I’m ready to upgrade my hardware but in a dilemma over what to buy, since I’m not completely sure what I need. I have a feeling that I’m going to throw money at a setup which will end up being serious overkill. I’m a web/graphic designer and web developer with a view to possibly get into iOS development in the future.

Typically, I have open the following apps simultaneously:

  • Safari (10-20 tabs)
  • Chrome (5-10 tabs)
  • Mail
  • OmniFocus
  • Evernote
  • Coda 2
  • Fireworks and/or Photoshop CS6
  • MAMP Pro
  • Sequel Pro
  • Xcode (possibly and without Chrome/Coda/FW/PS/MAMP)

And these are my current choices (13” for portability purposes, since it will be used at least for commuting):

  • First:

    • iMac Retina, 4GHz Quad-core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    • 13" MacBook Pro Retina, 2.7GHz Dual-core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD
    • ~£3600
  • Second:

    • iMac Retina, 3.5GHz Quad-core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    • 13" MacBook Pro Retina, 2.7GHz Dual-core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD
    • ~£3350
  • Third:

    • 13" MacBook Pro Retina, 3.1GHz Dual-core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    • 27" Thunderbolt Display
    • ~£2630

The biggest factors for me are the relevance of the processor in my situation (quad- vs dual-core), and the actual benefit felt from the 5K display.

I’m not particularly concerned about the cost but I definitely wouldn’t say it is not a factor - hence the £1000 difference between the former and latter setups really tempts me! So, my ideal option is the third one, although I'm not this setup would be sufficient for my needs.

Many thanks in advance for any replies to this exhaustive question!

  • I would avoid getting a MacBook for heavy use. I bought my mac book and I faced major overheating problems. My logic board has been damaged from heat. I had to buy an external fan and do some other crazy things. So that would eliminate #3. Between the first and second I would feel that 3.5GHz is probably fine but if cost isn't an issue, you could always go bigger. – Downgoat May 8 '15 at 14:15
  • @vihan: On the contrary, I've been heavily using a mid-2012 15" model without issue, including using Parallels to run the handful of Windows applications that my work requires. My strategy has been to obtain the highest-end hardware available, so that the system is more than capable of managing the workload without overheating. At the time of my purchase, I had been evaluating other laptop manufacturers, and the macbook products were quite superior at managing heat, in particular keeping it away from your fingers on the keyboard. – Vzzdak May 8 '15 at 14:24
  • @Vzzdak okay.i used to primarily use my laptop as a render machine and basically use the h*ll out of it. I did max it out but heat is always something to keep in mind with any notebook – Downgoat May 8 '15 at 14:26

I believe that your third option will be easiest to work with, since you have the mobility that you desire (i.e., 13" model), which can be connected to the 27" display when in the office. In particular, the system should be responsive when hooked to the external display, even with all the windows and applications that are running simultaneously.

One thing I'd suggest is to get 13" model that can be upgraded to 1TB storage. You'll be getting years of usage out of the macbook, and you don't want to be starved for storage when undertaking new types of projects in the future, such as the iOS development that you mention (not to say there is huge overhead with iOS, just that you want to be prepared for something that wasn't anticipated).

  • Ive had similar setup for 9 years now but with 24" monitor. love the flexibility. Strongly recommend getting AppleCare to cover overheating of HD and warping of battery. Also consider a monitor that rotates to vertical orientation to see more lines of code/emails/etc – Danger14 May 8 '15 at 16:05
  • I hear what you're saying about overheating but I've never had any major problems thus far. I'll take out AppleCare to cover. Think I'm swaying towards the third option then... Would the number of cores have little impact in my situation? – Ross May 8 '15 at 17:04
  • Having more cores allows processing to be distributed across the cores, such that the cores can be designed to operate at a slower speed than would be required to do the same processing by a single core. In other words, having more cores potentially lowers the heat dissipation. For more depth of information, you should reference articles that explain the differences between two core and four core processing. The Intel web site can provide you with technical info as well to help you understand. – Vzzdak May 8 '15 at 18:37

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