MacBook Pro Hardware Upgrades

Finding a bargain on Macs isn’t as easy as other brands, but you can sometimes find them. Following and their price watch list helps. Most of the bargains I’ve gotten have been from either B&H Photo, Adorama, or Other World Computing.


  • Get a real GPU
  • Get the fastest CPU you can
  • Get the largest drive you think will last a while (you used to be able to upgrade this in the past, but not anymore with the latest models.)


  • Pay for lots of cores/processors (unless you’re big time into rendering)

Only 15" MacBook Pros have a real GPU. Everything else has integrated graphics, so I only look at those. Here are OWC’s current offerings for 15" MBPs

Typically the best deals I’ve ever seen happened either on “Black Friday” or the weeks leading up to Christmas, so with that less than a month away, maybe you can hang on long enough to see what comes up?


If I get into debates about Mac OS versus Windows, I say that I will concede that some Windows machines are faster than the fastest Macs, but ‘I’ work faster in Mac OS.

For my job I do need to test Windows issues a lot, and for that I have both Parallels and Bootcamp (as well as access to real PCs). Funnily, the benchmark tests on my MacBook Pro running under Bootcamp come out faster than 75% of real PCs, and about 20% faster than my machine running as a Mac, and about the same amount faster than a mean machine PC laptop we have.


Colin what Mac do you have?

My work Mac is

15 inch 2018 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 16 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
Radeon Pro 560X 4 GB/Intel UHD Graphics 630 1536 MB

Personal Mac is:

15 inch 2018 2.9 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i9 32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
Radeon Pro 560X 4 GB/Intel HD Graphics 630 1536 MB

So, bit better on my personal machine. The figures I gave for Parallels and Bootcamp were for my work machine. Even that one is better than the one Aaron uses for live modeling!

Maybe running Windows under boot camp is a way to enhance performance on a Mac. I wonder if this would be across the Mac lineup or limited to one or two models.


The real issue being here, if the developers follow Apple’s design rules, or trying to force-implement-Windows-OpenGL on bare Metal

The 13" only has integrated graphics card, you don’t buy the 15" just for the processor speed, buy it for it’s discrete graphics card. Go used, avoid problems, skip the touch-bar, save money.

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So clearly you put more thought into this than I did, even though it sounds like you are using it for a very similar use as I. I started using SketchUp on a gaming PC (HP Omen), but ran into some issues and ended up choosing a mac pro (we have a ton of apple stuff at home so compatibility was attractive. I ended up getting a mac pro 15", 2.3 ghx, 8 core intel i9 w 16 gb. Heres my 2 cents:

Sketchup seemed more stable on the pc - I’ve crashed it a few times (albeit usually in vray when doing render set up) but its frozen on me a couple times just drawing. It never crashed on the pc

The customize toolbar is way more functional on the pc. You can’t organize and stack the tool bars like you can on windows (at least I haven’t found a way to) so you have one superlong toolbar that runs off the windows if you want most of the buttons like I like to have. subtle other issues like windows and bar managing is a bit of a pain (materials, layers, scenes, etc) don’t nicely park like they do in windows. Not the end of the world, but when you are used to having your set up it annoying to always have to move the floating bars around.

Not sure if you plan on using vray to render but vray doesn’t play nice with the graphics processor --almost always crashes (I got this straight from vray help) so you need to use cpu for rendering

Its a good system, but as I noted, there are a few little compromises. Last weeks Catalina upgrade was a bit bumpy - they had a few patches released already but by the time you buy, its likely all resolved. the latest upgrade seems to work fairly well.

good luck

I did a lot of SketchUp-Stuff with my Macbook Pro 2017, most of the time connected to two 4k-Monitors. i7 2,9 Ghz, 16 GB, Radeon 560. It worked fine, even with big models (200 MB).
Do you have an external Monitor? If not, I would recommend a 15" Macbook. I would not go for a low spec Macbook. An alternative for you could be to buy a refurbished Macbook Pro.

In the past I used both Mac and Windows-Systems. SketchUp on Mac, Lumion on Windows for Renderings. I didn´t like this workflow. Therefore I only work on Windows now. But I liked SketchUp on the Mac very much. But what I do like about Windows-Computers: You get a lot more GPU-Power for the same money compared to a Mac. And if you want to do Renderings sometime in the future, you need that. At the moment I only have a RTX 2060 (in an Alienware Laptop) but I gonna buy a Desktop with a bigger GPU in it soon.
On my Macbook I tested out Twinmotion, which runs also on Mac, but the Radeon 560 is way to slow.

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We have skp running on 2012 - 2015 MBP 15 inches, all with a 2440 monitor behind it. 16gb, 512 gb. Some seven year old, but new battery and bingo. Smaller is too small in screensize and too slow in graphics. Macbook air is no good for sketchup. We tried…
SKP on these macbooks runs very well. For rendering (esp batch) we have a win box: AMD ryzen 16 core with 1080 gtx nvidia. Which runs 10 times as fast… Is used by the intern for daily work, because of… Win10. (we really hate windows for its uglyness and clunkyness, technically it still is XP with a new design)
We have not touched the newest macbooks yet, for their radeon graphics and the keyboard problems. Waiting for Apple to switch back to Nvidia…
Our advice would be a 15 inch refurb 2015.

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OK LG Sophie. Now, are you sorry you asked?
I use computers as a tool. Prior to my computer I used a pencil very effectively, I am an architect. I cannot talk about specifications— It’s not my gig. But I can tell you my experience with both systems. I switched to Mac products about a dozen years ago after having struggles with PC products for a couple decades. I have only use sketch up for six or seven years so I don’t have experience with sketch up on both systems. I use a Desktop for my heavy lifting and the airbookx for portability. The air books work fine when I use them in auxiliary situations, like waiting for my car mechanic, or more recently yesterday when I didn’t have electricity for 24 hours. I recently bought a new desktop and needed help transferring information from the old machine to the new machine and upgrading sketch up. A very helpful sketch up technician told me the following: well, if it’s an Apple there about five things that can be the problem; and if it’s a PC any number of 100 things could be The problem. He verified my decision with Apple products. If you can only buy a laptop because you need portability, go to an Apple store and talk to their people about what your program requirements are. Gaming and watching movies requires different components than A cad program like sketch up. I printed out the specifications of my old machine and asked the Apple people how I should upgrade and they immediately looked up sketch up to see what the system requirements needed to be and made a recommendation. I have no special rendering needs because the programs are too complicated for me to learn; If I need rendering I will purchase it from someone that knows what they’re doing. The simplistic rendering from sketch up is satisfactory for my needs and it sounds like it will be the same for you.
(Because I run my business on these machines I swap them out about every five years because I need the reliability, which I have not found in human repairmen.)


LOL, no it’s not.

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Just moved from a Win 7 box to Win 10 box at work. Encountered ZERO issues, easy as pie.

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Haha yes, yes I am sorry. I think you’re right in that I don’t need the strongest, fastest computer for my purposes, and am unlikely to have much need for rendering, if any. I too have used SketchUp on a MacBook Air before and it was fine, though again I’d side with you in that it makes due for auxiliary purposes only; I don’t want that as my full-time setup.

I have to disagree with you about seeking Apple recommendations - I had initially gone into an Apple store with my questions (if sketchup recommends a 2.1GHz processor, would a 1.4GHz macbook using turbo boost do the trick?) - the employee didn’t know what turbo boost is (considering this is an advertised feature of MacBooks…) and proved unhelpful. Phone calls with Apple sales and technical teams were equally disappointing. Sketchup recommends a 2.1GHz processor for Apples - Apple can easily take that and steer me towards a $3000 MacBook with 2.4GHz processor, but I have to question if that is necessary when I also understand that the computer could just run on TurboBoost when using Sketchup, for a speed up to 5GHz depending on the MacBook model. According to Intel customer support, even the MacBook Air processors should satisfy the SketchUp requirement, so I’m just not sure how much above an Air I really need to be.

Personally I prefer Mac OS over windows and I’m looking to buy a new computer for general personal use, including but not limited to SketchUp. While I appreciate the recommendations to use Windows, I want to have a positive user experience with day to day tasks as well, not just SketchUp. If someone wants to recommend a great off-the-shelf PC laptop (let’s be honest I’m not upgrading anything unless it’s at time of purchase), I’m open to considering it, but generally that’s just not the direction I’m looking to go right now. Refurbished MacBooks are sounding promising.

hi lj. i need to rectify my statement about apple stores: i won’t set foot in one. we do have, however, in buffalo, an independent (franchise, perhaps?) who sells only apple products and does repairs and business counseling–it’s called mac solutions+. they are fab. they did not try to sell me anything i didn’t need which is probably rare. it helps that i know exactly how i am going to use my machine from years of experience. the programs keep getting more sophisticated and my models keep getting bigger so the RAM on my last machine became insufficient and i was having a couple quirky problems that i am not smart enough to identify/rectify. i am also lucky in that (the last time around) i consulted an independent repair guy who asked me the age of my machine (5 years), and then said: ‘you run your business off this machine? what’s $1500?’. he was absolutely correct. today the base price of the desktop was only $1800 and i only needed to upgrade one component for a total of $2k + tax–all of this pleasantly surprised me. i will keep my laptop because i use it only for incidental purposes lately; it should be interesting to see how long it lasts/serves my purposes; sketchup runs just fine when i need to use it.

talking about pc vs apple is like discussing religion, or, lately, politics. i try to avoid it. (and i got a nasty/smarmy email from someone that read my comment.)

best of luck to you. kk

ps. i will try to remember to copy the specs of my old laptop–i did not buy anything close to the max 5 years ago–and send it to you.

ha! and my comment to you was removed from the forum for being inappropriate/offensive/whatever. did i get it right about being the same as religion or politics?

Hey K, in this case, I don’t think you should take it personally - your email signature was included in the bottom of your comment, containing your personal information so I think it was flagged for removal to protect your identity :slight_smile:


hmmm. thanks. i don’t usually participate in these things.

i sent the spec of my airbook to demonstrate that a unit 5 years old still suffices perfectly for SU. i do not know how it compares to what’s available now and i probably won’t buy new till i have to. when i went electronic i was concerned about how to present to my clients so i bought a small hand-held projector and project a layout presentation on a wall or a board that i carry (layout allows you to twirl the model around and show off–a pdf does not). i work primarily on existing buildings so i’m usually meeting on site (obviating the wonderful 42" screen in my office). i also use conferencing programs so the computer image is in both our faces and i often send pdfs ahead of me and we talk over paper face to face. mastering sketchup has added 20 years of life to my practice–i so love the program. sometimes when i’m tired or depressed i build a 3D model cause it’s so much fun (and i still charge for my time!).

best of luck to you. it’s a jungle out there. the computer is just a very fancy pencil. kathy

It’s a great example of how even an older, entry-level Mac can still be used for SketchUp. The difference in a newer top-of-the-line model would be a much faster multi-core processor, dedicated graphics and more memory. All of this contributes significantly to the performance of SketchUp and to the handling of larger models.

I think this is true of most modern computer hardware. I am using a, new to me, refurb Dell workstation at home with a 4th gen i5 quad cpu. It does have a sata ssd hd and a gtx 650 ti video card. It runs SU almost as fasts my new workstation at work. The program doesn’t start as fast nor do files load as fast as my work machine as it has a PCIe M.2 drive but once the file is loaded there is very little difference.