MBA for web development

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by beavisqueef, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Feb 8, 2013
    I am a web developer and I am looking into getting my first mac. Definitely the rMBP 15 is my first choice, but I can save a lot of money if I get the air. Anyone here use the MBA 13 for web development? Do you need 8GB ram or is 4 enough?

    I'd be doing basic PHP/MySQL and ruby on rails stuff. The laptop would be just for development, no photoshop/video editing/gaming.

    I prefer the 15" form factor and retina is enticing, but the price different is huge. So I am thinking about getting my feet wet with an MBA, and if I really fall into it I can always sell it and get an rMBP in a year or two.

    So I am asking if anyone does web dev on their MBA as their primary machine, and what are the pros and cons.
  2. macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2009
    I have to say as a web app developer myself, the retina screen, while beautiful, presents challenges with DPI and presentation. Then, while zooming in photshop things are super tiny. I use my external for a lot of work.

    I would say that if you need to run vm's as part of your development the mba may leave you wanting.
  3. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 8, 2013
    I won't be doing any heavy lifting in VMs. I might run a windows VM for browser testing but that's about it. If I need to do windows development I have multiple other dedicated machines for that.
  4. macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2012
    The MacBook Air is plenty powerful and you can certainly run one or more VMs in 8GB of RAM if needed.

    I would carefully consider the dev tools you plan to use and how they will feel with the 1440x900 resolution MBA. The Retina machines offer a lot more flexibility for resolutions but your tools need to zoom if you plan to run the higher scaled resolutions.
  5. macrumors regular

    Jul 5, 2007
    Littleton, CO
    I've only had a 2012 MBA for a few days, but I've replicated my web dev environment* from my work iMac and it hasn't missed a beat. I might eventually install VMWare Fusion or Virtualbox, but I'll probably do all of my Windows testing on existing VMs on the iMac.
    Performance blows away my old 2007 MBP (as expected) and also feels faster than my 2011 i5 2.7 iMac, probably due to the SSD in spite of the RAM difference (4 vs. 16).

    MAMP Pro
    Sequel Pro
    Sublime Text 2
    Photoshop CS6
    Oh My Zsh
  6. macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2012
    I have been running Fusion for years. v5.0.2 runs very well on the current MBA and rMBP. The latest comparisons say Parallels is better but I have no reason so switch considering I run VMWare Workstation on Windows.

    Anyway, Fusion runs well on the Air and should be considered a solid tool for development environments.
  7. macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    I used....

    in some moment an Air to do a load of Web work, and found the following:

    1- 8 GB was the minimun to operate effectively. I used to load some VMs
    2-Some resolutions give me plenty of trouble. Also some aspect ratios were tricky
    3-Battery charge almost got vaporized when working in Flash. Also, plenty of heat

    So, think carefully about the Air....:(

  8. macrumors regular

    Jul 5, 2007
    Littleton, CO
    Which MBA were you using? My 2012 has 4GB of RAM and I've experienced no slowdowns at all, though I've not used any VMs yet (and hopefully won't need to). I do believe Ivy Bridge on the new MBAs helps helps hide any issues with the lack of RAM. This thing is really fast.
    I avoid Flash like the plague, but depending on when you were working with Flash, hasn't performance improved greatly with recent versions? Are you referring to the Player or Flash CSx Profressional?
  9. Beau10, Feb 11, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013

    macrumors 6502a

    Apr 6, 2008
    Downtown San Diego
    Rails consultant here - I use a 2012 11" as my only machine, no extra monitor. 8/128. I'm currently acting as the CTO for a company participating in an ed tech accelerator in midtown Manhattan in addition to having a similar role for another startup - pushing 60-80 hour weeks on this thing.

    As I tend to work in a variety of odd places (ie. cafes with small tables while I eat, sitting on couches in meetings with it in my lap, etc) and am constantly on the move the 11" makes more sense to me. Getting by with such a setup is mostly about refining your toolchain, making judicious use of visor type terminal/finder controls, keyboard/trackpad shortcuts for tiling, etc.
  10. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 8, 2013
    Thanks everybody! I ordered a 13" air with 8 GB of ram.
  11. macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2011
    Perfect choice

    I've been developing on my MBA since 2011; will be getting another one this year.

    Good choice on the 8GB, well worth it especially if you run local services or VM's. I remote ssh for most of my development and do the odd graphical buttons and with pixelmator.

    Screen is just fine is you make use of the multiple desktops in osx. I dock at my desk with a large LED monitor, love the air.

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