Why did I choose the MacBook Air, as a full-stack software developer?

Chen Osipov on October 20, 2017

When I chose my first laptop many years ago, sales consultants almost foamed at my mouth to show me how important it was to have more RAM, a large ... [Read Full]
markdown guide

I have a hard time recommending buying an Apple laptop from anywhere but an Apple Store or Apple.com… but I see those affiliate links. 🤦‍♂️

About the article, it’s great you love the MBA about it’s an outdated product, and most developers would be better off with the non-Touch Bar 13’’ MBP, preferably with 16GB RAM…


Yeah, 2 affiliate links in one article, it almost smells like an infomercial.


I wanna buy non-Touch Bar 13’’ MBP with 16gb, but not sure about the SSD size. Is 128gb enough for web developing? I'm not using Docker now, but our team is gonna use it at the nearest time, so I don't know whether 128gb is enough and whether I should pay more for additional 128gb (256gb).

Would you be willing to share some of your experience?


I would strongly recommend 256GB for most use cases. More than that is up to your needs, but 256GB is a good baseline for most people IMO… :)

Thank you for the advice. What about CPU? Is 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 enough? I have a "windows" laptop with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (the 3rd generation) and, seems, it's fairly good so far.


Not the smartest thing to buy only from Apple. That is most expensive way of buying apple products. Those products fill the shelves at any brick and mortar computer store and online computer stores as well. Buying at an Apple price feels like donating to a false cause. Feel free though!


I prefer ordering from Amazon, not on apple directly.
The service and return's handeling is much better.


Thanks for sharing, a little more information on the following would be helpful:

  1. How much RAM and what processor you got

  2. What languages you use and what else you run on the computer would be helpful.

  3. Type of applications you develop


1) 512 SSD / 8GB / i7 - The best one they have.
2) Moistly Javascript & Java
3) Web & Cloud


How did you get 16GB RAM on a MBA? I can't find information about that anywhere…


The link about MBP is Currently unavailable, could you please recommend other link


As a fellow software developer, i strongly advise you to buy a real screen, mouse, and keyboard. Laptops are toys for children - not tools for professionals who care about their neck - or muscles and skeleton in general. Considering you like apple products you'd be best with some imac or whatever. I did the mistake of buying an imac seven years ago. The problem is that i had to to workouts to be able to carry it without risking injury. Comparing it to my wife's nuc and a flat panel display makes me sad every day. Also the price is really not the same.


Yes it's important to be aware of your physical posture when working, so if you have a laptop you also need a separate keyboard, mouse and a laptop stand. I also have an extra monitor connected to my laptop. I really don't see the need for an iMac or other kind of static desktop computer.


Well, exactly the flexible and relaxing handling is one of the fundamental issues, why I choose Laptops.

Important is the seat, a place to put the device on and that it runs cool.

I love my Elitebook.


There seem to be plenty of ultra-portable Windows-based laptops out there, which can be easily changed to use Linux (to use a similar file system and command line approach as the Mac range).

It's impossible to justify the high prices of Apple products versus comparable non-Apple ones, imo.


Absolutely agree with this. The customizability of Linux also mean you get to tweak the desktop to align with how you want to work rather than having to bend to how the Desktop wants you to work.


And all the while saving a good 30 to 50 pct in price for comparable hardware power.


I've been on an 2011 11" MBA (not by choice) for almost a year now and quite enjoy it for programming. At first the screen real estate felt cramped but using things like tmux really helped. The best feature of the 11" is portability. I used to have a 2009 15" MBP and thought it wasn't so bad carrying around. But was surprised when I went to go pick it up after using the 11" MBA for a while.

Paired with mobile hotspot, and the good fortune of working remotely, I could work on the road literally anywhere. Which has afforded me random road trips with the family.

With an upcoming job change, I'm opting for my next laptop to be a 13" MBP with touch bar. I was eyeing the non-touch bar but was surprised for the same price for 16GB of ram, better CPU and 512 GB SSD option on the non-touch bar, the base touch bar still had a slightly better GPU, CPU and 2 extra thunderbolt ports. Plus you know, touch bar.

And you might be asking but what about VIM and the ESC key?! While I'm not a hardcore VIM user, when I do use VIM, I've mapped it to jj so I won't be needing to mash a physical ESC key.

I will say the 15" MBP does make me envious of its discreet graphics card, but at the end of the day, it's the size and portability that's won me over. And if I need something a little more graphics intensive, there's an iMac at home for that.

So may not be for everyone, but I'm definitely a fan of the smaller MB(A/P)s.


I don't see any real argument in this article why you chose a Mac in the first place. Looks like you only saw the "portable" reason here, which is ok, but then again, there are multiple alternatives with windows at a fraction of the price.
Something about the benefits of MacOs would be nice, or something about the feeling/efficiency of the MacBook would help. I had a MacBook Pro at work and hated it. The Touchpad is very good, but I can't get over the fact the "fn"-key is on the bottom left (why??). At home I work with Windows and couldn't see any major benefits of MacOs besides having the struggle to switch between two different workflows.

But then again, I almost always worked with double monitor, external keyboard and (magic) mouse, something I would recommend everyone who really want to develop for some hours. (Again, that's why I would love to hear more about the benefits of the OS and the specs, compared to other laptops)


Constructive feedback:

I read this looking for data and examples of a good reason to choose a Mac product to code on.

"[in 2010] I was looking for the most compact laptop in the world ... [and i didn't bother changing]" was all I could find.

Did you think of including:
programming appliction/IDE comparison,
a current non-Mac alternative e.g. HP Spectre 360, comparison

"definitely need a stationary " = unfinished sentence
"personalty recommend" -> personally recommend


As a fellow Full Stack Web Developer I would suggest a Mac Book Pro (if you can afford things with an apple logo).

Based on experience I often required processing power (large databases crunches) and more battery hours (especially at conferences or courses).

I still remember my first encounter with an Air, a few of my fellow faculty colleagues brought their Air's, almost all of them remained out of battery before they could show their license project.


As I wrote, it's too heavy...


I read that part, you already decided, my advice was for the readers. I for one don't think it's heavy, I don't jog with the laptop anyway 😂.
The air is more portable,but why carry more around something that you cannot use more (no battery left)


I'd say, for the same reasons you chose a MBA, that a Chromebook would also work. One could use online editors and web frontends, or rip out all the Google-ness and pop in a standard *NIX distro. At that point, you're left with a cheap, lightweight alternative to an MBA. It's worked for me.


I had a Chromebook, it's more a toy... you cant run stuff locally and I work on a Train a lot...


Chromebooks weren't designed to run things locally, but they can after a bit of "coercing." This of course means removing ChromeOS, which means different things to different people.


Note that Apple has never made a 16GB Mac Air - 8GB is the factory maximum. Interesting I see your graphs look like it has 16GB; I assume this was an after-market part or something. Still the 8GB Mac Air is very nice; too bad probably not updated in the future, i.e. what we have now are likely the last versions.


Interesting that you chose the Macbook Air instead of the "more standard dev machine" Macbook Pro ... but you're satisfied with it, that says enough. However first you state it has 16MB RAM and later you say it has 8MB RAM, so what is it? (I believe the Air tops out at 8MB)

(for the record I'm using a Macbook Pro with 8MB but with spinning disk and a MacMini with 16 MB also spinning disk ... when I do Java development with Eclipse the Macbook is too slow, I use the Mac Mini, for Javascript/web dev the Macbook is okay)


Did you consider the newer MacBooks? They have i chips now and not mobile ones, they're lighter than the Airs, can come configured with 16gb, and are retina. It's physically a little smaller (12 vs 13.3), but have larger resolution.


@Chen Great post. I run too many VMs to get by with just 8GB RAM. My former laptop was a late-2012 8GB MBP, and it noticeably lagged. Nonetheless, I had an Air for a time and it truly is a beautiful machine. I'm glad it works for you!

code of conduct - report abuse