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View Full Version : Programming etc on the MBA three years from now




a.u
Oct 5, 2011, 09:45 AM
Hi, I've got a problem that I would like some input on. I need a new laptop and the options I've decided on are the baseline 13'' MBP or the baseline 13'' MBA.
To be honest I do like the Air a whole lot more mainly because of the size and screen, but there is one thing im worried about. This fall I will start studying programming, which means that in 2-3 years I will be a broke student. Therefore I'm thinking the MBP would be a great choice seeing as you can easily upgrade both the ram and the harddrive (change to ssd), which would be much cheaper than buying a brand new computer.

Now my question is, in 2-3 years, how do you reckon the MBA will be holding up? As far as I know the SSD pretty much makes up for the slower processor compared to MBP, but what about ram? I see people are already upgrading their Pros to 8gb. Do you reckon the air will be able to handle the OS and different apps three years from now without lagging too much?

Thanks in advance!



warfed
Oct 5, 2011, 09:56 AM
One of the most important specs in a computer for programming is screen resolution. You want to get as much code as possible on your screen. You won't like coding on a 1280x800 screen. The MBA isn't perfect, but it is one of the better 13" laptops in that department (only beat/matched by Sony atm, AFAIK).

For programming, I would go with the Air for the resolution alone.

a.u
Oct 5, 2011, 09:59 AM
One of the most important specs in a computer for programming is screen resolution. You want to get as much code as possible on your screen. You won't like coding on a 1280x800 screen. The MBA isn't perfect, but it is one of the better 13" laptops in that department (only beat/matched by Sony atm, AFAIK).

For programming, I would go with the Air for the resolution alone.

Thanks, so you dont think the 4gigs of ram will be a problem for at least 2-3 years?

warfed
Oct 5, 2011, 10:03 AM
Depends on what you plan to do. If you just want to program on it, yeah 4GB will be enough for a long time. If you want to run several instances of vmware, then it won't be.

Overall I think 4GB is enough especially since it has an SSD. My gaming rig has had 4GB of ram for the past 4 years, the only thing I upgrade is the video card. Even on that machine I don't feel like I need more ram anytime soon.

KohPhiPhi
Oct 5, 2011, 10:09 AM
I absolutely agree with a previous poster: programming on a 1200x800 resolution (MBP 13") is simply painful and a scrolling nightmare. That was the sole reason, as a web developer, as of why I went for the MBA 13" at 1400x900.

I think 4gb RAM will last you another 2 years or so, but it's probably the weakest link in the MBA family in my opinion (GPU aside, assuming you dont game)

a.u
Oct 5, 2011, 10:10 AM
Depends on what you plan to do. If you just want to program on it, yeah 4GB will be enough for a long time. If you want to run several instances of vmware, then it won't be.

Overall I think 4GB is enough especially since it has an SSD. My gaming rig has had 4GB of ram for the past 4 years, the only thing I upgrade is the video card. Even on that machine I don't feel like I need more ram anytime soon.

Yeah my current windows laptop has a weaker processor, harddrive and less ram than the MBA and it runs okay those few times im able to turn it on :p
The school I will be studying at does have great desktops you can use for assignments etc, so the laptop will mostly be used for hobby projects, surfing and of course some school work when I feel like staying in my room working.

Thanks for your help, im looking forward to unboxing a brand new MBA a couple of days from now :D

richlee111
Oct 5, 2011, 11:00 AM
I switched from a 2011 15" Macbook Pro with the 2.3 Ghz processor, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, and hi-res anti-glare screen. In the end, it was nice, but total overkill. I went from that to a 11" i7 w/ the 256Gb SSD. Currently I'm a .Net developer in my job, and so I'm running either Windows in Boot Camp or through a VM enviornment. In the end, I find that 4GB RAM is fine. I do run up to the max sometimes, but that is when I am using it in a VM w/ the RAM allocated to the max. Given that you are a programming student, you might have to do some stuff in Windows I'm guessing.

Lastly, IMO, the need for 8GB or more is usually for those who regularly are in the multimedia space. So we are talking about photos, graphics, videos, and music editing/creation. Until you get into big time database application development, you should be good.

kulimer
Oct 6, 2011, 12:04 AM
I think when they designed it's meant for it's compactness, and weight, not as a power horse, though you can use it as one. You should look into MacBook Pro.

Three years is a long time, I don't think any computer can stand three years against its competition. In another words, your computer will in out, in three years for sure.

thejadedmonkey
Oct 6, 2011, 12:30 AM
I'm a hobbiest silverlight developer, and it's not uncommong for me to hit 4gb of RAM usage when I have Visual Studio + Photoshop + Web/Email/Music up.

I'd definitely say that the air is not "good enough" for 3 years.

Right now the SDD will compensate for the lack of CPU power. For now. But the CPU won't hold up, especially when it comes to compiling stuff. The SSD is way too small, and there's no easy upgrade path. The Macbook Pro is better in every single way save the screen resolution, which can be fixed by an external monitor.

Trust me, you want a computer to program on, not an appliance.

KohPhiPhi
Oct 6, 2011, 09:37 AM
The Macbook Pro is better in every single way save the screen resolution, which can be fixed by an external monitor.

And what's "portable" at all about that setup? The core idea behind the MBA is portability, so considering a MBP+External Monitor kinda doesn't make sense in this scenario...

warfed
Oct 6, 2011, 09:42 AM
I'm a hobbiest silverlight developer, and it's not uncommong for me to hit 4gb of RAM usage when I have Visual Studio + Photoshop + Web/Email/Music up.


I assume your in Windows since you are running Visual Studio. I am running the same programs, plus a few more (Notepad++, RDP, msn, etc). I am sitting at 1.76GB right now.

The only difference is I have a c# project open, not sliverlight.

I'm not sure what's eating up your ram, but I normally don't go over 2GB when developing. Even with a memory hog like eclipse.

Alkiera
Oct 6, 2011, 11:53 AM
I assume your in Windows since you are running Visual Studio. I am running the same programs, plus a few more (Notepad++, RDP, msn, etc). I am sitting at 1.76GB right now.

The only difference is I have a c# project open, not sliverlight.

I'm not sure what's eating up your ram, but I normally don't go over 2GB when developing. Even with a memory hog like eclipse.

My work development machine(Win7 x64) has 4gb of ram, and I often have multiple projects open (up to 7-8 instances of Visual Studio, between 2005, 2008, and 2010), then SQL Server Management Studio, (SQL Server 2008 R2 in background), a bunch of custom Windows services related to my company, source control apps, RDP, Outlook 2010, etc, and rarely hit the limit where I have to page to disk.

The biggest memory users? Browsers. Open Firefox to GMail, watch it eat 250MB of ram, all by itself. I'm pretty sure the majority of my 2.89 gb used at the moment on my machine is the 14 tabs I have open in Chrome.

On the original topic: I have a 3-year-old MBA (Rev. A, C2D 1.6Ghz, @GB ram, 80mb hdd). Yes, 1280x800 is annoying to program on, especially if using XCode. Using other tools (TextMate and a terminal window) it's not so bad. CPU/Ram are sufficient for my programming needs, mostly Android app development, and the occasional Mono stuff for hobby projects, all in MacOS X native; I've run VMWare on it, 2GB ram is really not enough to do it nicely. 4gb should be plenty to run a VM, though.

RLesko
Oct 6, 2011, 12:43 PM
If you're studying programming you'll probably be using Eclipse, a unix terminal, or Visual Studio. Since you're a student, it probably means you won't have 8 instances of VS, SQL Server, etc. The MBA may be enough for now but who knows what happens in 3 years. Were you planning on buying the $1300 or $1600 base model for the air?

SidBala
Oct 6, 2011, 12:53 PM
Programming, the more screen estate you have, the better.

IMO no other factor matters more than the screen resolution.

a.u
Oct 6, 2011, 01:04 PM
If you're studying programming you'll probably be using Eclipse, a unix terminal, or Visual Studio. Since you're a student, it probably means you won't have 8 instances of VS, SQL Server, etc. The MBA may be enough for now but who knows what happens in 3 years. Were you planning on buying the $1300 or $1600 base model for the air?

I was thinking of buying the base $1300 model. It's true I most likely wont be running 8 instances of VS etc. Come to think of it I might have overestimated the power I need from a laptop. I will mostly use it to surf, take notes, read code and tutorials, and do small assignments. Those tasks should be fine on the macbook air afaik. For larger projects I'll use either one of the school desktops or my own desktop.

MultiFinder17
Oct 8, 2011, 02:24 AM
I was thinking of buying the base $1300 model. It's true I most likely wont be running 8 instances of VS etc. Come to think of it I might have overestimated the power I need from a laptop. I will mostly use it to surf, take notes, read code and tutorials, and do small assignments. Those tasks should be fine on the macbook air afaik. For larger projects I'll use either one of the school desktops or my own desktop.

As a student programmer transitioning to a 'real' developer, I've found that my 2009 Air is still working perfectly for me. 1.86GHz C2D, 2GB RAM, 120GB SSD. It's more than enough to handle juggle a few projects in Xcode, a few reference PDFs, and some reference websites in Safari. I can honestly see this little guy continuing to be my laptop for at least two more years, probably more.

DieterRams
Oct 9, 2011, 08:22 PM
I absolutely agree with a previous poster: programming on a 1200x800 resolution (MBP 13") is simply painful and a scrolling nightmare. That was the sole reason, as a web developer, as of why I went for the MBA 13" at 1400x900.

I think 4gb RAM will last you another 2 years or so, but it's probably the weakest link in the MBA family in my opinion (GPU aside, assuming you dont game)

Totally agree with this; I'll likely upgrade to whichever happens first: Air with 8GB RAM or redesigned thinner MBP that already has 8GB RAM. I already find 4GB a bit limiting with the amount of browsers and windows/tabs I have open, not to mention other applications. And screen res is important for sure, although I was even considering an 11" at one point.

bp1000
Oct 10, 2011, 03:24 AM
I use an external monitor when programming all day when docking at home or office, but the screen is more than adequate for on the go.

The MBA is lightning fast and will be for programming for those 3 years. However if you are running vm's, server and multiple compilers or dev tools, you will run more comfortably on 8gb.

I never max my ram as I just run MacVim, cyberduck, pixelmator and firefox/firebug, everything is remote and I don't like heavy, bloated IDE'S so it's a bit different for me.

Remember, the mbp it's a lot more expensive for similar spec ssd (which makes a massive difference) and screen res, plus is heavier to carry around for 3 years.

theSeb
Oct 10, 2011, 05:43 AM
But the CPU won't hold up, especially when it comes to compiling stuff. The SSD is way too small, and there's no easy upgrade path.

Really? What exactly are you compiling? Windows?