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Macbook air Or Macbook pro
8 points by steven_info on Nov 27, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments
I want to learn programming. i'm interested in C/C++, which macbook should i choose?

Coming from a person who has owned both. I can say for sure that it just doesn't matter. Some will say that the pro has more ports and is more of a power beast, but given all that let me ask you the following. 1. You are starting to program, consider yourself at least a few months out till you get into a world where you will start programming device drivers. 2. When was the last time you actually used a dvd drive? Everything is on the internet or wirelessly available.

Most of the work that I have done, ranging from device drivers to now, distributed systems, my macbook air sufficed. Programming has never 'required' me to have a retina display. If you asked the question with the context of media or photo editing, my answer would be different.

My setup is as follows: 1. Macbook air 11" (portability is the key) 2. Apple wireless keyboard and mouse 3. Apple 27" display connected via thunderbolt. (wired network). You may substitute with any other good monitor.

The desktop setup is just a plain must. Anyone who says 11" or 13" or even 15" is enough for working, has just never worked on a big screen long enough. It just increases your productivity by an order of magnitude. Imagine the time saved by having multiple windows/terminals and documentation right in front of you and not having to switch between the two.

So, to end it all. Get a decent compact machine that you can take with you, and use on the go. And get yourself a good desktop setup when you want to get serious stuff done. Also, the desktop setup (personally) focuses you into a simple and distraction free zone, allowing you to be more productive.

You need to give us more to go on. You can program C/C++ on a Raspberry Pi without issue.

So clearly you aren't buying either machine to learn to program C/C++ on. Any PC or computer made in the last thirty years would be equally good for that.

So tell us your real requirements (e.g. gaming, DVDs, digital video, etc) and what you really do day to day (e.g. mobile users, "workstation replacement," etc)?

I don't want to be seen as a troll, but for a development laptop System76 provide high quality but reasonably priced Ubuntu laptops.

You'll come to thank the Ubuntu / Debian package manager when it comes to setting up the dev env.. ;-)


You could also of course run Ubuntu on IBM, Lenovo, Dell, Apple or any other manufacturers box.

I was happy with a System 76 pangolin a few years ago. Only problem was the battery life. I looked at their newer offerings, and they look nice. Does anyone have experience with System 76's newer models?

Depends on how much you want to spend. The Macbook Pro models generally have faster CPUs so you'll see a benefit there in terms of compilation time and general snappiness.

The MBP gives you the option of the Retina display though. My personal opinion is that that in and of itself is worth the extra cost :P. If you're going for the 13", be aware of the fact that it can be a little bit laggy when you're trying to something graphically intensive. Depending on your use case, you might be better off getting the standard MBP if that bothers you.

The new 13" Pro w/ Retina is probably the most perfect incarnation of a laptop available now. Apple finally did away with the rarely used optical drive which means it weights only slightly more than the Air. The resolution of the retina is great. I've used several 15" MBP's and the 1440x900 was never satisfying.

It basically comes down to high resolution vs half a pound in weight. Almost all developers I've worked with, prefer higher resolutions so the choice is simple for me.

I think if you have to ask, the Air (with memory maxed) will be fine. The Pro is a safe bet to.

Something to think about - if you are doing the majority of your work on the laptop screen, I do find its nice to have a 15".

I have a quad-core Linux desktop with 12gb of RAM. And an 11" Air with 4gb of RAM. For Java development I find them both adequate, unless I'm working with an 8gb dataset - but that might fall more into the testing category.

Both laptops will be fine to learn programming in C/C++, the decision should be taken by other features or needs. The macbook pro offers more processing power, but if you want portability choose macbook air. If your only interest is learn to program I would recommend you to buy the macbook air.

If you don't need to use any Mac OS specific software then you could get a Windows laptop, the hardware is generally cheaper.

If it must be an Apple then the Air is more than suitable for a bit of coding.

"If it must be an Apple then the Air is more than suitable for a bit of coding."

Why? I'm looking into getting an Apple laptop and don't know which to get. I'm leaning towards the MBP just because I'm getting into music production and the extra hard drive space would be nice to have but I would also use it for programming as well.

Like I said, the Air is more than suitable for coding however it might not be suited to music production, for that you might want a beefier machine.

I apologize. After re-reading that I definitely missed something when I made the post. I thought that you were saying that an Air would be better for programming.

I think the Pro is better for music production because it has optical digital audio and the Air does not.

Such a '90s cliché. Cheaper does not always mean better value, and it is often at the expense of build/longevity.

Apple does overcharge on memory/disk upgrades (as does MS, just look at the ahem 32gb Surface with 16gb of free space).

But generally I find Apple a solid buy.

> it is often at the expense of build/longevity

You can get very well built Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo (and more) laptops still cheaper than Mac hardware; and you can run Hackintosh or a Mac VM if you need access to Mac OS.

> generally I find Apple a solid buy.

So do I, all I was saying was that if he doesn't necessarily need an Apple machine then he could consider a Windows system.

> Such a '90s cliché


Ridiculously down voted.

I agree. It shouldn't have been downvoted. Unfortunately it's probably best to avoid that kind of religious discussion on HN, even if you're being calm and sensible.

But to address your point: Is hackintosh (Apple OS X on non-Apple hardware) legal? Is it a legal grey area? Some people may legitimately want to avoid that. But your point is taken - computers and operating systems are tools and people have personal preferences and there's a lot to chose from.

I would imagine Hackintosh is ok as Mac hardware is now x86, as long you own the copy of Mac OS, though don't quote me on that.

Given that you are learning, mobility could help you going to meetups, friends houses, et al, to learn. That said, the lighter the better. Go with a macbook air.

After using an AIR the Pro feels super heavy. I believe the Air is just perfect considering I use lots of design softwares.

probably doesn't matter too much. I like a pro because you can upgrade the HDD and ram on your own and avoid apple's insane upgrade prices

edit: the standard MBP, I've heard terrible things about the retina pros being generally laggy

Macbook air works perfectly fine for me.

Get the 13.3" MacBook Air.


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