Laptop or desktop for web design/development

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by *nix, Jun 30, 2018.

  1. *nix macrumors newbie

    Sep 29, 2012
    I need a new machine as my current and very old laptop won't last much longer. I'll be using a new machine for web design, development and Photoshop work.

    I'm attracted to the value for money that desktops offer, but I'm worried that I'll miss the portability of a laptop.

    I'm torn between an MBP, iMac, Dell XPS or custom-built Windows desktop.
    • MBP: Portability, solid OS and build quality, but lack of decent graphics card concerns me due to future-proofing. I'm not sure whether to consider a brand new MBP or look for an older one but no older than 2015.
    • iMac: Solid OS and build quality, value for money compared to MBP, but no way of upgrading components in the future.
    • Dell XPS - Portability, good OS, dedicated graphics card.
    • Custom-built Windows desktop - Value for money, components can be upgraded in the future.
    The MBP I'm looking at uses Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 but I'm not sure how long this will be supported by Adobe for.

    I wouldn't be travelling around with a laptop a lot, except I do like to work downstairs in my living at the table or in front of the fire during the winter. A desktop seems better value for money but I've never had a desktop before - only laptops. If I bought a MBP, Dell XPS or built my own desktop then I'd also buy one or two decent monitors to go with it.
  2. smirking, Jun 30, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018

    smirking macrumors 65816


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I'm in a similar boat. The order of what I use my MBP for are (in order of importance): Web development, Photography, Web design, Graphics Design, Video. Where we're very different is that until 2012, I had always had a desktop computer. By 2012, I came to the conclusion that the gap between desktop and laptop machines had closed enough that I would be able to replace my Cheese Grater Mac Pro with a MBP.

    There are some things I miss about the desktop environment, but the mobility I get from being unthethered is big plus for my productivity. I also have minimal need for carrying my work outside of the house, but freedom inside of the house is huge for me. Being able to move around if I'm feeling stuck or just want to find a more comfortable chair to keep on working in are things that I wouldn't want to give up.

    I used to use my wife's laptop whenever I needed to have a mobile environment to work in for meetings or otherwise. This would result in hours spent trying to make sure I had the right files synced and even then half the time I'd realize I forgot something and would be left stranded without data I really needed. More than anything else, the amount of time I spent trying to manage this dual setup was what drove me to using a laptop 100%.

    Just about any MBP works pretty well as a Web development environment. I'm on a 2016 MBP right now, but was doing just fine on my mid-2012 MBP after it had been upgraded with a Samsung 850 EVO SSD. I could have stayed on my 2012 for another year or two, but switched only because I really wanted 5K monitor support.

    Future proofing is a dangerous sport. What you anticipate often doesn't come around in the way you expected it to and even when you guess right, the devices you'd have to buy into in order to update the performance of an aging machine has questionable ROI in comparison to just replacing your old system. Well, that is unless you buy an old school PC tower where you can customize the build and replace individual components.

    I don't anticipate the graphics card being a limitation on my MBP for its forseeable lifespan. If that's what you're mainly concerned about holding up well into the future, you'll have access to improved eGPU support through its Thunderbolt 3 ports a few years from now. I ran some pretty resource intensive LAMP virtual servers on the mid-2012 and it performed quite adequately.
  3. geromi912 macrumors regular

    Mar 19, 2018
    MBP without dGPU and XPS with dGPU, why are you comparing 13'' vs 15'' and not 15'' vs 15''? That makes no sense to me. I'll recommend a custom built windows desktop with a REAL graphics card unless you absolutely need OS X and/or a laptop, the dual core and intel integrated trash in the MBP will choke with any serious photoshop work.
  4. *nix thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 29, 2012
    I thought the Dell XPS 13" had a dedicated graphics card. Would an MBP with Intel integrated graphics handle PS?
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Why not get at the 15" model so you get a quad core processor, dGPU?

    From my research the Dell has some throttling concerns, i.e., getting too hot the CPU throttles. Given they now have a 6 core processor in the same chassis that had issues with throttling, I'd be concerned that the situation would be worse.

    Overall, the iMac gives you the most bang for your buck. You get a larger display then any of the laptops, more powerful components and typically more storage options. As for upgrading, the 27" model, has upgradeable ram and given the state of USB and TB, using an external drive on the iMac for extra storage is quite convenient. The only downside to the iMac is that its not portable, if you really don't have mobility needs this your best bet imo.

    I've been testing out a Razer 15" laptop (specifically the GTX 1060/512SSD model) and I feel the build quality is very apple like and it runs cooler then the Dell. I would give that model a serious look instead of the Dell.

    The last point I will raise up, is windows vs. macOS. Not to start a platform war, but rather just point out there are a number of intangibles that you get with macOS that I personally gotten so used too. I'm finding out myself with using the Razer that I simply prefer using macOS more then Windows. YMMV I have a few more days within the return period to finalize my decision on to keep or return the Razer, but I think overall I'm missing macOS too much

    15" only the 13" uses the iGPU
  6. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    That's a bit of a "how long is a piece of string" requirement... some Photoshop users may be working with huge files and struggling with the 16GB RAM limit in MBPs but these days, you don't need anything special hardware-wise to develop "regular" websites and apps and produce screen-resolution graphics/icons for them.

    Sadly, its a bad time to buy a one) Mac. Only Apple have the actual figures for MBP keyboard failure rates, us buyers have to rely on anecdotal evidence, and I've seen too many reports of multiple failures to have confidence. The 2017 iMacs are solid machines (I have one), but both the iMac and the MBPs (if you want to risk the keyboard) are overshadowed by the prospect of the new Intel 6-core chips coming real soon now.

    MacOS, being Unix, is in many ways, the ideal platform for web design if you're targeting Linux servers - on the other hand, if you need a Linux-like testing environment, then any platform will let you spin up a VM with the actual Linux distro that you're targeting, and the last time I looked at Windows' Linux subsystem - over a year ago - it was looking promising.

    As for roll-your-own PC - if you're otherwise happy with Windows or Linux then it can't be beaten in terms of choosing the exact configuration that you want. Don't over-value the "later expansion" issue in terms of future-proofing, though - its more about getting the exact spec you want in the first place (things that are either unavailable from or, like RAM/SSD, cost a fortune from Apple) and then being able to fix things if they go wrong. I've built various PCs over the years and the main thing that gets upgraded (or swapped between machines) is storage - the latest CPUs invariably need a different socket & chipset, GPUs may need the next-gen of PCIe for max performance etc. so it usually works out easier to build a new computer and keep the old one as a spare, testbed, fileserver etc. It just happens that, over the last 7-8 years, the biggest step forward in performance has been the advent of affordable SSDs that give s substantial boost in performance even when connected to older computers.

    That sounds like an argument for an iMac - not too bad to carry downstairs from time to time and the 27" screen makes extra displays more of a luxury than a necessity. The current iMacs seem solid although its a shame they haven't been bumped to hex core yet.

    (* Maybe not Apple's fault: its Intel who start the hype for generation N+1 before all of the variants for generation N are shipping in quantity and they have a stupid dumbed-down product naming scheme in which Dell's 8th Gen i7 may not be the 8th gen i7 that Apple are waiting for - however, Apple have had several cycles over which to learn this, so maybe they're tying their designs too tightly to specific Intel chips for the sake of thinness...?)
  7. Ifti macrumors 68000

    Dec 14, 2010
    I'm kinda in the same boat - although for editing video. No huge multicam projects, just 1080p stuff for YouTube.

    Ive always used MBP's (in sig) but I am tempted by either a new MBP or a new iMAC (waiting for updates).
    The MBP would give me portability in the house but the iMAC gives much better bang for the buck, so I'm tempted to move to an iMAC instead now. I'd go max spec (although with a 512GB SSD as I have tons of external TB3 SSD storage).

    I know an iMAC would suit my needs fine, but also keep looking at a new MBP as I love working on a laptop too!!!
  8. graana macrumors newbie


    Jul 11, 2018
    Web development, Photography, Web design, Graphics Design, Video. Where we're very different is that until 2012, I had always had a desktop computer. By 2012, I came to the conclusion that the gap between desktop and laptop machines had closed enough that I would be able to replace my Cheese Grater Mac Pro with a MBP.
  9. yashikkapoor2001 macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2018
    I think Laptop with good composition is better for webdesigning and development.

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