Ask LH: Is A MacBook Pro A Good Buy For A Developer?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m a software developer by profession and am looking at buying a new laptop. I’m contemplating shifting from Windows onto a 13-inch retina display MacBook Pro.

I plan to use the machine mainly for running high-performance software such as Oracle Fusion middleware, Oracle 11g, Microsoft SQL Server and Informatica (in local versions). I realise I can do this using virtual machines, but is that going to be a satisfactory experience? And how tricky will I find the transition to Mac?

Also, Apple is currently running a six months interest-free sales promotion. Is that worth signing up for? And if I buy a new machine now, is there a risk it will superseded before the end of the year? Thanks, Mac Mantra

Picture: Getty Images

Dear MM,

Before slapping down money on this new machine, I’d firstly suggest spending a little time working with a Mac and seeing if you’re comfortable with the Mac OS environment. Even if you’re intending to work within a VM for key development tasks, you’ll still spend much of your time within the Mac system therwise. For a purchase that’s going to cost at least $1400, it’s worth spending the time finding out if you enjoy the experience.

Apple stores are quite happy to let you play around with a system in the shop. We’ve offered detailed tips on how to migrate from Windows to Mac, and those are also worth checking out. Bottom line: the transition can be quite straightforward if you do the research, and if you’re motivated and excited about it.

That said, I have to admit that for the environment you describe, I’d be inclined myself to stick with a Windows box. While VM performance is perfectly decent on a Mac, if your main job involves using Windows-only software such as SQL Server (the most obvious source of issues in that list), then adding in an extra virtualisation layer seems like overkill, and something that might cause you a certain amount of avoidable hassle. That’s just my take though; I’d be interested to hear from people who have made similar transitions in the comment.

As for the financing question: interest-free finance is useful if you know you’ll pay off the deal before interest starts being charged. If that won’t happen, look elsewhere.

Having updated its MacBook Pro line back in October, it would seem unlikely that there will be a major refresh from Apple in the near future. That said, Apple doesn’t always stick to predictable annual cycles (it has broken that pattern with tablets, for instance).

Whatever platform you buy, you need to focus on the best available machine at the moment. If the machine is suitable to perform the tasks you need through its lifespan, that’s the justification for purchase.


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