I’ll have to stick with that (at least in my price range).

Take a look at Other World Computing - is the URL. They sell tons of used equipment and upgrades (RAM, SSDs, docks, etc.), and have a complete library of videos on how to do the upgrades yourself.
You can also talk to their people about the best equipment choices and upgrade for your needs and budget.
I would say a minimum setup would be 16GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD. Both of these have gotten really cheap recently.

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My 2¢ as mac user since mastodons roamed the earth and a relentless sketchup user…

Do not go for the macbook air, they are fantastic machines for what they are (we have one) but you need the dedicated high end graphics card of a macbook pro to drive sketchup.

Ram: 8 gig will run sketchup ok, 16 gig is very good, 32 gig a bit better, it’s diminishing returns in terms of experience. Multiple apps and simultaneous background processes are where I notice this.

The i7 is a faster chip but the real world comparisons are not as different as you might think and for some of the older generations of i5 vs i7 you might not notice a difference in daily use, think 1.6 seconds verses 1.8 seconds for an operation.

Hard Drive. This really matters in the grind of daily use. An SSD is significantly faster at accessing your data and that translates directly into less beach balls throughout your day, booting, saving, opening, operating. Go as big as you can, you can never have too much storage :wink: As noted above this is no longer user swappable which is sad, so now you have to pony up for the big guns from the start, you will thank yourself later.

Graphics card: Apple graphics card choices tend to be well thought out and continue to be of good service for a long time. The 15" has better options, get a dedicated card, not just the built in.

I currently think the best value in a macbook pro IMHO is around 2015, There have not been any major updates since then (unless you count gizmos like the touch bar or taking away all the usefull ports for USB-c, taking away the magsafe charger, or making a terrible “butterfly” keyboard in 2016-17 that has known issues). With 2015 15-inch Macbook Pro you get a solid unibody machine that will run Mojave no problem, has a great array of ports on the side so you don’t have to buy a collection of dongles to connect your externals, has a keyboard that does not break, and is widely available with 16gb ram and a 1TBssd and a decent dedicated graphics card that plays nice with sketchup (AMD Radeon 2048 MB in the 15" only, not the 13"), all for a price that won’t break the bank… Just a thought.


I have a 2013 MBP and am looking for more power myself. There are particular reason I will need to use a Mac and notebook for the foreseeable feature–though I’ve considered getting a second Windows machine. I bought a 2018 top MBP and took it back within a month. I didn’t see appreciable improvement for the cost and even seemed to have some troubles. I will now look for a 2014 or 2015 MBP . I will look for a 1TB min. hard drive, max. memory and, if possible the 1050 GTX Nvidia card (the last and largest Nvidia card Mac supported for MBP). The cost is below $2,000. I will wait and see if Apple comes out with a new generation in the coming years before buying new.

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I have been told that the external graphics cards (not “hard drives” as I originally wrote) can only be accessed by specific applications that have a setting to choose it??? I am looking at this as well for some apps.

(sorry— I think this comment side-tracked the discussion!)

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@pbacot , External Hard Drives can be accessed by any app as long as it’s are plugged into the computer and mounted. Speed will be limited to the transfer speed of the port you are using. I think maybe I’m not fully understanding your question.

For what it’s worth the AMD Radeon R9 M370X 2048 MB is available in 2015 and works great too.

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Perhaps the issue is that many apps won’t install correctly to an external drive? In my experience this is because they want to set up folders in your user Library and can’t find it while installing on an external. But I’ve had complete success by installing on the internal drive (so that helper folders are created there) and then moving the app itself to the external drive. I do this all the time for apps I seldom use, such as old versions of SketchUp I keep for testing extension compatibility. I use a thunderbolt connected SSD. It’s only slightly slower than the internal SSD.