General Discussion

Ivailo Ivanov
Ivailo Ivanov
3,401 Points

Suitable laptop for Front-End Web Development

Hello my fellow treehousers, I need your trusted advice on a dilemma I am experiencing. Alright the title already gives it away, I am looking to purchase a decent laptop for front-end web development soon. I am only a beginner as of yet but I know this is what I want to do and I will do what it takes to make a career out of it.

I am aware that the Macbook Pro is definitely the favorite in this field because of several reasons: usability, support, runs certain programs and plugins that windows cannot and a better general coding environment.

However, here is my issue... I would like to play some games in my free time as well (not necessarily the latest but some like GTA 4, sleeping dogs, Mafia II etc.) and I know Macs don't really do well as gaming laptops. I have had my eye on the Lenovo y510p and it is way more affordable than any of the same level Macbooks. Will I still be able to perform successful front-end work on this windows based laptop as opposed to the favorite Macbook?

Please let me know what you think and why :)

5 Answers

Stone Preston
Stone Preston
42,007 Points

Being successful as a front end developer doesnt depend on the kind of computer you have. You can do just as well with a PC as someone with a Mac. Almost everything a front end developer would use on a mac you can use on a PC (sublime text, illustrator, photoshop, etc) So if you want to save some cash and get a PC id say thats a smart choice and you can be a successful developer with it and enjoy your games as well.

Ivailo Ivanov
Ivailo Ivanov
3,401 Points

I was thinking the same thing, but after noticing how many professionals actually work and develop on macs (especially here on treehouse) I thought maybe there had to be a reason. I'm glad to hear that which ever route I take I can still be a successful developer because that's my main priority after all.

Amr Tag
Amr Tag
5,429 Points

I'm doing it with a linux desktop and an iPad...I'm still learning on here, so I don't know if that counts

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,191 Points

There are definite limitations to that setup. But it's possible I've heard of people that use their chromebooks for development using cloud IDEs.

Ian Svoboda
Ian Svoboda
16,639 Points

Good question, glad you posted.

Just to provide context: I have about 6 years of retail experience selling both PC's and Macs, addition to 3 years of servicing PC's/Macs, so I've had extensive experience with each.

Firstly: remove the concept of "Macs aren't good gaming computers" from your mind. Why? Because a Mac is more or less defined by the software it uses, not so much the hardware. Why do I say this? Because the components found in a Mac (Intel Processors, nVidia Graphics Cards, Foxcon LGB/mobos, etc) are found in any number of other computers (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc).

A computer isn't good for gaming by virtue of its default OS (operating system), but rather by what hardware it has and how it's configured (which is mostly a non-issue).

Example:

You can get a Macbook pro (starting at about $2700) that features hardware that would absolutely support a majority of modern games (and the games you mentioned are actually a bit older anyways). Also, you can setup Bootcamp (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5639) for a Mac which will allow you to run both Windows (natively) and OSX.

Note: when you run windows inside bootcamp, the mac effectively becomes a Windows machine, since the host (your computer) cannot really tell that there are multiple OS's installed.

Now, a Mac is often considered a better purchase for doing development (front end, backend, or full stack) for a couple of reasons, but the main ones (IMO) are:

  • Better support for development frameworks
  • More developer friendly out of the box (i.e. with little to no installation of extra software)
  • Adobe CS (Creative Suit) products are optimized for OSX
  • Terminal > command line for overall extensibility

Ultimately, if you're getting into this type of work, purchasing a Mac would be a wise choice. If you want something that can do alot of stuff (including game well) you'll be looking at about a 2500-3k for a quality laptop, plus the cost of whatever software you need.

Protip: If you need Adobe products but don't want to fork over a couple hundred bucks for a specific version, check out Adobe Creative cloud. Just remember that they want to get you into a 12 month contract, so be sure that you'll be ok with a monthly fee (usually $19.99-$29.99).

Hope this helps!

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,191 Points

> Adobe CS (Creative Suit) products are optimized for OSX

I've never heard that, do you have Adobe reference for that?

> More developer friendly out of the box (i.e. with little to no installation of extra software)

Not sure what you mean by this, as most everything a developer uses to do their day-to-day work, isn't bundled with the OS.

Ian Svoboda
Ian Svoboda
16,639 Points

Adobe products were first developed for the Mac (back in the day) and have some subtle differences. Its the same type of conversation for console games designed for Xbox (for example) and then ported to the Playstation. The main "real world" difference that i've come across is in the way fonts are rendered on screen vs print. Not exactly the biggest deal in the world for developers (moreso for a graphics designer/photography professional). In my personal tests/experience, the performance on Mac is superior to PC (on roughly comperable hardware)—I don't have any "science" to go along with this anecdote, but IMO it comes down to the resource overhead for Windows vs Mac which (especially on older Windows versions like XP/Vista) is noticably smaller on OSX.

As far as more developer friendly out of the box, I would point to a couple examples:

  • Superior Terminal/CLI capabilities
  • Ruby installed out of the box (and IMO better performance)
  • Development frameworks typically designed first for UNIX/Mac (ex: Meteor.js)

Of course its all a matter of personal preference. I myself am a Windows user, although if I had the 3 grand I would be on a Mac. One major point of consideration is how savvy the user is—a less savvy windows user will quickly see their machine performance evaporate without proper maintenance. While this can also happen on a Mac (full disclosure ^_^) its a little more of an "idiot proof" OS, which is great for people who want to focus on the work the computer enables them to do instead of the computer itself.

Ivailo Ivanov
Ivailo Ivanov
3,401 Points

This was some great insight, thanks for your time and knowledge guys. But just like you said the price can pose a real barrier for some people (myself included) so that will definitely influence my end decision. I'm pretty sure the macbook is ideal for this field because of all the reasons you listed above and I am aware that most of the industry leaders prefer it over other platforms. I'm also familiar with bootcamp, however when you mentioned

the components found in a Mac (Intel Processors, nVidia Graphics Cards, Foxcon LGB/mobos, etc) are found in any number of other computers (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc).

I'd like to agree with that statement, but the only thing is you'll be paying twice or maybe three times the price for a lot of the same hardware components found inside the machines. I guess it is worth it if you can afford it of course, the benefits seem invaluable.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,191 Points

> I am aware that most of the industry leaders prefer it over other platforms

I agree with this statement.

However, web world is highly influenced by trends, just because "industry leaders" are currently embracing a trend doesn't necessarily mean it will offer you any real value or solve a problem you actually have.

> you'll be paying twice or maybe three times the price for a lot of the same hardware components

Yep for the same price you can probably get a much nicer graphics cards and double your ram.

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,191 Points

> I know Macs don't really do well as gaming laptops

For some context you might be interested in checking out this article on Mac Myths debunked, it's conclusion

"Macs could be great for games, but the market hasn't caught up to supporting them yet."

Matt Trussell
Matt Trussell
10,097 Points

Hi, I'd like to chime in with my experience with different tasks on different types of machines. I am a web developer and android programmer. I also do a fair amount of photo and video editing. And I play a lot of games too.

I have an HP Windows laptop, a Windows desktop pc that I built, an iMac, and a Macbook Pro. I have used them all for all types of development and design tasks, but I have grown to prefer different machines for different tasks.

-For video and photo editing and Android development I use my Windows desktop pc because it's just wicked fast and the graphics card is magnificent. Adobe products and Android Studio are notoriously slow loading, but on my desktop they pull up in just a few seconds and run really fast.

-For coding I like my Macs because of the way the multiple desktops work with multiple screens. I can have several desktops open and I'm able to easily switch between them. I know that Windows 10 has this functionality, but it's clunky and will need some work before it is on par with Mac's OS.

-My Windows laptop wins for writing, computing on the go, and presenting to clients. It has a longer battery life than the Macbook Pro and it has a touchscreen which is pretty cool if I'm giving a small presentation to one or two other people.

-As far as games go, there is no contest. The PC wins all the marbles. Why? Better graphics, faster, Windows 10 is optimized for gaming, and many game studios don't even bother creating a Mac version of their releases. So, I don't even bother installing Steam on my Macs.

So, what would I do if I had to pare down to just one machine? I would have to get rid of all of my current devices and get a Windows laptop that would compare to the speed and power of my Windows desktop machine. That would be my all in one. You could just get a middle of the road gaming laptop for around $1000 and that would take care of your game needs as well as all the design and development work you can throw at it.

I hope this helps!