11" for development work?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by nafe12, Nov 24, 2010.

  1. nafe12 macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    I was wondering about the usability of the 11" for development work (I'd go the 1.6 with 4gig)

    It would be my primary machine. I will generally work with a monitor, but I'm wondering about the performance given the slower CPU.
    Has anyone tried Eclipse? When a browser, etc, is running?
    Compiling? What about VM stuff?

    I was originally set on the 13", but the portability would be great. So long as it's not grinding along. Any opinions appreciated.

  2. barrettj macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2010
    I can't comment on the 11" as a day to day machine, but I can say that the 13" Ultimate is definitely useable as a primary development machine, and I still find it very portable. Before my purchase I had convinced an Apple Store employee to let me install XCode on a 13" and an 11" air and that convinced me to go for the 13" Ultimate - the extra screen space + slight performance boost are worth it in my opinion.

    I'm primarily developing in either Xcode (OS X and iOS) or Parallels with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 + Resharper (Mostly Silverlight, some WPF and some ASP.Net). I will occasionally open up Photoshop or Illustrator for a quick edit, but I'm not a graphic artist so my needs there are very diminished.

    I always have a ton of background apps running as well (Better Touch Tool, Divy, Alfred, Evernote, Dropbox, Mail.app with gigs of e-mail, Omnifocus, Chrome with many tabs.

    I am now selling my desktop (Mid 2009 24" iMac, 8 GB Ram, 3 Ghz) as I am finding myself just using this machine.
  3. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    1.6 ghz is too slow to compile anything. Until the advent of the Core i7 series, there was no way to compile a computer program unless you had a full blown mainframe or 100 node cluster around. The hobbyist programmers are just now starting to appear, thanks in no small part to Intel for bringing the power of compiling to us mere mortals with low budgets.

    As for running a browser window alongside a text editor... are you crazy ? Never has such a feat been attempted in the history of the world! You don't own a Cray there, just relax and close down your first app before you open a second one.
  4. nafe12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    Thanks for that.

    I figured that the 13" was the goer. Just wondering whether I could get away with an 11" without too much pain!
  5. nafe12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    Nice one Knight. Good to hear from a real expert.
    And you're right, Eclipse is just a text editor. Same footprint as TextEdit I suppose...
  6. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    No, but I ran eclipse and other such advanced text editors on my Pentium 2. I wrote OpenGL code in the 90s on a Pentium 100 mhz.

    Seriously, the question has been asked so many times on this forum and it's as ridiculous each time. We've been writing code for the last 40 years and compiling said code on machines much slower than things shipped in the last 15.

    What did you really think was the answer ? How long have you been writing code that you would really believe that a 1.6 ghz processor couldn't do it while displaying some HTML in the background ?
  7. foiden macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    Love the point made. I was coding big business apps while multitasking lots of stuff (including the web browser) on systems before they even knew what a core 2 duo was. Apps that are actually in use, today.
  8. nafe12, Nov 24, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2010

    nafe12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    Because I am using a (2007) Macbook 2.2, 2GB and it gets frustratingly slow at times when using Eclipse.
    And it's been a while since browsing has just entailed flat HTML...

    My post was just to get a general flavour of people's experiences on the hardware given what they do.

    Why not, then, use your hardware from 15 years ago? Because technology (inc. apps, IDEs, dev tools, VM managers, etc.) EVOLVES.
  9. foiden, Nov 24, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2010

    foiden macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    That makes sense. Macbooks were an entirely different animal in 2007. I also noticed that Macbooks seem to really want more like 4GB for work with better GUI productivity things.

    My 2008 Macbook with 4GB was quite capable, though. Did some big work with it. It wasn't as snappy as my 2009 MBP, though. And the main time I saw some performance hits was working with Final Cut. What's the point? Well, my Macbook was a 2.4 GHZ C2D, and the MBP was a 2.26 GHZ C2D. However, in pretty much all tests, including software that seemed to use the CPU, the MBP beat the Macbook out for performance.

    The main thing I could imagine as the reason why was the architecture. Going from the 667 speed architecture to over 1 thousand. Using speedy DDR3 ram as opposed to the Macbook's DDR2. Even a nice bump in performance in doing High Def video in iMovie and Final Cut. Though I do attribute some of the Final Cut performance improvements to the improved video card. However, I can fully use and be satisfied with doing Final Cut work on the 2009 MBP, for even some of the more intensive stuff (for me, at least).

    To make plenty of programs work, they don't rely just on CPU. The performance is based on the entire architecture. The speed of memory, the speed of the bus, etc. The 1.6 GHZ is a lower rating, obviously. But the architecture is way better, including the graphics subsystems (what drives everything you see).

    So for perspective let's take my work and home example:
    When programming, using Microsoft Outlook, anti-virus, and using the browser, the typical worst thing that happens at work is when somehow everything starts stalling, and I hear that harddrive go like crazy, and I have to wait a bit before things are responsive again. This is Vista, a PC with 4GB DDR3 ram and a 3.0 GHZ Core 2 Duo. This happens like every 15-30 minutes in a work day.

    Likely amount of times I'll see this happen on a Macbook Air 11" Ultimate running Windows 7 and using the same 2 programs and Norton Anti-Virus:

  10. nafe12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    That's true. I'm sure the 11" would be comparable if not faster than my current machine. Though the 13" features even a faster bus, bigger CPU cache.

    Seems a lot of people who do more than browsing/writing opt for the 13". Love the form of the 11". I could probably tolerate any 'performance hit' if the 11" disk was bigger - at a 128 I'd probably need to lug around an external now and again (e.g. a Win 7 VM would chew maybe a 3rd of the drive). But I digress...
  11. nafe12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 24, 2010
    Is this lag because of the swapping (which is much less painful with the air given the SSD)?

    PS Do you use an IDE? Visual Studio?
  12. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Actually, my reasons for upgrading hardly have to do with the dev tools. They haven't really needed more horsepower in quite a while. My reasons to upgrade were at one point WoW (thank god I dropped that bad habit) and then they were getting a Mac and finally, get better portability. Not every hardware change is about getting more power. The most demanding thing I run these days is 720p mkv video, thanks to Apple not providing APIs to use hardware decoders sooner for 3rd parties.

    While the dev tools might have evolved, they hardly require the hardware capacity we have these days. Heck, they hardly required the capacity we had back in the days. Sure, compiling stuff now is faster, instead of taking 3 hours to compile kdelibs, you can do it in 15 minutes. But unless you're doing a build from scratch of your projects everytime instead of just recompiling the files you changed and re-linking, hardly a concern.

    And again, this question has been asked like 5 billion times in the last 6 weeks, since the 11" was introduced. You might have wanted to search. People are getting kind of tired of answering the same thing over and over and over and over and over again, so we tend to try to have fun, hence the thick sarcasm.
  13. foiden macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    No doubt. I always went for the 13 inch.

    But my reasons are multiple due to my personal needs. The processor wasn't so much the issue. 1.6 would be fine. 1.86 is even more fine considering the architecture and the bus speed over a grand. I already have my MBP for heavy lifting.

    The biggest one being that it's a mini-portable but with battery life that far exceeds my MBP. For me, a demand is that if it is to be used more away from home, it better have better battery life. Enough to last all day, with typical work, on a single charge. The 13" MBA accomplishes that. The 11" one comes up shy of that and has battery more akin to my 2009 MBP.

    In a way, the 13" MBA has that sweetspot of battery life sandwiched between my MBP 2009 and my iPad. Yet is a fully realized computer.

    The next would be screen dimensions. To a programmer, photographer, or an artist that utilizes lots of multi-window displays, 900 lines of vertical resolution is a godsend in a portable machine. A very sexy resolution for a 13" ultra-portable.

    3rd is the card slot. It can use SDHC and also now known to use SDXC. It'll immediately be a convenience for highspeed transfer of pictures/movies I take on site (I do photography at the Botanical gardens around here, keeping catalogues). In the future, this actually can be used as a viable means of a small form (hotswappable) external SSD drive. Want to put something in for a quick extra 32GB or 64GB of high speed SSD-like storage without opening the unit? You got the option in the size of a SDRam card.

    Oddly enough 1 and 2 were the real deal changers for me. 3, not so much. Otherwise, the 11" size would be the winner.
  14. ct2k7 macrumors 603


    Aug 29, 2008
    London or Florida
    KnightWRX, what do you mean that until the release of the Nehalem-based processors, one could not compile a computer program?

    Also, what is your definition of a computer program?
  15. wescravn macrumors regular

    Sep 21, 2007
    East Orange
    Grinding away? There's nothing to grind away on:p. The hard drive is solid state, and the memory is memory. I compiled apps on the 13" and it was superfast. The thing I love about it, is it doesn't get HOT. My old macbook pro core solo is like a toaster, turn it on, and it gives off heat. If you want a development station, I can recommend the macbook air, it's excellent, and super fast, and will work with Xcode/IOS SDK, etc fine. So get it, and you'll be happy you did.

  16. teaneedz macrumors member


    Dec 8, 2009
    Cool dev machine

    I really enjoy how cool the MBA remains. The 11.6 works well for me. I'm running xcode and photoshop elements just fine. I do most of my work from the command line though.

    It's a very sweet machine and have no regrets with the 11.6.
  17. foiden macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    Dreamweaver. Mostly to code Coldfusion, java, JavaScript, and HTML.
  18. Kenrik macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2004

    You need to ask the question?

    Writing code is just that... writing.
    If it runs text edit it will work for writing code. (not that you would use text edit... but you get the idea)

    and as for compiling.. Xcode takes about 1 - 2 seconds to compile my iphone projects some of which have a ton of graphics.. the SSD helps with this.
  19. albestar macrumors newbie


    Oct 17, 2007
    agree on everything 101%, just to spice up the topic though, I find Xcode 4 a litte bit sluggish at times.

    Ahh, the joys of heavy graphical IDEs! :)

    No brainer anyway, it's still in beta!
  20. dmelgar macrumors 68000

    Apr 29, 2005
    I have a 2009 13" MBP, tried a 11 ultimate MBA for 2 weeks, have a 13 MBA now. I develop using XCode (Mac & iOS dev) and Eclipse for Android and Aptana (Eclipse) for Ruby.

    I did a bunch of benchmarks comparing my 13" 2009 MBP to the 11. In almost every case, the 11 came out FASTER than my MBP. Clean compiles were interesting. The SSD really makes a huge difference. The 11 starts up faster, takes longer to perform the actual compile, but catches up and passed the MBP when starting up the simulator to actually run the application. The only time my MBP beat the 11 was doing video compression. The MBP was almost twice as fast. But in that case I run it overnight anyway so its not a big deal to me.

    Overall the SSD trumps the CPU. Unless you're doing clean builds of giant libraries, all my compiles go so quick on any machine that its not a huge factor. The bigger factor is just starting up the apps. Starting up Eclipse or the Android emulator. The SSD makes a bigger difference.

    I returned the 11 because I feared the smaller screen was an unnecessary compromise for me.

    The 13" MBA doesn't seem any more portable to me than my 13" MBP. So I think I made a mistake getting it. The 11" felt amazingly portable. Like an iPad with a keyboard that can run everything. Impressive little machine.

    I'm definitely returning the 13" MBA. Debating just sticking w my MBP, getting an SSD for my MBP, or getting the 11 again. I miss the portability although I don't "need" it.
  21. Kenrik macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2004
    Get another 11" ....

    I have a 15" Macbook Pro that i'm selling now because it seems like a Brick... I seriously can't understand how I used to use that Dinosaur... I mean 1" thick.. that seems like a mile now that I have my mini wonder.

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