MacBook or MacBook Pro for Computer Science?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by MacGuru15, Apr 12, 2015.

?

For what I'll be doing, which is the best option?

  1. MacBook (1.3GHz Intel M)

    40.7%
  2. 13" MacBook Pro (with Retina Display)

    59.3%
  1. MacGuru15, Apr 12, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015

    MacGuru15 macrumors newbie

    MacGuru15

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Location:
    Wien, Österreich
    #1
    My current 2008 MacBook has served me well (it just won't die and Apple keeps letting me update it to their latest versions of OS X, much to my parents' joy and much to my chagrin :rolleyes:), but I am going to be heading to university in a few months and will be in need of a new machine. I have decided that I want to study computer science, which from what I hear requires a fairly well-specced computer. Is this true for computer science students as well, or more so for those in their professions? If it is true, then it would seem that the best option for me would be a MacBook Pro (most likely the more portable 13" model), which I fully intended to get, that is until the new MacBook reared its beautifully-engineered head...

    It is perfectly portable and über-stylish, and it has all the new features that I so greatly appreciate (especially the gorgeous Retina display, which will be a first for me on anything larger than an iPad); however, despite its general 'newness', one thing which isn't so fresh is the processor. I had a chance to try out the MacBook after my :apple:Watch fitting a couple of days ago, and it seemed plenty quick enough, but I wasn't exactly programming at the time. If I were to go with the MacBook, I would be going with the top-of-the-line 1.3GHz model, with TurboBoost up to 2.9GHz—is this powerful enough for my purposes?

    Whilst the MacBook Pro would be vastly more powerful, I am wholly enthralled by the portability, design, engineering and future-proof-ness of the new MB. There is no doubt in my mind that either notebook would feel in any way sluggish to me, considering what I'd be coming from, but I'm no computer science expert—that's why I'm going to university, after all.

    So, which is best for a future computer science major:

    MacBook, 1.3GHz

    or

    MacBook Pro (with Retina Display), 13"

    If the rMBP is best, which specifications would you recommend?


    Thanks!

    EDIT: For what it's worth, though I've yet to decide on a university to attend, I am considering TMU (Technische Universität München) in Munich, Germany, which is one of the schools that has incorporated Apple's new Swift language into their programmes.
     
  2. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Location:
    Poole, England
    #2
    Compilation is mostly CPU bound. You won't be compiling Chromium on your laptop, so the CPU is not that important in the big scheme of things. It's not like you are going to have to wait 10 minutes for your "Hello world" applications to compile on either laptop.

    You want something that is comfortable to type on and can handle an IDE without stuttering. I do not know how well the new rMB can do that, but I assume it won't have too many troubles.

    Having said all that, I would get a 13" rMBP( 2.7GHz, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD). Use the rest of your budget to buy yourself a nice monitor, if you don't have one yet.
     
  3. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #3
    I haven't messed with the macbook. If you're running Windows or Linux vms, which is likely, the macbook pro might handle them a little more gracefully. The macbook might still be enough. I personally avoid anything first generation from Apple. They always mess something up. Other than that nothing you would have to compile for CS courses would take a lot of time. You could use OSX for most stuff, but you may find things that won't work as expected, or you may have to install additional command line tools.

    A couple things to note are that you have to manually install XCode's command line tools from within XCode. They aren't installed by default. Brew is also quite helpful for installing Unix utilities that do not ship with OSX. If anything requires the use of Windows software and you do not wish to be tied to lab access, consider bootcamp. Some applications won't run well virtualized. I'm also unsure how well the macbook will handle vms through something like parallels, fusion, or virtualbox.
     
  4. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Location:
    Poole, England
    #4
    Yeah, good point above about virtualisation software and the Macbook's ability to run VMs smoothly. I may be out of touch, since I finished my CS degree 14 years ago, but we didn't need much back in those days. Labs were available with Unix/Linux and Windows machine access. Obviously it would be much more convenient to be able to run that stuff whenever you want.

    For some projects I would edit the code on my own computer with something like Ultraedit, FTP the files to the unix mainframe and then compile and run on the mainframe using terminal. I have no idea how things are done these days though.
     
  5. palmsnipe macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2015
    Location:
    Finland
    #5
    Maybe on some projects the MB can be a little short for intensive tasks if you have raytracing, making AI on a 3D game, but the rest of the time, the MB should be fine, if it's compile school projects not too big, launch VMs, the turbo boost at 2.9GHz can handle the work.

    I took the 1.3 model, and a a bit affraid to have performance issues, if i run Visual Studio on a Windows VM and also Java projects ... It will be a surprise, but I have a second computer that can do big tasks so the risks are limited for me, but happy if the MB can do all the work.

    The safest choice is of course to take a MBP, you won't have performance lacks. The screen is also bigger, just 1.3' more but it's more comfortable. You could take also 16Gb of RAM, ant it will be less expensive than the MB.

    I understand the new MB is attractive, but it's a bit soon and we don't have any reviews of the 1.3GHz model.

    For the pool, I choose MB 1.3, because i think it's enough for school projects and it's what i bought, but the best choice is a MBP. It depends if you want something new .. or not.
     
  6. junkw macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    #6
    my macbook pro 2009/8GB/128SSD is able to run all the stuff a programmer needs including vm's.... The macbook 12 1.1 has twice the power.

    Go with the 12/1.1 and invest money elsewhere....external screen/textblade keyboard/good chair/ because it's not good for your neck to code many hours on a laptop
     
  7. junkw macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    #7
    and you will be happy to compile without the fan noise while you study, since it is fanless
     
  8. palmsnipe macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2015
    Location:
    Finland
    #8
    Good point !! Personal case, it's the main reason why I buy the MB.
     
  9. udflyer macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    #9
    As a developer and CS grad myself, my only advise is to make sure
    you have enough screen resolution to do your thing......


    Compute part and memory should be fine these days....
     
  10. thekev, Apr 12, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015

    thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2010
    #10
    A lot of universities still have things execute on a specific server. It means they only have to support one environment, and there are tools such as ssh to support this in a Linux environment (can always use cygwin or putty on windows for the same purpose). I only pointed that out because there may be times where the OP wants to execute on his own machine for testing purposes, especially in a VM. For example it's unlikely that he has sudo permission on a server managed by the university, yet he could use a VM to test anything that requires specific privileges. OSX may not be appropriate for this. Even though it has a terminal, it behaves differently in several areas. I just tested what it would do if I tried to compile something with GCC, and it still uses clang under OSX.


    edit: This isn't to say I would completely avoid the macbook. I would say that if it only came with 4GB of ram. 8 should be adequate for a while. I would just keep an eye out for reviews from people who put it to use on the things I just mentioned. It's not like we're moving into fall just yet.

    It's fine for launching, but most machines cannot maintain that turboboost. If the OP had to work on any 3D stuff the gpu would become a bottleneck first, not for rendering but for scene interaction with anything beyond trivial object rigging and a very low/very blocky polygon count.
     
  11. HardBall macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    #11
    I'm in grad school for something very similar (digital circuit design and some AI).

    It mainly depends on if you have a workhorse at home or in your office (i.e. an iMac). Vast majority of the work these days can be done remotely on work-stations through SSH. You might want to have a desktop set up to handle most of your computational load (could be a Linux machine) that you might need from time to time; but most of your heavy duty tasks such as run simulations, compilation, etc can be handled remotely through your own desktop or workstations in your department.

    A lot of ppl in our department actually use MBAs or ultra-books as their only machine just fine; depends on the specific area. If you are into HPC, parallel systems, numerical methods, machine learning, it might help out once in a while to have a high-throughput machine in your laptop to speed things up locally. Most of the matter doesn't really matter much, MBP would be a luxury, not a necessity.
     
  12. AdonisSMU macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2010
    #12
    for CS a MacBook is enough. If you were telling me you are doing 3D Gaming type programming or graphics design I would have a different answer.
     

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