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Macbook Air 2020 for Unity?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by beerinbox, May 1, 2020.

  1. beerinbox

    beerinbox

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    I'm normally a Windows guy, but back in 2013, I got a Macbook Air (mid-13) with base configuration and I am typing this question from it. No laptop I or my brother got lasted this long, and if I had bought one with more ram (instead of 4 GB) and more storage (instead of 128 GB SSD) back then, I think I'd think of replacing it much later than now. This one has an i5, 4 GB ram and 128 gb SSD.

    So actually, I quite like Macbook Air and recently I started to get that rainbow beach ball more and more frequently. In fact, if you run Unity and want to look a solution up on Chrome, the whole computer crashes if you open more than 4 tabs.

    I actually own a desktop computer, but because of my job, I'm usually away from it. And I am just a beginner with game programming (with my interest coming and going time to time), so I won't be producing AAA games. In fact, my current project involves two boxes colliding (and also other projects where I follow tutorials etc). I was never good with painting and graphics (not even on paper) so I don't think I'll use such software.

    With these in mind, do you think a Macbook Air would suffice? I'm thinking of not making the same mistake, and getting i5, 16 GB RAM and probably a 1 TB disk this time. It will be really, really expensive in my country but if that one lasts as long as this one, then it will be lot of money used pretty well.

    What's wrong with this one? Like I said, it requires me to have no problems and dead-ends while developing a game so I don't use Chrome. It also feels like suffering a very painful and a long death if I actually run my code involving two boxes crashing :) Solid machine though.
     
  2. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Yes, for the most part the hardware should be able to handle the graphics of any game on the level of a mobile game. The biggest limitations of the Air are the lack of dedicated graphics, and that the cooling system is insufficient for running the CPU beyond base speed for more than a few seconds. A base speed that is typically four to five times lower than desktop.

    Choosing 16GB RAM is definitely the smart move but I do have to point out that it's gone from "this is ideal" to "this is the lowest you should ever consider" for any workstation-like tasks. I don't see it holding you back in the next three years but I don't feel comfortable saying it's guaranteed beyond that.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2020
  3. beerinbox

    beerinbox

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    Thank you for your input, @Ryiah
    Apart from hobby projects in Unity, I don't think I'll need it for a workstation-like task, so I think I'll get an MBA instead of 13" MBP just released.
     
  4. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner

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    I have 8GB in mine and I often have Unity, GIMP, OpenOffice, Chrome, and Blender open all at the same time.
     
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  5. MDADigital

    MDADigital

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    If you need ultra thin laptop for gamedev there are alot better alternatives with better CPUs than i5 which is a hopelessly slow CPU for game dev. Look to microsoft surface or asus laptops.Also mac books are known for thermal throttling
     
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  6. Stormbreaker

    Stormbreaker

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    I was actually in the exact same position as you not too long ago. Had the mid-2013 MacBook Air with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. Super reliable laptop that didn't crash once in the 7 years of use I got out of it and was still performing well when I finally replaced it last year with the new MacBook Air 2019 model (8GB RAM, 256GB storage, retina display). Finally decided it was time to upgrade as the lack of storage was getting on my nerves and the cost to have the battery replaced at an Apple store was a third of the price of the upgrade.

    The 2019 Air performs totally fine with Unity, especially with the URP. Any non-trivial games aren't going to be running at the native res at 60FPS but when you're already developing on the "worst-case scenario" hardware it's a good way to stay focused on optimisation and keeping the game running smoothly.
     
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  7. beerinbox

    beerinbox

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    Thank you all for your replies. I appreciate it. I'll go with an MBA (16 GB RAM and 1 TB disk hopefully) once couple of things becomes clearer.
     
  8. Audacity_Child

    Audacity_Child

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    I too am in the exact same boat. I’m SOO glad I found this post. I’ve been seeing a bunch of bias opinions about the MBP over the MBA but I think those reviews were more pandered to the typical laptop based programmer/hardcore “otg” gamer than on the fly adjustments and iOS targeted rendering(I understand it’s a given that the MBP will out preform the MBA in render time) but as another member above me stated “mobile production” vs overall 4K high memory based games like say Assassins Creed Unity lol, not to mention having the file 100% cleaned and trimmed on my stationary hulk windows 10 pc before transferring it to my MBA to be rendered out for iOS. My MBA comes in the mail today I will give it 1 week of developing on my hulk pc and switching to my MBA 8GB, 256GB to render, have a fast, smooth, light weight and low-pro laptop for away from home/work edits, leave out in the game room for my niece and nephew to play Minecraft(ofc haha) and if within that week I notice any flaws I’ll point them out on here and even record a YouTube clip of me editing a full quick iOS playable game on the MBA in Unity then if it’s not to standards I’ll return it for last years’ MBP.

    also I’ve seen people making games on their 2011 MBA.. smoothly... so I’m pretty optimistic.
     
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  9. beerinbox

    beerinbox

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    @Audacity_Child Thank you, getting a review from someone who uses it for the same purpose would be great!
    To be honest, I was not sure if I should start a thread like this, because right now I am writing code on my 2013 MBA. So obviously it will work, especially when you consider the fact that this only has 4 GB RAM.
    But I thought it wouldn't hurt if I get some opinions and then decide what to do.
     
  10. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Your post is leaving me with the distinct impression that you're misunderstanding the reviews and overestimating the performance you will get out of the MBAs.

    If you're curious why I believe you're misunderstanding the reviews and overestimating the performance it's because you linked to a very old video and used that to back up your point. Modern releases of Unity are way more demanding than previous releases of Unity. Each new point release has been slower than the previous.

    That you bought the weakest model of an already very weak series only further backs this up. Be aware that an MBA can't be upgraded and then ask yourself how long you want that laptop to be viable. If you want that machine to be usable long term you will want to send it back and order the 16GB model.

    That said I want to make it very clear that the memory isn't the only problem with the base model. Just about every other company out there has stopped using dual-core CPUs due to how inferior they are compared to quad-core CPUs even in cases where you only care about single-threaded performance.

    Finally a 256GB SSD is way too small. Game development software isn't small nor are the source files you use to create a game. One of the smallest projects I currently have is a prototype for a 2D game. It currently consists of a single level and a single animated character for the player. Current size on disk is just under 3GB.

    Build size and source file size is nowhere near the same. A build of my largest project comes out to around 3 GB but the actual source files are around 130 GB, and I estimate by the time it's complete the source files will be the bigger part of a terabyte.

    Going back to the original topic of your post, the reason everyone recommends MBPs instead of MBAs has to do with the cost difference. If you're already paying $1,000 for an MBA what's a few hundred more to have far better hardware with an MBP?

    If I were in the market for an Apple laptop the following model is the lowest that I would consider. It has a brand new quad-core CPU with a base clock that is almost double the MBA (between these two it should be about 2 to 2.5 times faster), it has 16GB RAM, and has a 512GB SSD. It's superior in just about every way that matters.

    https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/...processor-with-turbo-boost-up-to-3.8ghz-512gb
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  11. Jesver

    Jesver

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    Do you think the basic MBP is enough if we already have a tower and its purpose is school and we will only make unity during the holidays.
     
  12. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    If you're intending to run Unity on the MBP I would at least select 16GB. Other than that it's fine for learning Unity if you don't mind being restricted to mobile and lightweight standalone games.
     
  13. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Yep, 16 GB RAM and 1TB SSD. Everything else is pretty much project specific. Graphics are the biggest weakness, so keep your projects graphically simple. Limit long high CPU tasks as well. The CPU and cooling configuration in the Air will work best with short bursts of CPU load.
     
  14. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    It is not my main machine but I still get serivable performance out of my 2015 MPB. It was towards the top end of the specs at the time. I recently opened my current project on it and it was workable. It does takes a long time to build, particularly for a platform like WebGL.The project has quite a lots of lights and various camera effects, but is very low poly with lots of batching. I don't think I could do anything that looks like a modern 3D game on this machine :)

    If you want to use Mac and cost is an issue maybe consider a second hand MBP. I know build quality can differ but for me they have always been reliable: I've also got a 2011 MBP that runs fine (but does need to be plugged in to get more than about 30 minutes out of it).
     
  15. Jesver

    Jesver

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    If not maybe I can take the MBA with the processor and the ram at the maximum
    It's been 3 years that I code on unity with 8Gb of ram and a ryzen 3 1200 processor and a radeom RX560 4Gb and I run very well unity so I wonder if the 16go are mandatory.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
  16. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Just because it appears to be running well doesn't mean it truly is. Barring unusual circumstances we're past the point that a computer will simply give you an out of memory message. Instead it will try to hide it with techniques like memory compression and by sending infrequently accessed memory to a file on your storage device.

    What's worse is that modern hardware helps to mask this further still. With a traditional HDD, for example, it was very clear when the computer ran out of memory because the pagefile on it was absurdly slow, but with an SSD it's a different story since these become faster not only with the size of the data being manipulated but with the number of processes doing the manipulation. A modern SSD is typically 50MB/sec with a single random access, but increase that to four random accesses and it's suddenly 200MB/sec.

    Getting back to memory usage I'm currently running Chrome and Unity 2019.3. Chrome has two tabs open and is currently using 0.5 GB. Unity has a project open but the current scene is completely empty. It's using 3 GB. If I only had 8 GB that would leave me with 5.5 GB but keep in mind I'm not just running two apps. I'm running an operating system, drives and associated support apps, etc. Ignoring a game I have in the background I'm currently using 12 GB.

    That said it doesn't stop there. Every modern operating system will attempt to use some percentage of available memory for caching frequently accessed files and data. Once you start using system memory heavily though this performance boost is no longer performed by the OS. If that doesn't sound important keep in mind the fastest SSDs are only 5 GB/sec whereas DDR4 typically sits around 50 GB/sec. My computer is currently using 42 GB of my 64 GB as a cache.

    It's completely up to you whether the additional $200 for 16 GB RAM is a sound investment, but my policy is to upgrade once the system is using 80% of it's available memory because it's a good indicator that I may need more down the road and even if I didn't at 80% I wouldn't have had much of that performance boosting cache active.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2020
  17. Jesver

    Jesver

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    Thank you for your answer but in France the prices are not always the same so I will think about it.
     
  18. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    One last thing I forgot to mention is that the Apple laptops have soldered memory. I build and buy my computers with the expectation that they will last me 3 to 4 years. With PC hardware I can easily drop in another stick or two if the memory is no longer adequate but you won't have that luxury with the MacBook.

    Apple hardware does hold its value though so you might be able to just sell it for the majority of what you paid and buy a better model if you do discover that it's no longer sufficient. This is where PCs are different. They don't hold their value anywhere near as much as a Mac and it's only very specific configurations when they do.
     
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