MacBook 12 Myth - Not Powerful Enough

frankie1000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 10, 2016
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Hi All,

This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently as it seems every time you go reading rumour forum pages or anything Apple hardware related, everyone seems to concentrate on the Pro being required to do any sort of work and that the 12" MacBook is only good enough for simple word processing and web browsing.

I laugh a little and get a little angry with this notion because my experience doesn't seem to match that. Whilst I understand that if someone is encoding or formatting big 4K videos or if they are rendering 3D models, the MacBook 12 might not be the best option, for most productivity tasks it is perfect.

An example of this is AutoCAD and SketchUp. Both work very well on this 2017 M3 machine of mine, so much so I am in awe of how it handles it.

Working with large plan drawings or schematics seems to work well, plotting to PDF seems to work well and navigating simple buildings / rooms in sketchUp works great too.

I get that it might not be as fast as a 4 core fan cooled device, but it does get the job done really well. It really isn't all that much slower in these tasks as my i5 quad core CPU & Nvidia MX150 work computer.

I agree, it's not a workstation, but I wonder how much people think they need a more powerful machine for their task because they get misinformation on the net from people who might be demanding the extra power.

I can't believe that 9/10 people are constantly editing 4K videos and rendering cathedrals for their job / hobbies?

Just a little rant I wanted to get off my chest. All I know is that I love this form factor and will be jumping on the new one when it comes out, hopefully soon.
 

radiologyman

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2011
638
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I believe this obsession with specs is a little juvenile and MacBook 12 is indeed quite capable ultraportable unless you are a power user and can’t afford second computer. What stops those complaining from owning an old computer to offload 24x7 4K video conversion if that so important?
 
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lambertjohn

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2012
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No 4K nonsense in my life. I don't edit anything except documents. Had a 2017 MacBook for a week and it was perfect for that. However, one USB port really cramped my style so I gave it back to Apple. Kinda bummed; it was a neat little computer.
 

EugW

macrumors 604
Jun 18, 2017
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I found the 2015 m3 slow. And it has a lousy keyboard.

OTOH, the 2017 m3’s CPU performance is very decent and it has an OK keyboard.

It’s funny you mention 4K though. The 2017 model has hardware 10-bit HDR 4K HEVC decode support built in. The 2017 m3 can decode the Sony Nature Camp 10-bit HDR 4K HEVC video cleanly with 25% CPU usage, even though a 2016 15” 2.9 GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro can’t decode it cleanly at 100% CPU usage.

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/4k-hevc-10-bit-on-the-2017-core-m3-macbook-is-gorgeous.2054232/

This chip also has hardware 4K HEVC encoding too, up to 10-bit as well, but Apple only supports 8-bit 4K HEVC hardware encodes.

While the MacBook works well for me, I think what would make it more popular are:

1. Two USB ports
2. USB 3.1 Gen 2 10 Gbps + Thunderbolt support

A better FaceTime camera would be nice too.

Some of this may be coming next year, as it's due for an update.
 
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noobinator

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Jun 19, 2009
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I recently went through with a decision on MB 12 vs MBP due to the MBP only being a couple hundred more for similar storage. I asked for opinions based on web browsing, document editing, and some light room photo editing (light work, nothing crazy). Most of the people said I'd be sorry if I didn't a MBP with 16gb RAM.
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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I recently went through with a decision on MB 12 vs MBP due to the MBP only being a couple hundred more for similar storage. I asked for opinions based on web browsing, document editing, and some light room photo editing (light work, nothing crazy). Most of the people said I'd be sorry if I didn't a MBP with 16gb RAM.
95% of what I do is fine on 8 GB. But I like having 16 GB for those rare edge situations. It also provides more space for caching applications.

However, that's not an issue in this case, because both the MBP and MB12 can be configured with 16 GB. I have 16 GB with my Core m3 MacBook 12" 2017.
 

radiologyman

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2011
638
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Only real problem I have is only 1 USB. Can't charge and use external storage at the same time
I have a desktop and media player, both sharing files across my network. So when I need to plug in a usb drive, I just plug it in my desktop even when single usb connector is available. I feel that using a dongle to connect a usb drive is against ergonomics of an ultraportable. Also this way I have practically unlimited storage available to MacBook both on local network and internet.
 

Precursor

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Sep 29, 2015
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I loved my Macbook until I switched to the Pro. My only gripe is not that it has just one port, but that it's not Thunderbolt 3.
I would ditch my Macbook Pro in a heartbeat if they released a Macbook with a TB3 port
 

Zorori

macrumors newbie
Nov 26, 2017
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I do development work on my 2016 m7 -- initially it was only for travelling to clients and writing requirements documents. I only wish I could've bought a 16GB model at the time. If a newer model does come out I would be very tempted to upgrade.

The machine can handle me working on a backend with Scala with IntelliJ, whilst having VS Code and a NodeJS instance at the same time. I've also done some Haskell and OCaml on this little guy -- it's great! I just want the ram for VMs, I managed to get a small Kubernetes cluster running -- but struggled to do anything else!
 

Precursor

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Sep 29, 2015
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I do development work on my 2016 m7 -- initially it was only for travelling to clients and writing requirements documents. I only wish I could've bought a 16GB model at the time. If a newer model does come out I would be very tempted to upgrade.

The machine can handle me working on a backend with Scala with IntelliJ, whilst having VS Code and a NodeJS instance at the same time. I've also done some Haskell and OCaml on this little guy -- it's great! I just want the ram for VMs, I managed to get a small Kubernetes cluster running -- but struggled to do anything else!
2016 models didn't have 16GB memory option, only 8. I also bought the maxed out M7 option in 2016
 

EugW

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Jun 18, 2017
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It is a fine machine for internet browsing and light tasks. Let’s leave it at that. We all know what it’s capable of.
It's also fine for heavier business tasks too, at least if you get 16 GB. An external monitor helps too.

I'm not a developer, but I've read it's also good for development purposes if you have an external monitor and 16 GB. The main drawback is compile times.
 

StellarVixen

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Mar 1, 2018
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It's also fine for heavier business tasks too, at least if you get 16 GB. An external monitor helps too.

I'm not a developer, but I've read it's also good for development purposes if you have an external monitor and 16 GB. The main drawback is compile times.
That’s a lot of “ifs”.
[doublepost=1552831169][/doublepost]
The main drawback is compile times.
Precisely due to CPUs limitation.
 
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EugW

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That’s a lot of “ifs”.
Uh, what? All of them can run external monitors of course, and if you want to do these tasks you just need to make you configure it with enough memory. This no different from a 13" Retina MacBook Air or 13" MacBook Pro, as both also come with 8 GB as the base configuration. You need to upgrade the configuration to get 16 GB. I wouldn't want to develop or run business apps full time on a 13" MacBook Pro either if I didn't have 16 GB or have availability of an external monitor.

In fact, at I run dual 27" screens at home for business applications. I could run one of them with the 12" MacBook with 16 GB and it was quite decent. CPU performance was not a significant issue for my business apps, but having 16 GB is quite helpful (partially because some MS Office apps have memory leaks).

Ironically, it's the 13" MacBook Pro and 13" Retina MacBook Air that have cheaped out base configurations, as the base configurations only include an 128 GB SSD. All 12" MacBooks come with 256 GB minimum.

EDIT:

Developer Review 2017 MacBook

Whether I am coding or writing, I try and conserve motion as much as possible. My laptop is not doing 1000 different things at once. Nor am I continually compiling code or publishing my writing. Those actions are infrequent at best. Most of the time I am reading, studying, thinking and then, eventually, typing.

I sit and stare at the screen a lot.

Therefore, I am less concerned with the overall speed of the processor in my laptop than a gamer or video producer would be.

I do need memory though. Development tools are notoriously terrible about memory management and when you add in simulators, etc. to that mix, 4 or 8 GB of memory just isn’t sufficient.

I also need hard drive space. Projects get big with audio, video, and images fairly quickly. While I can make my projects fit onto the smallest drive, I would rather have breathing room if possible. I would rather NOT carry around external drives.

Therefore I settled on the MacBook with an I5 processor, 16GB of ram and a 512GB SSD drive. Not the absolute top end machine but pretty close.

I would have selected the I3 with 16GB and a 512GB drive, but it was not an option that was available.

I like having a “rig” that can work anywhere. That means having a rig that can work in the worst situation.

For me, at 6’0″ and broad-shouldered, a middle seat in coach on an international flight is probably the worst situation I will find myself in.

Therefore my rig needs to be able to work in a very small environment with no expectation of power.

I frequently will work from home, that being my home office or the couch. My home office has an external monitor and lots of room for devices (my primary work is on mobile devices).

With that, I have an upper and lower requirement.

This is the smallest laptop in terms of footprint which means it will do well on a flight. I will report back on that one after my next flight.

-- snip --

Being able to carry a full rig that is light enough that I forget I am carrying it is fantastic.

So far there are no regrets about the purchase and no hindrance to development. If anything, I am getting more done now because I am able to take this laptop with me everywhere without it being a burden.

Would I rebuild an OS on it? Not if I can help it.

But as a highly portable machine, it does great for development.
 
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StellarVixen

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Thank you for writing a mile long text to tell me what I already know.

You know that I can even set up Android phone for development?


And by the way, by light work, I meant not resource intensive. Most of the development stuff is not resource extensive, therefore it is light work.



I am in no way going to call developing a webpage using HTML/CSS/JS as "resource intensive task".

I can do that on 10 year old netbook.
 

EugW

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Thank you for writing a mile long text to tell me what I already know.

You know that I can even set up Android phone for development?

And by the way, by light work, I meant not resource intensive. Most of the development stuff is not resource extensive, therefore it is light work.

I am in no way going to call developing a webpage using HTML/CSS/JS as "resource intensive task".

I can do that on 10 year old netbook.
Now you're just exaggerating, and it's not helping your argument. I have a 10 year old 13" MacBook Pro (which is obviously way faster than a netbook of that era) and it can be a pain to do heavy business apps on. Part of it is the 8 GB limitation, but part of it is the fact that the CPU is just slow. Yes, I can technically work in it, but there are regular slowdowns, enough to have significant and very annoying impact. Those slowdowns are gone on the 2017 Core m3 MacBook.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise though. Geekbench 4 scores:

2700: 2009 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.26 GHz P8400
4950: 2015 MacBook 12" Retina 1.1 GHz M-5Y31
7100: 2017 MacBook 12" Retina 1.2 GHz m3-7Y32
8600: 2017 MacBook 12" Retina 1.4 GHz i7-7Y75
9650: 2017 MacBook Pro 13" Retina 2.3 GHz i5-7360U
7950: 2018 MacBook Air 13" Retina 1.6 GHz i5-8210Y

That was the point actually, that the 2017 m3 is more than fast enough for a lot of mainstream workloads, it has the option of 16 GB RAM, and it can run up to 4Kp60 screens. This was not all true for the 2015 entry level MacBook for example (although the slow 2015 MacBook is still way faster than my 13" 2009 MacBook Pro).

P.S. I just retired a Atom 330 net-top because it was too slow for Windows 10. Even just navigating the OS was annoying. Geekbench 4 score of the Atom 330 is around 1100. It's dual-core 1.6 GHz, which happens to be exactly twice as fast as the netbooks of the era. The netbooks had limited memory and were single-core Atom, like the 1.6 GHz single-core Atom 230 with a Geekbench 4 score of around 600, or about 20%-25% as fast as my 2009 MacBook Pro.
 
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Falhófnir

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Aug 19, 2017
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Just wait until it's running an Apple designed ARM chip. Expect that to be mind blowing performance for this sort of form factor. With the screen enlarged slightly (12.5-13.0"?) and two USB C ports (rather than the headphone jack, I assume) It could finally be a very tempting machine that offers potency and unparalleled portability.
 

EugW

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Just wait until it's running an Apple designed ARM chip. Expect that to be mind blowing performance for this sort of form factor. With the screen enlarged slightly (12.5-13.0"?) and two USB C ports (rather than the headphone jack, I assume) It could finally be a very tempting machine that offers potency and unparalleled portability.
Yes, but just for native applications. I wouldn't want to be one of the first people to own one, as a lot of apps won't work properly on it. And if they do implement Rosetta-like on-the-fly translation, it may be slow. Not that I'd want to do that anyway, since it can be glitchy. I'd rather wait a few years before making the jump.
 
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Falhófnir

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Yes, but just for native applications. I wouldn't want to be one of the first people to own one, as a lot of apps won't work properly on it. And if they do implement Rosetta-like on-the-fly translation, it may be slow. Not that I'd want to do that anyway, since it can be glitchy. I'd rather wait a few years before making the jump.
Potentially the first 12-18 months might be a bit barren, but I would imagine developers will quickly shift their attention to either creating a native version, or porting their apps over if Apple make it clear this is going to be the future. The core functionality - Safari, Office or iWork, iTunes, even probably final cut(!) will very likely be there from day one too, as you say... I would potentially even be more worried about x86 machines prematurely losing (developer) support if the ARM machines quickly gain traction and market share (i.e. if apple goes the rip off the plaster route of transitioning the whole line quickly over 12-18 months rather than keeping the 'pro's on x86 for a few years).
 

EugW

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Potentially the first 12-18 months might be a bit barren, but I would imagine developers will quickly shift their attention to either creating a native version, or porting their apps over if Apple make it clear this is going to be the future. The core functionality - Safari, Office or iWork, iTunes, even probably final cut(!) will very likely be there from day one too, as you say... I would potentially even be more worried about x86 machines prematurely losing (developer) support if the ARM machines quickly gain traction and market share (i.e. if apple goes the rip off the plaster route of transitioning the whole line quickly over 12-18 months rather than keeping the 'pro's on x86 for a few years).
12-18 months is too optimistic to transition all their machines over. They could do it for the MacBook, but don't expect that for the iMac or Pro machines. Apple simply can't do it and expect to retain their higher end customers, since the third party software developers won't be able to transition as quickly. What they might do is introduce some of the higher end models in 12-18 months, but then keep an existing Intel model from each higher end line around for years.

It may be moot for me though, since I have a 2017 MacBook which I will keep as my primary laptop probably for more than 3 more years, at least into 2022 and perhaps longer. I will also keep my 2017 iMac for a long time, likely long past 2022 (unless I need to pass this down to my kids). I have 24 GB in my iMac which will likely last me the lifetime of the machine, but if necessary I can easily upgrade that. I also have a 1 TB SSD, and can easily expand that via USB-C or even Thunderbolt. In face, I already have a 1 TB USB-C Samsung T5 SSD, and performance is very good.
 
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Zorori

macrumors newbie
Nov 26, 2017
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I am in no way going to call developing a webpage using HTML/CSS/JS as "resource intensive task".

Talk about hyperbole. We talk about developing using containers and clusters and you pick the most lightweight task you can find. It's like me saying photo editing is lightweight because I can edit photos in MS Paint on my 2003 laptop and used to make adjustments to pictures on an iPhone SE.

The bare minimum I run is: a browser, IntelliJ (which is a memory hog), VS Code, an sbt server/terminal running a Scala app, a yarn/npm terminal running the frontend in watch mode, and a database in a small container. My Macbook 12 handles that easily, 16gb would be nice but it works on 8gb. Scala compilation is slow, but it's slow on my 2018 MBP15 too at work we sit around for ages for the Scala compiler.

I've even been doing Unity development on this thing. Sure the compile times on my MBP15 are better, but I'd rather not lug that thing back from work.

Every developer I work with uses a MBP 15 and still runs an external monitor. So that's hardly a special "if" case. It's rare for a developer to not use an external monitor, even when we had 17" laptops every developer wanted monitors.

====

I'd be interested in an Arm model. JVM based stuff should work pretty early on, I'd just miss docker...