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OFF-TOPIC MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13 Laptop for programming?

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LitaVK

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Hey guys,

I'm currently looking to get a new laptop as the old one I have is pretty old and slowing down. Since I'm beginning to learn how to code and program, I'm basing the new laptop's features on what I would need for programming.

I've narrowed it down to the Dell XPS 13 and the MacBook Air as these fit my budget and seem to be highly recommended as both good laptops for beginners and professional programmers.

I'm leaning towards the XPS because I found one with 16GB Ram, 4 cores and 516 SSD storage at a decent price plus I'm not a huge fan of the MacOS and limited number of ports. However, I'm aware that with a pc you can't develop iOS/Mac apps and there's apparently better tools for Macs.

Then again, maybe I'm just overthinking it and really any laptop with the basic specs will be fine considering I'm just starting out with programming.

I'm hoping some of you experienced programmers out there could share your opinions and offer some advice - would be very much appreciated! Thanks in advance :D
 

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PizzaOnTheRoof

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Depends on what platforms you want to develop for. Though I don’t think you can go wrong with either.

Remember you can dual boot a Mac with MacOS and windows.

@GrayCode @lowtek
 
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Depends on what platforms you want to develop for.
Thanks for the feedback!

Well I have a SaaS product idea which is one reason why I want to learn programming, and therefore I would want to be able to offer the service to both pc and mac users. Is there a way to build code on a pc and then adjust it later to work for macOS without rewriting it entirely?
 

Kak

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As someone typing this from a Macbook Air that I picked up about 3 months ago... I freaking love it, but I would get the XPS if it was going to be my only computer. I have a desktop that I built myself as well. It has an 8 core processor, 32GB of ram, 3.5TB of storage and a graphics card that pushes 4k@60Hz for my 50 inch TV "monitor."

It isn't the operating system that is the problem. The hardware and power specs are just a lot lower on the Air than on the XPS. If you want a Mac as your only computer, I would take a look at the Macbook Pro.

The majority of my computer work is simple communications though... I know nothing about programming. So the low powered Air suits my needs just fine. I wouldn't try to record and edit a radio show on the Air though.
 

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I use a Dell XPS 15 9560.

Beyond hardware, one of the primary concerns you should have is library compatibility for each OS.

Because of its unix origins, macOS has homebrew, and access to a number of centralized repositories for such things as OpenSSL, libxml etc. Windows has none of this. Although the likes of chocolatey and msys2 provide some respite.

This means developing on Windows can be difficult, particularly if you're doing things not directly covered by Microsoft (Visual Studio etc). I prefer Windows, but you may need to take time to set up your development environment.

-

If you detail what languages/frameworks you're hoping to be coding in, I'd be able to provide a more informed response. For now, I'd recommend Windows on a new XPS. Dell have done a terrific job.

-

I'm aware that with a pc you can't develop iOS/Mac
You can actually develop them (with Xamarin), but can't compile/deploy them unless using XCode which only runs on mac.
 
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LitaVK

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If you want a Mac as your only computer, I would take a look at the Macbook Pro.
Thanks for this recommendation!
 
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Donkky12

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I would also like to add that you should check the requirements for the programming language you want to use. Like minimum specs etc. I am using a Macbook Pro with 250 GB of storage. Using Bootcamp to install windows on a Mac is now easier that Apple's official site has instructions. The only issue is - it takes up like lots of space (60-70GB if i remember correctly). Hence, if you still want to go for Macbook Pro - preferably get one with a higher storage (than mine).

Also if your programming language requires really strong graphics requirement as part of your process, Macbook isn't the best for running high GPU softwares (I can't play high quality graphic games on a Macbook pro with an Intel graphics card, it would just lag or not load properly even with the "retina display").

In summary, check the specs between the platforms you're considering and compare it with the requirement of what you intend to do (the programs you'll be using etc.) and avoid finding yourself not able to run a certain program smoothly post-purchase :)
 
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I prefer Windows, but you may need to take time to set up your development environment.
Beyond getting the fundamentals down, I think I'll be working with JavaScript, Java, PHP, C#, and C++.

I have read a bit about that, about how setting up the developing environment could be a hassle with Windows. Although I guess being able to know how to do it could in itself be good to know.
 
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In summary, check the specs between the platforms you're considering and compare it with the requirement of what you intend to do (the programs you'll be using etc.) and avoid finding yourself not able to run a certain program smoothly post-purchase :)
Really good point that I hadn't considered! I'll look into that - thanks :)
 

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I've been using Dells for over a decade. For business use, they have one super important advantage over competition: their Next Business Day on-site warranty. If you have any issues, you call Dell and if the issue requires a technician, they'll fix it at your home or office the next business day. They never failed me.
 

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I'm currently looking to get a new laptop as the old one I have is pretty old and slowing down. Since I'm beginning to learn how to code and program, I'm basing the new laptop's features on what I would need for programming.
If you can put an SSD in your old laptop and upgrade the ram I'd do just that. Putting an SSD in an old laptop is like adding 5-10 years to it. I had a beefy computer from 2008 I gave to my dad, upgraded the ram and put in an ssd and he still uses it in 2020.

If too complicated just listen to recommendations in this thread.
 

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Apple products have proven to be rock solid. I use my air for everything school, stores, video editing, and even gaming. 6+ years still running right now.
 

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As someone that has been coding since 1999 and is on my 7th SaaS, I picked up a ASUS PRO 5440

I think mine might be a slightly diff model than this : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DKVHS8M/?tag=tff-amazonparser-20 ( no affiliate link ), but I also looked at Mac as I have an older 17 inch MacBook Pro.

I also looked at the Dell XPS 13.

I settled on this ASUS PRO 5440 model. It is so small and light and handles everything I throw at it.

I did have some headphone port issues ( software related, not hardware related ) but a few updates fixed it.

If I didn't pick this, I would have went Dell XPS 13.

Take a look at the ASUS PRO models if you are an advanced user of Windows.
 

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This depends entirely on whether or not you prefer Windows over Mac.

In my circle, programming on a Windows machine is like heresy. Programming on a Windows machine sounds like my own personal version of hell.

But in other circles (i.e. .NET developers), Windows is the preferred development environment.

There's no wrong choice here.
 
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If you can put an SSD in your old laptop and upgrade the ram I'd do just that. Putting an SSD in an old laptop is like adding 5-10 years to it. I had a beefy computer from 2008 I gave to my dad, upgraded the ram and put in an ssd and he still uses it in 2020.

If too complicated just listen to recommendations in this thread.
Thanks for the tip!
 
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LitaVK

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As someone that has been coding since 1999 and is on my 7th SaaS, I picked up a ASUS PRO 5440

I think mine might be a slightly diff model than this : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DKVHS8M/?tag=tff-amazonparser-20 ( no affiliate link ), but I also looked at Mac as I have an older 17 inch MacBook Pro.

I also looked at the Dell XPS 13.

I settled on this ASUS PRO 5440 model. It is so small and light and handles everything I throw at it.

I did have some headphone port issues ( software related, not hardware related ) but a few updates fixed it.

If I didn't pick this, I would have went Dell XPS 13.

Take a look at the ASUS PRO models if you are an advanced user of Windows.
Interesting, I appreciate your input!

I think I likely will go with the XPS as it seems like the specs are a lot better.

I suppose I'll just have to deal with any issues relating to not having a mac when I run into them.
 

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If you are more comfortable with Windows, go with that.

There's some benefit to Mac (it uses Unix and often people doing tutorials will be using it or Linux so you can just type what they do in the command line). In Windows you MAY have to look up a command or two since what they type won't be exactly the same.

Even if you decide you want to write an app for iPhone you still can on a windows computer - you would just use a virtual machine (which if you are going into programming you will eventually learn about).
 
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This depends entirely on whether or not you prefer Windows over Mac.

In my circle, programming on a Windows machine is like heresy. Programming on a Windows machine sounds like my own personal version of hell.

But in other circles (i.e. .NET developers), Windows is the preferred development environment.

There's no wrong choice here.
I do prefer Windows over Mac, but what bothers me is that I can't easily program for all operating systems using a pc unlike with a Mac.

However, I think I will go with the XPS as at this point I'm not 100% sure where my programming skills will take me.

Thanks for your feedback!
 

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I do prefer Windows over Mac, but what bothers me is that I can't easily program for all operating systems using a pc unlike with a Mac.

However, I think I will go with the XPS as at this point I'm not 100% sure where my programming skills will take me.

Thanks for your feedback!
if you aren’t sure then the safer bet would be a Mac since Mac can run Linux, windows and OS X.

If you want to program and get a PC, I would suggest checking out Ubuntu Linux as a Windows alternative since most programming tutorials assume a Unix based OS like OS X or Linux.
 
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LitaVK

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If you are more comfortable with Windows, go with that.

There's some benefit to Mac (it uses Unix and often people doing tutorials will be using it or Linux so you can just type what they do in the command line). In Windows you MAY have to look up a command or two since what they type won't be exactly the same.

Even if you decide you want to write an app for iPhone you still can on a windows computer - you would just use a virtual machine (which if you are going into programming you will eventually learn about).
I'm actually already somewhat familiar with using a virtual machine :D

So within the VM I should be able to write code for users using MacOS? This is great news - thanks!
 

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I'm actually already somewhat familiar with using a virtual machine :D

So within the VM I should be able to write code for users using MacOS? This is great news - thanks!
AFAIK it’s not possible to virtualize OSX... at least not easily.

Last I looked into that was several years ago though, and times do change.
 
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LitaVK

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if you aren’t sure then the safer bet would be a Mac since Mac can run Linux, windows and OS X.

If you want to program and get a PC, I would suggest checking out Ubuntu Linux as a Windows alternative since most programming tutorials assume a Unix based OS like OS X or Linux.
So would you say that the advantage of being able to run Linux, windows, and OS X is greater than having better RAM, SSD presence & storage, and CPU performance?

My two options in my price range are:

Dell XPS 13: 16GB Ram, 516 SSD, 10th Generation Intel® Core i7, 4 processor cores
vs
MacBook Air: 8GB Ram, 256 SSD, 8th Generation Intel Core i5, 2 processor cores
 

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OK I can also recommend this. It is something @ChrisV recommended.

I own a "Shadow PC" as well. It is targeted at gamers, but it is a powerful PC that you can access from the weakest of laptops. Transform your device Into a Gaming PC!

I totally forgot about it, but it makes the Air totally viable as your only computer again. I seriously can't recommend the Shadow enough.
 

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So would you say that the advantage of being able to run Linux, windows, and OS X is greater than having better RAM, SSD presence & storage, and CPU performance?

My two options in my price range are:

Dell XPS 13: 16GB Ram, 516 SSD, 10th Generation Intel® Core i7, 4 processor cores
vs
MacBook Air: 8GB Ram, 256 SSD, 8th Generation Intel Core i5, 2 processor cores
it’s really a matter of preference at this point.

For beginner programming through to writing your first production app and beyond, the specs on a MacBook Air are fine.

You can get a used MacBook Pro for much cheaper and explore all options. I bought a 2015 with less than 75 power cycles on the battery for $500 on FB marketplace and use it to write production code for my business and collaborate with people on my team.
 
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it’s really a matter of preference at this point.

For beginner programming through to writing your first production app and beyond, the specs on a MacBook Air are fine.

You can get a used Mac for much cheaper and explore all options. I bought a 2015 with less than 75 power cycles on the battery for $500 on FB marketplace and use it to write production code for my business and collaborate with people on my team.

A lot of deals in that marketplace.
 

eliquid

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Interesting, I appreciate your input!

I think I likely will go with the XPS as it seems like the specs are a lot better.

I suppose I'll just have to deal with any issues relating to not having a mac when I run into them.
You mentioned you were wanting to do a SaaS and why you needed the laptop ( to program ).

SaaS is hosted online/centrally hosted.

You don't need a Mac or Windows to worry about languages to code in. You don't need to develop a SaaS for Mac users or Windows users. It will be online and hosted.

Just buy a Windows machine and install the language you want to code in on it and start at it.

Also, the ASUS PRO 5440 has the same specs as the Dell XPS 13 you are looking at. Mine has the same 16gb Ram, 512 SSD, and 4 core i7 you are looking at in the Dell XPS 13.

There shouldn't be a worry over a Mac or Windows machine, the code you will develop will get FTP'd up to an online server anyways. You won't need to design for one or the other with a SaaS.
 

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I have an XPS15 and it’s pretty powerful. I got it 2 years ago for $1500 and it’s lasted me since then. An apple product will likely last longer but I love how nice this thing is. 4k sleek glass screen, powerful enough to edit 4k video on premiere pro, plenty of ram, etc. I can not say anything about a MacBook but I would get one if money was no object. If you want to stick to a budget you get more bang for your buck with the XPS.
 

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OK I can also recommend this. It is something @ChrisV recommended.

I own a "Shadow PC" as well. It is targeted at gamers, but it is a powerful PC that you can access from the weakest of laptops. Transform your device Into a Gaming PC!

I totally forgot about it, but it makes the Air totally viable as your only computer again. I seriously can't recommend the Shadow enough.
Cosign. Shadow is amazing. It's just one of those essential things like an iPhone or [insert your favorite thing here.]

You can seamlessly run MacOS and Windows in separate windows.


Why choose when you can have both for pretty much the same price?

However, I'm aware that with a pc you can't develop iOS/Mac apps and there's apparently better tools for Macs.
Even more reason to go with the Mac/Shadow combo. IMO Windows is terrible for coding.
 

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I'm hoping some of you experienced programmers out there could share your opinions and offer some advice - would be very much appreciated! Thanks in advance
I do some programming. I mean I'm mainly a statistician, but our main tools are programming languages. What language are you planning on coding in?

Thanks for the feedback!

Well I have a SaaS product idea which is one reason why I want to learn programming, and therefore I would want to be able to offer the service to both pc and mac users. Is there a way to build code on a pc and then adjust it later to work for macOS without rewriting it entirely?
Lol not really. I mean it depends on the language but if you're going to be coding Swift or something I wouldn't bank on it.
 

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if you aren’t sure then the safer bet would be a Mac since Mac can run Linux, windows and OS X.

If you want to program and get a PC, I would suggest checking out Ubuntu Linux as a Windows alternative since most programming tutorials assume a Unix based OS like OS X or Linux.
@eliquid and this guy know what they are talking about. I would just go with a Mac, as long as you are hygienic about it (spill crumbs or water) it'll last a solid decade. It's the most versatile for development and if you ever decide to go iOS you're in the native environment :)
 

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