Is the MBA powerful enough for Software development?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Yorrow, Jul 20, 2013.

  1. Yorrow macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2013
    Location:
    France
    #1
    Hi everyone,

    I've been reading reviews and threads for days now, and I still don't really know what to do and what to think. I got some answers, but not enough.

    I'm currently studying software development and I will do that for at least 3 more years. I will have several internships and I hope I will be able to work on personal project sometime in those 3 years. I'm not sure what kind of things I will have to do, it could be web development, mobile app development or really anything including heavy stuff.

    I already own an iMac from late 2009, the 27" base model (3.06GHz C2D with 4Go of Ram only), and I love it so much that I don't even want to think about buying something else than a MacBook. I plan on doing some iOS development at least on my free time, so it tends to confirm my will.

    So here are the options I have, all around the same price :
    - the high-end 13" MBA with i7, 8gb ram and 256gb (not enough money for more)
    - the NEXT (Haswell) first 13" rMBP with a better CPU (if the price stays the same)
    - the NEXT (Haswell) second 13" rMBP with no upgrade. (if the price stays the same, again)

    I've read almost everywhere that the rMBP is "soooo much better" because of it's screen, but if it's the only thing it does better than a MBA, I'm not interested. I've played with it a bit at the Apple Store and haven't found it was that astounding or even just necessary.

    Here is my question : would the MBA be good enough to do all kind of software development ? What could I possibly miss ?
    And if you think that the first rMBP without upgrade or the MBA with i5 would also be good enough, I would consider those options too.

    I will spend a lot of time doing casual stuff like reading email, browsing the Internet, watching series so I could be satisfied even with the first 13" MBA, but I also really want to be able to work with it, because I want a laptop to be able to work anytime, anywhere, without needing to find a more powerful desktop to do something in particular (thing that I couldn't do if I was spending the summer at my family's house for example).

    Thank you for your time and your help ! :)

    (Sorry if I've made spelling mistakes and things like that, I'm not a native speaker ;))
     
  2. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #2
    Yes.

    Nothing.

    They too would work. Buy the most computer your budget allows.

    Good luck.
     
  3. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    Thank you, ZBoater

    Is there something the MBA wouldn't be good at ? I'm not really a gamer, I don't play often so that wouldn't be a problem, so something else, maybe ?
     
  4. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #4
    THe MBA is one of the best laptops on the market, period.

    It lacks a built in DVD drive.

    It does not have a quad-processor option.

    It maxes out at 8GB of RAM and 512GB of hard drive space.

    The screen is not retina.

    That's about the only things I can think of off the top of my head. It has Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, is crazy fast, and 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD is more than enough for most people. The screen is 1440x900 and is not retina, and the processor is ultra low voltage dual core only. Some people need a quad core for things they want to do, they may need more than 8GB of RAM, and they may need a regular hard drive with 1 or 2TB of disk space. Those needs are very specialized. Unless you have a specific application that requires that, the MBA will run just about anything else you throw at it, including Windows.
     
  5. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    Awesome :)

    One last question for you, or people who own the same iMac (27", late 2009, 3.06Ghz C2D) as me and the 2013 MBA : will the MBA seem/be more powerful, faster, better at everything, in fact, than my iMac ?
     
  6. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
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    #6
    Oh, I can guarantee you the new MBA will seem a LOT faster than your iMac. Do you have a regular hard drive on your iMac or a SSD? The SSD alone makes a big difference.

    You can use your 27" iMac as a display for your new MBA when you're at home.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-1225934.html
     
  7. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    I have a regular hard drive. As I said I played a bit at the Apple Store with the MacBooks (Air and retina), I launch several apps at the same time (Calendar, Reminder, Mail and Safari) and it didn't seem A LOT faster than on my iMac. I thought it would be almost instantaneous and it wasn't.

    What about the GPU ? On my iMac, I have an ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256Mo. I can run almost all the games I like with it, will the HD 5000 do a better job ?
     
  8. B... macrumors 68000

    B...

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    #8
    It will do a few times better.
     
  9. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #9
    The machines at the Apple store are probably using SSDs, so the perceived launch time will be virtually the same. The SSD is what makes the biggest difference in boot and load times.

    The HD5000 is quite an improvement. The 2013 MBA is on the par performancewise with the 2012 MBPro. I will assume the 2013 MBPro might jump ahead of the MBA. Comparing to a 2009 model? Significantly better.
     
  10. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    I meant it didn't seem really faster than my iMac at home, with an hard drive. Maybe one or two second less, but not much more.

    Anyway, thank you and I'll wait until the end of august to see if there are new rMBP. I would love to get the 80€ from BTS, I could wait until october otherwise but I don't think I will. If the battery life is close to 9-10 hours and the perf are better than the MBA, I think I will get a new rMBP, otherwise I will buy the MBA

    And thank you B... :)
     
  11. antjefferson macrumors newbie

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    Jun 22, 2013
    #11
    I'm using the i5 with 8gb ram for development...it is way fast. All the laptop you will need...and the some.
     
  12. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    Pa
    #12
    If you have to ask, than yes, yes it is fast enough.
     
  13. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13
    Well, I have to ask because the hardware is not really my thing, and I don't know what kind of power I will need to develop a "real" app, compile it, debug it etc. I'm not there yet, but I will, in less than 10 months.


    Thanks :)
     
  14. Gilado macrumors newbie

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    Jul 21, 2013
    #14
    The new MBA with the 1.3GHZ i5 and 8GB memory, how will it work with solidworks for some basic 3D design ?
    (I need it for my next semester course)
     
  15. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #15
    At this point, the current MBA is probably around the same speed as the MBP from 2 years ago. I don't do 3d modeling, but the '13 model got a much better integrated graphics chip, on par with a 7750m or GT640m. The Macbook Pro comes with a GT 650m (currently) so if you're buying today and limiting yourself to Apple products, the Macbook Air is probably the best bang for your buck - even for 3d renderings.
     
  16. beautifulcoder macrumors regular

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    The Republic of Texas
    #16
    The base MBA should be fine for your needs. If you up the specs then I think you are being paranoid. I was paranoid so I upped the RAM even though I don't need it and even when I do need it computers will be so much more capable it won't make any difference. Personally I think mammoth looking laptops like e rMBP are going the way of the Dodo. The MBA is really the best selling laptop in the market today for a reason.
     
  17. rizkysyazuli macrumors newbie

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    Oct 20, 2010
    #17
    depends on what sort of software you're building. for non interactive apps. i can say the Air is the best. pick the 13" and make sure you get the one with the biggest HDD.
     
  18. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #18
    I don't know yet... I could either work for a bank or a startup or really anything. That's why I'm looking for the more powerful and polyvalent mac possible in my budget (1500€ with AOC)
     
  19. elchorizo macrumors member

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    Jul 9, 2012
    Location:
    Beaverton, OR
    #19
    MBA is Great

    I did development on my 2012 11" MBA quite a bit before I sold it. I thought it was great for the most part, and the 2013 would be even better (especially in 13"). The main problem you'll face is screen real estate. The 13" has a low resolution so you wont see as much code on the screen as you might like at any given time. However, that is EASILY solved by getting an external monitor. When I developed on my 11" I had it hooked to a separate monitor and keyboard so it was perfect. I'd suggest you do the same. Yes, you'll still be stuck with the 1440x900 when you are away from your desk, but that will be fine for limited use.

    Speed wise it will be excellent. Maybe your compiles will be a little longer than on a rmbp, but I'd guess that unless you have a huge project you'd never notice this and your compiles will still feel lightning fast.

    Personally, I'm waiting for the Haswell refresh for the 13" rMBP so I can have 1650x1080 (which is one of the scaled resolutions) on a 13" screen for development. Thats a good amount of real estate (although I still prefer much more) to develop on.

    That being said, depending on price and battery life on that rMBP, I may instead get the 13" Air because I think it looks almost perfect for development, with the only exception being the low resolution.

    Good luck to you!

    EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention. Your written English is excellent for a non-native speaker. Don't sweat it!
     
  20. Yorrow thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jul 20, 2013
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    France
    #20
    Thank you for your help, and your compliment ! I'm just a bit obsessed by some rules that I don't really understand yet and I feel like I'm doing those mistakes in every sentence. Maybe I'm just a bit paranoiac ^^ Anyway !

    I think I will do the same thing as you : wait as long as I can for the new rMBP. If I could get the 13" with 256go for the same price as the MBA 13" i7/8gb, I would definitely buy it. If the price stays the same as it is for the 2012 model, it would be 100€ too expensive for me :/
     

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