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One piece of software that will never run on an M1-based Mac is the X86 version of Windows. This may be an issue to those developers who want to be able to run various operating systems on their Mac. One of the key benefits to developing on a Mac has always been that you can run all the major operating systems on a Mac — Windows, Linux, etc — so you could use your Mac to program for any OS.
Want to make a version of your app for Android too? No problem. If you can get hold of that you can use Parallels Desktop 16 to run it on your Mac. But there are hoops to jump through if you want to run Windows on an M1 Mac that may put you off the move to M1 or beyond. So, if you need to test for any other platform, using these Macs could prove a problem.
Nor is it possible to run older versions of macOS on M1 Macs. On a Mac with an Intel processor it is possible to run more than one Mac operating system on your Mac by installing the alternatives in a separate volume. If you need to run an older version of macOS the M1 Mac will not suit you.
It should be noted though that RAM in the M1 Macs is very different to RAM in the Intel-based Macs, so it may well be that 8GB or 16GB would be more than sufficient — although we would always recommend that you buy the most amount of RAM you can afford for the sake of future-proofing your Mac while considering that any money you save now you could spend on a new Mac a few years down the road that will be considerably better than anything Apple makes right now.
Another criticism is the fact that the M1 Macs the MacBook Air, 13in MacBook Pro only support one external display although there are workarounds, read: How to connect two or more external displays to M1 Macs. If you need more than one display in addition to your built-in display then you may be wise to choose the 14in or 16in MacBook Pro, both of which can support three external displays.
All those disadvantages aside, the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max Macs do offer some excellent positives such as incredibly long battery life; cool, quiet operation; and benchmark beating specs. We have already established that you will need a Mac that can run Big Sur If you were to consider every Mac included above that would be a huge range of Mac laptops and desktops. Some are better suited to app development than others. You might find a Mac that looks like a bargain, but another Mac could offer much more for only a little extra money.
One of the most useful things for a coder is a big screen. As a developer you will probably have several programs and windows open at once: a web browser, a text editor, and the Xcode IDE Integrated Development Environment to name a few. You will benefit from a large screen or things will feel uncomfortably cramped even more so if you are using Unity3d for game development, for example. The 27in iMac has the biggest screen on any Mac and its Retina 5K display is one of the best quality 5K displays you can get.
But do developers really need a 27in iMac? Not really. If you want to use a big screen there is nothing to stop you plugging one or two external displays into any Mac. See our screen recommendations here. Note: If you buy a M1 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro you will officially only be able to plug on one other display, unless you follow our instructions here: How to connect two or more external displays to M1 Macs.
A separate screen is a good option if you are looking for a portable Mac. That way you have the benefit of being able to code wherever and whenever inspiration hits, and benefit from a bigger screen when you are at your desk. Based on the theory that you need as much screen as you can get you might want to consider a 16in MacBook Pro.
True Tone is another screen feature that only appears on certain Macs. True Tone adjusts the brightness and colour depending on the ambient lighting. This could be a benefit if you tend to program in the dark as it adjusts the colours to the lighting conditions and should help you avoid eye-strain.
Some Mac screens are dimmer than others too. The 14in and 16in MacBook Pro are able to go even brighter at up to 1, nits sustained full-screen brightness, 1, nits peak brightness — however, you should note that they will generally only go to nits, the extra brightness is only utilised by certain apps and for HDR content. Pro Motion offers refresh rates up to Hz. There are certainly applications that will benefit from this more than others.
Which ever MacBook you choose, we suggest you factor in the cost of a separate screen for when you are at your desk, because as a programmer you are going to benefit from as much screen space as you can get your eyes on. The M1 Macs, as we mentioned above do not support as many screens as their Intel predecessors did.
Speaking of factoring in the cost for a separate screen, the Mac mini lacks a screen altogether, but the model supports a 5K display, or two 4K displays, while the M1 Mac mini offers support for one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K. So that could be worthy of consideration. The next consideration is the specs of the Mac. When it comes to programming, memory is key. Xcode uses a lot of memory and if you use any other apps, such as Photoshop, your machine will soon be struggling if you have insufficient RAM.
This makes everything faster. With the exception of the 27in iMac, no Macs have user-upgradable memory. The RAM inside the Mac mini, Macs are famously hard to upgrade. In some cases it can be done, but doing so is almost never easy, and usually highly risky, and will void your warranty. Read about how to upgrade your RAM here if you are feeling confident. The processor inside the Mac is an important factor to consider if you are choosing between different generations of Macs.
The first thing to consider is the type of processor. This will involve a choice between Intel or Apple Silicon. For more information about the different generations of Intel processors and how they compare to the M1 series read: Which Mac processor. Nor is there any real difference between the performance cores and efficiency cores across the different chips, there are just more of them.
Each performance core runs at 3. Performance cores are for high performance activities, while the efficiency cores are kind of for the less processor intensive background work like syncing backups. Among the Intel Mac models you have the choice of Macs with core, 8-core, 6-core, quad-core, or even a dual core.
However, we would suggest that you are cautious about buying an Intel Mac now with the M1 series delivering so much power and promise for the future. Read Should I buy a second hand Mac? There are some questions over how important GPU cores are to developers. Unless you are planning to play games, or use apps that require powerful graphics then your GPUs are mainly going to be used to power your external displays.
My personal Mac email app of choice, and a solid alternative to more single-serving options like Airmail and Spark, Wavebox is a multi-purpose, Electron-powered web wrapper that lets you build dedicated tabs for more than 1, apps, from Gmail to Slack to Office This is for those Mac users who, like me, enjoy keeping an uncluttered browser window and prefer to segment different parts of their workflow into dedicated apps.
You can also customize the way apps within Wavebox run in the background, to keep a handle on memory usage and battery drain. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.
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Alfred 4 Image: Running with Crayons The latest version of the popular Alfred search and application launcher tool, Alfred 4, was released back in May, and it brought a dizzying number of major upgrades to the service. AppCleaner Image: FreeMacSoft Cleaning up your Mac is an integral part of desktop maintenance, and removing unwanted apps can go a long way in keeping your machine feeling snappy as it ages. Bear Image: Bear Notes Note-taking apps are often a matter of aesthetic preference.
LastPass Image: LastPass Most password managers these days live in the background, most prominently as browser extensions and more recently as mobile apps that finally support autofill on iOS and Android. Magnet Image: CrowdCafe For Windows 10 users, managing the desktop space is a built-in feature of the operating system. Todoist Image: Todoist Like email, calendar, and note-taking apps, personal task-tracking software is something a Mac comes with out of the box.
Wavebox Image: Wavebox My personal Mac email app of choice, and a solid alternative to more single-serving options like Airmail and Spark, Wavebox is a multi-purpose, Electron-powered web wrapper that lets you build dedicated tabs for more than 1, apps, from Gmail to Slack to Office The Verge Guide to macOS. Show More. Sign up for the newsletter Verge Deals Subscribe to get the best Verge-approved tech deals of the week. Just one more thing!
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