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My work involves having both Mac and Windows on a laptop. While I need Mac for Xcode, I do some ASP.NET stuff tightly coupled with the Windows ecosystem.

I wonder if a MacBook Air CPU with 16 GB RAM would be enough to handle VMware Fusion with a couple of Visual Studio instances and debugging ASP.NET sites with the database on local MS SQL server?

There is an option of getting 13" MacBook Pro for a performance boost but I am frustrated with the touchbar as it's harder to use it with my fingers muscle memory. I'd like to avoid it as much as possible.

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    Warning: I have a 2015 MBP i7 (4 core, 16 GB RAM) and when I run Windows in VMware Fusion, my fan kicks up to high-speed and the battery life is awful. Just an FYI. – Greg Schmit Dec 16 '18 at 1:55
  • That sounds like quite a lot for a dual core, even with 16GB of RAM. Even with 6 cores and HT that you can get on the 15", that could be quite a lot depending on your database. Is there any chance you could try making a sort of reference desktop with the minimum performance you're comfortable with, either by borrowing hardware or by spinning up an couple of different EC2/Compute Engine/Azure VM/Droplet instances? (cont.) – JMY1000 Dec 16 '18 at 6:14
  • Things like "a database" can be really hard to quantify performance-wise; though there are some recommendations, but you should probably try it out first. Additionally, hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com can be a good place to ask for additional advice. – JMY1000 Dec 16 '18 at 6:15
  • I run Visual Studio in Parallels on a 2014 MBP with a 2.8 GHz quad-core i7 and 16 GB of RAM, and it can handle it, but the fans usually spin all the way up and it doesn't last long on battery. The Air's processor is only a 1.6 GHz dual-core i5 – I'd be concerned that's too limiting if I were going to be using it for work every day. – daGUY Dec 20 '18 at 2:59
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In general, MacBook Air's can handle run anything constantly, that they can handle running for a short while. You cannot "overwork" the computer so to say - it won't suddenly break or stop working for that reason.

And yes, MacBook Air's in general can handle running VMware Fusion (if the model you have is supported by VMware Fusion). You decide yourself how much RAM you dedicate to the virtual machine, when setting it up - so 16 GB will make it possible to run multiple virtual machines.

If you want to have a clearer idea of the amount of RAM needed, you'll need to setup the system you want and check how much RAM it uses.

  • Thank you. I think I've taken the decision and will stick to Air for one year to see if it can fit all my use cases. – Ilya Sh Dec 15 '18 at 21:11
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I would recommend you go with the device that's light like a MacBook or Air and do your heavy lifting in Azure or on a cheap NUC / commodity hardware. Build and test the VM out on your portable, then move them off when they need extra RAM / CPU / threads or several people will test against them.

It's possible to run Windows on bare metal but that's a hassle to hard partition your storage and if you choose wrong, it's a pain to fix the partitions. Virtual is so much better whether it's ESXi on a home lab or Fusion on top of macOS.

Visual Studio runs incredibly well in a small Azure VM for pennies a day and you only pay for it when you start it up. Deallocate the machine when you're not using it and it's essentially free.

I do the above with a 2015 MacBook / 1.1 GHz mobile CPU / 8 GB RAM.

  • Negative wise - Fusion and Docker on the SSD perform just amazingly well for light work, but if you have 2 beefy VM that belong on 8 cores, you'll not be happy.
  • Positive wise - MacBook 2015 and up runs 4K display amazingly well, charge over USB C with a suitable display. I'd have thought I'd need more horsepower 18 months ago, but Azure and home lab setup let me run the SQL/ASP.NET/IIS loads off the Mac and I just make the scripts / see the pixels locally. As long as I'm connected to power, I have no issues running it at full CPU.
  • The new Air will thermally throttle less than my MacBook and the MacBook Pro will run substantially more CPU before thermally slowing (possibly three instances of Windows based on how much work you hammer them with). You won't harm it at 100% usage - just the Air and MacBook line don't dissipate heat and throttle the CPU sooner than the Pro or iMac. This Mac is a dream machine to me for how well it's been usable for hard core infrastructure and dev-ops tasks.

For the price of a beefy MacBook Pro I'll always go with an SSD iMac or Mac mini and the Air/MacBook (or even the iPad Pro now) - but that's my preference and I get why some people prefer to spend the $3k-$4k all on one machine. I want super fast and super small and to develop the install scripts then automate making them on virtual servers whether they're in the cloud / data center / or co-located in my office at home.

  • Thanks for help, I do have a windows desktop workstation at my job on the remote for extra power, but sometimes I need a local VM to try out some local things. I think Air would be enough for me. – Ilya Sh Dec 15 '18 at 21:09
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    I can't agree more with Azure for "heavy lifting." I too, prefer to have a very light machine I carry around with me and then connect into my "big iron" to get work done. – Allan Dec 20 '18 at 13:50

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