Most people think of Macs as well-balanced devices. In their defense, Macs are known for their ability to provide better performance without compromising on other aspects such as compact design or battery life. However, it does not mean that every Mac will offer the same experience for different purposes. One of the areas where a specific Mac model is required to perform programming or coding tasks.
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Choosing the best Mac for programming and coding
Of course, you have to consider a couple of aspects while making the selection.
Before all these, you also have to decide whether you are sticking to a compact notebook or something of a desktop option, like the Mac Pro.
The decision that you make between Mac desktops and laptops is also important when it comes to the workflow. While Mac laptops, also known as MacBooks, are designed to give you the freedom of mobility without compromising performance, this may not always be your priority.
So, in cases where you need maximum performance without being reliant on the power supply and the battery life concerns, you might have to choose a Mac desktop. On the bright side, you have a couple of options to choose from, including the iMac and the Mac mini lineup.
You should be careful while determining the performance that you believe you need for programming and coding. While we have to agree that coding and programming require good performance and speed, the numbers in this matter are not uniform. On the other hand, you have to consider your workflow.
After the transition to Apple Silicon, choosing between the Mac models in terms of performance and efficiency has become an easier task. When you think about it, the M1/M2 chips on the newly released Apple Mac devices are known for their efficiency and performance.
- Importance of Accessories
There is also something that most people forget about while preparing a device for coding or development purposes. The overall coding experience that you get from a device is not just about the hardware, but also about the accessories that you use.
For instance, a great keyboard optimized for coding is always a necessity if you want to have maximum efficiency. Similarly, you will have to choose between a trackpad or a professional mouse if you would like to optimize your workflow, even on a Mac. Therefore, you should plan your budget accordingly.
With these core points in mind, we have selected seven Mac models that we consider are the best options for programming and coding in 2023. We have included only the models that Apple officially sells, and they have been taken from different price ranges. So, there are options for first-time Mac buyers as well.
Best Mac for programming/coding
The recently released M2 MacBook Air 15-inch is arguably the best Mac you can purchase for programming and coding in 2023. One of the most-awaited devices from Apple, the new MacBook Air brings a rather fresh balance between performance, screen real estate, and battery life. Since it follows the compact design style of the original M2 MacBook Air, professionals can easily carry it around.
As clear from the name, the M2 MacBook Air 15-inch is powered by the Apple M2 chip. This Apple Silicon-based chip has an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU. The base model comes with 8 GB of Unified Memory, but you can upgrade it to up to 24 GB. You can equip the device with up to 1 TB of SSD storage space as well.
In terms of the display quality, the M2 MacBook Air 15-inch doesn’t disappoint, either. You get a 15.3-inch LED display with Retina resolution. On the connectivity side, the 15-inch MacBook Air retains the two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and a MagSafe connection for charging. It is available in four different finishes.
The performance that you can expect from this 15-inch MacBook Air M2 is the best in the industry, especially considering the price you have to pay for it. Even as you use the device for development and coding, you can expect it to multitask very well. It is not something we can say about the Windows laptops of the same price.
We should also consider that development platforms and IDEs are better optimized for macOS and the M1 and M2 chips from Apple. Therefore, you can expect a superior coding experience using this well-balanced MacBook. Of course, the 15-inch display in the package is one of the best you can expect from the industry.
Overall, we believe that the M2 MacBook Air 15-inch is one of the best MacBooks you can buy, not just for programming and coding. For programming and coding is concerned, the device is apparently the best choice as you need balanced performance and a compact design. On a related note, the performance from the M2 chip seems sufficient for most users.
We already picked the M2 MacBook Air 15-inch as the best overall Mac for programming. However, if you need enough performance for versatile coding projects and a bit of development on the side, we recommend that you go for the M2 MacBook Pro 16-inch. This device combines the best performance that you can get for the price without being too bulky so that you can carry around your workspace as much as you like.
In terms of specifications, the M2 MacBook Air 16-inch offers multiple options. The base model comes with an M2 Pro chip, which has a 12-core CPU and a 19-core GPU. However, if you want to maximize the specs, you can power it with an M2 Max chip and 32 GB of Unified Storage.
Regardless of the option, all these models come with 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, enough connectivity options, and a 140W USB-C power adapter. Ideally, the Force Touch trackpad and the 16-inch display offer the best working conditions for various development requirements.
The M2 Pro chip is one of the most powerful chips that you can get from the Apple Silicon lineup. So even if you don’t upgrade the machine to an M2 Max chip, you can get incredible performance for all your development projects.
You should also keep in mind that this device is widely used as a workstation laptop for video editing. Therefore, from a performance point of view, the M2 MacBook Air 16-inch will not disappoint you. It did not disappoint us either when we tested it with multiple coding projects and a tougher level of multitasking.
When you need a laptop that you can use for iOS development, macOS, app creation or some high-end web design, you can consider getting the M2 MacBook Pro 16-inch. The additional screen space and the performance that the device offers are indeed a long-term investment for most people. Considering that we are getting the high-end model of the chip, you can expect the device to work for the years to come.
#3 Mac Studio: Performance-focused Mac desktop
Let’s say that you want to embrace the benefits that a Mac desktop can offer. In that case, Mac Studio, which is running the latest M2 Max (or Ultra), is a great option for programming and coding. The device, despite its compact design, offers so much performance that you can set up your entire workstation based on one of the units with multiple display outputs and additional hardware.
The base model of the Mac Studio ships with an Apple M2 Max chip, which packs a 12-core CPU and a 30-core GPU. When combined with a 16-core Neural Engine and 400 GB/s bandwidth, this machine can debug even the longest lines of code with. The base-line model comes with 32 GB of Unified Memory as well.
The good thing about the Mac desktop is that you can choose a display of your choice. Depending on whether you have the M2 Ultra chip, you can connect to eight displays to the Mac Studio. Therefore, from an ultra-smooth workflow point of view, the specifications of the Mac Studio are impressive.
Even the base model of the Mac Studio is one of the best performing Macs you can buy in 2023. Even when you don’t add more RAM or a powerful CPU, the Mac Studio can handle almost everything you throw at it. Including but not limited to heavy development projects and advanced simulation tasks.
You also have the benefits of setting up multiple displays according to your workflow. This, when combined with the well-optimized apps you get on macOS, makes Mac Studio one of the perfect desktop workstations a coding professional can dream of. As far as hands-on experience goes, Mac Studio did not ever let us down.
After considering its unparalleled performance and the other advantages of input-output and the compact design, we very much like to recommend the Mac Studio for coding and programming experts. Though it is noticeably more expensive than the Mac Mini, the performance upgrade that you can expect even from the baseline model is transformative, to say the least.
#4 iMac 24-inch: Best reasonable Mac desktop
If you do not want to spend on a separate display and want a more compact Mac overall, you should definitely consider the iMac 24-inch. Compared to how much you have to pay for other devices on the list, we believe the iMac 24 inch is one of the most reasonable Mac desktops you can get for programming and coding. And the Apple Silicon transition has made it even more powerful.
The iMac 24 inch comes with an Apple M1 chip with an 8 core CPU and an 8 core GPU, and you can add up to 16 GB of Unified Memory to the package. Everything is shown on a 4.5K Retina display, which is just impressive. You would also love to know that the device comes in different finishes.
Even though the connectivity options are not as advanced as the Mac Studio, you get two Thunderbolt ports that you can use for expansion. You can also combine the iMac 24-inch with the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse for an additionally smooth macOS experience.
Like the many other products on this list, the 24-inch iMac is also made for a balanced macOS experience. So as a programmer or coder, you get the benefits of this smooth workflow, but the actual experience of performance will depend on the applications that you use
Another impressive part about performance on the M1 chip is that it can be quite scalable. Therefore, your Mac can use its cooling system and other methods to make sure that you are never throttled. We must also add that the Retina display panel offers plenty of screen real estate.
While we understand that the 24-inch iMac is not the most powerful Mac, it is definitely one of the best options out there. If you are getting started with a Mac and do not have a particularly high budget, this package brings everything together. You even get the keyboard and mouse included, which is great if you want to establish a smooth workflow, as we said.
#5 M2 Mac mini: Cheapest Mac for programming
The Mac mini has always been one of the most affordable Mac options out there. And with the latest model, which is the M2 Mac mini, the performance standards of the device have definitely gone up. Therefore, if you want to have a very budget-friendly Mac setup for development and coding, you should consider the M2 Mac mini. Even when you add accessories to the package, you the workstation will cost less than $1000.
For reference, the M2 Mac mini ships with an Apple M2 chip, which is equipped with an 8 core CPU and 10 core GPU. But you also have an option to either increase the cores of the CPU or go for the M2 Pro chip, which would double the cost of the system.
The base model of the M2 Mac Mini comes with 8 GB of unified memory, and you can add several TBs of SSD storage space as you may need. Just like the Mac Studio, the Mac Mini does not have a built-in display. It lets you build a more suitable combination of display, keyboard, and mouse as per your workflow.
Compared to the M1 Mac mini, the M2 Mac mini presents a noticeable leap in performance. However, Apple has kept the price almost the same, which is impressive. So, you get scalable and reliable performance for all your coding projects without worrying about glitches.
The multi-display compatibility of the M2 Mac mini is also a great option. It can handle two display units with ease, and the versatile connectivity options on the rear side are also practical. As a professional, you even have an option to take the unit somewhere.
When you don’t want to spend a lot on a Mac for website development and coding, the M2 Mac mini makes a lot of sense. Like the MacBook Air 15-inch, the M2 Mac mini brings a balance of performance and compactness—in the desktop sector. At the end of the day, this device will not let you down while managing multiple coding projects or simulations.
#6 M2 Mac Pro: Best Mac for iOS/macOS development
Let’s say that you don’t have any restrictions in terms of budget. Let’s also imagine that your development projects require the best performance that money can buy. In this particular instance, you should consider getting the M2 Mac Pro, which is the most powerful machine from Apple that you can buy right now. But you must be ready to pay a hefty amount for it.
Powering the entire system of the Mac Pro is an Apple M2 Ultra chip, which comes with a 24 core CPU and a 60 core GPU. You also get a 32-core Neural Engine, which is useful for heavy coding projects. The base model comes with 64 GB of Unified Memory, but you can upgrade it up to 128 GB as per your requirements.
The tower-shaped Mac Pro does not come with a built-in display, but you can equip it with any of the displays available. As far as the compatibility goes, you can connect to 8 displays at the same time via Thunderbolt and HDMI. You also have an option to expand these options thanks to PCI Express Gen 4 slots.
One thing we can say about the performance of the Mac Pro is that it will never be insufficient. As you can imagine, the system has been designed for film editors who need plenty of resources. They are 10 or 100 times what you need as a coder or developer.
Therefore, in terms of the performance alone, we will have to recommend the Mac Pro for those who handle multiple roles. For instance, if you are into development but also have to take care of some video editing gigs on your site, the Mac Pro with the M2 Ultra Chip is a great option for you.
Though Mac Pro powered by the M2 Ultra chip from Apple is an overkill for most people, it is useful when you need the best environment for iOS/macOS development and simulation. It is also an investment in terms of scalability and performance. At the same time, you should ensure that you need the unique features of the Mac Pro. For instance, if you don’t need expansion, you are better off with the Mac Studio.
Now, we shall answer some questions you may have.
Which Mac is best for programming?
Unfortunately, there is not a single Mac device that we can recommend as the best choice for programming and coding. Instead, you have multiple options depending on your budget and preferences.
For instance, if you are looking for a MacBook that you can carry around for development, you are good to go with the 14-inch MacBook Air powered by the M2 chip from Apple.
On the other hand, when it comes to having a Mac desktop for programming and coding, you have multiple options starting with the Mac Mini, then the Mac Studio, and on top of the line, the Mac Pro.
Is Mac suitable for coding?
Mac is definitely suitable for coding and there are thousands of developers who prefer having a MacBook over a Windows laptop when it comes to coding. There are multiple reasons, one of them being the greater level of compatibility that Mac offers with multiple programming languages.
Therefore, even when you want to code on a laptop, you can expect the maximum battery backup without compromising the whole performance aspect. Considering how long these devices last and the scalability that they offer, investing in a Mac is one of the best things you can do as a programmer or coding expert.
Is the M1 MacBook Air good for coding?
The M1 MacBook Air is definitely a suitable option for coding, but we have not included it on the list because it’s an older model. However, if you have a short budget and find a good deal on the M1 MacBook Air, you should definitely get it because of the performance it offers.
Even though Apple has stepped up the performance game with the M2 range and, of course, the new M3 lineup, M1 still packs a lot of performance that you can use when it comes to development and coding, and even a little bit of video editing.
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The bottom line
We have tried to create a comprehensive list of the best Mac models available and suitable for coding and development. While the list is not exhaustive, these are the best Macs you can buy in the current situation. For instance, we have included older versions that are running the older models of the Apple Silicon chips.
At the same time, we believe we have left enough options if you are choosing between desktop and laptop options. And we will make sure that the list is updated as and when Apple rolls out their next lineup of MacBooks, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.