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Best Mac for app development

Mark Hattersley | May 31, 2013
With Mac OS X and iOS going from strength to strength, many are interested in developing their own apps. Apple Mac OS X computers are especially useful for programming, and many developers want to invest in Mac hardware.

What is useful for software development, however, is screen estate. Coding is a complex task that sometimes requires intense focus, but more often it requires research and tracking. Coders often need to have several programs and windows open at once. The Xcode developer environment, web browser, and perhaps a sperate text editor, SQL Database editor, and much more. Development seems to be one of those tasks that requires everything Mac OS X has to offer.

So you need a Mac with a big screen, or you need to attach a big screen to your Mac. With this in mind we're going to rule out all of Apple's MacBook range. If you value a notebook and portability is important to you, then a 15-inch MacBook Pro Non Retina Display will do you just fine, but we'd advise you to head for a desktop. The Mac Pro is overkill so the choice is between an iMac or Mac mini with separate display.

Mac mini: Best for app development on a budget
At £499 the Mac mini is the best value Mac, and it offers more than enough power and storage for app development. What it doesn't come with is a display, so you'll need to source one seperately.

Normally the idea with the Mac mini is that you attach an old display, keyboard and mouse and it represents top-flight Apple computing at a fraction of the cost. However, for app development we suggest that you get a large display, so you might want to consider Apple's 27-inch Thunderbolt Display. Then again, at £899 you might want to shop around.

A good alternative would be this Philips 298P4 29inch widescreen display. At around £415 it's half the price of the Apple Thunderbolt display, and has a widescreen footprint. It's mostly designed for gaming and video, but we think it'd be good for racking up multiple windows alongside each other.

But the best bargain choice is this AOC I2757FH 27-inch monitor. At £220 it offers the same real-estate as the Apple monitor, and is also an IPS display (so it has quality colour) but it is a quarter of the price. It's an absolute bargain.

Some developers suggest that two smaller displays offers a better environment than one large one. So consider picking up two 24-inch monitors like this ViewSonic VX2336 (£129).

iMac: Best large-screen app development environment
Of course, if you're looking for a powerful Mac with a big display then Apple has you covered in the form of the iMac. You'll be wanting the model with a 27inch display, which starts at £1,499. It's not as cheap as the Mac mini but you do get a lot of extra for your money. The 27-inch iMac ith a 2.9Ghz Intel i5 processor, 1TB hard drive, discreet NVIDIA graphics card, and of course that massive 27-inch IPS display.

 

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