Developer Machine Landscape

With all the exciting news announced yesterday I was particularly struck by how the answer for the best “Developer Machine” has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting.  So I sat down and configured a base developer-class machine in each model.  The rules was to get the cheapest machine with the following characteristics:

  • An Intel Core i7 processor.
  • 8GB of RAM, upgraded via (if possible)

I think those criteria generally fit with the needs of the average developer. While there will always be improvements possible via bumping specs, this served as a baseline which almost all the machines could meet.

The results are as follows:

The 24” display listed for the Mac Mini and Mac Pro is a run of the mill Viewsonic from Amazon, which runs $180

Shown graphically sorted by price:


Based on that data, I’d recommend the Mac Mini as the best choice for a developer looking for a new machine. If you absolutely need portability then the 15” MacBook Pro (Matte) is the clear choice. You would, however, be paying $736 (+58%) for the ability to move it around. You can pick up a refurbished late model 11” MacBook Air for $749, which might be a better choice to get in addition to the Mac Mini.

With either choice, I’d recommend upgrading the internal drive to an SSD, which currently runs you $199 for 115GB. This is probably the biggest reason I’d stay away from the iMac right now. Upgrading the hard drive in an iMac is a risky proposition, at best. The only Apple available SSD option is a $500 256GB add-on.

11” MB Air1366x7681.8Ghz Dual4GB$1,349
13” MB Air1440x9001.8Ghz Dual4GB$1,699
13” MB Pro (Glossy)1280x8002.7Ghz Dual8GB$1,584
15” MB Pro (Glossy)1440x9002.0Ghz Quad8GB$1,849
15” MB Pro (Matte)1680x10502.0 Ghz Quad8GB$1,999
17” MB Pro (Glossy)1920x12002.2GHz Quad8GB$2,549
17” MB Pro (Matte)1920x12002.2GHz Quad8GB$2,599
Mac MiniN/A2.0Ghz Quad8GB$1,083
Mac Mini + Cinema2560x14402.0Ghz Quad8GB$2,082
Mac Mini + 24”1920x10802.0Ghz Quad8GB$1,263
21.5” iMac1920x10802.8GHz Quad8GB$1,784
27” iMac2560x14403.4GHz Quad8GB$2,284
Mac ProN/A2.8Ghz Quad Xeon8GB$2,659
Mac Pro + Cinema2560x14402.8Ghz Quad Xeon8GB$3,658
Mac Pro + 24”1920x10802.8Ghz Quad Xeon8GB$2,839
David Smith