Best Mac for SketchUp

I am curious about CUDA implementation, which might be NVidia only (or some other Nvidia features eveyone wants?)

I meant to say external graphics card. I was told only some softwares have a setting that can designate their use, otherwise you just get to use the internal cards. Just trying to learn about this.



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Yeah, unless you get an older Mac with an NVidia graphics adapter, renderers that need CUDA will either fall back on lesser performance or refuse to run at all. This has no impact on SketchUp itself, as it doesn’t use CUDA.


On the drive space side of things, SSD makes a big difference in speed, but is expensive to buy if it’s inside the MacBook Pro. But, external SSD is more affordable.

I have a couple of these (mine are 500 GB and 2 TB):

In Pounds the 500 GB is clearly a lot better value than the 250 GB, and the 1 TB is the same value as the 500 GB, just twice the cost for twice the space.

One way to go would be to get a MacBook Pro that has a pitiful internal drive space, to the point the owner is embarrassed about charging so much. But, it’s plenty for running the system. Your Photos library and SketchUp work could be on the external SSD, loading a lot faster than the internal hard drive.

So, throw as much money as possible towards the Pro, i7, GHz, RAM side of things, and get a smaller internal HD, plus the external SSD, to get good file performance.


An additional tip, that I didn’t add as an edit to my post, because it’s useful to know in general…

The SSD drives I bought came formatted as ExFAT. This is a format invented by Microsoft. It doesn’t have the limitations of FAT32, whatever those were, and you can read the drive on Mac and Windows.

After a good amount of pain I figured out how it achieves the cross platform aspect. I believe that it has two copies of everything. I backed up a 1 TB Mac SSD to a 2 TB ExFAT SSD, and after 500 GB the drive was full.

So, if you get an ExFAT drive for Mac-only use, reformat it to HFS+. You get twice the storage that way, even if you give up on cross platform connectivity.

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You said portable occasionally. I would check out the new iMac. If you can swing it, you get a 6-8 core machine w 4-8Gb GPU, the latest Intel processor and a 5k retina display. Check out the multi core benchmarks at Geekbench. Much more holler for your dollar and you have the basis for a great design station for your landscape business. You could make this the main station for your work and keep a secondhand laptop for the occasional field trip.

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I know you said portable, but I built my own to suit my needs a few years ago. CUDA graphics were a requisite for VRay and once you add an external GPU and large display, portability is flying out the window already.

Here are my specs - prices have likely come down significantly on some items since this was built:

  • 2010 Mac Pro $1900
  • 512Gb SSD $230
  • (3) 4Tb Hard Drives $315
  • 64Gb RAM $320
  • Sonnet Tango 3.0 $80
  • (2) GeForce GTX 680 GPUs $1240
  • (2) Intel Xeon X5690 $500
  • Thermaltake V1 Chassis $30
  • EVGA 750W PSU $113
  • PSU Daisy Chain Adapter $21
  • GPU Power Leads $104
  • Total $4853

It’ll run Mojave, feed two Dell UltraSharp 27” 2560 x 1440 resolution monitors and a third Dell UltraSharp 24” 1920 x 1200 resolution monitor, handle huge files, and render in no time.


Thank you everyone for all of your advice this is incredibly helpful!

I’ll try to digest everything but I feel I am much better informed now to make a good decision.

I’d love an iMac but I think really I do need a laptop as I work in different places so much and because the cost of them is beyond my means.

I ended up with a 2018 Macbook pro with i7 hexacore, 16GB ram and 512GB storage. I just found one unopened on ebay for half price compared to new. I know it could be more powerful but that’s the best I’ve seen so far within my budget. I’d love a 1TB of storage but this will hopefully see me through and I’ll look into those portable harddrives too.

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Congratulations, that’s a great laptop, it’ll serve you well.

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Thanks :slight_smile: I know it’s not the most powerful out there but I think it will work for me in what I need to do for the next few years. I hope so anyway, I’m excited about using SketchUp properly at last.

Hi, I am running SU Pro on a late 2014 era 15" MacBook Pro that I bought with 256G SSD, which means I got the slower processor as well. The graphics card runs out of steam a lot when I try to render complex images, such as trees and grass, which you will encounter in landscaping. I also use an external TV as a monitor for screen real estate (the SU models are on the laptop screen) and learned the limitations when I tried to connect a 4K TV. The graphics card will NOT support the 4K TV very well regardless of how I futz around with the connections. Apple tells me that there is no way to get around this and I couldn’t find a solution on the forums or elsewhere on the internet. I ended up running the TV as a normal HD TV. Maybe someone here will tell me that there is a way.

The newer ones run 4K properly, so if you are buying a used one, do some research and make sure it will support 4K via the HDMI port (with the 4K cable, of course). BTW, there are aftermarket SSD available, so I was able to change out the SSD myself to 512 G (I needed it to help run the virtual machine with Windows applications) and the good folks at the Apple store did the OS install for me at no charge. But in retrospect I should have sprung for it in the first place and gotten the slightly faster processor.

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I would look at getting a refurbished MacBookPro 2015 with at least 16GB-RAM and highest CPU speed you can find. Also, Solid State Drive. Avoid ‘Fusion Drive’

Thanks - I’m glad I went with the one I did, almost £800 more than I wanted to spend but now I’ve spent it, I know this was the wisest decision. And I effectively have a brand new mac for £900 less than buying direct, so I feel I got a pretty good deal. I haven’t actually used it to run Sketchup yet…! But today is the day :slight_smile:

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Gah! That’s an unfortunate coincidence of text, and 28 Days Later takes place in the UK as well.


Hi Colin,

Total newbie here, but I am in a similar situation and looking to purchase a newer Macbook Pro. My old 2010 13" MB Pro, although modified with 500GB SSD and 16GB RAM, is not cutting it and frequently crashes while running SU Pro 2019. I can’t even download SU Pro 2020.

My question is this: would a new 2020 13" MB Pro such as this;

plus an external SSD like the one you mentioned above, work well for use with SU Pro 2020? If not, I will look into an older 2015 model like you mentioned above. Thanks in advance for the help!

haha I’ve just seen this, brilliant spot! lol Thank fully I am still alive! (for now)

Just as a follow up, I have found this laptop able to run Sketchup well. It does start to slow down when I add lots and lots of components onto the model but I’m playing around with ways to minimise this.

Hi, since I’m about to invest in a more proper machine (Mac) than my present Mac Air is this conversation you started some time ago really interesting. May I ask how you find the one you bought (2018 Macbook pro with i7 hexacore, 16GB ram and 512GB storage), now after working with it for like two years? In short, I work with Sketchup Pro as a gardener and gardendesigner. But as my knowledge expands and therefore my models tend to be mer complex, Mac Air is crying out loud for help :slight_smile:. So no import of nice plants for me in the models.