Best Macbook for Software Engineers/Computing Science students?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by shawnjan, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. shawnjan macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2007
    Hey Macrumors faithfuls!

    I've been a proud owner of a 15" MBP for 3.5 years, and unfortunately, due to a massive falling, it has died an unfortunate death :(. I have concluded that I need a new Mac - I was considering PC, because of how much less expensive they are, and just going with a Windows 7/Ubuntu combo, but at the end of the day, I would much rather have a Mac. Give me a Windows distro with a Unix underpinning and I may change my mind :). Plus I would like to develop Apple software every now and then, and if I get a PC, I won't have that option.

    SO, the reason I am starting this thread is because I am having real trouble deciding on which Macbook to buy, the 13" or the 15". I am going to list some factors, and maybe you guys can help me - I am definitely on the fence on this one.

    Currently an intern at Electronic Arts, will be going back to school in January for one more year to finish off my CS degree. When it comes to programming, I am very heavy on anything to do with online tech. Web frameworks, databases, HTML5, etc. As well as mobile developing such as iPhone apps, Android, etc. So I am a programmer, but I don't need a laptop for hardcore things, such as rendering for games programming.

    Gaming Needs
    I haven't played much computer games as of late - that is until Starcraft 2 came out! On my old MBP, I was playing on low settings, and it would be really awesome to play it on max settings. But I mean, besides Starcraft 2, there aren't many games I'm likely to play. I try, but I rarely have time these days...

    Everyday tasks
    I use my laptop quite a bit, and besides programming, I don't use it for anything TOO graphic intensive. I use iPhoto to organize my photos, I will rarely do video editing, if I do its only for small home videos and such. Music, movies, Office. I will use Photoshop every once and a while, but I'm no photographer with an SLR, so I don't need anything beefy in that respect.

    Money Situation
    I made a decent amount of money from my internship, but I mean I would really prefer to spend on only what I need, or at least what would be the SMARTEST purchase.

    Other Factors
    - I've been using my Macbook Pro for a while now, and I am very accustom to having a 15" screen, and I'm not sure how big of a downgrade I would feel if I was to get a 13". Although I do have a 26" screen, but at the same time I don't spend much time at home.
    - I am MOST LIKELY going to wait for the next iteration of the Macbook Pro. I am hoping the 13" will get a i5 processor. Do you think I should? I am currently laptop-less at the moment, stealing my sisters Mac whenever I can... I think I should survive until January though, which is most likely when the updates would happen.
    - I do not own a desktop, so this would be my main computer for pretty much everything.

    So what do you guys think? Based on my situation, do you guys think spending the extra $600 bucks warrant the jump from 13" to 15"?



    tl;dr - Software Engineer who can't decide between a 13" or a 15", plays Starcraft, doesn't do any video or graphics editing, using this laptop for everything.
  2. tjb1 macrumors 68000

    Aug 26, 2010
    Pennsylvania, USA
    I can atleast tell you this, Starcraft 2 says in the settings that you need atleast 512mb vram for High settings which requires the i7 15" package and I guarantee atleast 99% of the people that come post here will say the i7 and 512mb vram dont make any difference at all. Im just telling you what Starcraft says and on my comp listed in sig I can run almost...almost everything on Ultra.
  3. Peter Maurer macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2008
    I'm afraid I can't tell you anthing about Starcraft, but I can tell you from years of personal experience that a 13" MacBook (Pro) works just fine as a main Mac for a professional developer. I've gone through four 13" MacBooks/MacBook Pros over the last few years, and whenever I considered a 15" model, the perceived loss of mobility that would have come with a larger laptop eventually made me stay with the 13" form factor for the next Mac I got.

    Granted, I never had a 15" MBP, instead I switched (gradually) from a stationary Mac, which made the loss of screen space and pixels more, let's say... plausible, I guess. But Xcode in particular works really well on small screens, and if we're lucky, the 13" MBP will have a higher resolution soon, similar to the new 13" MBA.
  4. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    If a 15" is too big for you, I'd recommend waiting or get the Air.
    I have a 15" HR now and it is sooo much better if you work on the road. Yes you can get something done on 1280x800 but imo 1440x900 is the minimum and more is always better. I have an external screen too but I like to be able to just go anywhere and work. It is great not having to go home to the external screen to do any serious programming. I used to work with 1280x800 and I really think that is not enough for most of the dev. suites.
    I don't feel any loss in mobility but I am also 6" tall and as long as the notebook fits in my bag and it does I wouldn't gain any mobility with a 13". It is as thick thus taking away as much space that could otherwise be used for college blocks, paper ...
    If you are a girl it is probably different. For guy to run around with a bag that is too small to fit a 15" into it would probably look odd anyway at least in my country. Every shoulder bag I see on our campus can fit a 15". I do know many people however who simply carry around their notebooks in a sleeve in their hand without any bag, as usually you really don't need more than that today. Some paper and a pen fit in a sleeve too.
  5. Peter Maurer macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2008
    As far as work is concerned, I'm not sure whether looking odd should be your main concern. But even if bag size defines gender in your country, not everybody does all their traveling by walking around on a campus. And I've found that the 13" models are a perfect fit for those little folding trays you usually find in planes and trains. The larger you go in terms of display size, the less stable your setup will be there.

    We can agree on one thing, though: If you don't usually work while traveling, and if your main concern thus is weight, than I wouldn't deem the difference large enough to get a 13" MBP over a 15" model either.

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