What Macbook should I buy? Computer science student and xcode development

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mbace, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. mbace macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2012
    Hello guys,

    So, I'd like to buy my very first macbook, but I am having a real difficulty in deciding which model to get. Firstly, let me tell a few things about my self and what the purpose of the mac will be.

    - I will soon be a grad student in Computer Science
    - I will use the macbook for programming (probably install windows with boot camp)
    - I will do some application development with xcode
    - Some movies and light/casual gaming and of course web surfing and so on

    The options that I am looking at are:
    - 13'' MacBook Air, 2012 base model with 8GB RAM
    - 13'' MacBook Pro, 2012 base model with 8GB RAM
    - 15'' MacBook Pro, late 2011, base model (possibly with 8GB RAM) - this is the more expensive option, not sure if I need it, plus it is not so portable

    Which option do you think is best for me? I like the fact that the Pro has a larger hdd and that I can switch the hdd to an SSD if I wanted. I don't like that it has a relatively small screen resolution.

    I would also prefer the 13'' form factor since is is easier to carry around and since it is cheaper than the 15'' I could buy a nice external monitor.
  2. biohead macrumors 6502

    Jun 18, 2010
    West Drayton, UK
    I'm much like you - I would have liked the greater res of the MBA13, but I had no urgent requirement for it.

    In the end, I opted the the 13MBP, as I can upgrade the RAM for cheaper and when I feel like it. The CPU is faster (and to be honest, most of the time I find mine running at 2.9GHz using turbo boost, rather than 2.5) and again I can swap my HDD to SSD at any point I chose. Plus I'm sure that extra power is handy when doing something that requires it.

    Go for the Base Pro 13, and upgrade the RAM yourself (which can't be done on the Air) simply as it works out cheaper.

    Heart told me Air, but brain said Pro... so went for that.
  3. mbace thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2012
    The thing is that the MacBook Air has everything that makes it a perfect portable machine.

    But is it capable to handle application development? For instance parallel programming and lets say some computationally intensive programs.
  4. jterp7 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2011
    15" high res. would be best for everything. Gives you option to have 2 drives or optical when you need it, plus more workspace (1680 x 1050), and can actually game. If you take gaming out of the equation and have another option for storage at home, get the air but with 8gb (The SSD can be swapped out later, but the 256GB isn't that expensive anymore).
  5. mbace thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2012
    I do have a 320GB Western Digital external hard drive.

    The MacBook Air with 256GB, 8GB RAM and i7 would be really nice, but the price is the same as the late 2011'' MacBook Pro 15''.

    Is the SSD in the Air user upgradable? I know that in the Pro it is really easy to upgrade both RAM and storage.
  6. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Installing Boot Camp means that you have to decide how to partition your drive between Windows and OS X - which is unavoidable, but wastes disc space. That would leave me inclined towards the Pro, because of the larger, old fangled, hard drive.
  7. v2kea412 macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2011
    You had mentioned watching movies... Unless you plan on streaming them, then the Pro is the better choice due to the optical drive. I had the same dilemma a few months back, and opted for the 13 MBP i7. The screen resolution is a bit of a setback, but as you mentioned before, you would be getting an external. 15 MBP is also nice, but the 13" fits so much better in my backpack and doesn't hog the desk.
  8. mbace thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2012
    I'm not sure if I will be getting the external right away, but I do plan to do so in the next couple of months (might even consider a Thunderbolt display even though it's quite expensive).

    Right now it seems that I am leaning towards the 13'' MacBook Pro. Should I buy it with upgraded 8Gb RAM or should I upgrade the RAM memory myself? Is it worth reaching for the i7? Is it that much of a difference?

    Can I buy any notebook DDR3 memory kit?
  9. Epic Xbox Revie macrumors 6502a

    Epic Xbox Revie

    Jun 15, 2010
    Washington, D.C.
    Upgrade the Ram yourself, yes you can buy any ddr3 kit.
  10. jterp7 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2011
    if you want a modular notebook, just get the 15 pro. For pure lightness the air. I don't see a reason to get the 13 pro unless its a money issue. Even then I'd say get the late 2011 15 pro, and save up for the TB (which will be updated at some point anyway)
  11. CelticChris macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2012
    Hey mbace,

    I am very much in the same position. After years in professional product development and finally moving to a non development role I am getting the interest back in hobby programming. So looking for my first Mac for doing some xcode app development.

    After reading many posts about xcode development on an Air (mostly last years one) I have decided that the 13" Macbook Air 2012 is the one for me. This is primarily based on its portability and what I feel is the best cost/specification balance.

    Hope this has not confused you further, and I could still change my mind, but It would be great to hear further opinions on this.

    I have seen recomendations more towards the 13" Air instead of the 13" Pro based on the higer res for the xcode ui. I know you are looking to an eventual other screen, but my use will be pretty much exclusively without one.
  12. mbace thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 19, 2012
    Hey Chris,

    I believe it comes down to the following thigs:

    MacBook Air:
    - Better screen resolution
    - SSD which is much faster than the regular HDD on the MBPro
    - Not so good processor, but still more than decent
    - Fewer ports (no Ethernet)
    - No optical drive

    MacBook Pro:
    - More processing power even in the base model
    - Slower HDD -> but easily upgradable
    - Many ports
    - Optical drive
    - Lower screen resolution

    I think that the MacBook Air is not worth getting with the i7 processor. For the same amount of money you can buy a late 2011 15'' MacBook Pro which is a lot better for app development, but definitely not as portable :).

    The MacBook Air is a great machine if you have a powerful computer at home.

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