Fri, Apr 4, 2008, 4:07pm A New Dev Laptop?
Computers » Mac » Hardware
think I "need" a new development laptop machine. I have no mobile Intel Mac, and good weather is approaching. I must be set free to roam and code.

Here's a chart of the models I'm considering, and some of the factors important to me on each. The prices shown are not transparent from the chart, but are accurate (they include some custom configuration and Apple Care changes, and not with tax, shipping, etc). Any thoughts? I'm leaning toward option MacBook Pro a or b.

White MacBookBlack MacBookMacBook AirMacBook Pro aMacBook Pro b
CPU / L22.4GHz / 3M2.4GHz / 3M1.6GHz / 4M2.4GHz / 3M2.5GHz / 6M
Screen Size13.3"13.3"13.3"15.4"15.4"
Video cardGMA X3100GMA X3100GMA X3100GeForce 8600M GTGeForce 8600M GT
VRAM144M* DDR2144M* DDR2144M* DDR2256M GDDR3512M GDDR3
Hard drive160G/5400rpm250G/5400rpm80G/4200rpm200G/5400rpm250G/5400rpm

* — VRAM shared with on-board RAM

** — Reports have this closer to 4hrs

The factors that are most important to me are the weight, video card-ram-n-resolution and the cpu/l2. For a portable dev machine, even a 80G HD is fine with me, but it looks like the Air isn't right for me for other reasons, though the weight… I wish I could get that weight. I hate even lugging around my old 12" PB for more than a few hours. And riding my bike with an Air would be significantly nicer than either MBs, let alone the MBP.

I guess I'm really torn between the very light Air and the muscly MBPs. I was really set on the MBPs two minutes ago. But the weight issue… Must think more on this. Thoughts of your own? Experiences? I know other devs who bought the Air and are quite happy with it. My current laptop is a (single-core) 1.5GHz G4, so it's not like the Air wouldn't still be a big jump up in speed. But, but, but…

  • Rainer Brockerhoff (Fri, April 4th, 2008, 5:02pm UTC)
    I bought a MacBook Air a few days ago, specifically as a mobile development machine for when I have to be away from my primary desktop. Mostly because of the decisive weight advantage.

    Will take it on a 70-day trip to Europe in May, so I'll have better data after that trip, but so far it looks like a winner. I've taken a small iBook (G3) and a 17" PowerBook(G4) on similar trips, but the latter was really a little too big and heavy.

  • Zack C (Sun, April 6th, 2008, 10:12pm UTC)
    I have a very nice MBP on permanent loan… and I think I'm going to go get a MacBook Air. The physical impact of a portable is almost the most important factor, assuming it's performance is good enough otherwise. Do it!

  • Perry (Mon, April 21st, 2008, 1:18am UTC)
    As you probably already know … you get what you pay for. When have you ever regretted spending more on a computer? Me? Never.

  • Jeff (Fri, April 25th, 2008, 4:07am UTC)
    Just as an update, I'm heading down to the Apple Store early next week to physically pick up all of them and see what I want to deal with everyday. I still change my mind often about which one I think I want to buy.

  • Jeff (Tue, May 6th, 2008, 4:48pm UTC)
    I'm becoming more convinced that the Air is the way to go. I just lugged around a PowerBook G4 that weighs 4.6lbs and found it to be incoveniently heavy. I just don't need that much power when out and about. Perry makes a great point above. Everyone I have talked to, or read reviews from, loves their Air, (even if the 2nd core seems to go out under hot conditions).

    My question now is whether or not the Air is about due for a 2nd major rev. It's been just under 4 months since it came out. The number of months between all versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro has been anywhere from 3.5 to just over 7 months, with the average sitting at just over 5 months. Curse my timing. I want to have a new laptop prior to the WWDC, which means I'd have to get it by the end of this month. Argh! Oh, the inner turmoil. No rumors about new revs on any sites either.

    Perhaps I should just pull the trigger now. The weather is beautiful out, and I should be programming outside.

  • Jeff (Wed, May 20th, 2009, 3:34pm UTC)
    BTW, just as a follow-up, I did end up buying a MacBook Air, the 2nd generation one (1.86GHz, better video card, etc). I am exceptionally happy with it. I do not feel like I have an underpowered machine at all, it's the perfect on the road Mac for me. And I have yet to have the need to plug it in while at a cafe, because the battery life has been great. (I'm seeing beyond 5 hours of use, though haven't let it run all the way down.)

  • Jeff (Wed, May 9th, 2012, 3:15am UTC)
    One more follow-up, for anyone who stops by, from the year 2012. This laptop has continued to be fantastic. Never had a problem with it, and have been using it for serious professional Mac and iOS dev work for these years with it. It even runs Mountain Lion just fine (in fact, better than Lion). While the new Airs are awesome, this one is still not end-of-life, and I probably won't buy a new laptop until next year. Even then, I'll still keep this one in rotation. The only real limitation it seems to have these days is the fixed 2G of RAM that can never change. Not a huge deal though.

    In sum: I have never regretted for a second the price paid for the machine and highly recommend buying the right machine, not the compromise machine based on some price point. Years later you don't remember what you paid exactly, but you always remember whether it was the right machine, because you live it every day you use it.

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