Resolved Help deciding

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Compile, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. Compile, Aug 30, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013

    Compile macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Hello all I've been a long time lurker.
    Let me get down to it.

    I previously had a 2007 MBP, unfortunately it died on me almost 2 years ago. I had them purchased a custom gaming laptop (Sager if anyone is asking) which is a desktop replacement. It's a pretty heavy machine to lug around (~9lbs) and the battery life is less then 2 hours.

    I am currently a college student taking programming (C\C++, Java, web languages, oracle, C#) and I'm a bit stumped on what kind of MB I want. I love the Air's form factor, but I'm unsure if it's enough power for my needs. I have a desktop which I will be doing most of my compiling. I'm also stuck whether to wait for the new MBP or just get an Air.

    I would be getting 8gb of ram and 256gb SSD in either model as I don't need more room then that (I use a Synology NAS to store all my files).

    I haven't played a game on my current laptop since about 2 months after I bought it. I won't be playing anything on my new Apple product, so besides programming, I will be surfing and watching the occasional movie. 13" is more then enough for me.

    Please help!
  2. yosemit, Aug 30, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2013

    yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    I use Eclipse to do Java and C/C++ programming on my 2013 11-in air, i7/8GB/256GB (with a big external monitor). The new Air is overpowered for this job. :rolleyes: I think i5 is sufficient too, but make sure you get the 8GB.

    For programmers, the new Air it is super quite, no fan noise at all. That helps me concentrate on programming.

  3. achuandblessyou macrumors newbie

    Aug 30, 2013
    I just graduated with a CS degree and truth be told, the MBA is good enough, since your projects won't ever stress it that much considering that 1) you won't have enough time to write a big enough project and 2) classes need to be able to support the lowest common denominator (so 2-3 year old laptops).

    8GB *might* be necessary, but 4GB is enough. Again with the scaling. I mean if you run multiple VM's then yes, you'll need more RAM, but unlike windows machines, you can do development on a Mac without needing an Ubuntu VM (the only reason I'd keep OSX around vs bootcamping windows :p).
  4. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    I'm going to be using bootcamp to compile c# source as I haven't played with Mono yet.

    I'll use Sublime Text while under OS X.

    Think I made my choice. Air with 8gb of ram. Thank you guys.
  5. silverf1re macrumors regular

    Mar 3, 2011
    I use the i5 8 GB 128 for C#. I got more ram so i could run a VM. I love it.
  6. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    I can get a 15" rMBP for roughly $150 more then the Air. It's from June 2012.

    Is this a wise decision. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot. I'd be happy with 5 hours of battery life so I can make it through at least 2 class without a charge.

    Don't know if i can wait for the new rMBP release because who knows when that is.

    Should I get the Air or 2012 15" rMBP? Pretty nuch same config 8gb/256gb.
  7. six.four macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2008
    Comes down to what you need personally:

    Significantly better battery life
    Lighter and thinner

    Significantly better screen (in my opinion)
    Significantly better CPU and GPU

    So you just have to ask yourself what's more important: portability or power?

    If you don't really need the power, go with the air. If you plan to play games or other CPU/GPU intensive tasks, get the MBPr.
  8. sofianito macrumors 65816


    Jan 14, 2011
    2012 15" rMBP is one year old gen...
  9. Atomic Walrus macrumors 6502a

    Sep 24, 2012
    I thought I'd chime in anyway since I'm in a similar situation. In fact I already picked up an Air (i7, 8gb) because I decided that it wasn't reasonable to make the decision based only on in-store tryouts.

    There's no question about the system's capabilities; it's more than fast enough for everything you've listed, especially if your heavy compiling is done on a desktop. I played with the i5 version in store for quite a while and am certain that I wouldn't have needed the upgrade, it was just hard for me to resist doing it since I was already doing a BTO for the RAM. Honestly 4 gb is also probably enough for the usage you listed, but obviously software tends to get more and more bloated over time so 8gb can give you some safety in the future.

    For me the big question is the display quality. The Air has an outdated display, and this has nothing to do with resolution (anything more than 1440x900 would be too small because of how os x handles interface scaling, unless we're talking about retina which simply improves DPI by running everything at 200% scale. It's a TN panel and neither of the options (LG or Samsung panel) are particularly good TN panels. Compared even to the very nice TN panel in my 2010 17" MBP the color saturation, gamma tracking, and viewing angles are poor.

    Compared to the excellent IPS panel in the rMBP 13" there's no contest as far as overall image quality (even running at half resolution the rMBP's panel would look significantly better). These panels are also somewhat brighter, though this likely won't matter unless you're outdoors during the day with it.

    For me it's enough to have me considering returning the Air and hoping that the rMBP refresh results in acceptable battery life, but if the display doesn't concern you then I would definitely recommend the Air over the rMBP for your usage.

    I definitely wouldn't recommend the older 15" rMBP. Battery life is going to be fairly poor, the quad core CPU isn't going to do anything for you, and the dGPU will be completely wasted. The HD4000 iGPU in that thing is also seriously underpowered for the resolution. If you're thinking rMBP I'd definitely suggest waiting for the 13" refresh.
  10. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    The retina display is amazingly beautiful.

    That said, for programming, do you consider adding an external monitor? I do programming a lot. Over 90% of time, my 11-in Air is connected to a 24-in IPS monitor, plus a BT keyboard and a BT mouse. The big monitor makes a sensible difference in productivity. Occasionally I do programming on the 11.6-in display, which is not as productive but still acceptable.

  11. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    I have a 23" LG monitor (not sure what kind it is, it's about 2-3 months old) so I can connect it via hdmi.

    My only concern is the power in the future. Like I said my current laptop is extremely powerful but it also weight with the power pak 15lbs. To lug it around is a pain in the ass and the battery lasts less then 2-3 hours with the screen full dimmed. It has a total TDP of 200W and the battery is insufficient. I can't find a Sager battery with higher capacity.

    I obviously need something ASAP. I'm just worried if I get the Air I will be pissed when I compile 2000 lines of code and it takes a while. My current laptop compiles very very fast.

    I don't plan on playing games on the thing except for maybe King's Road which is flash based. Mostly FaceTime with the wife, family, compiling code, google hangouts with screenshare/Skype, web browsing and streaming movies either from netflix or my synology nas.

    When I'm home most of my coding will be done on my desktop as I have an incredible set up. The laptop will be used for school (+the things listed) and then to do coding in bed, on the toilet, couch whenever I have to.

    Just not sure if I get the Air say tomorrow, and the following week the release the rMBP. I don't know what the return/exchange policy is for Apple in Ontario,Canada if the new rMBP has better battery life etc.

    I appreciate all the help, I miss having an Apple laptop and should have spent my $2400 on an Apple instead of a Sager (I hate AMD, which they don't deal with anymore!!).
  12. yosemit, Sep 2, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013

    yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    You must be a serious programmer. ;)

    I just did an experiment, compiling the GNU Chess 6.0.3 source code from on my 11-in MBA with i7/8/256. The total 'make' (building) time is 8.1 seconds. I did it in a Linux VM running on the MBA (using bootcamp would be faster), and I used gcc 4.4.6. You may try the same on your computer and then compare. Hope it will help.

  13. sofianito macrumors 65816


    Jan 14, 2011
    Could you try it natively on Mac OS X with Homebrew

    To compile and install:

    brew tap homebrew/games
    time brew install homebrew/games/gnu-chess
    I just did it on my late 2007 17" MBP/2.6Ghz/4GB/200GB 7200 RPM and it took 35 seconds to compile 24 files (total size 26MB):

    /usr/local/Cellar/gnu-chess/6.0.3: 24 files, 26M, built in 35 seconds
    real	0m35.864s
    user	0m12.565s
    sys	0m8.946s
  14. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    Glad to make a comparison. I use MacPorts, so I did "sudo time port install gnuchess" and got the following times:

    23.63 real 8.77 user 4.22 sys

    Those are mixes of download and build times. I have Xcode 4.6.3 installed, which does the compilation. There was no depending package.

    For compilers, the MBA may have the advantage of using SSD.

  15. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    @yosemit how is your battery life with the i7. I've decided on getting the Air but debating getting the same config as you but wondering about battery life.

    I think the i7 will help when I use Windows for C# as like I said I haven't tried Mono at all (not even in Linux).
  16. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Just want to know the battery life with the i7.
  17. sofianito macrumors 65816


    Jan 14, 2011
    I think it would be similar to the i5 if you only code, compile, and debug/run...
  18. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    I never had chance to exhaust the battery. I once used it in a meeting for 2 hours, with 93% left at the end of the meeting. :rolleyes: It was insane, but my use was very light during the meeting.

    In normal use, the battery meter reports maximum 9-10 hour battery life, and it seems to be accurate.

  19. Compile thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 30, 2013
    About to place an order, just debating on getting the i7 or i5. Not sure which to get. Even if with the i7 I get 8-10 hours then I'm fine with that.

    Sure beats the hell out of 1-2.5 even during light duty.

    Any advice?

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