Last month, Apple announced its new MacBook Pro models with an updated M1X ARM-based processor. While the performance of M1-based Macs was already impressive, the new chip brings 70% CPU performance improvement and 200% GPU performance improvement — at least according to Apple.
This means that developers can take better advantage of these power upgrades. If you’re looking for the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with a 16-inch screen, 64GB RAM, and a 32-core CPU, it’ll cost you around $4,000. That’s not a small amount by any means.
But that hasn’t stopped companies like Twitter, Uber, and Shopify from giving their developers these machines.
I’m excited to be rolling out fully loaded M1 Max MBPs to all of Twitter’s iOS & Android engineers! We’re seeing improvements in both top line performance and thermal throttling that currently plague our Intel builds.
— John Szumski (@jszumski) November 5, 2021
Before you get all excited, most of these new MacBooks have been allotted to mobile engineers — aka folks working on iOS and Android platforms. There’s a solid reason behind that: compilation time.
Jameson Williams, an engineer at Reddit, mentioned on Twitter that since the company’s team started using M1X-powered machines, their Android build time has been cut in half.
We recently found that the new 2021 M1 MacBooks cut our Android build times in half.
So for a team of 9, $32k of laptops will actually save $100k in productivity over 2022. The break-even point happens at 3 months.
TL;DR Engineering hours are much more expensive than laptops!
— Jameson (@softwarejameson) November 3, 2021
Williams and Gergely Orosz of The Pragmatic Engineer blog have argued that while these machines are costly, they are worth it because of the time they save in terms of productivity.
Folks on a Reddit thread also pointed out that the new M1X CPU can outperform many desktop configurations in multithreaded compilations. But do developers really NEED these hyped-up configurations?
A video by the D3V Tec YouTube channel shows that certain Android compilation tasks take up a big chunk of that 64GB memory, and CPU usage is also very high. But it leaves some room for you to watch videos or play songs while you wait for the compilation to finish.
Another video from the same channel notes that the new MacBooks have better heat management as compared to some other contemporary laptops for development.
Apart from faster complications, some creatives have good things to say about video editing and rendering using these new machines.
Sure, some tasks such as heavy graphics rending and VFX work might still be suited for powerful desktops and servers. But these new MacBooks have opened up the possibility for some developers to complete their work in a shorter time.