rMB for a Computer Science major?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by viperGTS, Mar 12, 2016.

  1. viperGTS, Mar 12, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016

    viperGTS macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Hello MacRumors!

    I'm heavily considering one of the new 12" Retina MacBooks; I plan on getting one if they're refreshed at Apple's March 21st event. When I first tried it out at the Apple Store, I was originally pretty unimpressed with it. However, as I began to realize that I wanted a newer, lighter, and faster computer, I began to notice the rMB more.

    I tried it a couple of hours ago at my local Best Buy, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The computer is so thin, so light, and so portable, but it also seems so capable (of course, I wasn't able to test it fully, being at the mall and under a time constraint).

    However, as the title suggests, I am a computer science major at my current university, so I have some computing needs that need to be met through the new machine. I currently have a 2012 13" MacBook Pro and it has been serving me well, but it has been getting rather slow and I'm looking for something much more portable. I don't really want to go for the Air because its screen isn't all that great, and I can definitely see the rMB as my future computer more than the Air.

    Anyways, I don't want to keep this thread too long, so here are some of my computing needs. For any current rMB owners (or those experienced with evaluating a computer's performance based purely on specs), do you think it can handle the following tasks?

    • Major coding projects (I'm taking an Operating Systems course this fall, so I need to be able to test out projects like this; usually we modify an existing OS and add functionality to it)
    • Development with IDEs, such as Eclipse
    • Web development
    • Virtualization of Linux using VirtualBox (with Windows is a plus, but definitely not a requirement. Also, I may have to run the existing OS mentioned above in a virtual environment)
    • Emulation of GameBoy Advance, Playstation 1, etc.
    • Other basic needs (heavy web browsing, iMessaging, etc. and I'm sure the rMB can handle these just fine)

    Those are the major needs I can of so far. I've seen some videos of gaming on the rMB and surprisingly, it handles modern games quite well. I know that's more of a GPU thing, but that's about the best measure of performance I have right now.

    Thanks, MacRumors!

    EDIT: I found this video that I'm currently watching; it explores the machine from a developer's (that's me! sort of...) perspective:

    I am still curious as to what your opinions are, however!
  2. IowaLynn macrumors 65816


    Feb 22, 2015
    Running VMs off external SSD with a Dock so you have a couple USB3 ports, USB-C charging and perhaps external monitor - an updated MacBook Pro would be more versatile Also, MBP has higher speed PCIe-SSD (4x) up to 1TB SSD with 16GB RAM all for $1999.

    Only the 15" ($2499) offers quad-core i7 (to handle air flow and heat?) might matter - VM should run better and more memory to handle video and demands as well as for compilers.

    Of course the next two weeks could offer more insight on 2016 products.
  3. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    For virtualization, I'd recommend an i5 or i7.
  4. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Sorry, I forgot to mention that a MacBook Pro is out of the question. Too bulky for my taste :p I'm curious as to how the rMB handles the tasks that I mentioned above. Do either of you have experience using one for these tasks?
  5. IowaLynn macrumors 65816


    Feb 22, 2015
    I set up Windows VM as have others here. it can but having 2 cores is a limit. Didn't realize 2 lbs vs 4 would be.

    If I had to buy over again, a refurbished 13" MBP $1299 would be my choice. 256GB has been okay but not a lot of headroom and nothing I want to remove to free up space.

    The MBP has faster SSD interface too, along with BTO 16GB RAM.

    rMP is totally silent, no moving parts, which is a first.
  6. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    I'm hoping that next gen's rMB has an improved SSD interface. There's a post on the front page that mentions Octane coming to Skylake Macs.

    And yeah, my current MacBook is pretty heavy. Not difficult to carry, but somewhat annoying :p
  7. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    The 12" powerbook, when I was in college, was the lightest computer available from Apple. I took it everywhere for all 4 years of college. It weighed 4.6 lbs. The 13" rMBP weighs 3.5 lbs...
  8. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Sorry, but this doesn't convince me any further to go for the rMBP. I've held them in person and still feel they are too bulky.

    Does anyone have experience using the rMB for the tasks mentioned above? I would appreciate any input. :)
  9. duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    The rMB will be fine for comp sci. I wouldn't go compiling 1+ million line projects with it, but for school it will be just fine. You're worrying too much, IMO.

    Get 8GB RAM and as much local storage you can afford. The VMs you might run on it will thank you for it. Other than that, don't worry so much.
  10. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Perhaps you're right. Thankfully, 8GB RAM is standard! I'll try to bump up the storage if possible. And, I'm sure it can compile a 1+ million line project, but it might take a bit of time. ;)
  11. Sy7ygy Suspended

    Nov 16, 2012
    Neither. Get yourself a Windows 10 machine - something like a Dell XPS 15 or the sorts. Apple's current lineup is overpriced and underpowered.

    If you really want/ *need* OS X - then wait for the updates..
  12. shifomu macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2014

    I'll try and help out where I can:

    I have the 1.2/8GB/512 SG model and it's a great machine. Super quick and super light, I often forget whether or not I've put it in my bag.

    A single USB-C has never been an issue, if anything it's been a positive as I'm able to plug Ethernet, peripherals and monitor in one click.

    I work in Helpdesk so I dual boot between Win 10 and OS X often. Fortunately it has Visualization but it's almost unusable. Running Linux images (CentOS GUI, Ubunutu GUI) and Win images it just cannot do it (I'm not talking about multiple VM's at once, it simply cannot even load one at a time). I'm not a programmer or developer so unfortunately I can't help you in that department but we have developers where I work who use far older less powerful PC/Laptops and they do front end/back end development for apps and websites.

    Heavy usage and virtual game emulators are fine. The processor is snappy and the SSD helps keep everything going (around 700/500 r/w)

    I absolutely believe this is the best product Apple has released since the iPhone. You will love it! But in all honesty I don't think it's that all-in-one portable package that you're after looking at your requirements.

    I know the rMBP 13 is a fair bit chunkier but I would go for that. Furthermore I would wait until the Skylake refresh as you will (hopefully) benefit from a faster processor and more importantly Thunderbolt 3 which will allow you to attach an eGPU for more intense applications.
  13. pellets007 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 28, 2009
    New York
    As a CS major, I believe that the current rMB would handle every course I've taken thus far with ease. That said, most of my courses have been on Red Hat machines.

    I have a 15" 2013 rMB Pro, but having used the new MacBooks, I think it would be fine.
  14. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Will it do what you want?? Yes it will. Is it the best option for your course and usage?? Probably not.
  15. sziehr macrumors 6502a

    Jun 11, 2009
    I am in a similar boat. I do some development, I am currently mostly a Network Analyst so i use a lot of simple ssh and telnet. I just do not know if when i fire up my VM images for certain trouble shooting tasks if it will muster up the power i need. I also have become spoiled by having a 15' retina display set to max resolution.
  16. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Thank you so much. This is exactly the kind of post I was looking for. And, I definitely planned on waiting for the Skylake refresh! Once it's out, I plan on testing VirtualBox on it.

    I've been reading elsewhere and I've been hearing many rMB owners saying that they run virtual machines just fine. I'm surprised your rMB is having trouble with that. (Although, I may be mixing up virtualization and visualization.)

    I've been hearing it handles VMs fine. Though, I want to test VirtualBox when the new ones come out.
  17. jamese1 macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2015
    I'm in a similar situation as you, however for computer science, as much as I think the MB is great and yes the portability is awesome, it just doesn't have enough power behind it to run vm's, even if it did, it has no cooling fan so the entire unibody design would get hot, I have tried the top spec MB for a week, my friend lent me his to try it out for a week whilsy he was away, and I am yet to try the skyline refresh MBP 13" but even with the current line up the 13" 2.9/16/256 is a greay cost effective option but for the computer science bit, I'd say go for the core I7, need the power :) hope you find this somewhat useful
  18. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Thank you for the input :) I wish I had a rMB just to test this on for a bit to see if it can handle the workload I want to throw at it... My next computer is either going to be one of these or the Air. I think the Pro is just too bulky for my taste.
  19. duervo, Mar 17, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

    duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    I didn't want to reply to this until I had some time to do some testing myself, because I found it very hard to believe, considering I can run Linux with an XFCE GUI on my 1st Gen Raspberry Pi easily.

    So, I've deployed a few VMs on my ESXi host, gave them each 2GB vRAM, 1 vCPU (limited it to 600MHz, which is the low programmable frequency for the 1.2GHz 1st gen m5 processor), and installed CentOS 7 x64 with the default 3D-accelerated GUI in one of them, a non-accelerated variant in another, Linux Mint (XFCE), Linux Mint (Cinnamon), and Linux Mint (MATE).

    All ran fine for me (albeit understandably "slowish" ... 600 MHz), with the exception of the ones with the desktops that were doing software-rendered affects (no 3D acceleration enabled for the VMs. we're talking slide ... show.) Switching the desktops in those to something less demanding fixed that issue for me (I prefer XFCE, but if I want to be extra lean, I go for Busybox.)

    So, I think it all ends up being relative. What is acceptable to some may not be so to others.

    Will the rMBP be faster? Yes. That goes without saying. All else being equal, the CPU in it will allow a user to do everything faster than the one in the rMB. The question remains if the anticipated workload of a comp sci major (specifically the OP) would run acceptably fast on the rMB. Admittedly, only they can answer that accurately, but if I were doing comp sci again (once was more than enough for me), it would be fine, and when I eventually go get my Master's, I'll most likely be using one.
  20. LatestOne macrumors member


    Mar 16, 2016
    I recommend i7;)
  21. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    You put it into words for me; yes, the rMBP will be much more powerful than the rMB and much more comfortably handle the tasks I plan on throwing at either machine. I just want to know if the rMB will handle them at a pace I'm acceptable with. In reality, only I can really answer this by using one for myself, but as long as it is faster than my 2012 MacBook Pro (which actually has a weaker GPU than the rMB, though it handles much less of a resolution too), I will be okay with that. Then again, most of my speed issues are probably coming from the fact that I'm using an HDD rather than an SSD.
  22. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    That highly depends on the workload of the VM. In most cases there is absolutely no need to use more than 1 vCPU/vCore, the defaults are fine.

    Not really true either because the MacBook is the one sporting an NVMe SSD whereas the MBP still uses a PCIe version that uses SATA as its protocol. NVMe is specifically made for SSDs and does things differently than SATA which is geared towards ordinary HDDs.

    Highly depends on what you are doing with virtualisation. There are quite a few use cases where the Core M works fine as we've seen in previous topics about the MacBooks computing power.

    @viperGTS: why didn't you search this subforum? There are already quite a few topics about using the MacBook for things like webdevelopment and development/coding. Even one from someone who wants to do data analysis on it.
  23. IowaLynn macrumors 65816


    Feb 22, 2015
    Coming from desktop/workstation world: one core or thread for an OS (and here there are two operating systems), one for app in each (VMware app running in OS X) and you wanted the guest OS and apps to run, act, feel like running close to or as if running directly on the hardware, not limping along with stutter or delay or something.

    The 4x SSD interface is only doing 450MB/s so that isn't breaking records, nice but.

    Try Bootcamp and you can dual boot AND run as VM, both.

    Windows cannot be installed on Thinderbolt but once installed can be run from there once cloned. Or run Mac OS from another fast interface if desired to free up limited storage or place most data there.

    A single core with 2 logical cores doesn't cut it for me and likely not for you.
  24. mmthor macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2010
    I ran some quick benchmarks for you, using the tools I use daily for my job as a mobile app developer. Android first, and I may get to iOS in a follow-up.

    MacBook Pro (work machine):
    MBP 15" late 2013, 2.3GHz quad-core i7, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, GeForce GT 750M 2048MB

    Retina MacBook (personal machine):
    rMB 1.2GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD

    IDE: Android Studio 1.5.1
    Test app: moderately complex, approximately 24K lines of Java code

    Task 1: build APK after cleaning the project. This compiles every Java file and makes an APK bundle out of all resources.
    MBP: 31s
    rMB: 61s

    Task 2: change one line of one Java file, and build APK again.
    MBP: 12s
    rMB: 21s

    Task 3: launch Android 6.0 emulator, install already-built APK in emulator, launch app in debug mode.
    MBP: 76s
    rMB: 107s

    Task 4: change one line of one Java file, start debug in already-running emulator. This builds the project, makes an APK, installs it in the emulator, and launches the app. I do this tens or sometimes hundreds of times a day (usually changing more than one line of one Java file, but this is still basically representative of my main workflow).
    MBP: 39s
    rMB: 64s

    As a slight aside, it's usually faster to use a real device for testing rather than the emulator. Repeating Task 4 but using a Nexus 5 rather than the emulator:
    MBP: 32s
    rMB: can't test right now, as it's not physically in front of me. May update later.
  25. viperGTS thread starter macrumors 68000

    Nov 15, 2010
    Very useful figures! Thank you :) hopefully the next generation rMB's can improve these times.

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