MacBook is perfect for programmers?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Sudaddy, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Sudaddy macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Which MacBook would be perfect for a programmer?

    I have an intel based iMac (4GB RAM) at home, with a core i7 processor Dell desktop at work. My 6 year old Compaq laptop is dying right now. I work full time (for which I don't need a laptop, other than to remote control or VPN in.) But I am also a graduate Computer Science student and I am thinking of buy my first Mac laptop. I do a lot of coding, and I travel around a lot.

    So, which Mac laptop, do you guys think, would be great for me? Options are:
    a) MBA 13'' (Don't want anything smaller than that).
    b) Current MBP 15'' (should I go for 2.4 GHz or 2.53 GHz? Is there any noticeable difference there? I am thinking of getting 2 GB and upgrading it to 4 GB myself).
    c) Wait for the new MBP to come out in few weeks.

    My budget is definitely less than $1800 (+/- $50)
  2. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I would get a desktop for programming, just because I like the real estate a big screen has to offer. You can have more documentation and code presented on one screen that way.
  3. jvmxtra macrumors 65816


    Sep 21, 2010

    I would say wait for new mbp but you might want as much real estate as possible on your screen. Obviously winner would be 17 incher but 15 inch w/ 1680 x 1050 might be the best
  4. wpotere Guest

    Oct 7, 2010
    I use a 13 inch macbook (older white one) for programming and have no problems with it. If you need more screen space you can always hook up an external monitor. ;)
  5. SideStepSociety macrumors 6502


    Feb 12, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    I'd suggest option B if you need a computer immediately, otherwise, wait for the new refresh.

    I'm not sure the Air would be enough for you, the Pro would be likely a good fit, but like I said, if you wait for the refresh, you'll get a "more current" model, which would likely feature better battery life/processing power, which I'm sure is always welcome.
  6. laser71 macrumors regular

    Nov 29, 2010
    15" with two external monitors. That's my route!
  7. vectus macrumors member

    Apr 4, 2010
    I will be picking up a refreshed MBP 15 for programming. I really like the OS and some of the more popular IDEs available for OSX. I usually program on my Windows machine using eyefinity (3x 24" monitors) so the desktop real-estate is awesome while developing. The MBP will be the perfect compliment when I am on the road.
  8. altecXP macrumors 65816

    Aug 3, 2009
    I love my 15in with HR display, but I plan to move to the new 13in if it has 1440x900 display.
  9. c1phr macrumors 6502

    Jan 8, 2011
    I absolutely love programming on my 2010 15" (cI5 @ 2.4ghz with the standard screen).

    I was a bit concerned with screen real estate as well, but I just bought a monitor adapter and it's just fine. I can also run a Win XP VM and write in VS2010 without any hiccups (only 2gb of RAM allocated to the VM).
  10. Vurius macrumors newbie

    Jan 7, 2011
    In school for computer science, I had a 15" first generation macbook pro with a matte screen. I originally got the 15" model because I thought I would take it with me places, but with the number of computer clusters around I found I didn't need to take it anywhere and it became essentially a desktop. Now that I have graduated and have a job, I am looking to buy the new 17" macbook pro with high resolution anti-glare screen when they eventually refresh. Honestly, my 15" was too big to carry around with me (I have a 9" dell mini 9 netbook running OSX and Win7 for on-the-go computing), and I think the screen is too low of a resolution and too small for how I use it as a desktop replacement.

    Personally, I would either recommend getting a 13" with a high-res screen (if they get them in the upcoming refresh) if you want portability, or a 17" with the high-res screen if you only need to move it occasionally. I really, really do not like glossy screens for programming because the glare is just too annoying, and I think that the 15" is a poor compromise between the power of the 17" and the portability of the 13". The 17" is just as portable as the 15", so I wouldn't get another 15" with a smaller screen for personal use when I could have the 17".

    As far as the OS goes for programming, the UNIX underpinnings make the machine rock solid and there are plenty of really nice editing options available. Of course, I do all of my development using Vim on a remote server over SSH, so pretty much anything with an Internet connection, keyboard, and display will do for me! :)
  11. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    The more pixels the better and a fast hard drive (SSD or at least a 7200 RPM drive) is more important than CPU speed. I much prefer using my 13" MacBook over the HP Workstation provided to me at work which is slowed heavily by anti-virus software they require. But for sheer pleasure I like my 27" iMac best of all.

    If you gotta have a portable, why not a 13" MacBook, swap out the HD for a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive, and buy a separate monitor to maximize the pixels when you aren't on the go.
  12. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    Thread title is a bit misleading since there's no "perfect" computer for anything, let alone programming.

    However, since I see that what you actually meant was "which macbook is the best for programming" I would suggest getting the cheapest possible one since pretty much any computer can be used for programming and any extended coding session will require an external keyboard and monitor anyway.
  13. wct097 macrumors 6502

    Nov 30, 2010
    Without a doubt, a desktop keyboard, mouse, and dual monitors is the route to go for programming. If you want a laptop to do occasional work on, you'll want a 15".
  14. Sudaddy thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2011
    That's an interesting point about 15'' vs 17''. My 6 year old dying antique compaq is about 13'' (or maybe 14'' widescreen) and in many cases, I wish it were a "little bit" bigger. That's my reasoning for wanting a 15''. Besides my current compaq weighs a little more than the current 15'' MBP, so weight wise, 15'' will work (except I will need a bigger bag, which is fine). I often do my programming from the library and I need it when I am travelling because of work, so that's why mobility is a big requirement for me. I was thinking of MBA, but then I think I want a real Core ix processor, and not a core2duo.

    Regarding what you said about Vim on a remote server over SSH, well, that's exactly what my style is. I prefer Vim over anything right now, and I just SSH into my university's servers to work on projects.
  15. JoeG4 macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2002
    Bay Area, Ca.
    I had a MacBook for 2 years, and the whole time I still kept getting out my PowerBook G4 15" and using it for everything except playing games. Seriously, that small a screen res is horrible and useless.

    If you're doing light work (simple C++ CLI stuff), I'd just go get a 13" MBA if you're REALLY hell bent on a 13", since it has a higher res screen. Seriously, if you don't need the CPU horsepower.. go for it.

    Obviously, I'm a huge fan of the 15" - what I ended up doing was buying a 16" Sony laptop that has 1920x1080 - this means I either program in Linux, Windows.... and hopefully sometime soon OS X (the graphics card support is 99% there).

    In short: *@#% 13" screens.
  16. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010
    I program on a 13" just fine.

    Making use of some of hte shortcuts in xcode help though - toggling between full screen editor with command/shift/option/e is nice and helps make up for the lack of screen real estate.

    xcode >> visual studio.
  17. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    Not to turn this into an ide debate, but seriously?? Give me a break...
  18. wct097 macrumors 6502

    Nov 30, 2010
    But, but, but, you can't develop for iOS with VS. Obviously it's not as good and doesn't have as many real world uses. :cool:
  19. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    Ugh, don't remind me...programming for iOS is almost as painful as programming for Blackberry :eek:
  20. Kenrik macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2004
    Heh I use a 11inch MBA and love it for programing.. Best computer I have ever owned.

    I have a 27inch i7 iMac at work and a Quadcore Mac Pro with a 24inch Monitor at home but I prefer my 11inch MBA to either even when they are available.

    I sit in bed with my wife and watch TV while I code. I would not trade that time with my wife for anything.
  21. rjbruce, Feb 14, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2011

    rjbruce macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2011
    St. Louis, MO

    For portability sake I'd look for the 13", but wait for the 13" refresh to see if there is a res bump. If you really want the res go for the 15, but you likely don't need the horsepower, you'd be buying it for the screen. I've never had an issue with 1440x900 but I also prefer dual monitors.
  22. flyingturtle macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2010
    I've gone through this debate as well, as I do both Mac and MS coding using both XCode and MS Visual Studio (although I tend to do my VS programming on my PC Desktop more often now).

    When I bought my now 4-year-old 15" MacBook Pro, I went through a little buyers remorse regretting that I didn't get the bigger 17" version, but that was before I did a lot of traveling, and then portability became way more important to me. It was more convenient to lug around a smaller laptop as it fit in my briefcase and backpack a lot better, it was easier to use on tables and counters allowing me to use my external mouse. These little things add up to a big deal if you are moving a lot and using different environments. At home, I would just hook up one my big widescreen monitors, so I didn't miss the extra screen real estate.

    If you are indeed traveling a lot, I'd get the 13" or 15", since you are buying it for portability reasons. You could use the money saved on a smaller version and buy an iPad. In fact, for most of my travel computing needs (and meeting with clients here in town), I find my iPad covers most of my tasks. I only bring my MBP now if I need to code, which is not really as often as I would like. Most of time when traveling or going on the road, I need to answer emails, show clients proposals, design mock-ups, access my dropbox, google docs, etc so my iPad fits that bill.

    If I had a 13" MBP, I'd probably could fit both the MBP and my iPad in my briefcase for when I actually do find myself programming on the road.

    And yes, I would wait for the MBP refresh. You are surely to get better resolution options, especally on the 13". I almost bought a new MPB back in Fall, but decided to wait till Spring instead.
  23. Sudaddy thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Now, if we are talking about 13'' screen, wouldn't 13'' MBA be a better option than 13'' MBP from a performance point of view? Those SSDs do really make a difference. In 13'' screen category, assuming the 13'' MBP refresh doesn't get the SSDs as standard option, the MBA version sounds like a better choice. And I do get your point about saving the extra money for the iPad2. Hmm. Tough choices.
  24. devilcm3 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2011
    South Melbourne, Australia
    my friend did his project on a macbook air 11"
    performance is obviously not really a big factor here , you'll need at most 2.0Ghz

    what does matter is
    - screen size
    - screen resolution
    - more RAM ( some IDE's like to eat a lot of your memory space , depends on what IDE you're using and what language you're developing)
    - battery life ( developing on the go , probably )
  25. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    SSD will definitely make a difference in compile speed, but I doubt it will offset the loss of processor speed/RAM.

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