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 macsales.com (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:
|11” MB Air||1366x768||1.8Ghz Dual||4GB||$1,349|
|13” MB Air||1440x900||1.8Ghz Dual||4GB||$1,699|
|13” MB Pro (Glossy)||1280x800||2.7Ghz Dual||8GB||$1,584|
|15” MB Pro (Glossy)||1440x900||2.0Ghz Quad||8GB||$1,849|
|15” MB Pro (Matte)||1680x1050||2.0 Ghz Quad||8GB||$1,999|
|17” MB Pro (Glossy)||1920x1200||2.2GHz Quad||8GB||$2,549|
|17” MB Pro (Matte)||1920x1200||2.2GHz Quad||8GB||$2,599|
|Mac Mini||N/A||2.0Ghz Quad||8GB||$1,083|
|Mac Mini + Cinema||2560x1440||2.0Ghz Quad||8GB||$2,082|
|Mac Mini + 24”||1920x1080||2.0Ghz Quad||8GB||$1,263|
|21.5” iMac||1920x1080||2.8GHz Quad||8GB||$1,784|
|27” iMac||2560x1440||3.4GHz Quad||8GB||$2,284|
|Mac Pro||N/A||2.8Ghz Quad Xeon||8GB||$2,659|
|Mac Pro + Cinema||2560x1440||2.8Ghz Quad Xeon||8GB||$3,658|
|Mac Pro + 24”||1920x1080||2.8Ghz Quad Xeon||8GB||$2,839|
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.