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Related question: Does Mathematica work on 2016 MacBook Pros?

I am trying to figure out whether it would be a wiser decision to run Mathematica on a pricey 15" MacBook Pro or on a 13" MacBook Pro. Any inputs would be welcome. Does Mathematica run faster or more efficiently on a quad-core system? I have a quad core Linux laptop and Mathematica runs somewhat slowly on it, which could have to do with poor utilization of resources etc. But I am in the market for a portable laptop for LaTeX and Mathematica.

The MacBook Pro 15" is way more expensive so I'd be pinching myself financially to get it, but if it is technically a better purchase for Mathematica, I am all in for it.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to mma.se! Remember that stackexchange is not a forum for open ended discussions and exchange of opinions, so this question probably isn't appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – QuantumDot
    Sep 4 '17 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ Please feel free to remove it if it probably isn't appropriate :) $\endgroup$ Sep 4 '17 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ You can try community.wolfram.com $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Sep 4 '17 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ Mathematica on Linux and Mac OS can not be compared when it comes to the user interface and this is where you probably experience the slowness. Mac OS works better, although Windows is unfortunately still superior. When it comes to the behaviour of algorithms, then the CPU and RAM are the things that count and you are better off with the bigger MBP. Finally, I hope I don't have to mention that you get a superior (not Mac) desktop computer for the same money. $\endgroup$
    – halirutan
    Sep 4 '17 at 15:45
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Quad-core can definitely make a non-trivial difference if you're pushing boundaries. What follows is all anecdotal, and depends on what you care about doing. For context half my non-recreational Mathematica life is graph isomorphism and the other half is reducing large exact (infinite precision) linear systems.


For context -- for (relatively local) off-line work I've got a cluster of two 1-terabyte 64-core linux boxes graciously hosted in some rack at work. Daily life, exploration, new development, can go fine on a tiny 2015 8 GB 12-inch Macbook that plays well with fairly compact seats in French buses and the RER B. Still, for active debugging, pushing the boundaries of reasonable pre-TB work, my older 2013 16 GB 4-core 15 inch Macbook Pro is key.

If I needed to buy something now I'd seriously consider comparative processor but higher memory linux laptops -- the fact that current MacBook Pro is limited still to 16 GB has and continues to keep me off the new laptop market.

I guess if wed to OS X, I'd play with the keyboard of the 2016 before jumping on board, and might consider the 2015 model almost for the keyboard alone.

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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I vastly prefer the keyboard of the 2016/2017 models. As for the OP—it really depends on what their workflow looks like. Many workflows in MMA can be parallelized easily and efficiently; a quad core device would make a very noticeable difference for those workflows. For more single-threaded stuff, the current 13" models are extremely quick, and while 32GB of RAM would be lovely, I've found that 16GB hasn't held me back at all for my own work. Now, if we could get Touch Bar support... $\endgroup$ Sep 4 '17 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @John, thanks for your answer and as a physics student, I am honored to hear from you after your Strings talk (hope your injury healed!). My current Mathematica work isn't nearly as intense as yours and Linux on my 17" Alienware does the job very well. But I have almost never had a portable laptop and the only reason I've been considering Mac is that I don't want my Linux-maintenance attention (e.g. updating kernels, installing drivers, etc.) to be divided between two systems. Mac is portable and standardized but indeed very expensive. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '17 at 3:16

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