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VTwin

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macOS laptop recommendations?
« on: September 23, 2021, 02:08:20 am »
I'm looking into a new macOS laptop to replace an Early 2015 model.

The tossup is between an M1 Air and an M1 MacBook Pro, and then memory and storage sizes.

My current MacBook Pro has 16 GB memory and 1 TB storage.

Probably my biggest memory hog is running Windows or Linux Ubuntu in VirtualBox.

If you own one, how does it meet your needs?


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« Last Edit: September 23, 2021, 02:25:12 am by VTwin »
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trev

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2021, 07:57:07 am »
This Google search suggests that an M1 MacBook may not be a wise investment at this time due to reasonably widespread screen problems.

You also cannot run x86 VMs on an M1. Windows 11 ARM (preview) does run quite nicely in the latest Parallels when I tried it (base model Mac mini with 8G of memory) and supposedly also runs x86 software but I had not tried running any x86 software in it before I deleted it.

You may find an Intel MacBook Pro more suitable for your use case.
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Seenkao

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2021, 11:06:45 am »
Если у вас достаточно мощный компьютер, то вы можете собрать сами виртуальную машину используя Qemu.
  Здесь очень много подводных камней если вы хотите эмулировать другое семейство процессоров x86_64(i386). И для виртуальной машины, у вас должно быть минимально 4 процессора (2 процессора + 2 потока). Чем больше, тем лучше. Половину вы можете отдать виртуальной машине (при хорошем компьютере, если у вас 12 процессоров, то можно все 8 отдавать, но на результате это уже может не сказаться).
  Так же надо понимать, что ARM машины хуже справляются с математическими нагрузками, потому, при определённых обстоятельствах, виртуальная машина будет работать достаточно медленно (мощные игры не потянет).
  Вы не можете использовать KVM для более быстрой виртуализации.
  Если вам не критично какая именно виртуальная машина (какое семейство процессоров), то вы можете эмулировать и Windows и Linux(Debian, Gento и ещё какие-то дистрибутивы, надо смотреть, поддерживают ли дистрибутивы данное семейство процессоров) достаточно просто и используя KVM.
  Для процессоров x86 лучше иметь хотя бы слабую настоящую машину (как впрочем и наоборот).

yandex translate:
If you have a powerful enough computer, then you can build a virtual machine yourself using Qemu.
  There are a lot of pitfalls here if you want to emulate another family of x86_64(i386) processors. And for a virtual machine, you should have at least 4 processors (2 processors + 2 threads). The more, the better. You can give half to a virtual machine (with a good computer, if you have 12 processors, then you can give all 8, but this may not affect the result).
  You also need to understand that ARM machines are worse at coping with mathematical loads, because, under certain circumstances, the virtual machine will work quite slowly (powerful games will not pull).
  You can't use KVM for faster virtualization.
  If it is not critical for you which virtual machine (which processor family), then you can emulate both Windows and Linux(Debian, Gento and some other distributions, you need to see if the distributions support this processor family) quite simply and using KVM.
  For x86 processors, it is better to have at least a weak real machine (as well as vice versa).

ChrisR

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2021, 06:02:05 pm »
In November 2020, I bought the bottom end 8Gb/256Gb 7GPU MacBook Air to replace my much more expensive 16Gb/512Gb Intel base MacBook Pro. My rationale was that I would minimize the cost during a rapid transition: I was hoping that Apple would release an ARM-based MacBook with more cores and a better (mircro LED) screen in 2021. I still think this might happen, and you might consider if you can defer your purchase a bit.

A couple thoughts:

 - Apple charges a lot for more RAM and SSDs. Since the RAM is soldered, make sure you purchase what you need. With regards to SSDs, I purchased an external Sabrent Nano - this is a much better value and I can keep it when I upgrade to my next computer.
 - Part of getting a laptop is the small size. The Apple power chargers do not use GaN technology, so they are really large. I am very happy with the 30w Anker Nano II, which is a fraction of the size of the Apple unit yet supplies enough current to fast charge the laptop.
 - The Air an overwhelming benefit over the Pro: physical function keys. Having come from a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, I can tell you I find the physical keys much better. Muscle memory, no worry about keys disappearing to save power, etc. If the Touch Bar was the standard interface and someone invented physical function keys, I am convinced they would have been awarded a Noble prize.
 - The Air has no fan, it is truly silent. In my usage, it never gets warm.
 - The M1 Macs keyboards (Air and Pro) are a huge improvement of the butterfly keyboards used by some previous MacBooks.
 - While benchmarks show that the Air will throttle a bit under sustained load, most of my tasks do not seem to be impacted, real world loads that are limited by Amdahl's law (e.g. only spending part of their time threading) and waiting for data from the SSD means that the real world performance is pretty good.

You can see that the Apple M1 does really well on a wide range of loads:
  https://github.com/neurolabusc/AppleSiliconForNeuroimaging

General points about the M1:
 1. Rosetta works really well. Very few tools used AVX, and so you can run virtually every application. The M1 is fast enough that x86 software is generally comparable or faster than the same software running natively on a Intel MacBook.
 2. I did find a few edge cases that may impact you with specific applications. OpenGL is simulated through Metal, and generally works outstandingly well, however Metal has no concept of a geometry shader, so if your tools use those they will not work (my sense is that geometry shaders proved inefficient in general, and are exceptionally rare). While Python and Numpy are native M1, the SIMD routines are not ported, this means for some tasks Rosetta is vastly faster than native M1 code, where on other tasks the reverse is true. This means on mixed tasks, there is not a better option, and it is obvious the native code has untapped potential.

VTwin

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2021, 07:15:50 pm »
Many thanks everyone for your helpful advice! Sorry for my slow response, I have been out of town.

The comments make me lean towards the Air, maxing out RAM as I usually do. However, reports of cracked screens are of great concern!

VirtualBox not working could also be a deal breaker. Apparently Parallels works, I have used it in the past, but dropped it due to the subscription pricing.

I see that UTM, which uses QEMU, may be an alternative. I'd be interested to hear reports from anyone using it.

I could use my old iMac (2009), on High Sierra, for a while, or buy a cheap Windows machine, but those are not optimal solutions.



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ChrisR

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2021, 09:58:41 pm »
I should mention that when walking the strap for my laptop bag broke. The laptop fell from hip height onto hard concrete, with only the thin laptop bag padding to protect it. The laptop hit precisely on the corner, leaving a clear ding in the aluminum body. To my surprise, the screen survived perfectly. I have also heard rumors of screen cracking, but in my anecdotal experience, the screen is pretty resilient. If there really is a manufacturing defect for some units, I suspect this will show up in the repairs and Apple will fix them for free like they did with past recalls (e.g. "staingate" displays and defective butterfly keyboards).

VTwin

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2021, 01:33:15 am »
Thanks ChrisR, that helps alleviate my concern in that area.

At some point I will make the jump to an M1, but the VM issue is still of concern.
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mischi

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2021, 07:50:48 am »
If you are not in a hurry, why not wait for the next generation with M1* processors or whatever they will be called? Maybe, have a look at https://buyersguide.macrumors.com
« Last Edit: October 01, 2021, 07:54:18 am by mischi »

VTwin

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2021, 02:57:50 pm »
Thanks for the link mischi. I'll wait for the next generation!
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engkin

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2021, 09:36:10 pm »
While this is not your question, I think everyone considering buying an M1* chip powered device should know about this:

“Failure of internal storage means failure of the whole Mac, which can’t then boot from an external disk”

VTwin

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2021, 11:28:30 pm »
While this is not your question, I think everyone considering buying an M1* chip powered device should know about this:

“Failure of internal storage means failure of the whole Mac, which can’t then boot from an external disk”

Yikes!

Apple machines are a constantly moving target. I thought we were in the clear when the Lazarus Cocoa widget set was cleaned up. Nope. M1 is the next big hurdle.
“Talk is cheap. Show me the code.” -Linus Torvalds

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trev

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Re: macOS laptop recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2021, 09:17:49 am »
At least in Australia you are covered by the Consumer Law (thanks to the regulator's  Federal Court cases against Apple) resulting in this from Apple:

"Without limiting consumers rights, Apple will provide its own remedies equivalent to those remedies in the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) at any time within 24 months of the date of purchase. For the avoidance of doubt, Apple acknowledges that the Australian Consumer Law may provide for remedies beyond 24 months for a number of its products."

After 2 years, the legal issue then becomes whether the product lasted a "reasonable time" and a big component of that is how much you paid for the product. A $400 notebook may last two years and that's probably a "reasonable time", but a $4,000 notebook, not so much.

I'm sure most European countries have similar, or even better, consumer laws for this sort of thing.
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