Is MacBook Air Good For Web Development?

So, you want to know if a MacBook Air is good for web development? Well, technically speaking, MacBook Airs have traditionally been for casual users. Browsing the web, watching videos, or light photo editing work. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your MacBook Air for more. Especially with the introduction of the new MacBook Air M1 and M2!

In this article, we’re going to explore if a MacBook Air is really a good system to do your web development work on or whether you should opt for something more economical and/or suited for coding.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Is MacBook Air M1/M2 Good For Web Development?

If you are going to pick a MacBook Air for coding in 2023, your best bet would be to go with either the M1 or the M2 MacBook Air. These newer models have a stronger CPU that can withstand almost anything you throw at it in the near future within reason.

I had the opportunity of running an M1 MacBook Air with 8GB for testing purposes. Even with two Docker containers, Visual Studio, +10 chrome tabs, and a few CPU-heavy apps such as Spotify, PhotoShop, and even Youtube, the machine was still running. That is a lot to throw at a laptop! I don’t even think my 2015 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM could handle that without running into issues.

Needless to say, the M1 MacBook Air is a beast of a laptop. If you are just getting started out as a programmer and you aren’t doing a ton of heavy lifting, the MacBook Air M1 or M2 should suit your needs. At least for the next couple of years.

Back in 2014, I had a MacBook Air 2013 with 4GB of RAM and I had a much different experience. I still don’t feel good recommending a MacBook Air for hardcore web development work because of the experience I had with that laptop. Nor is it meant for that. However, if you don’t have the budget for a MacBook Pro and really want an apple product, you should be just fine with a MacBook Air M1 or M2.

Is An Older Generation MacBook Air Good For Web Development?

As I stated above, I began my coding journey with a 2013 MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM. That’s right, 4GB of RAM…

If you know anything about coding, you probably know that it is advisable to have at least 8GB of RAM and probably more. However, even with my un-ideal CPU and a limited amount of RAM, I could make it work.

I could still code in Atom and use CPU-intensive applications like PhotoShop. I was able to complete my introductory programming classes and even did some freelance web development work with the laptop.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely not. Especially not in 2023!

Although I could make the laptop work given my low budget. I would have been way better off buying a PC for half the price and twice the resources or buying something a bit more suitable.

I am not trying to bash on Apple. They make amazing products and I love to code on a MacBook. However, if you are going to buy a MacBook Air to code, make sure you pay attention to the specs.

Not Every MacBook Air Is Created Equal: Pay Attention To Your Specs!

This is a really important lesson to learn if you are just starting out in your coding journey. Not all MacBooks (or any laptop for that matter) are created equal. A 2023 MacBook Air M2 with 16GB of RAM is going to perform way wayy better than a 2013 MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM.

Why you might ask? Mainly because technology generally improves over the years. The CPU of a newer generation MacBook is generally going to outperform that of a previous generation. Additionally, the difference between a 4GB RAM laptop and an 8-64 GB RAM laptop is also going to make a huge difference.

What To Look For In A MacBook Air

When you are looking for a MacBook Air that is suitable for web development, make sure you are looking at what CPU it has and how much RAM it has. Those are the two most important factors in performance for programming.

It is important to get this right now because Apple is notorious for either not permitting upgradable RAM or making it very costly.

Please note that I recommend at least 8GB of RAM in your laptop in order to code with minimal issues and to check the benchmark of the CPU you are using. If you find a specific review for a laptop online or on youtube that says it is good for programming, you can check if the laptop you want to buy would under or outperform it based on these metrics.

MacBook Air For Game Development and GPU Intensive Tasks

I also want to share a word of warning that historically MacBooks are generally not looked at favorably for their graphics cards. GPU-intensive tasks including gaming and 3D animation may be a challenge on these machines.

That being said, the new MacBook Pros such as the M1 Max and M1 Pro look promising for changing this narrative. Unfortunately, they come with a hefty price tag.

Since we are focusing on the MacBook Air, it’s important to note that learning game design or working with 3D web development will likely be pretty straining on a MacBook Air and is not recommended.

Summary: Is A MacBook Air Good For Web Development

Overall, a MacBook Air can be a decent choice for web development depending on the model you choose and the type of web development work you will be doing. If you opt for a MacBook M1/M2 and are not doing GPU-intensive tasks or running a thousand programs, you will probably be just fine coding with a MacBook Air. Opting for an older model and doing hardcore coding will likely lead you to some problems.

As always, happy coding! If you are looking to learn web development for free, check out these resources.

Grant Darling

Grant is a full-stack / frontend software developer passionate about writing & coding. He has many years experience working in the tech industry both as a freelancer and as an employee.

The Code Bytes is all about providing people with honest information about programming. To learn more about Grant, read his about page!

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