Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 11" MacBook Air vs. 2011 15" MacBook Pro Xcode Performance

I just picked up the just released 2011 11" MacBook Air in the hopes of using that to replace my 2011 15" MacBook Pro. In the event it didn't perform well enough it would be given to the wife (actually, this was the original plan anyways, so if it can be a decent development machine, all the better)...

Here are the specs (Both with Lion and Xcode 4.2 and iOS 5 Beta 4).

  1. Decked out 2011 11" MacBook Air
    1. 1.8Ghz Core i7
    2. 256GB SSD (The faster Samsung one)
    3. 4GB Memory
  2. Decked out 2011 15" MacBook Pro
    1. 2.3GHz Core i7
    2. 400GB SSD (OWC w/SandForce, not OEM)
    3. 8GB Memory

For me the only thing that matters is Xcode performance. I just a project with the following characteristics, and measured a build from the time of pushing play to the time of the simulator launching with the login on the build displayed.

  1. 224 Source Files
  2. 63 XIB's
  3. 419 Resources
Here are the results:
  1. Clean Build
    1. MacBook Air: 38 seconds
    2. MacBook Pro: 16 seconds
  2. Repeat Build (No Clean, Simulator Left Running)
    1. MacBook Air: 8 seconds
    2. MacBook Pro: 8 seconds
It was expected the MacBook Pro would be faster. From a clean build it's significantly faster. From an existing build where you're touching a few files Xcode indexing to know what's changed or not makes it a wash. As most of the time we're just changing a couple files at a time the MacBook Air seems fast enough for development, just knowing that the clean build will take almost twice as long.

Also, to explain the difference, the actual copying of resources, launching the simulator, etc. took about the same time. There was a moderate difference in the compilation time, but the static analysis is where the MacBook Air lost out. The MacBook Pro killed it with the extra two cores and processor speed.

Now, the debate... I think I'm going to try out the MacBook Air and see how it goes...

UPDATE: After using the MacBook Air I decided to stick with the MacBook Pro. That extra speed really matters when someone is looking over your shoulder. Particularly, at a client. Although, if you are used to a non-SSD MacBook Pro (particularly, the 2010 variety) you'll be happy with the performance of the Air.


  1. Thank for your research about the new macbook air 13 as a development platform. Im a developer too and i was a little nervous about the real speed of the new macbook air, but finally I choose the air for replace my 2010 core i7 macbook pro. I was tempted about the new macbook pro, but the current macbook pro are in the final stage, all new models for 2012, more like the MBA (SSD Drives, no optical media, weight lose, etc), when that hapen i will pass my new 13 MBA to my wife and buy the all new MBP :)

  2. Why build on SSD? Just make a ramdisk and be happy. Try googling for xcode 4 ramdisk.