I never would’ve thought I would pose these questions as I’m not a fan of the whole Apple ecosystem at all, but I’m considering buying a refurbished older Mac/MacBook for the first time. I would be used for testing only, not for development on it.
Yes, if it has to be done with software like AnyDesk or Teamviewer, I would not do it either. If it can be done as a real terminal session (thin client) like I do on Windows, I don’t see any difference in speed.
don’t buy a laptop if you don’t need to move it. a mac mini will be a better choice for development. you can use almost any keyboard mouse screen on it. and you can remote control the screen if needed.
I’m VERY happy with my 2010 Mac Pro … the classic Mac Pro had a massive price crash after Apple announced their own silicon, and my next Mac will also be one with Apple silicon.
The advantage of the Mac Pro is that it can still be a power house (I have two 3.47 GHz 6 core Xeon CPUs, 96 GB of RAM [had 128 GB but it runs 25% faster with 3 RAM slots due to triple channel memory, eg the 3 data channels work like one big one], 2 SSDs [you could make one Mac, one Windows] and two 8 TB hard disks, 2 DVD burners, Radeon RX 560 graphics card [uses only 80 Watt, has 2 GB VRAM, drives my 3440x1440 34in ultrawide LG display at 60 Hz]).
The disadvantage is that a new Mac mini runs rings around most older Macs, especially in single core performance. But it came out in 2018 and is overdue for a refresh.
But that being said my next Mac will be Apple silicon too - probably a mini, with my 32 TB Synology for most storage.
I had a 12in MacBook and hated the keyboard so much that I sold it again 3 days later. It was also quite underpowered.
The 13in MacBook Air are nice for travelling and good value for money.
Any 13in MacBook Pro up to and including the 2017 should be avoided - the new 13in is a step into the present (not the future), but the MacBook Air is better value.
The 2015 15in MacBook Pro is recommended if you want all the legacy ports (but still quite expensive - 2nd hand prices here have actually increased over the last 2 years), otherwise the newish 16in MBP is MUCH better.
If you have a powerful PC then you could see if you can hackintosh it with multi-boot options.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a MacBook or Apple laptop, unless you want an Apple Laptop.
Instead I would urge you to look at a Mac Mini, in saying that I would point you towards a much newer model. Apple now only provide software updates for around 7 years, in the recent years Apple have artificially prevented newer versions of macOS from running on certain machines, even if their tech specs show that they are capable.
There are hacks for some of these machines, but even then Apple may get more aggressive about trying to force you to re-purchase hardware that you don’t need to. Gotta keep that profit up right!
You also need a reasonable sized disk, for you should support at least 3 different different versions of the macOS, until Big Sur you could easily install the macOS and Xcode into a 64GB partition. However with Big Sur and Xcode 12, you now need a 80 GB partition if you want to be able to update your copy of Big Sur, without having to delete Xcode, update and re-install Xcode
I would recommend no more than 3 versions of the macOS, because so much changes between each version, trying to do what I did 10.11, 10.12, 10.13, 10.14, 10.15 & 10.16 will consume far too much of your time.
Many of my Xcode peers ONLY support the current OS version.
don’t buy a mac mini with an apple factory ssd : they are on a proprietary bar and you won’t have the cables and brackets needed to install a sata ssd inside. better buy one with a used mechanic hard drive, too slow that people get rid of the mac, just install a 2"5 ssd drive in place and good to go. yes you can have an external ssd on a usb 3 port.
At this moment in time, may I suggest to wait for a MacMini with Silicon ?
Ok, a bit expensive (I suppose), but it will be common in some months (within your/all customers) and it will take months (I hope) to be deprecated (Vintage they say) - 5 years ? And many more years of good use.