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randroide
Aug 6, 2013, 08:31 PM
Hello all,

I am a software engineer in search of a new Mac laptop and I would like to hear the opinion of other fellow programmers/software engineers/software developers regarding their experience working on a 13" MBA.

In terms of specs I consider an i7/8GB RAM MBA, alongside the new battery life, to be very competitive, but I would like to hear from others who have used one as their main computer, preferably on the go. I'm mainly interested in the aspects of screen size/multitasking.

Things like: Using IDE's such as IntelliJ, Eclipse, and Visual Studio; running web services locally; and Photoshop/Illustrator workspace.

Main uses: Android, iOS, Windows 8, mobile development; web services (back-end), Leap Motion, some Unity 3D, graphic design.

Let me know of your experiences please.

Thank you.



Memole
Aug 6, 2013, 08:53 PM
it should be poweful enough for dev work though i would go for i5 and i wouldnt work on 13" screen as i would hook up MBA to a external display :)

gordon1hd1
Aug 6, 2013, 08:54 PM
Macbook Air is pretty good for development.

I personally use it for android and iOS development using Eclipse and XCode. Most things work well, and the battery life is awesome.

But the emulator for android run a bit slow on the MBA, even on a i7. iOS emulator runs fine.

Nothing so far i thrown at it (except for the android emulator) has able to hit the limit of the cpu (even running a mySQL server and Tomcat server locally)

PS, 8gb of ram is very much needed.

randroide
Aug 6, 2013, 09:17 PM
Thanks for your replies so far.

Just to clarify I currently own a 13" cMBP with 16GB RAM, which is not properly holding up in graphics terms anymore (HD 3000), that I usually connect to an external display. I'm looking mainly for experience in terms of using the laptop by itself when programming on the go.

gordon1hd1, your user scenarios fit most of mine. Great to know about your experience.

redGoat
Aug 7, 2013, 12:50 PM
Same situation here,

The upgrade to i7 worth it?


The 256 will be enough for
Windows 8 dev (VM/bootcamp W8 + VS2012 + sqlserver)
iOs dev and android will be done con osx.

Or for that it will be worth it upgrade to 512?

w00d
Aug 8, 2013, 01:19 PM
I am in the same line of work: web, mobile and sometimes desktop apps. I often use visual studio in a vm (vmware fusion).

I bought a 2013 i5 4gb and it was not enough. Probably due to the memory; I could not give my VM more than about 1.5 gigs of ram.

I returned it for i7 + 8gb and this works so much better, even without considering vm use, it is noticeably snappier in OSX.

I would not recommend the i5 if you are a developer who puts in a lot of hours with this machine.

Sharp tools make for easy work.

redGoat
Aug 8, 2013, 06:58 PM
I am in the same line of work: web, mobile and sometimes desktop apps. I often use visual studio in a vm (vmware fusion).

I bought a 2013 i5 4gb and it was not enough. Probably due to the memory; I could not give my VM more than about 1.5 gigs of ram.

I returned it for i7 + 8gb and this works so much better, even without considering vm use, it is noticeably snappier in OSX.

I would not recommend the i5 if you are a developer who puts in a lot of hours with this machine.

Sharp tools make for easy work.

What about the size of the ssd? Do you stick with 256?
I'm worry about this because I use to do .net dev a lot, do you recoment max the ssd, or I'm just paranoic with the space and I'll be fine with 256 for the osx and w8 + vs...

AXs
Aug 8, 2013, 10:10 PM
My advice would be to get a pro for professional work.

randroide
Aug 8, 2013, 11:23 PM
In terms of storage I consider 256GB to be enough, even with a partition for Windows. The 512GB upgrade doesn't seem to justify its price.

I'm debating on whether getting a 13" MacBook Air + a 27" iMac, or waiting for a new maxed-out 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display to come out.

w00d
Aug 9, 2013, 12:50 AM
What about the size of the ssd? Do you stick with 256?
I'm worry about this because I use to do .net dev a lot, do you recoment max the ssd, or I'm just paranoic with the space and I'll be fine with 256 for the osx and w8 + vs...


I have 256 ssd, it's probably 70% full.

My primary windows dev VM is ~60 gigs.

You can never have too much space, 512 gb isn't really all that big IMO.

It really depends on what you need, how much drive space do you need for your local VM? Or multiple vms?

I keep my raw photo, video, software iso collection on an external drive.

I would say you just need to look at your current dev environment and take inventory, how much space do you need? Only you can answer that one.

Storm9
Aug 9, 2013, 12:16 PM
I'm using my air for dev. I have the same model you mentioned.
There are no issues what so ever using this for dev. I have it hooked up to a 1080p external monitor all day at work and I have a Windows VM up at all times.

There is no lag at all. You absolutely need 8GB of ram, I went for the i7 just to have that little extra performance.

SchodMC
Aug 9, 2013, 02:41 PM
I bought the i5/8G/256SSD for office-work, sw-dev and some windows vm and old-game gaming.

The i5 is a nice machine, no question. But as soon as i plugged an external monitor (tried both, HDMI and VGA), I was a little bit disappointed. The reason was a laggy OSX GUI. Switching spaces, opening mission control and something like that - no smooth animations. To be honest, it's nothing that make the i5 unusable.

On the other side I read a lot of comments about the i7 - a noisy, battery eating, expensive heat machine, with an extra of power no one will ever need or realize during daly work (except for video-editors).

After some other comments and PMs (at this point: thanks to ZBoater ;)), I ordered a i7/8GB/256SSD model. I wanted to get my hands on both machines and then decide which one I want to keep.

Today I received the i7. Well, comparing the i5 with the i7, I realized the following (browsing / office work / Xcode):


The fan is near the same RPM speed (i5:1182 to 1200 rpm, i7: 1190 to 1220 rpm, sometimes 2000 but still not hearable for me).
The heat is also equivalent. CPU-Temp is round about 2/3 degrees celcius more on the i7 - nothing to complain about.
Battery life is also very similar. Can't tell how long the batter life really is, but according to coconutBattery, both machines have nearly the same power usage. Also the remaining time OSX calculates seems to be the same.


Using CPU power drains battery life of the i7 more then the battery life of the i5. Also the fan will come in early on the i7. So - nothing new, everything is equal to the results other tests like the one from AnandTech (http://www.anandtech.com/show/7113/2013-macbook-air-core-i5-4250u-vs-core-i7-4650u) already figured out.

Well - long story short: what machine should you take? I came to the same conclusion as the above test: " If the MacBook Air is going to be your only machine however, I can definitely make a case for opting for more performance."

I for myself will keep the i7 model. It's silent and have no worse battery life while doing idle/office work. Furthermore working on the i7 (especially when plugged to an external monitor) feels snappier and smother then compared to the i5. I think it's the best of to worlds: long battery life and a silent machine for work done when it need to be mobile and on the other side has the power, if needed.

Three final words:

This is my experience. Some users told that they have no lags using their i5 with an external monitor. Maybe something was wrong with my i5 model, maybe they have better monitors (I don't own a thunderbolt display!) or maybe we don't have the same definition of smooth and laggy. ;)
It feels that the i7 becomes a little bit warmer at the button compared to the i5. For me it's not worse or a reason to keep the i5. Also it is nothing I can measure. It's only an impression / feeling. So it also could be wrong.
If you read what I figured out about the i7, you will realize that it is the same other i7 owners already told. So nothing new here. ;)

A little tip for you as software-developer: got for the i7, I think you won't regret it.

cu
SchodMC

edit: Just forgot: I have the 13" model.

Saturn1217
Aug 9, 2013, 03:05 PM
Thanks SchodMC for your impressions!

I'll be purchasing a 13" MBA tomorrow (it is tax free weekend in my state) and i've gone back and forth between the i5 and i7 about 1000 times!

I don't think I'll ever use an external monitor but I was hoping to start learning some software development w/ Xcode (I'm a beginner so nothing crazy). Did you notice significant speed differences between the i5 and i7 when you didn't have an external monitor attached? Especially when doing more processor intensive applications like software development?

Thanks in advance!

AXs
Aug 9, 2013, 03:15 PM
Dont worry, even if you use an external display it will be just fine. I've been using an external display since S-Video days. It wasn't a problem 10 years ago, it's not a problem today.

Maybe the guy has some old display or something. Not sure. First time i've ever heard that a 10% cpu bump (Real Time, not isolated)... will give you better external display usage.


Anyways, You'll be completely fine with any Haswell Air you pick. You'll even be fine with the base i5/4/128. You don't think Apple is going to put a product that's 'choppy' when used to do things people did 10 years ago, do you?

You'll be fine. If you can't wait for Haswell Pros, I think i7 would be better for you.

Good luck, key is to be happy with what you buy.

Ronnoco
Aug 9, 2013, 03:44 PM
I'm glad you are happy with your decision. Have fun, the new MBA's are outstanding! :)

SchodMC
Aug 9, 2013, 04:17 PM
Maybe the guy has some old display or something. Not sure. First time i've ever heard that a 10% cpu bump (Real Time, not isolated)... will give you better external display usage.
Well, I plugged the i5 to my monitor at home (Samsung SMBX2450, 24", full HD res, plugged with an mini display-port to HDMI adapter from mumbi) and to my monitor at work (Samsung A450, 24", 1920x1200 resolution, plugged with original Apple mini display-port to VGA adapter). i5 lags when switching spaces (especially to spaces with a coupe of open windows), i7 has no lags, changes the spaces smoothly. It also was surprising for me. Really don't know what happened wrong. But there are some other users with that kind of problem and the i5 MBA. Just look to other threads inside this forum.

As I said - maybe I had some other problem with my i5 model, maybe a problem with the thunderbolt port. Before I switch to the MBA, I had a MBP 13" i5, early 2011. This also was a little bit laggy in same situations, but not as much as the i5. It also could be a little problem of mountain lion.

When using the i5 without an external monitor, everything was fine!

But back to topic...
I don't think I'll ever use an external monitor but I was hoping to start learning some software development w/ Xcode (I'm a beginner so nothing crazy). Did you notice significant speed differences between the i5 and i7 when you didn't have an external monitor attached? Especially when doing more processor intensive applications like software development?

Thanks in advance!
AnandTech makes a comparison in compiling time between (FireFox sources) the i5 and the i7. No surprise that the i7 finished the job faster then the i5. On the other side: how often will you compile a project like FireFox? I don't think that often (as beginner - and as professional). ;)

Well, no one here can make the decision for you. Some things must be done by yourself. Is the Air your only computer? Then go for the i7 as AnandTech said: "If the MacBook Air is going to be your only machine however, I can definitely make a case for opting for more performance." (Look above ;)). If you want to save $150 or don't want to pay for extra power you will need sometimes, go for the i5. More important is to select 8GB and 256GB SSD (IMHO).

I'm glad you are happy with your decision. Have fun, the new MBA's are outstanding! :)
I think you adressed me with this comment. So thanks - I will have fun. Compared to my old early 2011 MBP 13" i5, the i5 Haswell MBA is.. really, really nice! But the i7 is... WOW! ;)

cu
SchodMC

Ronnoco
Aug 9, 2013, 04:33 PM
I think you adressed me with this comment. So thanks - I will have fun. Compared to my old early 2011 MBP 13" i5, the i5 Haswell MBA is.. really, really nice! But the i7 is... WOW! ;)

cu
SchodMC

Indeed, and whether you chose the i5 or the i7, the PCIe connected SSD is a game-changer. I've mentioned it a few times on this forum, but it was the first thing I noticed about the new MBA's. I just can't say enough about how much faster this 2013 MBA accesses and copy files...pure lightning...:D

SchodMC
Aug 9, 2013, 04:52 PM
Indeed, and whether you chose the i5 or the i7, the PCIe connected SSD is a game-changer. I've mentioned it a few times on this forum, but it was the first thing I noticed about the new MBA's. I just can't say enough about how much faster this 2013 MBA accesses and copy files...pure lightning...:D
Oh yes, I know what you mean. ;) My MBP has a Intel SSD with SATA II. Although this was fast, it is nothing to compare with the 2013 MBAs and the PICe SSD. This in conjunction with USB3 leads to a new level of speed for file operations. And I think there are a lot of file operations active wile using a computer.

So going for a 2013 MBA is a really step forward, going for the i7 instead of the i5 is the cherry on the cake. :D

cu
SchodMC

Ronnoco
Aug 9, 2013, 05:02 PM
Oh yes, I know what you mean. ;) My MBP has a Intel SSD with SATA II. Although this was fast, it is nothing to compare with the 2013 MBAs and the PICe SSD. This in conjunction with USB3 leads to a new level of speed for file operations. And I think there are a lot of file operations active wile using a computer.

So going for a 2013 MBA is a really step forward, going for the i7 instead of the i5 is the cherry on the cake. :D

cu
SchodMC
I believe Mavericks will lead to even more extended battery life, memory efficiency and hopefully they will have fixed the TCP window bug for the 802.11ac file transfers (the one mentioned by Anand and others)...when that gets worked out, these 2013 MBA's will absolutely fly when transferring files either locally (PCIe SSD) or via 802.11ac wifi (I already have the new Apple AEBS) :D

robvas
Aug 9, 2013, 05:52 PM
AnandTech makes a comparison in compiling time between (FireFox sources) the i5 and the i7. No surprise that the i7 finished the job faster then the i5. On the other side: how often will you compile a project like FireFox? I don't think that often (as beginner - and as professional). ;)


Lots of Mac users do web dev and don't even compile often at all. Maybe to build a local Gem or something. The servers do all the work!

randroide
Aug 9, 2013, 09:52 PM
I bought the i5/8G/256SSD for office-work, sw-dev and some windows vm and old-game gaming.
....
....
..
cu
SchodMC

edit: Just forgot: I have the 13" model.

Solid insight. Thanks.

c1phr
Aug 10, 2013, 12:13 PM
Lots of Mac users do web dev and don't even compile often at all. Maybe to build a local Gem or something. The servers do all the work!

That's true, but a lot of people run a local server stack to do testing (as I did). I never wanted to bother with setting up independent servers for testing and production.

Of course, that's not to say I'm not guilty of testing in production ;), but that was before I used MAMP.

Saturn1217
Aug 10, 2013, 04:39 PM
Phew, finally pulled the trigger!

13" i7, 8gb Ram 256gb HD ordered!

Thanks to all in this thread (& others) who helped inform my decision. I'm lucky enough to have a fellowship that will pay for a computer (up to $1100) but only if I get it before september 1st so I literally had to decide right now. I'll be passing on my current computer to my sister so nothing goes to waste. Only irritating thing is that all the 8gb models are BTO only except the ultimate model. I called every apple store in the area and none of them had the model I wanted in stock :-(

I went to the apple store again anyway to test the i5 models on display. I definitely noticed some lag browsing heavy sites (like the verge) on safari and that's what pushed me to the i7. Although for all I know this may be a safari specific issue (I'm a chrome user).

AustinIan
Aug 13, 2013, 02:50 AM
There are few things which you must keep in mind if you’re working as the software developer in any of the software development companies or doing this for your company or for yourself.

Firstly, you ought to write the requirements of your customer or your company.

Don’t just start coding before knowing what kind of software’s is needed by your client or you. Make a plan. You must make a deadline for completing the coding of software. There will be numerous parts of it therefore you should divide tasks according to the needs. So you’ll recognize the parts that you need to revise for future purposes. Software development is a bit complicated.

randroide
Aug 19, 2013, 09:53 PM
I decided to try a 13" MBA i7/8GB-RAM/256GB-SSD. Compilation times for a couple of native Android and iOS apps were between 10 to 20 seconds longer than the average time spent by my 13" dual-core MBP.

Also, compiling Maven web service projects from command line in the MBA took an average of 50 seconds longer than in the MBP. This was performed with the dependencies already downloaded in both cases.

I noticed better performance in the MBA in Adobe's CS programs as my MBP's GPU is an old Intel HD 3000.

These cases apply to my everyday work, so it might not apply to many others.

I decided to return the MBA and instead buy a maxed out 15" rMBP (Haswell does not really give me any benefits). Additionally, working with three screens (MBP + two extra monitors) improves my workflow tremendously.

Software used: XCode, Eclipse, Android Studio, IntelliJ, (Maven, Gradle, Ant), CS6 Photoshop and Illustrator.

AustinIan
Nov 15, 2013, 05:32 AM
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