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I am looking to get a Retina MacBook Pro and I am really torn between the portability of the 13" dual core i7 and the four cores of the 15" quad core i7. The majority of my work will be done using a virtual machine (VMWare Fusion). For this reason no matter which machine I choose I will be going with an SSD and 16 GB RAM. Also, I'm not really concerned with price as I really want to get the best performance. Portability vs. performance is my biggest concern. This laptop will serve as my dedicated workstation.

Though I would prefer the smaller form factor of the 13" Retina MBP I am concerned that the dual core i7 might not be fast enough to handle multiple virtual machines running at the same time. Within the virtual machines I will be running Windows 8, SQL Server, Visual Studio 2013, and IIS.

Does anyone know just how much difference the quad core would make as compared to the dual core as it pertains to running virtual machines? Also, dies the dedicated 2 GB graphics card available on the 15" come into play at all when dealing with virtual machines?

  • I am on the same boat as yours. I will be using Mac for my MEAN stack dev and VMWare for Windows 8 , VS 2013 and SQL Server. After 9 months how do you feel about your 13 inch Retina MBP ? I really don't want to go with 15 inch unless its absolutely required for Virtual Machines. I am thinking 13" i7 1TB SSD 16GB RAM. – user636525 Feb 11 '15 at 16:13
  • Also i have been coding on my 13.3 inch windows laptop for 5 years without any issues. – user636525 Feb 11 '15 at 16:14
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    The power of the 13" MacBook Pro has not been a problem at all. It was fast and the VMWare virtual machine running Windows 8.1 ran just fine. Inside the virtual machine I ran SQL Server 2012, IIS, and Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate all without slowdowns. However, I never realized just how much I would miss the larger screen when using the laptop without an external display. Maybe it is my older eyes but I found the 13" screen just too small. – webworm Feb 11 '15 at 16:23
  • Thank you for your fast response !I am planning to order one by end of this week and i was looking for different opinions.I hope 13.3 screen resolution for windows and mac are the same !I never had a problem coding in 13.3 so far on windows laptop. – user636525 Feb 11 '15 at 16:29
  • Glad to help. Just to reiterate, the 13" MBP had all the power I needed for virtual machines and development. The screen was beautiful, however, in the end I think my older eyes needed the large 15" screen. – webworm Feb 11 '15 at 16:31
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I would say that will depend on your work. If performance is of the essence, go with the 15" model. You're also going to appreciate the extra screen estate when having documentation and your code side by side.

Graphics however, play little role when it comes to virtualization especially when you don't run any graphics-intensive apps.

  • Thanks for the reply. It appears clear to me that the quad core would offer superior performance. I guess what I need to answer now is just how well the dual core i7 or i5 will do with VMWare Fusion. 16 GB RAM is a mustn't my opinion. Just wondering how the dual core processors would handle the virtualization. – webworm Jul 27 '14 at 17:31
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    The dual core i7 can do virtualization just fine. In a development environment, your not going to get a lot of queries on both your IIS and SQL Server. You're looking at near instant performance there. What you should be concerned about is what takes time, for example, compiling and indexing symbol in Visual Studio. Is your project going to be so big that dual core would take too much time to compile? – Shane Hsu Jul 27 '14 at 17:37
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    Also, you're not specific about how many VMs there will be, obviously the ideal situation will be 1 to 1, one virtual core to a physical core/thread. That would offer the best performance. I once ran 8 VMs at the same time, all doing intensive I/O on an external drive. The performance is quite limited by the amount of RAM, and the CPU seems fine. I'm using a 1st generation 15" Retina MacBook Pro but with 8 GB of memory. – Shane Hsu Jul 27 '14 at 17:40
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    Lastly, the quad-core CPU does offer more cores for you to scale, or for you to test your application on more than just a few cores, see if your app can be threaded well. You should also notice that by going with a model without discrete graphics, the integrated graphics will take some memory away, more than what a model with discrete will(it still will, but less as you will switch to discrete when running VM.) I've ran a bunch of VMs on my home/school server. I'm more bounded by RAM always. But for development work, I would consider the 15" to more suitable. – Shane Hsu Jul 27 '14 at 17:44
  • Thanks for sharing what your experience has been. For me the 13" MacBook Pro has an advantage in portability. For the way I work the 15" screen size is more f a hindrance as I can use external monitors when I need more screen size. I would also just be using one VM at a time (Windows 8). Basically I want to use Mac OS for browsing, email and the rest while just using the Windows 8 VM for Visual Studio 2013 and SQL Server 2014. It sounds to me, from your experiences, that a dual core i5/i7 would run that configuration just fine with an SSD and 16 GB RAM. – webworm Jul 27 '14 at 18:04

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