Any designers using 12" Macbook?

5 years ago from , Lead Designer

I have a 15" 2015 MBP that I use for my job, but I also have this romantic idea of using a 12" MacBook for my own freelance work which includes using programs like Sketch, Affinity Designer, and building WordPress websites. I don't envision anything too intensive like Photoshop or video editing.

Right now, I use my work computer for some freelance work when I'm at home, but I'd like to keep them separated, and I'm not sure I can justify buying one of the new MacBook Pros.

Does anybody else have a 12" MacBook (2016) that they use for these tasks, or is it just wishful thinking?


  • Harsh Agrawal, 5 years ago

    Hi... I was in your exact same situation a couple of months ago! I use a 2016 15" MBP for my job, and for my personal use, I was using my 2012 15" Retina MBP (1st gen, fully loaded). Not that my personal machine was slowing down or having any problems, but I was itching to switch to a much lighter + smaller machine, and I started fantasizing about the 12" Macbook. After much research and deliberation, I sold my personal machine for a still reasonable price and got very lucky with a 1-day flash sale for $1100 on a brand-new 2015 12" Macbook (Space Grey, 512GB RAM, 1.2GHz) at B&H.

    So far, I'm very pleased with my decision! I run Sketch on it regularly. I was also running Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC on it while I had the license. Not as zippy as the MBP obviously, but worked fine for occasional editing when processing speed was not an issue. If you're doing batch processing of RAW files, you'd definitely feel the pain. I'm running the Brackets HTML/CSS/JavaScript editor on my 12" Macbook, and it works great. I'm also running Audirvana+ audio processing software which is a MAJOR CPU + RAM hog, and it works awesome!

    The only issue would be the screen real-estate for some people. Not for me, though, because I like to run at higher resolution. Other than that, I don't envision you having any issues whatsoever with what you intend to do with it. In fact, you might even be plesantly surprised with its real performance, which seems to defy its specs on paper.

    Good luck!

    2 points
    • , 5 years ago

      Great to hear. As for screen real estate, I would hook up the computer to a monitor while doing heavy work, but use it for lighter tasks if I'm on the couch, in bed, or on the go.

      0 points
  • James FutheyJames Futhey, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Yes. I also own a 2014 15" MBP (plus I use a 2015 MBP at work).

    About a year ago I sold an older 13" MBP and used the money to buy a 12" MacBook.

    I leave one MBP at work, leave one at home, and take the 12" with me pretty much everywhere. It's the most portable machine I've ever owned (even tops my stint with the Surface). Plus, I still get amazed reactions from people when they realize it's “a real MacBook” with a retina display.

    It runs Sketch, Photoshop, Slack, & Webstorm (IDE) without any major hiccups. I'm sure if you pushed it you could get some performance lag in Photoshop or Illustrator, but I'm not a heavy user anymore.

    You notice that your Artboards in Sketch are re-drawn more often (this probably occurs on more powerful machines, but not often enough to notice). It's definitely noticeable, but I don't believe it negatively impacts my ability to work.

    The size is also something to get used to of you work on a MBP every day. It seemed small the first time I used it, and took about a week of occasional use before the keyboard spacing, and placement of trackpad felt natural.

    The CPU clock speed seems underwhelming, but it's not as underpowered as that might suggest. CPU clock speed is not correlative with CPU performance. You can see from it's benchmark scores (http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+M-5Y51+%40+1.10GHz) it's still pretty powerful. I play some games on it from time to time (like Civ V).

    The one major drawback that I've noticed, is that they seem to throttle the CPU/GPU to compensate for heat buildup in the device, since there are no fans to cool it. I imagine this strategy is used with other Apple products. However, this means that after prolonged use, your performance may end up getting halved until the core temperature drops back to normal ranges.

    10/10 would recommend as a second MacBook. However, for others, I might have some reservations about recommending this in place of a cheaper MacBook Pro. Anyone looking for a more portable option would probably be better suited with a 2013 MBP.

    Also, having used the 2015 and 2016 models, I can't say there is much of a difference in the two. If you can find a significantly cheaper 2015 model you might be happier going that route. The only difference is about a 10%-20% increase in CPU performance (depending on model).

    1 point
  • Owen McFadzenOwen McFadzen, 5 years ago

    I had a 15" MBP then got a 12" as a second machine. Things went well enough for me to sell the 15" and now I've worked solely on the 12" for the past 4 months.

    • Sketch runs well +Affinity programs run well
    • Mail and all my PM software runs well too.

    But here's the killer

    • Browsing with my tab habit kills it...

    So on the way home from Japan in a few weeks I will be buying a 13" MBP. I love the 12" and I feel that it changed how I relate to my laptop since it was just so portable. But in the end I don't want two machines and I want to indulge in my disgusting browser tab habit and do everything else...

    0 points
  • Vlad Micliuc, 5 years ago

    Freelance work as in designing for the web? Even a 2012 one can handle that easily. You need an SSD more than a high-end CPU.

    You shouldn't worry about the power of your machine. You should worry about the screen size, if you're comfortable with it for a daily use. For coding it's fine, but for design work I can't live without a second monitor, external storage, and a non-apple mouse.

    As you can see, it's more important what you have around it not the machine itself. If you want high portability as in working in coffee shops, I'm not a fan of that. As a professional. you need a dedicated working space.

    0 points
  • Jobe Mesko, 5 years ago

    I’ve been in love with my 12” MacBook since July. Apps I use daily with no issues include Atom, CodeKit, Sketch, Bear, Chrome and Spotify.

    0 points
  • Asher SimondsAsher Simonds, 5 years ago

    Others have given more detailed answers so I'll save time for you and +1 the positive reactions. I've had my MB for a year and a half now and have designed identities, websites, and apps through Sketch, Affinity, and Adobe software. I wouldn't attempt to do anything heavy in something like After Effects, but even Photoshop can deal with 14MP RAW files with just a pinch of patience.

    Moving to a new gig and thinking of swapping up for a new 2016 MBP, but only because it may end up being my primary machine which would need some more power for motion and video. If it wasn't for those things, I'd have no problems sticking with this little spark.

    0 points
  • Mike BusbyMike Busby, 5 years ago

    I have the original 12" MB from 2015. I've tried to work on it, writing code on it is fine, although uncomfortable unless on a desk due to the palm rest size. It's not powerful enough to run design tools properly IMO.

    0 points
  • Dan GDan G, 5 years ago

    The screen alone would put me off. Get one of the new 13" MBPs if you're thinking you'd like something more portable.

    I have one and its the same weight, and smaler than my old Air.

    0 points
    • Doug OrchardDoug Orchard, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

      I've upgraded this year from a 2013 Air to a 2016 MBP 13" W/O touchbar, it's smaller everywhere except the front pointy area of the Air's. weight, cant tell the difference. Overall i love the new MBP vs. Air. biggest selling point, weight and retina screen.

      0 points
  • Joe Blau, 5 years ago

    I have this same vision (add Xcode and a few other things), but from what I've heard, the processor in the MacBook One is a bit to slow that it probably won't be a pleasant experience.

    The MacBook One does look amazing every time I see it.

    0 points