Which MacBook do you prefer as a software developer?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by Macasio, Jun 19, 2016.

  1. Macasio macrumors regular


    Nov 8, 2015
    I want to buy a MacBook for software development and I am not sure which one would be the perfect one. I also want to replace my main pc.
  2. briloronmacrumo macrumors 6502


    Jan 25, 2008
    Maybe I'm in the minority and/or not well-connected but I don't know ANY developers ( not counting dabbling hobbyists but pros who code eight to twelve hours a day and push their machines all the time ) who would use a MacBook. MacBook Pro maybe but even then it would need a large monitor ( or monitors ) connected for the screen real estate. My personal minimum is a 27 inch iMac but I'm leaning toward a new MacPro whenever Apple gets around to the next rev.

    Tell the group more about your specific development needs and it's likely the responses will be more targeted.
  3. meduzarija macrumors newbie


    May 3, 2016
    Belgrade, Serbia
    What drove me away form 12" MacBook was lack of ports. I need more ports, for display, external drive, charging... So I went with 13" MacBook Pro. Couldn't be happier. But what would be my dream setup, seems kinda expensive, but I think it would be well worth it, 5K iMac and MacBook (12").
  4. smirk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    I'm only a hobbyist developer on iOS, but I have a 2011 iMac and a newer 15" Macbook Pro. I find myself using the older iMac for almost all development because of the screen size. I know developers who use Macbook Airs and get along fine, so I think for casual development use any current Apple computer will have enough horsepower to get the job done. For me, though, I need that larger screen. If I only had my Macbook Pro, I'd buy a second display so Xcode would be on one screen and documentation would be on the other.
  5. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    I'm a developer that codes 8-16 hours a day. I use a MBPr for home and an iMac 27 5k for work. Actually i use both at work, but most of my 'code time' is on the MBPr.

    I get the latest and greatest every 3 years.

    A MBA would work just as well. Development does not push a machine by most standards. I only get the pro for the 15" screen.

    If you are looking for recomendations, lease or purchase:

    Sell it in three years for about half and from then on you will work with the top machine for about half the cost.
  6. DaveP macrumors 6502


    Mar 18, 2005
    It really depends on what exactly you are doing as part of development: running virtual machines? creating graphics? 3D rendering? Or are you just writing web scripts?

    I develop reasonably "hard" and use a fully spec'd 27" iMac. Without at least having a large monitor connected I would go nuts.
  7. ahall52 macrumors newbie

    Feb 3, 2013
    Like everyone has said, we probably need more info about your needs, type of development, etc... to provide better advice. Also to parrot other responses, screen size is likely going to be a major driver.

    I admittedly have an extravagant setup based on my job requirements, but I mostly use a 15" rMPB. More importantly, I attach this to one or two 27" Thunderbolt Displays depending on what office I'm working out of. The extravagant and costly part is that I travel between home and office settings in two different cities meaning that I own 7 of these monitors and a bunch of Henge docks.

    I say this not to brag (though after having invested so much for these pixels I feel like I ought to), but to point out that the only time I actually code without being attached to a monitor or two is when I'm sitting on an airplane. Most developers need more screen real estate than even a 15" monitor can provide to do any serious work. Having said that, the portability of a laptop as a development machine is awesome if it suits your needs and budget.

    There are more good quality, reasonably priced monitors out there and I would definitely suggest doing your research. Here are a few suggestions:
    • Determine your needs. What kind of programming are you going to be doing and what will your development environment look like?
    • Go to an Apple Store (or authorized retailer) if one is close and try the different models on for size. Lay out your development environments (even by just using Notepad windows) to see how well you would be able to work.
    • Try they keyboards. Seriously. I have a Retina MacBook and can't code on it because of the different keyboard and missed keystrokes. It's a terrible experience for me.
    • Look at the screen. Retina screens are beautiful at a cost. Do you want one or do you care?
    • Could an Air meet your needs without the extra resolution? If you're going to use an external display most of the time, it might save you some money.
    • What kind of processor do you need? If you are just doing web or database development (like most of my projects), you probably don't require a lot of power. If you're doing 3D, video or heavy game development, it's a different story.
    • If you're on a budget, look at refurbished. Seriously. Best advice I can offer. I've bought many products over the years that were Apple Certified Refurbished and they were immaculate and like new. Basically everyone who has bought ACR will echo this.
    Hopefully something in here is useful for you. If not, I apologize for being long winded and wish you good luck on your new setup! :)
  8. kiwipeso1 Suspended


    Sep 17, 2001
    Wellington, New Zealand
    If you want to do development and replace your PC, and if you can wait, get this year's maxed spec retina macbook pro.
    It will have the nice new things rumoured about, and the mobile skylake i7 (or hopefully mobile skylake xeon as an option)
    With 16GB ram, or more if it's able to be included, then you'll be able to run windows apps and games easily to ease your transition.
  9. jaduff46 macrumors 6502


    Mar 3, 2010
    Second star on the right....
    Agree with ahall52 above. My work development experience has been on Unix workstations (1 large monitor), Windows (2 23" monitors) and Macs (80s on a Mac II CI with a large screen, now on a 27" iMac). In my case I didn't need the portability and having the large screen allowed for faster debugging since I could iterate more quickly between compiling, debugging and testing the executable. This is particularly true if you anticipate building something with a complex user interface and want to quickly see how it works.

    Good luck with it.
  10. ncm34 macrumors member


    Jun 10, 2016
    San Francisco, CA
    15" Retina here. There's really something to be said about being able to have 1920x1200 on the road... it's not just the difference in power compared to the 13" rMBP but it's also being able have editors, browsers, and terminal windows all open at once without having to layer windows on top of each other or switch spaces constantly. Or a full-fledged IDE with lots of panes spanning the desktop.

    For my usage, XCode and PyCharm are flawless on the 15". It's just a little cramped on the 13", even when cranked up to the 1680x1050 setting.

    You said you wanted to replace your main pc - I consider the 15" to be more or less of a desktop replacement, if that's what you're looking for.
  11. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    It all depends on what you are doing. But there is very little that a Retina MBP 15" with 256 GB SSD and 16GB RAM, any model, doesn't handle easily. You can add two cheap monitors and a backup drive for the desk, plus a 7 port powered hub if you have a collection of iPhones and iPads that need plugging in. For the road, a MicroSD card for secondary backup. Fast compile times even for rather large projects.

    There may be cases where that isn't enough. If you have to run several server environments on your development machine, then either an iMac with tons of hard drive space and tons of RAM, or a MacPro with even more hard drive space and RAM will do it.
  12. maxsix Suspended


    Jun 28, 2015
    Western Hemisphere
    Hands down its my stellar 15" MBPr.

    Although I have each of the current models, MBr , 13" & 15" MBPr, it's the 15" I prefer. Been using these for years. Buy a BTO model configured to your liking.
  13. Daniel Hood macrumors newbie

    Daniel Hood

    Jun 18, 2015
    I recently got a 15" MBPr as a full time developer (40-50 hours a week). I like the setup because at the office I have a 27" Thunderbolt display that lets me have more/plenty-of screen real estate and then I take the computer home or wherever and continue my development right where I left off. No need for keeping files synced, making sure my IDE settings are the same everywhere, etc..
  14. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I know lots of developers who've created successful apps on an MBA 11. Of course, connecting the MBA to the largest monitor that it will drive is nice when one in coding at ones desk. But I do a lot of app development on the road or at customer sites, and an MBA 11 makes it easy to run between meeting rooms, code on trains and airplanes, etc.
  15. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    I have cranked my 13" to 1920x1200 using SwitchResX for a short period of time.

    The 11" is great for taking with you wherever you go and when you plug into a 27" you have all the room in the world. Gets tight on the road, though. But it's so small it lets you work in places the 15" wouldn't.
  16. ncm34 macrumors member


    Jun 10, 2016
    San Francisco, CA

    I see, but it wouldn't be running in HiDPI mode, would it?
  17. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    Can you clarify a bit more on what type of software development you will be doing? And what do you do on your PC primarily today?

Share This Page