Does the new MacBook Air 2020 make sense for Web Development?


I’m wondering if the MacBook Air 2020 could be a good laptop for web development.

In this article, I want to step away from pure code to talk about something equally important for a developer: the computer!

The machine through which we write our code is crucial.

For many, it’s just a tool, but in reality, it’s an object on which we spend hours and hours, sweat, get angry, despair, and through which we create our fantastic projects!

So, it’s not enough to have a set of iron and plastic pieces!

Actually, yes, but…

To develop websites, even heavy ones, you don’t need supercomputers. A core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a good SSD can already do a lot; there’s no need to aim for super high-end hardware.

Even virtualizing our servers doesn’t require very high resource usage, as long as you’re not working with 30 virtual machines open simultaneously… But in most cases, you work on one project at a time, maybe two. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever needed to open more than 3 Vagrant instances simultaneously… It also depends on the type of development environment you use.

But tools are not all the same. Every painter has their favorite brush, every sculptor their favorite hammer!

And this is not about rational choices. It’s not necessarily the case that the height of technology is automatically the best tool for us! Many things influence our thoughts, and in a job where thinking is fundamental, having tools that make us think well can make a difference.

My laptop

The machine I’m using now is the result of purely rational thinking.

Two years ago, I needed a new PC, and I knew I wanted a laptop for convenience.

So, I bought the one with the best hardware at the most affordable price: an ASUS VivoBook Pro, Core i7, 16GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD, and a 4GB video card, all for €999.

It’s a great computer, does everything it needs to, and has never let me down or made me regret the purchase.

I’ve done well-thought-out work, including 3D development, and it has never wavered.

But it has its downsides…

Firstly, the display. In short, it’s not great… The brightness is very low, and the colors are not the best. I have to say that I always connect it to an external monitor and use the laptop’s display as secondary, so it’s not a big problem, except when I want to take it outside and do some work in the sun. In this case, it’s impossible to work. It barely exceeds 200 nits, and if there’s even a bit of sunlight, you can practically see nothing…

Then there’s the battery, a big sore spot… It has never lasted more than 4 hours. Of course, the components are heavy, and to run a powerful processor with a video card, it needs a lot of power. But I would like to be able to take it outside without fearing getting stuck halfway through work.

Also, 4 hours are in a calm usage scenario, but at work, I can’t make it last more than 2… And it gets worse when I launch my beloved Elementary OS… Unfortunately, on this front, Linux still needs to improve a bit…

The fans drive me crazy! Initially, I didn’t notice it, but over time, I started to no longer stand the constant buzzing, perpetual, infinite, and nerve-racking… I found out that noise is a common characteristic of the VivoBook, so there’s little to be done.

Finally, there are the emotional sensations, all those feelings that tie us to objects for no particular reason.

We all have material objects that we particularly care about, towards which we feel something.

A bit of history

I remember when I bought my first MacBook in 2011. When I got home, I was ecstatic about the beauty of that machine, which served me decently for 7 years.

With the ASUS, there was never that lightning strike. It’s nice, it works well, it has a beautiful keyboard, it’s really powerful, I can launch Windows, open Ubuntu in VMware, and in the meantime, play a game of Far Cry without having to close anything. Everything works wonderfully, but it lacks the feeling…

When I write on the VivoBook, it’s not like when I typed the keys on the old MacBook. It’s a feeling! It’s true that it’s just a machine, a tool, but it’s through this tool that I develop my works, and it’s very important to use it with a smile on your lips!

Why?

I have a theory about it. Windows 10 is a fantastic operating system. I’m serious; I started developing software for Windows in Visual Basic, and over the years, I got to know this operating system thoroughly, which, with the transition from 8.1 to 10, has become really cool! It’s versatile, lightweight, and simple, ideal for the majority of people.

But…

There’s always a but… And in my case, there are 2:

On the one hand, it’s not Unix-like. As I improve as a developer, I realize how important it is to have a good terminal to work with, and although WSL is not bad, it’s not comparable to Linux and Mac terminals.

On the other hand, the design is too “office-like.” Windows has distinguished itself from the beginning as the operating system for people who work, for the productive, for schools, for offices… The graphics are very “square,” in the allegorical sense of the word (where I come from, a square person is someone very serious and attentive to the rules). For creative work, this square system becomes a cage, a prison that confines us inside it rather than inspiring us!

For this reason, I really think that my future machine will have the bitten apple on it.

And Linux?

Good question! The best solution would certainly be Linux! Web servers all run on Debian and CentOS, so what better environment for development?

Moreover, it’s free, so you don’t have to bow down to Apple’s crazy prices.

But here, too, compromises must be made…

I’ve used a lot of Ubuntu and Elementary OS, with a preference for the latter (solely for aesthetic reasons).

There are things that are still a bit too complicated for a desktop environment.

It’s true that I can create a LAMP stack in 3 minutes by just typing a series of commands; I can use Docker and Vagrant without problems; it’s a lightweight and fast system, and it doesn’t install the junk that the other two big ones carry around. But it still doesn’t work well out of the box

By this, I mean, for example, that you need to install and configure software for gestures, one for battery management, one to synchronize Google Drive, etc. _The beauty of open source is that everything can be configured to your liking, but the downside is that everything can be configured to your liking…

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Also, there are some programs that are fundamental to me, like Photoshop, which is not available for Linux… Yes, Wine exists, but again, you need software to make another software run…

In addition to programming, I need the computer to manage work, create invoices, write and respond to clients, and do everything that revolves around development (the worst part of the day… Why can’t I just think and write code all day long???) From this point of view, I preferred Mac and Windows.

So?

At sixteen, I bought a 1980 Vespa PX 125. It goes slowly, doesn’t brake much, stays in balance by miracle, consumes, and every time I have to refuel, I have to mix the fuel myself.

At twenty-four, I bought a Yamaha FZ6, a reliable, stable, and safe bike that allowed me to exceed 200 km/h without problems and travel much further than the Vespa.

Guess which of the two is still in my garage today?

The old Vespa!

Sometimes reason drives us to do something, but it’s the heart that you have to follow. We don’t always have to make intelligent choices, on the contrary, sometimes the stupidest choices make us feel better! After all, we are human, not gods.

Conclusion

This is the thought that fills my days these last days. Do I need to buy the new MacBook Air 2020 for web development? Can it make sense for web development?

I would buy a more expensive machine than what I currently use, smaller and less powerful, but more beautiful.

Beautiful not only aesthetically but quieter, more portable, with a better battery, and a Unix-like system.

So, do I really need 16GB of RAM? I can always use the ASUS as a beast PC for heavy workloads, and I could use the MacBook Air 2020 for web development and everything else.

Is it worth it? Is it a waste of money? Are these all excuses to have a cool and trendy notebook?

I never do anything just for fashion; that’s why I ask myself all these questions, but as a developer who spends hours and hours on the PC, I think having a machine like the new MacBook Air 2020 for web development is not a waste of money.

What do you think? Let me know your opinion; maybe it will help me choose!

Thank you for reading this article!