Programming on the Air

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
Sorry if this is a commonly-asked question, but I haven't found a thread that isn't two years old.

Proceeding with my question: Up till now, I planned to buy the rMBP 13" 8/256 for college. It's probably the best I could get, however, it will set me back $1500. That's kind of alot...

So I considered the Air 13" for programming for all of a few seconds before dismissing its 1.6 GHz processor. But now, the price has forced me to take a second look. I also prefer the battery life and slimness if only a bit smaller than the rMBP.

It has to be good enough for this course: http://www.stlawrencecollege.ca/programs-and-courses/full-time/programs/a_m/computer-programmer-analyst/kingston/

Do you think performance will be okay? I'll be upgrading to 8/256 as well, so I'm saving around $200.
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors 604
May 28, 2005
7,978
531
Pennsylvania
You'll want the extra SSD space, for sure. But otherwise there's no usable difference between the Air and Pro. Of course, for programming you'll want 2 or 3 screens, so in that regard a 15" pro might serve you better, but I maintain a 17,000 line codebase on a 13" Macbook from 2009, really, any "modern" computer is "good enough".

Get the air, save some $$$.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
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Canada
Thanks!

I'm becoming more and more convinced that I'll get by with the air. Here's the deal, though; if I get the i7 256/8 13" air it will run me $1479 which is basically the same price as a Pro 13" 256/8. Do you think the i5 will be satisfactory? That or maybe the Pro is worth it? I forgot to mention that I will do light gaming (Minecraft) but that's about it. No intensive games.
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors 604
May 28, 2005
7,978
531
Pennsylvania
Than definitely go for the Air. Counterintuitively, because the Pro has a better screen, gaming is actually worse on it. Plus it has a better battery and is lighter. Really, all you'll be missing is the retina screen.
 

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
16,497
3,094
So I considered the Air 13" for programming for all of a few seconds before dismissing its 1.6 GHz processor.
Remember that the speed is actually "1.7 GHz, Turbo speed up to 3.3 GHz". It will run at 3.3 GHz for a short time when you need it, until it gets too hot for the processor and then it slows down. And companies like Dell advertise that kind of processor as "up to 3.3 GHz", never mentioning the 1.7 GHz at all, so an Apple 1.7 GHz and a Dell 3.3 GHz can be the exact same processor, running at the exact same speed.

(There's also the cheaper 1.4 GHz up to 2.7 GHz version).

And for screen space, you can attach two really cheap 1920 x 1080 monitors if you like.

What you lose is the retina display. Which is _more_ useful if your eyes are not the best anymore.
 

EmmaBeth

macrumors member
Jul 11, 2014
42
0
And for screen space, you can attach two really cheap 1920 x 1080 monitors if you like.
Not to thread hijack, but how would one go about doing this? The ability to easily run dual monitors without odd equipment (and the associated costs) is one reason I keep wondering if I should just deal with the extra weight and initial cost of a 13" rMBP when I buy.
 

phuocsandiego

macrumors member
Jun 19, 2012
79
4
I use my mid-2012 13" stock MacBook Air for programming. X-Code runs fine on it and I've done light gaming (World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Starcraft II). They all ran fine. You'll want to turn the detail level down but they run perfectly fine after that and I didn't miss it.

I've done photo editing with Photoshop and manage my photo collection when traveling with Lightroom. No issues at all and it performs fine even with just 4GB RAM and whatever the base i5 that came with it. The only thing I miss is more storage space as the stock 128 GB SSD in that 2012 can be a tad small. The stock configuration on this year's MacBook Air at $1,199 gives you that larger SSD and more battery life than my 2012 model. If you want to save some cash and get the $999 model, you should OK too as I'm basically on that model with less battery life.

I use a mini Port-HDMI adapter to connect my MacBook Air to my 27" external display when I'm home. I love the retina but I cannot get over the huge difference in weight between the MacBook Pro and the Air. I fly about 90,000 miles a year. That weight makes a HUGE difference when you travel that much and it outweighs the retina advantage for me.
 

Starfia

macrumors 6502a
Apr 11, 2011
607
314
For just programming? Even the entry-level Air should be more than adequate. I did plenty of work in Xcode without the slightest hangup on the entry-level Air when Lion was current. My only real feeling of bring curtailed was the screen real estate on the 11" display.
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
Sorry if this is a commonly-asked question, but I haven't found a thread that isn't two years old.

Proceeding with my question: Up till now, I planned to buy the rMBP 13" 8/256 for college. It's probably the best I could get, however, it will set me back $1500. That's kind of alot...

So I considered the Air 13" for programming for all of a few seconds before dismissing its 1.6 GHz processor. But now, the price has forced me to take a second look. I also prefer the battery life and slimness if only a bit smaller than the rMBP.

It has to be good enough for this course: http://www.stlawrencecollege.ca/programs-and-courses/full-time/programs/a_m/computer-programmer-analyst/kingston/

Do you think performance will be okay? I'll be upgrading to 8/256 as well, so I'm saving around $200.
Firstly, I would look at refurbished models as they would save you some money.

If you are going to be using an external monitor quite a bit, get the Air. If not get the retina. The retina display is too good to pass up for that little of a price difference.

I also agree with the others in saying the base model would be plenty of power for what you want to do.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
I think I've made up my mind, thanks guys!

I'll be getting the base model Air 13" but with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. It'll run me $1339 which is significantly cheaper then getting the retina MacBook Pro 13" which is about $200+ more. Apparently whatever performance is gained spec-wise is set back by the retina display. Plus the Air has a better turbo-boost at the base model (though, I hopefully shouldn't need that too often).

Only thing left- how is cooling? I read that there is one fan and the venting is done through the hinges. But, when running Minecraft, will the fan be audible? It's probably better than my laptop fan which runs even when doing basic tasks. Just curious. Oh and does it also get warm to the touch since heat is conducted through the unibody?
 

guzhogi

macrumors 68030
Aug 31, 2003
2,932
796
Wherever my feet take me…
You might be able to get a college discount, too. Check the online Apple Store, near the bottom. It'll have a link for an education store. You Won't save much, but it's something.
 

DmbShn41

macrumors 6502
Jun 22, 2009
294
1
I think I've made up my mind, thanks guys!

I'll be getting the base model Air 13" but with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. It'll run me $1339 which is significantly cheaper then getting the retina MacBook Pro 13" which is about $200+ more. Apparently whatever performance is gained spec-wise is set back by the retina display. Plus the Air has a better turbo-boost at the base model (though, I hopefully shouldn't need that too often).

Only thing left- how is cooling? I read that there is one fan and the venting is done through the hinges. But, when running Minecraft, will the fan be audible? It's probably better than my laptop fan which runs even when doing basic tasks. Just curious. Oh and does it also get warm to the touch since heat is conducted through the unibody?
I have a base 13" 128/8. I can't remember if I ever heard the fan run. Never been hot. Oh yeah...



BUY REFURB!
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
Actually, do I even need 8GB RAM? I forgot about how Macs are unix-based and therefore can swap. There's some other stuff I haven't looked into, but it sounds like 4GB will be sufficient? I might run Windows as a VM using VirtualBox.

Edit: Now I'm even thinking about just getting the 11" and getting 8GB RAM and the i7 upgrade. Downside is decreased battery... Ugh this is a tough decision.
 
Last edited:

cerberusss

macrumors 6502a
Aug 25, 2013
867
325
The Netherlands
I'm a developer and got the base model with 8GB memory. Space is tight but I store photos and music on an external drive.

It's a delicious machine.
 

bubbleboil

macrumors member
Apr 19, 2014
80
13
It's too painful on my 2gb ram macbook white as it takes minutes to compile, so after I change to the 2013 mba, my net bean took second to compile.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
I went into BestBuy today and talked to an Apple store representitave. When I showed her and the store clerk my course load, they told me the Air might not be satisfactory. I really want the air though >.>

I'll just wait until August when I get back, buy the Air 13" 8/256 i5 and return it within 14 days if it doesn't suit my needs I guess. You never know, maybe they were wrong.
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
I went into BestBuy today and talked to an Apple store representitave. When I showed her and the store clerk my course load, they told me the Air might not be satisfactory. I really want the air though >.>

I'll just wait until August when I get back, buy the Air 13" 8/256 i5 and return it within 14 days if it doesn't suit my needs I guess. You never know, maybe they were wrong.
Were they Best Buy employees, or actual Apple reps? I think the Air would be more than enough for your course load.
 

bubbleboil

macrumors member
Apr 19, 2014
80
13
I went into BestBuy today and talked to an Apple store representitave. When I showed her and the store clerk my course load, they told me the Air might not be satisfactory. I really want the air though >.>

I'll just wait until August when I get back, buy the Air 13" 8/256 i5 and return it within 14 days if it doesn't suit my needs I guess. You never know, maybe they were wrong.
if mba 2013 doesn't run, it also mean all the current gen ultra book and surface pro 3 and probably last gen desktop can't run. u think thats its possible for yr course?
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
I suspect it capable. It's mostly the processor I'm worried about. I can upgrade to i7 and hopefully that'll be good enough. It's mostly for coding anyways. Worst case scenario, I have to use the school's lab computers for some of the server stuff.
 

saudor

macrumors 6502a
Jul 18, 2011
710
484
Not to thread hijack, but how would one go about doing this? The ability to easily run dual monitors without odd equipment (and the associated costs) is one reason I keep wondering if I should just deal with the extra weight and initial cost of a 13" rMBP when I buy.

I use a displaylink USB adapter. It has a bit of lag but I only use that monitor to display text and pdf files so no big deal.

I personally don't think i7 is necessary. I would definitely go 8gb and future proof yourself a bit though. My older 15" 2010 mbp with 8gb/120 ssd is still quite usable for adobe cs6.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
Were they Best Buy employees, or actual Apple reps? I think the Air would be more than enough for your course load.
I believe one was an Apple rep working at Best Buy and one was Best Buy.

So, I should get 8/256 and stick with i5, is the consensus?
 

nexus4life

macrumors regular
Jul 19, 2014
185
1
I just bought a 2014 11" 128/8 and let me tell you, this thing flies. The screen size is not an issue at all because of its 16:9 aspect ratio - easily fits lots of things on the screen. I bought it because I always hated C and so when Swift came out I decided it was time to jump in.

If you intend to do any sort of virtualization, I highly recommend increasing to 8GB RAM, it will only help you later.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
Hmm, I wonder if it's worth it to get the maxed-out 11" Air. Not sure if the screen would kill me though. I could always get another monitor for home, but then again, the battery life will also suffer. Ugh.