MBP or Macbook for programming

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by smilemoveon, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. smilemoveon macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2008
    Hi, I have no idea about apple laptop and am considering to buy an apple notebook recently. I mainly use the laptop for programming. I want to start reviewing C, C++, improving java, learning perl and VB, maybe doing some work in Matlab. I also want to practice linux and learn more about linux. The only requirement I think at the moment is at least 2GB RAM, as it is very annoying that the eclipse runs very very slow at 512MB lenovo notebook. I just checked some requirements about notebooks for programmers: 2GB RAM, 7200 RPM HDD, 1440*900 display. And I check the apple website,I am considering the following two options:

    one:13 inch white 2.2GHZ
    # 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    # 120GB hard drive1
    # Double-layer SuperDriv
    # 2GB memory £919.009 or 4GB £1,368.99

    second:15 inch 2.2GHZ
    * 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    * 1440 x 900 resolution

    * 120GB hard drive1
    * 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    * NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics with 128MB SDRAM
    * 2GB memory£1,299.00 or 4GB memory £1,749.00

    * 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    * 1440 x 900 resolution
    * 2GB memory
    * 160GB hard drive1
    * 8x double-layer SuperDrive
    * NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics with 256MB SDRAM

    I think I can expand the hard driver capacity by buying a cheaper portable externale hard drive if necessary, and I am not sure is there any special difference of having SDRAM,15 inch screen and 8*double-layer SuperDrive for programming. Or is there any other important difference between MBP and MB I do not know and should consdier? The 4GB RAM is very expensive, I am not sure whether I should buy 2GB RAM first and then upgrade to 4GB when it is cheaper, or buy 4GB now:confused:. In the daytime, mostly I will use the machines in the lab at university, and in the spare time, I will use notebook to do some extra programming, write documents, watch news,dvd(not often) and listen music, some basic daily entainment( Perhaps I will use the old lenovo for entertainment). I do not urgently need to buy apple laptop now and it is my dream to have one.

    At first I was attracted by MB air, but compared with MBP, except that it is thinner and lighter, regarding my need I can not see any practical advantage ( the hard drive is only 60GB, the price is 100 pounds less) from features, not to offend any MB air funs. I am new to the apple products, any suggestions or corrections would be much appreciated.
  2. odinsride macrumors 65816


    Apr 11, 2007
    Don't buy RAM upgrades from apple, it's a ripoff.
  3. yodermk macrumors member

    May 13, 2006
    Eclipse will run easily on any recent Apple laptop with 2GB RAM. I ran it on a 17" G4 Powerbook for a while, and even that was OK.

    I think more than anything you want to consider comfort. The MBP has a bigger screen and a better keyboard. For programming, I think that's important.

    Other than that, they will both work fine.
  4. mavherzog macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2005
    Columbus, WI
    That's debatable. Personally, I think the MB keyboard is head and shoulders better than the MBP keyboard when it comes to tactile feedback.

    Not that it really matters...by the end of the summer, they will all have the same keyboard anyways (albeit, backlit like the MacBook Air).
  5. soms macrumors 6502


    Dec 10, 2007
    Buy your own ram and save $300
  6. aross99 macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2006
    East Lansing, MI
    Keep in mind that in order to work with VB you will need to run Boot Camp/Parallels/VMWare in order to access windows. VB won't run on anything else.

    For Linux, I think you need Parallels or VMWare - I don't know if you can do something in bootcamp to get it to work.

    The larger 15" screen will be nice if you are going to be programming - especially if you have an IDE like VB.

    You will want as much memory as possible if you are going to run Parallels/VMWare. Go for the full 3-4GB, but purchase it separately and add it yourself. As others have said Memory from Apple is way too expensive.

    If you can afford the 15" that is the way to go. I would get the 2.2Ghz, with 2GB, and then upgrade to 4GB on your own. You might want to get a larger hard drive then 120GB. Changing the drive on the MBP is difficult.

    Using an external drive will resolve the disk space issue, but is difficult to deal with on the go...
  7. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    The only real drawback to the MB is the screen resolution, but, to be honest, the 15" is also a bit lacking there for breathing room when you're in eclipse. Since you can easily buy a 20" or even 24" monitor for the price difference between an MB and an MBP, you might want to consider getting the MB and programming, when possible, with an external monitor. If you'll never use an external, I'd go for the 15" simply because of the extra pixels.

    Also, note that a lot of what you're looking for in terms of linux experience can be gained within Terminal by using UNIX commands.
  8. elmo151 Guest

    Jul 3, 2007
    you want the largest screen you can afford. lots of things to look at simultaneously.
  9. smilemoveon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2008
    Hi,odinsride,yodermk,mavherzog,soms, aross99, jsw, elmo151,
    Thanks a lot indeed for all your comments.

    If the external hard drive is not so good for MB and MBP, I am considering investing
    For MB, 150 more pounds to get 250GB HDD
    For MBP,180 more pounds to get 200 HDD 7200RPM or 150 pounds to get 250 HDD 4500 RPM

    The apple laptop will work as my major computer. And I would like to learn something using the laptop in the next 3 or 4 years, prepared for the graduate technology job in banks, such as developer or quant. I assume that programming C, C++, Java, Matlab, VB, Perl do not require the very graphics provided by SDRAM in MBP.

    I am wondering what is the use of double-layer SuperDrive and SDRAM, what is the difference with 2 double-layer SuperDrive in MB and 8 double-layer SuperDrive in MBP.

    If the difference is just mainly in the screen resolution and screen size,it seems MBP is not worth sacrificing several more hundred pounds, I perhaps would go for a MB with 2GB RAM, 250HDD, and then buy an additional 20 inch cinema display,upgrade to 4GB RAM if needed.

    any help would be good.:)
  10. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Please note that Apple's releasing TIme Capsule soon. It would seem that it's usable as a network drive in addition to just a Time Machine backup, so it would provide wireless disk access. If not, a standard AirPort Extreme with a USB hard drive would allow for wireless external storage. I would consider investing in one of those options instead of throwing a ton of money into a bigger drive unless you think you need that much space on your laptop itself, mainly because disk space is cheaper externally than when altering the laptop's drive.
    Agreed 100%.
    Speed only. But I think they're both 8x.
    The RAM upgrade is an excellent idea, as is the external. I would personally go for a wireless external storage method instead of upping the HD space, but that's me.
  11. martychang macrumors regular

    Sep 3, 2007
    The Macbook is a great machine, but a word of caution: I bought it figuring it wouldn't be too much hassle getting Linux on it(you use rEFIt rather than Bootcamp), this isn't the case with the latest model. While it isn't a hassle in and of itself,(i.e. getting Linux on it with wifi and everything working), it IS a hassle to get the trackpad working optimally.

    It's just a trackpad with one button, while in Mac OS X there is functionality for two finger scrolling, two finger tapping for right click, and many other nice things, Linux will by default just say "LOL MOUSE" and you'll have a VERY slippery, oversensitive trackpad with left click only and no scrolling.(slippery because it's emulating a mouse, rather than acting like a trackpad) Also the Fn key and it's functions won't work, which can be crippling if you like PageUp/PageDown like me.

    These can be fixed with custom kernel patches, that'll let you set up two and three finger tapping, two finger scrolling, and the Fn key will work. However to the best of my knowledge these patches are only available for 64-bit kernels(another set of minor challenges), and any kernel patches will be overwritten if you do any kind of system update, so you'll either be ignoring updates, or using a distro that sticks you with manual updating only. Last but not least, many distros, even recent ones, simply won't boot on the Macbook for some reason. I've only had luck with PCLinuxOS and 64-bit Ubuntu so far.

    Bottom line is, it may be more trouble than it's worth if you're hell bent on Linux use.
  12. Fearless Leader macrumors 68020

    Mar 21, 2006
    I had a MB, it was nice but I was to cramped with it. I went from a 15" gateway, and a dual monitor setup on my powermac. I traded it in for a MBP 15". Love it. the 17 is to big for me though as I carry this around with me all the time. Though looking back on this I think I may have been happy with the MB, I got a 23" apple display about 3 months after i got the laptop. My MBP has been through hell and back and I don't know how much more of my abuse it can take.

    edit: I also got rid of the MB because apple made a slight mistake and put razor blades where my wrists sat.

    editedit: linux is a bitch to get on an intel apple, so you are going to be using a Virtualizer.
  13. agwilson macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2008
    I did a lot of my programming my senior year on my 15" MBP and absolutely loved it. The screen was big enough that I could comfortably put header files on one half and the code files on the other half. It was almost like having two monitors (which I had at home for programming). The power was nice and the keyboard felt great.

    For programming I would definitely recommend you get the biggest screen you can fit. The more files you have open the more windows you will want to look at.

    I would also recommend you upgrade the RAM as you program's get bigger and your dataset is larger you will notice it. I did some of my programming in parallels with Windows (ugh I hate programming in that OS).

    If you wanted to go with a MB and an external monitor that would also work well. Although when you aren't home you will be working on the smaller screen. Either computer and you will be happy I'm sure.
  14. smilemoveon thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 10, 2008
    Thank you for all your help and opinions !!!:):):)

    These two days I am reviewing the threads and checking apple website, I would probably go for a MBP, but still not sure go for the low end one(2.2GHZ) or the mid one (2.4GHZ), or the refurbished 2.4 GHZ with glossy screen.

    I would buy applecare if the HE only cost 50 quits for a peace in mind for 3 years.If it is 279 quit as stated in the website, I may need a second think and perhaps would not go for it, as apple care only cover manufacturer's defects and not damage or stolen cases, I assume that MBP is a robust machine and what's the chance of some manufacturing defect coming up for no reason after 1 year of use? Or I should buy it after 11 month:confused:

    I do hate making decisions when so many options in your front and do not know want to do, and luckily I found this forum and your guys are so kind to help me out.;)

    I am leaning to 2.4GHZ, as it would seem last longer and may resell with a better price in the future, I am also wonder the 0.2GHZ would enable the memory expand more, like 6GB in the future, perhas I am daydreaming:eek:

    The refurb MBP(2.4GHZ) is £1,299.00, the same price as the low end MBP, and I am not sure if I could get further education discount(14% off) for the refurb, if it is I will get the refurb:D.

    It seems that refurb is 99% new as the new MBP in store, then I would not mind save hundreds pounds for upgrade and accessories, what would you guys think of getting a refurb MBP?;) Some threads in the forum said no further HE discount and some yes. As I will not go to the University until March or April, and I can not check whether refurb could get student discount or not.

    If there is not HE discount for refurb, the brandly new HE discounted MBP(2.4GHZ) will cost £80 more than the refurb, and I can choose glossy scrren or the just widescreen display. It seems generally, the Matt screen is better( I assume the other widescreen display is matt, not sure what Matt means:eek:), the glossy has reflection problems. There is no nearest apple shop I could try the different screens.:( What do you think, glossy or matt?:confused:

    Time Capsule is really a brilliant idea. I am wondering whether the time capsule can work as effectively as internal hard drive, the speed difference of 4500 RPM and 7200 RPM is another concern, If it do make big difference I would considering upgrading Hard drive, is that diffcult to upgrade hard drive, not easy as upgrading RAM?

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