How to Choose the Best Mac for App Development
We’ll outline why Macs are great machines for coding—and not only for macOS and iOS. We’ll also cover the minimum specs your Mac should have for comfortable programming.
- Recommended system requirements
- The best Macs for software development
- Mac vs. PC for software development
Recommended system requirements
The processor is an important factor to consider when choosing a Mac for coding. Your choice will depend on the type of projects you’re going to work with. The recommended CPU is a dual-core i5 processor. Still, even a i3 processor may be fine if you have basic programming needs.
Note: Older generations of Macs won’t be suitable for programming, as you’ll need at least 8GB RAM. If you have an option, it’s always better to purchase a Mac with bigger RAM, so it will be an investment in future bigger projects, and you’ll have room to grow into it. Upgrading RAM on Mac is usually harder than selecting the necessary amount up front, so consider how you’ll be using your Mac and how much RAM you may need in the future.
Some programmers recommend bigger screens for coding because it is more comfortable for working with several programs simultaneously. Also, a retina display makes a big difference in the quality of your performance. Not because the picture is more beautiful, but rather because it gives you scaled resolutions, so you can see a lot more code.
Programs for software development require a lot of energy. Consequently, battery life is something you should also pay attention to. Either choose a Mac with a longer battery life or be ready to charge it frequently. New generations of MacBooks offer up to 12 hours battery life. However, older versions won’t let you to work for so long without charging.
Make sure that the number of ports your Mac has (especially if it is an Apple laptop) correspond to the number of external sources you’re going to use. As a coder you may need an additional screen, external storage, and a mouse. If you cannot opt for fully wireless options, make sure you have the ports you need or at least an adapter for Thunderbolt 3.
Also, keep your Mac upgraded to macOS High Sierra or later versions— it’s required by some app developer programs (such as Xcode).
Coding an app does not require very advanced specifications for graphics compared to playing demanding action games. This aspect is of a minor importance for coders unless you’re developing a graphically-demanding app or game, obviously.
We’ve done a thorough investigation and talked to our coders to find out what are the best Macs for software development.
MacBook Pro for app development
MacBook Pro is an extremely powerful and highly portable machine all in one. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch models were updated with newer, faster processors in 2018. Currently, they are great even in the basic configuration for Pro.
While the specifications for the 13-inch MacBook correspond with the basics you’d need for comfortable coding, you can also consider the 15-inch option. If you need a bigger screen to use when you’re at your desk, consider two extra 4K displays or one 5K display, which are supported by MacBook Pro.
MacBook Air for app development
The new MacBook Air with Retina Display is another Apple laptop that deserves your attention if you’re choosing a Mac for coding. MacBook Air is the cheapest among all Macs, and the 2018 updates made it even slimmer and lighter. Moreover, it has the longest battery life of any Apple laptop.
iMac for app development
If app development is an essential element of your everyday working routine or you’re looking for a bigger screen to make it comfortable to work at your desk, we’d recommend a 21,5 inch iMac with Retina display. It has a powerful processor, Retina display, and a variety of built-in ports to connect all the additional sources you may need.
Mac vs. PC for software development
Both Macs and PCs are great for software development. When choosing the best computer for coding, we’d recommend to consider the tools you’ll be using and their compatibility with platforms as well as the type of language and framework you’re going to work with.
"I wouldn't recommend any particular machine because this choice depends on many factors, but I can assure you that macOS in general is super comfortable for coding. Its user-friendly interface, flexibility in customization, speed and seamlessness compared to Linux or Windows is what makes Mac a great computer for engineers. Plus, Macs are beautiful."
– Goose, PHP Developer at MacKeeper
The pros of coding on Mac:
- Macs generally have a smaller number of viruses and threats
- Apple native programs don’t slow down the performance of your Mac
- Macs are based on Unix, so they are more appropriate for creating back-end web server code
- Macs can run all major operating systems including Windows, Linux, Android, etc.
- Apple offers Great service and support
The cons of coding on Mac:
- Macs are usually more expensive than PCs
- macOS is not the most popular operating system
The pros of coding on PC:
- PCs are open-source and can be easily customized
- There are a lot of third-party tools for graphics, debugging, and profiling
- Windows has a lot of Linux functionality
- There are more software programs, games, and utilities for Windows because of the number of users
The cons of coding on PC:
- Windows machines can be created by companies other than Microsoft, so the high quality is not always guaranteed
- PCs are not always compatible with every hardware and software combination
- You can’t run macOS on PC
These are the major pros and cons for both platforms, but when it comes to professional coding, a smart step would be to check the specific compatible hardware and software.
Whether you choose a powerful MacBook Pro, a super-portable MacBook Air, or a stationary iMac with a bigger screen, do not forget that it should run the latest version of Xcode—the software used for all apps development for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.