Decisions Decisions (Macbook for App Development)

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by anquanreal, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. anquanreal macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2010
    Hey all,
    Ive had an Iphone for two years and I'm in <3.
    I have always had ideas for applications and I'm finally in a position where I can take the classes necessary to learn App development. I'm registered for classes, all I need to do now is buy a Macbook.

    My question is this:

    Which Macbook, in your opinion, is the best to use for App Development? Does it even matter?

    I currently have an Alienware m17x for home usage. I'm going to be using whichever Macbook I buy for school and basically "on-the-go" endeavors (but most importantly for creating applications).

    Please get back to me with some useful insight.

    Thanks!! :)
  2. el-John-o macrumors 65816

    Nov 29, 2010
    FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not an App developer, and while I am familiar with many of the programming languages used and have used the SDK, I am no way an expert on the subject. However, I am an experienced Mac user and hobby-programmer, and seing as nobody has answered this yet, here is my two cents. Your mileage may vary.

    Apple does a great job of not selling low-end machines, that's PART of why they cost so much! Even the macbook air is going to give great performance because of the flash storage. As a programmer (I do not know how apps are compiled on the iPhone, so bare with me), CPU performance is critical for the speed at which large apps can be developed. HOWEVER this is completely due to the time it takes to compile. (Except for 3D development, that would require more performance for rendering and etc, but I am assuming your not going to be doing anything 3D off the bat? If you were, I'd be looking at an iMac or a Mac Pro, not a Macbook). So basically, whether it's a macbook air or a dual CPU Mac Pro, developing your apps won't change. What WILL change is how fast they are compiled, as well as the performance of the emulator.

    I would stick with a macbook pro, even upgrade to the i7 processor if you can afford it. Reason being those higher end (i5/i7) chips are excellent at compiling and will also perform well with the supplied emulator (even though the iPhone is 1GHz and your Macbook will have two faster cores, the technologies are different, so emulation will reduce performance. ARM Processors don't work like x86 processors, so a lot of fancy computer magic has to happen that may reduce emulator performance on lower end CPU's like on the air [Which isn't low end by notebook standards, but it's low end by Mac standards])

    Another thing to consider if you wanted to do the Air, is heat. If you plan on sticking it on your lap, and running CPU intensive compilers, your gonna get uncomfortable quick. Definitely invest in a cooling pad. The Air has tiny heatsinks and one tiny fan, it's not exactly optimum!

    If your budget is in that $1000 range, the slightly thicker and better-cooled Macbook would probably be a better bet (plus more storage, albeit slower).

    The BEST solution however, as it gives you faster Graphics Cards for 3D development, and a faster CPU, is an iMac or Mac pro. I don't know where your taking classes, but my college does iOS development classes in a room full of iMacs. The reason I mention that is, while a Macbook would be nice for doing homework on campus, your performance will improve going home and sitting in front of an iMac or, better yet, budget willing, a Mac pro. If you don't need to take your hardware to class, and have opportunities to use what they supply, it may be a decent solution.

    So basically, to sum it all up. A Macbook or Macbook air will do it, certainly, but the more you spend the lest waiting you'll have. Hopefully that answers your questions, but once again, this is not from an iOS developer, this is from a C/C++ Programmer, and making assumptions that iOS development falls along the same lines. I hope someone who does iOS work will chime in, but seeing as nobody has replied so far, I figured I'd shove my opinion in here.

  3. vistadude macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2010
    The big screen macbooks will be best as you can lay more windows on the screen and the performance is better, while the 13 inch macbooks will be best for portability. But pretty much either would work well. If you're on a budget, the white macbook can be found on sale for $800 sometimes from retailers.
  4. sjarman macrumors newbie

    Sep 24, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    ANY of the current generation Macbook machines will be fine - you don't need a lot of power for basic app development. If you're just getting started, buy the basic Macbook (white). As mentioned, a larger screen can be nice, but it's definitely not essential.
  5. Andreas Grauel macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2010
    Bonn, Germany
    I use the new Macbook Air at Work and at home for app development, but i do NOT develop games with OpenGL ES or something similiar. If I would do this I had an i5 or i7 CPU. But for buisness apps the macbook air is perfect :)
  6. psonice macrumors 6502a

    Jul 22, 2005
    Any, but screen space helps!

    I think any of them will do performance-wise. I have an old white 13" macbook that works great (openglES aside, but any current-gen laptop has a decent enough GPU). You'll only need more power if you're planning pretty major projects. I've actually done iphone dev on an old g4 powerbook - it took some hacking to get it to run, but performance even there was at least acceptable.

    The key thing I find is screen size though. I find my 24" imac a bit small, even with a 2nd 19" screen attached. A 13" screen definitely feels cramped, especially for interface builder. You have no chance of using the simulator for the ipad or iphone 4 at full res (it does scale down though, so not a real deal breaker).

    I would say either: go for 13" for portability if you need it, but buy a big monitor for serious dev work. Dual screens help a ton anyway. Or, go for 15/17" if you want to be fully mobile with it and don't mind the size.

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