Choosing between mac mini, imac and macbook pro for coding

aaadktda

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2019
7
5
Hello,

I plan on buying and Apple computer. I would like to learn to properly code ios apps and other things like raspberry pi. I won't use the computer for video editing at all. Photo editing will be light and limited to family photos.

I need some help choosing my first Apple computer. I live in a 3rd world country. I want to buy new and below I will add my options with local prices. Ordering from another country is not an option because of shipping rates and customs fees.

1) Mac mini, i3, 3.6 GHz (i3-8100B), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $900. I really like that the ram can be upgraded relatively easy with 3rd party ram. I will get 32 GB and install it myself. I already have an external SSD so the small 128 GB SSD is not a problem for me. I have an LG 25UM58-P 25 inch monitor. It's ultra wide and works well having multiple windows open side by side. I would like to get the magic keyboard and magic trackpad 2 or magic mouse 2 sometimes in the future.

2) 2017 iMac 21.5, i5 3 GHz (i5-7400), 8GB ram, 1TB HDD.
Price $1240. I don't like that the ram and hdd are somewhat more difficult to replace. Also replacing them would require cutting the adhesive holding the display and this would void the warranty. If I choose this option I will keep it "as is" for about 1 year and upgrade the ram to 32 GB and put in a new SSD sometimes in the future after the warranty has expired. It comes with a magic mouse 2 and the magic keyboard so the price gap between this and the Mac mini is getting smaller. It has a 4K 21.5 display. I could use the LG monitor as a secondary display. The 8th generation i3 CPU in the Mac Mini is better than the 7th generation i5 CPU in the iMac.

3) 2019 iMac 21.5 i5 3 GHz (i5-8500), 8 GB ram, 1TB Fusion Drive.
Price $1710. Same comments as I made above on the 2017 iMac. Only difference is that I would probably update only the ram sometime in the future and keep using the 1TB Fusion Drive. I don't think the better CPU is worth the extra $470 though. From what I've read the 2019 is more of a 2017 refresh than a new computer. Plus the 2017 has a removable CPU so $470 would buy an 9th generation i7 but I don't plan on changing CPUs.

4) 2019 Macbook Pro 13.3", i5 1.4 GHz (i5-8257U), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $1540. Has good reviews but it can't be upgraded, it has the butterfly keyboard and it looks like it will be the last Macbook Pro in the 4th generation of the model. I would not want to get this and see next year that the 5th generation will get rid of the butterfly keyboard and probably bump the display to 14" (these are just assumptions). It has the advantage of portability. Sometimes things get crazy around the house and I could go to a quiet place for a few hours.

5) 2019 Macbook Air 13.3", 1.6 GHz (i5-8210Y), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $1290. It's cheaper than the Macbook pro and that's about it. I don't know if the price difference would compensate for the weaker performance.

Other options are not really in my price range or available.
 

TheGenerous

macrumors 6502a
Nov 14, 2010
915
172
I'm an Austronaut
If you work at an office and don't need the portability I recommend a Mac Mini.
The Mini is more customizable to any workflow.

I use it for photography, coding, and editorial design (InDesign, Photoshop, typography applications).
- The Mini lets you use any display you want and upgrade it as you wish. I started with a IPS for photography and now I have a 4K (1080p resolution, HiDPI). With the 4K display I print less typography samples as I can see a designed page and it's as good as a print in terms of legibility.
- I also used a Microsoft Sculpture Ergonomic mouse with no problem. Now I have a Mionix Castor. This is a wired mouse, and if you use a mouse bungee to lift the cord it'll feel like wireless.
- I use external hard disks to store things I don't need at all times.
- I use a Moshi keyboard, is wired so no battery waste, glossy piano black, looks better than the Apple keyboards, an it has backlight. I can switch the keyboard anytime as well. I might get a mechanical keyboard one day.

For example, If you had an iMac and the display had a problem you'll need to send the whole iMac for repair. With the Mini you'll just send the display and work on another display while your main is getting repaired. You also have a choice for better peripherals.
 
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fgengineer

macrumors newbie
Oct 19, 2018
17
14
I would not consider anything with 8 gb for coding. If you get the MacBooks, upgrading to 16 GB is a must.

If you don’t need portability, definitely get the Mac mini.
 
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aaadktda

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2019
7
5
Thank you for the replies. The computer will be at home. I want to get started on learning to code to broaden my professional options in the next few years. Coding will also help with my hobbies. I will not be using the Apple computer for work in the foreseeable future.

In order to get 16 GB of ram on a Macbook I would have to get the 15". Customization is not available so I can't get the 13" with 16 GB of ram. I can't afford the 15".

I am leaning towards the Mac mini or the 2017 iMac. The 2019 iMac is probably great but those two are better value
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,032
2,714
If you get the MacBooks, upgrading to 16 GB is a must.
... no it isn't a must. 16GB is sensible - plenty of RAM for VMs yada yada - *if* you have plenty of money and all the options are available to you. You can certainly get started with 8 GB. It is a major flaw of the MacBook range that you can't start with 8GB and upgrade later.

I plan on buying and Apple computer. I would like to learn to properly code ios apps and other things like raspberry pi. I won't use the computer for video editing at all. Photo editing will be light and limited to family photos
How important is iOS or MacOS development vs. raspberry pi (i.e. Linux+XWindow) ...and others? A Mac is a nice way to learn coding but it is also expensive - you can get a long way towards learning to code with virtually any old PC. The Raspberry Pi was pretty much designed for your situation (a Pi4 will cope with basic image editing, too). The only thing that you need a Mac for is developing native Mac and iOS applications - and there's a fair bit of learning to do before you're ready to do any serious App development.

If you've already learned to code, know what is what and decided to get a Mac, that's fine - if you're starting from scratch then maybe start small on an old PC or a Pi and save your money until you've got a clearer idea of what sort of coding you want to do "seriously".

Not that there's anything wrong with a Mac, or learning tools like Swift Playgrounds - just the entry cost.
 
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aaadktda

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2019
7
5
All my coding experience is with Arduino. I made sketches with more than 3000 lines of code in my personal projects. I got things working as I wanted. I managed to make displays, sensors, buttons, servos, stepper motors and SD card readers work in harmony. I do not consider myself good at coding. I am mediocre at best. I really want to learn IOS app development and expand from Arduino to raspberry pi. The raspberry pi will be just like Arduino, a hobby. I hope to learn IOS app development and be good enough that it will offer me options for employment in 2-3 years time. Learning iOS app development is the only reason I am buying am Apple computer.
 
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MRrainer

macrumors 65816
Aug 8, 2008
1,153
621
Zurich, Switzerland
You can attach four displays to it (depending on resolution, it only does 3x4k). One normal and one rotated. You can get displays with very thin bezels.
Definitely more possibilities than with an iMac.

Just be aware that running 3x4k on an i3 may be a bit of a stretch. Definitely get as much memory as possible. It seems to help a lot with performance.

I still have a 2012 Mini (bought in 2014). So I'll hold out for a bit, trying to keep with the six-year cycle.
 
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aaadktda

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2019
7
5
I will upgrade the monitors as I feel the need to. I don't really know what I will need in the future. I will put 32 GB of ram in the Mac Mini and stop the upgrading for a few months. This way I will save up some money and figure out what I need.

I tried today the LG 25UM58-P 25 inch monitor in portrait mode (rotated 90 degrees) with my Arduino code and it looks great on that ultra wide monitor.
 
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TheGenerous

macrumors 6502a
Nov 14, 2010
915
172
I'm an Austronaut
I just ordered the Mac Mini. Thank you all for your help.
Consider in investing in the meantime in;

- Good gaming mouse, great for design and coding; wired makes it reliable and never have to recharge batteries. (I made a DIY mouse bungee to lift the cord).
- Mechanical keyboard (wired or wireless). These are expensive. This and the mouse are your physical experience to your coding work. Get something of excellent quality and pleasant and you'll be happy to work with them everyday.
- A good chair. Nothing expensive, just something you can test at a local store that barely touches your lower back. Your body should be strong to hold a good posture, the lower back support should be only for resting.
- Display. Not a TV, a computer display. Many coders use two monitors. One is rotated vertically to see your code.

A freebie is Atom. This is a free application for coding. Supports everything you may want to code and you can install or uninstall stuff to make it more light or robust depending on your work.

Hope you have a good experience with your computer.

Bonus.

- Mecanical keyboards gallery https://pin.it/snreymg4oarwmr
 
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theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,032
2,714
- Good gaming mouse, great for design and coding; wired makes it reliable and never have to recharge batteries. (I made a DIY mouse bungee to lift the cord).
- Mechanical keyboard (wired or wireless). These are expensive. This and the mouse are your physical experience to your coding work.
Nothing wrong with that advice if you have the money - wouldn't be my top priority (a) on a budget or (b) if you're not in a position to "try before you buy" because keyboard/mouse preferences are very personal. Since my £100 MX Master mouse died I've been temporarily using a £25 knock-off (similar shape, much cheaper build) and it does the jib perfectly well. Although I'll probably get another high-end mouse eventually, it is not my #1 priority. Spending ~£300 quid on input devices is something to do after you're earning money from using your computer...

A freebie is Atom. This is a free application for coding.
Also consider Microsoft Visual Studio Code (superficially similar to Atom and confusingly nothing to do with MS Visual Studio). Has some interesting remote development features (which would be good for developing for Raspberry Pi).
 

utazdevl

macrumors regular
Jul 18, 2008
107
26
Hello,

I plan on buying and Apple computer. I would like to learn to properly code ios apps and other things like raspberry pi. I won't use the computer for video editing at all. Photo editing will be light and limited to family photos.

I need some help choosing my first Apple computer. I live in a 3rd world country. I want to buy new and below I will add my options with local prices. Ordering from another country is not an option because of shipping rates and customs fees.

1) Mac mini, i3, 3.6 GHz (i3-8100B), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $900. I really like that the ram can be upgraded relatively easy with 3rd party ram. I will get 32 GB and install it myself. I already have an external SSD so the small 128 GB SSD is not a problem for me. I have an LG 25UM58-P 25 inch monitor. It's ultra wide and works well having multiple windows open side by side. I would like to get the magic keyboard and magic trackpad 2 or magic mouse 2 sometimes in the future.

2) 2017 iMac 21.5, i5 3 GHz (i5-7400), 8GB ram, 1TB HDD.
Price $1240. I don't like that the ram and hdd are somewhat more difficult to replace. Also replacing them would require cutting the adhesive holding the display and this would void the warranty. If I choose this option I will keep it "as is" for about 1 year and upgrade the ram to 32 GB and put in a new SSD sometimes in the future after the warranty has expired. It comes with a magic mouse 2 and the magic keyboard so the price gap between this and the Mac mini is getting smaller. It has a 4K 21.5 display. I could use the LG monitor as a secondary display. The 8th generation i3 CPU in the Mac Mini is better than the 7th generation i5 CPU in the iMac.

3) 2019 iMac 21.5 i5 3 GHz (i5-8500), 8 GB ram, 1TB Fusion Drive.
Price $1710. Same comments as I made above on the 2017 iMac. Only difference is that I would probably update only the ram sometime in the future and keep using the 1TB Fusion Drive. I don't think the better CPU is worth the extra $470 though. From what I've read the 2019 is more of a 2017 refresh than a new computer. Plus the 2017 has a removable CPU so $470 would buy an 9th generation i7 but I don't plan on changing CPUs.

4) 2019 Macbook Pro 13.3", i5 1.4 GHz (i5-8257U), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $1540. Has good reviews but it can't be upgraded, it has the butterfly keyboard and it looks like it will be the last Macbook Pro in the 4th generation of the model. I would not want to get this and see next year that the 5th generation will get rid of the butterfly keyboard and probably bump the display to 14" (these are just assumptions). It has the advantage of portability. Sometimes things get crazy around the house and I could go to a quiet place for a few hours.

5) 2019 Macbook Air 13.3", 1.6 GHz (i5-8210Y), 8 GB ram, 128 GB SSD.
Price $1290. It's cheaper than the Macbook pro and that's about it. I don't know if the price difference would compensate for the weaker performance.

Other options are not really in my price range or available.
If you are buying for coding, you gotta go with the Mac Mini. I bought mine about 6 months ago, and I cannot believe what a beast this machine is. The only place they held back if the GPU, but if you are coding, that won't effect you in the slightest. Also, if you buy an eGPU (eventually) you'll have the ports to install it and basically have an iMac Pro for 1/4 the price.

Trust me, Mac Mini.