13" Macbook Air Base model for Application Development

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by harshhere01, Apr 17, 2014.

  1. harshhere01 macrumors newbie

    Oct 4, 2011
    I currently have a dell XPS 15 (1st gen i5/4GB ram). Im happy with the performance, but it's very bulky and 1 hour of battery back up. I'm thinking to shift to MBA 2013 base model (i5/4GB). I'm about to join a firm as a SW/Web developer, so might need to use windows 8 on bootcamp for Visual Studio and dreamweaver. Can I expect similar performance and is it worth the replacement, considering the nature of job I might need it for?
  2. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Jul 29, 2011
    Do you mean that you'll be using your own laptop as your work machine, and developing in Visual Studio?

    If so - buy a PC (or, better still, let your employers buy you one!)


    Personally, I prefer to use OS X, with its Unix environment, for web development (with Windows available via. Parallels/VMWare for testing in IE) but if you're going to be working in a PC shop, developing in Visual Studio (maybe targeting IIS/SQL Server rather than LAMP?) then the tool for the job is a PC. The only argument for having a Mac in that situation is so that you can test websites in Safari - but with Bootcamp that means rebooting you main development machine: not viable. A refurb/2nd hand Mac Mini will suffice for that.

    That said, the Air could probably do the job (but without more details its hard to say) and it will probably feel faster than the Dell because of the SSD, but issues might be:

    * Screen real-estate - if you're going to work 'docked' to a large screen, not such an issue. However, a rMBP would (a) give you better screen real-estate (provided your eyesight is reasonable, you can use 'scaled' mode to give you 1920x1200 equivalent) and (b) let you plug in to two desktop monitors.

    * HD space - if you're using Bootcamp you have to allocate a fixed (possible but slow to change) partition to Windows, which is a good way to waste disk space. You'll also need extra software to allow the two OSs to read/write each others' files. This might make 128G start to feel a bit cramped...

    * RAM - I'd go for 8GB anyway, if only because you can't upgrade. If you decide to go for vmware/Parallels as a way of running Windows, rather than Bootcamp, then you're going to want 8G.

    * Bootcamp: Bootcamp lets Windows get at the full power of your hardware. However, unless you're running heavy-duty (probably graphics/video) software on Windows, virtualization using Parallels or VMWare is generally more flexible. Its less wasteful of disk space (the Windows 'partition' is a file that grows as it is needed, and the only thing that needs to go there is the OS and software - Parallels shares your OS X 'home' folder with your Windows 'home'). However, 128G might still be a bit tight, and you'll definitely want more than 4G of RAM.
  3. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013
    This is very good advice. I don't know anything about application development, but you will definitely need more than 128GB of space if you are doing Bootcamp/VMWare. I love Bootcamp because of the power, but unless you plan on doing all your work on Windows or Mac, and use your other partition for something else entirely, it won't work very well just for productivity. You could try using dropbox, but you will still need the 256GB SSD, and 8GB RAM won't hurt.

    Also note, the MBA will most likely get a refresh at the beginning of June. This means that the 2013 model will be cheaper if you still wanted it, and there will be a better model out. Since you will need 256GB/8GB for Bootcamp/VMWare, I would check out the 13" rMBP. With student pricing, it is 50$ less than the 256/8 MBA. It is also more powerful. Check out B&H Photo if you don't live in New York, as you can get one for less than 1500$, because there is no sales tax.
  4. harshhere01, Apr 17, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2014

    harshhere01 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 4, 2011
    Thanks for your valuable time and advice, very helpful. 8 GB RAM upgrade is not available in my country. I'll in probation period for one year, I should be sticking with my dell for that time I guess. Will go for a MBA after that (I'm in love with the built quality!). Thanks again.
    PS: I hope Apple releases a base MBA model with 8 Gig of memory this year!
  5. poorcody macrumors 6502


    Jul 23, 2013
    Visual Studio under Parallels

    I do software development in Visual Studio on my MacBook Air, and I don't even have bootcamp -- I use Parallels, and it is actually a great way to develop Windows software. Speed is really a non-issue unless maybe your are developing games or 3D graphics. Yes, I would recommend 8GB RAM. You might get by on 4GB (the new MacBook's SSD swaps so quickly it may be tolerable...), but I wouldn't chance it considering you can't upgrade.

    But developing using a Virtual Machine is actually somewhat advantageous over a real Windows PC:
    1. You can isolate the development system from your work system -- I use Mac OS for Mail, surfing, etc., and just use Windows for Visual Studio and some Office. Then your Windows environment isn't "polluted" with customizations and installations which can introduce complications during software writing.
    2. You can set-up multiple and clean Virtual OS installations for testing (e.g. Windows 7 32-bit, 64-bit, Windows 8). This is really nice and works very well under Parallels.
    3. For web development, you can test browsers for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS all on one machine. You also have a lot of choices for web servers: IIS for Windows, Apache and everything else under Mac
    4. It's easy to change system scenario's like screen size, network setup, etc. for testing without affecting your work.
    5. The last thing you want is the development machine to be infected with malware -- this greatly reduces your exposure.

    Screen dimensions wise a Retina screen would be nicer, but whatever laptop you use, having a big external screen for software development is still ideal.
  6. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Jul 29, 2011
    That would be sensible. At least find out what the job really involves (are you expected to supply your own computer?!)

    This is where we get to the fine distinction between 'I want a versatile machine for freelance, cross-platform web development' (Mac, hands-down) and 'I'm about to join a firm as a SW/Web developer' (at the very least, find out what the job entails first - its quite possible it will be entirely Windows-centric).

    Going the Mac route gives you (a) the ability to target & test OSX and iOS and (b) working in a Unix environment that runs MS Office & Photoshop. Those are big plusses. If those aren't important, though, I've never seen the point in buying a Mac primarily to run PC software. Macs do well in like-for-like comparisons that factor in size and style, but PCs give you more choice (e.g. if you want screen space you can get a modestly-specified 15" laptop PC without having to shell out for a MacBook Pro).

    Also, parallels is good, but not perfect, compatibility wise and even bootcamp has its restrictions (e.g. installing anything but the current release of Windows supported by Bootcamp assistant is likely to be a hassle).

    True - I'd regard VMWare or Parallels as an essential tool for development these days. As well as the things you mention, I've often used Linux VMs to run a web/database stack that uses the same software versions as the target server. You can even set up mini 'virtual networks' for testing networked software. However - you can do virtualization on PC, too (I was using VMWare Workstation a lot before switching to Mac).

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