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I've been working on a 15" machine for years, but recently I was tempted by the 13" MacBook Pro. Because I'm often on the road, I was looking mostly for a lightweight machine, considering I've external screens almost in every place where I work.

Is there anybody who's working on a 13" MacBook Pro that would give me a tip? Is it your best friend or you're gonna throw it out the window?

Outside my world made of code and IDEs, I really don't care about apple rumors: should I wait because a new version of the MacBook Pro is gonna be released?

Your help is appreciated, thanks.

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I used a mac the other day, forget coding I couldn't even use it.. even linux was easier. –  Daniel Little Nov 2 '10 at 23:10
    
Buy enough RAM, too. Apple tends to skimp, and 3rd party places are much cheaper. –  Alex Feinman Nov 3 '10 at 0:10
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7 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've been working on a 13" MacBook Pro, in one form or another, for a year and a half. I love it -- best laptop I've ever owned. I have one with a 500GB hard drive and 8GB of RAM. It's a dream. Screen's a bit small, but I don't mind, and I'm used to it; you can always use an external monitor if you want, though.

MacRumors.com expects a new MBP to be released soon.

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+1. You said it all. –  kirk.burleson Nov 13 '10 at 1:00
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I'd never leave my two screen set up, in fact I pine for a third. If you are going to get one, make sure you get a damn big second screen.

Although, I personally like my screens to be balanced, two 13"ers would be about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

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I've been using a 13" Aluminum MacBook for almost 2 years now. I'm a web developer and I've been using it as my primary computer since I purchased it in 2008. The best thing about having such a portable notebook is that I've always got my "environment" with me. Whether it be my development environment or my "recreational" environment. I use VirtualBox on it to virtualize my environments if OS X isn't quite right. In addition, one thing Apple does right is multiple monitor support.

Prior to purchasing the MacBook I was using Ubuntu in a dual monitor (dual head) setup. I updated the Kernel and it killed my dual head capable driver, and my audio. I was in the middle of a project which I was billing time on and needed to be up and running fast. I went to the Apple store immediately and bought the MacBook and haven't regretted it once.

One complaint about the 13" is that the pixel density is so high that sitting more than 2 feet from the screen will cause it to become difficult to read. So get a gigantic "primary" monitor which you can plug into it when you're not mobile. Those Apple LED displays are nice - but certainly not necessary.

My home setup consists of a 19" monitor with a lower pixel density making it ideal for "leaning back" in my chair while programming. I'll be getting a bigger one eventually. I also employ a USB hub with a wired Apple keyboard and a Microsoft laser mouse connected. That way I plug in three cables and I'm working. I've considered getting an additional power supply to leave plugged in at my desk so I don't have to wrap and unwrap my cables as much; but I'd rather put the ~$90 into a bigger monitor.

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I am using it.. It rocks with external screen. :-) In case u dont have external screen its good, but not everytime.

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+1. "Works great, my 1920x1200 external hooks right up to it." –  Alex Feinman Nov 3 '10 at 0:09
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I use a 13" MacBook Pro with a relatively small SSD and a boatload of RAM for my day to day development work, and I love it. I've got a Windows virtual machine for stuff like Remote Desktop or WinMerge, and I've got most of my home folder (including my working directories) mirrored between the host and guest OSs so I can quickly switch back and forth between the two environments. It works great. I keep both OSs pretty lean, so the whole thing runs VERY fast.

As far as screen space goes, I guess it really depends on what tools you use. I spend 90% of my time in gvim (or MacVim), which scales very well to both tiny and huge screens, so while I like having more space available, I don't feel cramped on a single 13" either. When I don't have an external, I pretty much run all my apps maximized and just command-tab between them. If you're using Visual Studio 2010 with all the toolboxes and junk, that might be a problem.

As someone who DOES keep up with all the Apple rumors, I see no reason why one should hold off on buying a 13" MacBook Pro. I'm not aware of anything interesting coming down pipe. Sure, spec bumps will be here sooner or later, but the 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo is already lightning fast for development work.

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There is no substition for an external screen, but the experience is quite acceptable.

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Just to add my two penn'orth. Had my 13" MBP since 2009. I run Visual Studio, SQL Server 2008 under Windows 7 under Parallels. I cannot fault it.

I've maxed out the RAM to 8GB and will buy an SSD for it once the price of 120GB drops to under £100. Just get it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Caveat emptor: apparently a Macbook Air-esque Macbook Pro (thin, light, SSD as standard) is, according to Apple afficionados, to be released imminently. This should have a higher res screen. I've no issues with working at 1280x800, esp. with the new desktop management functionality available under OS X Lion (10.7) but agree that a big external screen just makes it perfect for home-based coding.

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