MacBook Pro 13″ Retina (Late 2014) For Front End Development

Last updated: September 16, 2014

I’ve officially gone to the dark side and bought a MacBook Pro 13″ Retina Display model (the late 2014 variant). I will be travelling a bit in the next year or so and I needed a laptop that is easy to carry around, use on a flight and has the power for development.

This is my first Mac, I primarily use PC’s and Windows because I love to game occasionally and well, it’s what I grew up using.

Why didn’t you choose the MacBook Air?

I almost bought the MacBook Air 13″ model with all of the bells and whistles which works out to be the same price as the MacBook Pro that I bought, but there are several reasons for choosing the Pro over the Air.

Even though the MacBook Air is more than enough for front-end development, at the same time it isn’t. I know developers who have used the Air for development and it served their needs well, but some situations require more processing power when multitasking.

I will be using it to work with potentially large Photoshop PSD files, running a terminal with Gulp/Grunt, web browser and listen to music on Spotify. While a MacBook Air could do all of that, I like things to be fast and this would put strain on the meagre processor it comes with which from what I’ve read isn’t built for multitasking many things at once.

My needs

  • Running Terminal applications; Grunt, Bower, Gulp, Yeoman, Node.js
  • Working with Photoshop files and Illustrator files
  • Smooth video and audio playback (Spotify and sometimes I use Youtube for music)
  • Ability to record demo music (I am an aspiring musician) and work with MIDI keyboards (Garageband appealed to me)
  • Basic video editing (not editing full-length cinema films)
  • Long battery life
  • Ability to easily be used on an airplane tray table
  • Occasional basic gaming (I mainly play DOTA 2 these days)

Why Not A Windows Laptop?

It is true you can pay the same amount I paid $1800 AUD and get an Intel Core i7 monster with 32gb of ram 512gb SSD and other crazy specifications, but as a front end developer I need the terminal a lot for running Node.js apps and working with Node modules.

There are a few caveats (although nothing stopping you) to using command line tools in Windows, especially when it comes to the nasty issue of nested dependencies in Node.js

Path issues in Windows

In Windows, when it comes to Node modules and deep dependencies, you can actually find yourself running into issues with not being able to delete or traverse Node.js module folders due to the sometimes deep structure going beyond 260 characters. Because modules use nested dependencies it causes massive headaches. See this Github issue here and all of the comments.

Terminal alternatives suck

You can either use Git Bash or CYGWIN, but as those who have used these before know: they fucking suck. Seriously, they are hacky alternatives to a true and proper terminal. Mac wins here being a Unix based operating system, development tasks are easier out of the box.

With this in mind the MacBook Pro 13″ with Retina Display seemed to be the best choice. Remember, if you’re needs are for travelling and you are a front end developer yourself, you won’t be just using this for development. Occasionally you will want to use it to watch a movie, play a game, listen to music and Skype relatives.

The only downside is the weight of it is definitely noticeably heavier than the Air, but it’s not that much heavier at the same time.

I have found that claims of the Retina Display making text look nicer to be quite true. Coding on a Retina Display is amazing, everything looks really clear and doesn’t fatigue the eyes as much as lower pixel density screens do (I alternate between my PC currently still).

If you are deciding what to buy, weigh up your needs. For me it made sense to have the extra power for when I need it and room to grow with it. Also keep in mind the latest MacBook Pro laptops are not upgradeable, so choose wisely as apparently the ram and drives are basically soldered to the board and locked to the system. There are OEM kits available, but you will void your warranty and they come with no guarantee.

If you choose the Air, you might end up regretting it later on considering the Pro isn’t really that much extra in terms of price difference, in a lot of instances it probably makes sense to go a little bit bigger.




One thought on “MacBook Pro 13″ Retina (Late 2014) For Front End Development

  1. Hi there,
    I got the same issue as you do. I’m just wondering now do i need retina version ? And soldered hardware interfere my decision a lot. Don’t know what to do now within 8hs i’ll by one.

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