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Reddit engineer details how the new M1 Max MacBook Pro can save devs time and money

Reddit engineer details how the new M1 Max MacBook Pro can save devs time and money

Categories: Review
Posted: November 27, 2021

Following the announcement of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max-powered MacBook Pros last month, a trend quickly emerged with multiple big tech companies rolling out the new machines to their engineering teams. At the time, companies making the upgrade included Uber, Twitter, and Reddit.

Now, Reddit staff engineer Jameson Williams has shared a detailed breakdown of the improvements the company expects to see with the new MacBook Pro models.

In a post on Reddit this week, Williams elaborated on his initial claims about the effectiveness of the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros. In a viral tweet posted earlier this month, Williams had said that the cost of upgrading a team of nine engineers to the new MacBook Pro would be $32,000 and that the break-even point would happen at three months.

In today’s post, Williams says that Reddit has observed that a 2021 M1 Max MacBook Pro can finish a clean build of the Reddit app for Android in around half the time as an Intel i9 MacBook Pro from 2019.

The basic premise of the tweet was to weigh the up-front cost of buying some new laptops, alongside the opportunity cost of not doing so. In other words, I wanted to compare these two formulae:

Net Cost ($) with 2019 i9 MBP =
(No upfront cost) + (Time lost waiting on builds with 2019 MBP) * (Hourly rate of an Engineer)

And

Net Cost ($) with 2021 MBP =
($31.5k up-front cost) + (Time lost waiting on builds with 2021 MBP) * (Hourly rate of an Engineer)

To start, I estimated that an average Android engineer spends 45 minutes waiting on builds each day. (More about this later.) My colleagues and I then benchmarked our builds on some different hardware. We observed that the new 2021 M1 Max MacBook finished a clean build of our Android repo in half the time of a 2019 Intel i9 MacBook. That means an Android developer could save about 22 minutes of build time every day.

For a clean build of the Reddit for iOS application, the 2021 MacBook Pro can cut the build time by even more.

The full post on Reddit is well worth a read, with additional details on some of the other considerations that go into these types of decisions. Ultimately, however, Williams concludes:

There’s an old saying about being “penny-wise but dollar-dumb.” Engineering departments sometimes fall victim to the adage, thinking they’re “saving” $1k/laptop while dozens of Engineers are sitting idle, staring at progress bars.

Developer time is almost always more expensive than hardware, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated here. If you extrapolate the results of this article to your entire department, you might find that a targeted hardware refresh saves you $500k–$1M in productivity per year.

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