Laptop for programming

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by richpjr, Aug 10, 2011.

  1. richpjr macrumors 68030

    richpjr

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    #1
    I work at a company that does ASP.Net programming and new the type of hardware needed for good performance for that platform. We have a concept we want to work on for iOS and my boss has given me the okay to pick up a Mac laptop to do it on. I want to stay in the $1500ish range, though I could stretch that if needed. Is the 13" MacBook Air (with 4GB RAM and 256GB flash) too much of a drop down in performance from a MacBook Pro (4GB RAM and 500GB disk)? Never having owned a Mac Laptop before, can you upgrade the RAM on a MacBook Pro (much cheaper after market prices)? If I remember correctly you cannot upgrade the RAM in a MacBook Air - correct? I know the MacBook Pro will be more powerful, but the size and portability of the Air are very intriguing. In either case I'll be using a large external monitor, not that it is relevant since both have 13" screens. Which way would you recommend?
     
  2. jpyc7 macrumors 6502

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    Denver, CO
    #2
    I think the portability probably does not matter very much if you only use the laptop at work. For me, I carry my PC laptop between my cubicle and conference rooms in a single building. I just carry the laptop without putting it in a case, since the longest walk is probably 45 seconds.

    If you work at a big company with a multi-building campus and you actually have to go to a different building, then maybe portability is a bigger concern. Likewise, if your boss expects you to take the laptop home (or you want to do so yourself).
     
  3. harmonica01 macrumors 6502

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    Jul 30, 2007
    #3
    I really suggest going to the macbook pro in your case. The portability difference between the two, for me is nominal. I tried justifying a macbook air when they first came out and really thought it was a joke against the expandability of the even entry level macbook pro. The processor benchmarks are close, sure, but having the ability to dump 8gb ram into any laptop for programming and the larger cache available on the macbook pro is worth carrying around an extra pound or so.
     
  4. richpjr, Aug 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2011

    richpjr thread starter macrumors 68030

    richpjr

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    May 9, 2006
    #4
    I actually will doing a lot of work at home at night so I will be lugging it back and forth between home and work - but the MacBook Pro isn't lighter than the Dell PC I am currently doing that with.

    I am thinking you are right - as much as I'd like the tiny foot print and weight, it seems to limiting.
     
  5. K42, Aug 11, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011

    K42 macrumors regular

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    Europe
    #5
    I second that. Can't really comment on the 13" portability, as I am using a 17" MBP, but having the ability to easily add more memory and disk space is crucial for me. I expanded the memory to 8GB, and when needed it also allows me to easily put in a larger (or faster) drive.

    I basically do all windows development in VM's. I have setup a number of those (for various purposes), and often run 2 windows VM's simultaneously.

    Even the 17" fits nicely in my packpack by the way, I am not really having issues traveling with it. Depends on what you are used to I guess.

    BTW: the user manual of the MBP contains instructions for replacing memory and the drive. This is fairly simple and it will not void your waranty.
     
  6. PatrickCocoa macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 2, 2008
    #6
    Developer Friend

    I had a developer friend tell me that he's using a MacBook Air 11" as a development machine. I asked him a couple of questions as that surprised me - I use a 21.5" iMac for development and it doesn't seem overly big. I asked if the 11" was too small, and how did he use Xcode in 11"?

    He said again that it worked fine, he was used to a bigger monitor but the 11" was OK. He just put Xcode in full screen mode, and would toggle the various UI elements as he needed them (you can toggle the Navigator with command-0, and toggle the IB Inspector with alt-command-0). Also, you can navigate your file hierarchy with the breadcrumbs (or whatever the bar near the top with the current file name is called) so you don't need the Navigator.

    Again, I was surprised and would have never considered an 11" for development. I would have only reluctantly considered the 15" MBP, but based on this guy's experience I would now consider the 15", maybe the 13".
     
  7. Mac_Max macrumors 6502

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    Mar 8, 2004
    #7
    I do most of my at-home development on a Sager 15" 1080LCD/Quad Core i7 monster. If I'm limited to one screen, a la a laptop, I probably would be hard pressed not to have a machine with a high resolution display. For that reason I would go with the 15" or 17" MBP.
     
  8. K42, Aug 12, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011

    K42 macrumors regular

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    #8
    This might work if you are only doing development on the Mac, but if you are also using windows I think that you will want a higher solution.

    I would epect that a small screen will work for editing "on the road", but I would find it very uncomfortable if I would have to use it all the time.
     
  9. macsmurf macrumors 65816

    macsmurf

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    Aug 3, 2007
    #9
    8 GB only makes sense for certain kinds of programming. It doesn't for iOS apps.

    I have no problem programming on a two year old macbook 13". I've upgraded it with a SSD and 4 GB RAM which, incidentally, the Air already has. I have a colleague who programs exclusively on the pre-i5 13" air. Both of us use 24" external monitors on a normal work day. He mostly does PHP and I mostly do Java.

    If you need 8 GB for iOS programming you're doing something wrong, IMHO.
     
  10. PatrickCocoa macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 2, 2008
    #10
    Agree, but

    I agree with you. But a guy who's actually done it (used a 11" MBA for development) says it works (for him). I was surprised, and am still skeptical, but I want to avoid automatically rejecting new ideas that don't fit my preconceived notions.

    I'm not in the market for a new laptop or desktop setup, but the next time I am I'll take a look at the MBA 11", which I wouldn't have before. Maybe it'll be a great new experience and it'll change my life. Probably not, but if I don't try I won't know.
     
  11. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    Jan 28, 2009
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    Quebec, Canada
    #11
    Any Intel Mac Laptop or desktop will work for what you want to do. There are no "minimum" requirements per say for programming, programming is not really an intensive task in and of itself.

    I value screen real-estate, but all Macs have ports designed to plug in an external monitor so that's a non-issue.

    Just get whatever you want and it will work just fine.
     
  12. richpjr thread starter macrumors 68030

    richpjr

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    May 9, 2006
    #12
    So I looked at both the 13" MacBook Pro and Airs yesterday and was kind of surprised that the Pro has such a low resolution. That was pretty disappointing, though the color and viewing angle seemed better on it than on the Air. The Air seems pretty snappy - I guess the RAM is the big thing.
     
  13. Mac_Max macrumors 6502

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    #13
    The SSD in the MBA helps a lot in terms of responsiveness. You could always go for the Air and use an external display for more screen real estate when you're at your desk.
     
  14. richpjr thread starter macrumors 68030

    richpjr

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    May 9, 2006
    #14
    I went down and looked at both long and hard tonight and came home with the 13" MacBook Air with the 256GB SSD and the core i7. The resolution on the MBP just bugged me. I have a 24" monitor both at work and home that I can use with it if needed so I think I am covered.
     
  15. foidulus macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 15, 2007
    #15
    Macbook air is a pretty good bet, unfortunately Apple doesn't offer replacing the optical drive with an SSD on the MBP, now that would be the ultimate dev mac laptop*

    *Yes, I know you can do it on your own, but a lot of companies essentially won't let you modify your hardware, you can only buy whatever Apple offers. Hopefully the next MBP revision will either get rid of the optical drive entirely or at least make it optional.
     
  16. jiminaus macrumors 65816

    jiminaus

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    #16
    I'd say there's a very good chance of that.
     
  17. michaelsviews macrumors 65816

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    Sep 25, 2007
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    #17
    Todays Macbook air

    I read through this post and was wondering based on today's MBA's would the configuration below be good for a programming laptop? This is not for professional work at this time, mainly getting back into programming and doing java script, PHP, some C, also some database work. The reason I'm considering the Air is cost, I'm currently using a 15" rMBP thats loaded but the price is insane imho.

    1.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz
    8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
    512GB Flash Storage
     
  18. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    Nov 25, 2005
    #18
    Should be fine, unless your code needs to access servers and you have to run the servers in virtual machines on your development machine as well, in addition to your own work.
     
  19. michaelsviews macrumors 65816

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    Location:
    Upstate NY
    #19
    So if I'm running apache server and mysql service's / database's than this mite not be a good machine for that? If thats the case than a 16GB Quad core maybe the way to go? I do not replace my computer until it is not economical to fix it or Apple can't fix it anymore.

    2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz
    16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
     
  20. ArtOfWarfare macrumors 604

    ArtOfWarfare

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    Nov 26, 2007
    #20
    8 GB of RAM sounds like plenty to run a VM in addition to everything else, to me... the initial CPU you suggested seems like it might be a bigger issue... the second CPU you mentioned should be fine.
     
  21. MacCruiskeen macrumors 6502

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    Nov 9, 2011
    #21
    I have something similar in 13" from Mythlogic (both Mythlogic and Sager build on Clevo shells--it's a pretty solid little machine), since Apple just doesn't offer a quad-core i7 in 13". It just fits in the side pocket of my bike bag.
     
  22. Mac_Max macrumors 6502

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    Mar 8, 2004
    #22
    Haha Holy Thread Revival batman.

    For what it's worth, in 2014, I'm contradicting myself (slightly). I use the top config 2012 MacBook Pro Retina 15" at work/on the go doing work stuff. For my personal use I'm using a 2012 MacBook Air 11" top config (with the 1.8GHz i7) with an optional second screen a la my iPad and Air Display.

    The Air gets a little slow at times when compiling C++ libraries in some of my iPhone apps but otherwise has enough speed. The Retina powers through everything. I feel like a 13" MBPr's much faster Dual Core would pick up the slack between the two machines nicely.

    The Sager kinda collects dust these days since the battery life of both Apple laptops is so much better.
     
  23. michaelsviews, Jan 19, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014

    michaelsviews macrumors 65816

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    Upstate NY
    #23
    Well I'm on the 3rd 15" rMBP "Maxed out" because of battery life and just dying. I'm seriously thinking of going back a MBA and the external monitor at this point but the Apple Store asked to give it one more chance.

    What goes through my head is you do not buy a laptop to be plugged in all the time. Another suggestion was going to a 21" iMac.

    I like being portable, not sitting in the same place all the time.
     

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