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Mac suitable and best value for joint Windows & iOS dev PC?

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I have a 4yo desktop with one of the original Intel Core 2 Quad CPUs, which is getting a little elderly. I primarily work in Windows but have a 2007 MacBook; I recently started supporting iOS so I need a Mac but this too is getting rather sluggish.

 

I'm not bothered by super high-spec PCs so would probably look to spend £500 on a new desktop (or $500 in the US, it's roughly comparable), and the cheapest Mac Mini since the cost of iMac is hard to justify for part-time use.

 

But I wonder, would getting a more powerful Mac and using it for both (using bootcamp, not virtualization) actually make more sense?  A top-spec Mac Mini is a big price-jump from the lower end ones - £400 more - but still cheaper than two machines since you don't get much of a desktop for £400. The only missing bit is the discrete graphics but modern integrated GPUs are so much better than they once were.

 

Anyone care to throw in any opinions or personal experiences that are relevant?

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You don't seem to be planning to stop iOS development. Dunno how complex your work is, but my old MBP actually flat out ran out of memory running a build one day. And a build that is swapping to disk is one of the least pleasant things on earth. Even with everything else closed I wasn't able to develop smoothly, due to XCode running clang in the background to drive its auto complete features. At that point there was simply no choice; I had to upgrade the Mac.

 

As far as the GPU quality, well it is what it is. If you're dual booting to Windows you'll have a mostly workable machine for mid range games but nothing special. It's acceptable for development if you're not planning on doing anything sophisticated. Note that by "sophisticated" I do not necessarily mean high end, merely cutting edge.

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Another possible option is a Windows PC capable of running OSX virtually.  I do this myself, and it runs fine, but I spent $4,000 just on parts for my PC, so I'm not sure what the performance would be like if you were to only spend about $500.

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You don't seem to be planning to stop iOS development.

To clarify, you're right. And I want/need the option to develop for OSX too since my codebase is cross-platform.
 

As far as the GPU quality, well it is what it is. If you're dual booting to Windows you'll have a mostly workable machine for mid range games but nothing special. It's acceptable for development if you're not planning on doing anything sophisticated. Note that by "sophisticated" I do not necessarily mean high end, merely cutting edge.

I agree. The latest onboard graphics chipsets really are nothing like what we are used to think of as "onboard graphics" like the old GMA - although even that range could do SM3 which shows how far we've come! I'm not a game player but the HD - and now Iris - chipsets are essentially proper GPUs on the CPU these days, right? They're still going to outpace a dedicated low/mid-end GPU froma few years ago?
 
 

I boot OSX86 for my Mac dev.  Works ok for me, I don't need anything else but to recompile my Linux/Windows stuff. Have a look here:
http://www.gamedev.net/topic/657645-another-building-a-pc-thread/page-2

I've always bee nervous about running OSX on a non-Mac machine since iOS dev requires all kinds of certificates... what if one day it jut stops working becaue they close a loophole? Is it allowable by the license?

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When buying a Mac don't get the top spec.   It is much cheaper (several hundred pounds cheaper) to upgrade the ram and hard drive yourself.   Get either a base model iMac or a non retina macbook pro (cheapest one).   You can then buy all the Ram you need from Crucial.  I even managed to upgrade my RAM and sell the RAM that I took out of my MBP for a proffit.  So I ended up earning £10 by installing my own RAM instead of the £330 that it would have cost me to configure it from Apple.

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what if one day it jut stops working becaue they close a loophole? Is it allowable by the license?

 

As far as I know the OSX EULA might not be valid in Germany but sorry not idea about ios. I've managed to download x-code but forgot how I did that without being a registered dev. So

I could dev for IOS but have no interest in such. I think for uploading stuff to the store you need even to pay Apple...sad.png

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what if one day it jut stops working becaue they close a loophole? Is it allowable by the license?

 

As far as I know the OSX EULA might not be valid in Germany but sorry not idea about ios. I've managed to download x-code but forgot how I did that without being a registered dev. So

I could dev for IOS but have no interest in such. I think for uploading stuff to the store you need even to pay Apple...sad.png

 

Well I'm a paid up member of the developer program - only $100 a year and I have no problem with that. But I don't know if connecting to iTunes somehow used special security info baked into Mac hardware... or if a Mac is 100% just a regular PC of very specific spec and Apple can't even tell I'm running a Hackintosh.

 

All in all it's probably not worth the hassle of turning my main dev PC into a Hackintosh though, when I rely on it?

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You need Application Loader to upload to iTunes which as far as I know is Mac only still.  Given the requirements that Apple randomly changes I wouldn't chance a hackintosh as machine for real iOS development.

 

Parallels has come a long way.  My work Macbook has Win7 running through Bootcamp on Parallels so I can use Visual Studio 2013 for Unity dev.  I really don't notice much of any performance drop in Windows from it being virtualized.  The only time it sucks is when Windows seems to be running a update in the background.  It will drag the entire system down to a halt.  Being able to use TortoiseSVN instead of the horrible, horrible Mac options is a bonus too.

 

At home, I just have a Mac mini and a Windows desktop.  Since I always use version control and KVM switch I just swap back as needed.

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Well I'm a paid up member of the developer program - only $100 a year and I have no problem with that. But I don't know if connecting to iTunes somehow used special security info baked into Mac hardware... or if a Mac is 100% just a regular PC of very specific spec and Apple can't even tell I'm running a Hackintosh.



All in all it's probably not worth the hassle of turning my main dev PC into a Hackintosh though, when I rely on it?

 

There is no special hardware security.  It is just a regular PC.  However I have used several hackintosh machines and whilst they are ok for just playing around they are pretty useless if you actually want to do any real development.  New update to OSX which may be needed to upgrade xcode and they stop working.

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The lowest spec mac-book is a big step up from the highest spec mac-mini. I have heard a lot of bad things about mac minis being awfully slow and dying early etc.

At my school we have 13" mac books with windows on them and they work fine.

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The lowest spec mac-book is a big step up from the highest spec mac-mini.

 

No it isn't not by a very long margin.  The highest spec mac mini has 16 GB of RAM the base macbook has 4,  the mini has a 1 TB fusion drive whilst the macbook has a 500GB SATA, the mini has a 2.6Ghz i7 whilst the macbook has a 2.5Ghz i5.

 

Of course this is comparing the base macbook pro with the top spec mini.  If you compare the base models of both then they have the same processor, same drive and same ram.  The only thing is the mini costs £499 whilst the base mackbook pro is £999.  Of course you could get the mackbook Air which starts at £799 but then this is less powerful than either the mini or the macbook pro.

 

Ive not heard of minis dying early either which is why apple no longer sells the Xserver anymore and instead sells the mini as a server.

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The MacBook range also presumably run the special mobile versions - an i5 in your laptop and an i5 in your desktop are different chips.

 

MacBooks are frighteningly expensive, and I think Minis are still (reasonably) easy to upgrade which means you can buy the least RAM possible for the chosen model and then buy some more elsewhere. I think the same with disks, but the Fusion drive is apparently pretty great?

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Parallels has come a long way
Parallels is frankly amazing these days. I can run a 3D (Ogre) project at the same FPS in parallels as the Mac version runs natively. My old MacBook is a bit slow but will still run W8 through Parallels 8. Conceivably on a more modern machine I really could virtualise Windows the whole time and not even notice... I know some people always work on a VM Windows-on-Windows after all. It feels wrong but if it works...

 

The advantage of a Mini over an iMac or desktop is that it's feasible to take it with you when you travel, as long as there is a monitor where you're going. Not quite as good as a laptop but close if you visit family for a week and want to work.

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I say get a Mac and bootcamp Windows. If you build your own Hackintosh and install OS X there, it would violate Apple's EULA.

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Macs are slower for more money. Only think about how outdated their graphics drivers are. wacko.png

 

I use Hands Off when I boot, maybe once a year, to recompile my stuff.

 

I'm surprised that there's no project to replace Apple's Gui on OSX with some fork of one of the many Linux desktops.

That would bring OSX back to where Apple stole it, to OpenSource.

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The upper range Minis are nice to work with. Not sure if the latest models let you upgrade the ram yourself, so you would probably want to double check that before taking the plunge.

 

Might be worth refurbishing your current desktop system to use as a data/media server to go along with the mini's lack of expansion flexibility.

 

In a few years if you choose to upgrade to a beefier windows tower box, then you can keep the mini running and easily stash it somewhere. I've been using Synergy to merge systems into a 'single' computer interface, and enjoying the work flow for testing so far.  

 

And I'm not a huge fan of the iMacs myself, simply because I don't like having a monitor as part of the system when it really doesn't need to be. If something goes wrong, then you have to ship the whole thing back. Backlight issue? Whole thing goes back, so you can't even use it with an older monitor. Mother board issue? You can't use your nice fancy large display with an older system while you wait for the computer to get back from servicing... 

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And I'm not a huge fan of the iMacs myself, simply because I don't like having a monitor as part of the system when it really doesn't need to be
Fair point. The only real reason for an iMac seems to be the gorgeous screen, but you can buy a gorgeous screen elsewhere - or if you really want to you can buy an iMac screen for your MacMini - at least I assume it's the same hi-res panel.

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The upper range Minis are nice to work with. Not sure if the latest models let you upgrade the ram yourself, so you would probably want to double check that before taking the plunge
Pretty sure they are, but it seems like the latest MacMini is still the "late 2012" model, surely we're due an upgrade?

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Not sure if you still want advice, but I'll give you my two cents as a fellow Mac owner.

 

I own two Macs, a Macbook Pro (2008) and a Mac Pro (2006).  They're a little dated, but I bought them used.  The Macbook Pro uses a GeForce 9600 GT, and I basically use it for mid-range stuff, nothing too serious.  Eventually, I needed something that had as much horsepower as a gaming PC.  So I looked on craigslist and found a guy selling a problematic MacPro 1,1 for $200.  All it really needed was a new HDD as well as a new video card because it was dying.  Bought a new HDD for $10, and bought an OEM version of a GeForce GTX 760 for $175.  Follow up with a workaround to install OSX Mavericks, and viola, an inexpensive Mac running 10.9.3 w/ OpenGL 4.1 support.

 

Even thought the MacPro 1,1 is 8 years old, it's actually much more upgradable than some people claim it is.  With the later versions os OSX, you can install a PC video card which works like normal (in most cases; and minus the boot screen), but it has to be an NVIDIA GeForce 8xxx or better card.  AMD cards don't work out of the box last I checked.  If you need a decent amount of RAM, even the MacPro 1,1 supports up to 32gb of RAM at a minimum (later models will support more).  If you need more CPU power, you can upgrade the CPU from 2 Xeon dual cores to 2 Xeon quad cores (up to 3.0Ghz).  There's also some relatively cheap Airport (wifi) and Blutooth upgrades that attach directly to the mobo, keeping your PCI-e slots free.  I spend a total of $405 so far, I just didn't upgrade the ram and CPU yet.

 

If you can afford a 2010 model, you can go for that.  Just be sure you know what you're doing if you're going to be a cheapskate like me.

 

Shogun.

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My current thoughts are to get the cheapest MacMini i7-quad core (4Gb, 1Tb 5400rpm drive) and then upgrade the RAM to 16Gb and add a 256Gb SSD (or replace the internal drive with a larger SSD or hybrid). These are well documented upgrades and likely to be far cheaper than upgrading the base spec.

 

For a PC it still ends up expensive for the spec - about £850 - but compared to buying a new PC and a new Mac it's rather cheap!

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