13-inch or 15-inch for daily carry computer?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by johngwheeler, Oct 23, 2014.

  1. johngwheeler macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...

    I'm weighing up the price / performance / convenience balance between the various configurations of 13 & 15 inch rMBP.

    My use case is for daily use of productivity software, part-time software development, and running (heavy-weight) virtual machines. I feel I need a 16GB machine for the VMs. I need to carry the computer with me every work day, and often travel on public transport and economy-class airlines.

    I had initially thought to replace my i7 MBA 13 with a rMBP 13 2.6GHz/16GB/256GB, which would give me the extra RAM, retina screen and more ports, but be otherwise roughly equal in power to my current MBA.

    However, I'm starting to weigh up the pros and cons of the entry-level rMBP 15:


    More powerful CPU, particularly for running VMs
    Bigger screen (although scaling can compensate to some degree)
    Better graphics (Iris Pro vs Iris)


    More Expensive - c. AU$400 more than 2.6GHz i5 rMBP 13 (but only AU$100 more than 3.0GHz i7 rMBP 13)
    Significantly heavier.
    Bigger footprint - may be less comfortable on public transport and not fit on economy airplane tables.
    Less battery life

    Have any of you made the same decision? What did you choose, and why?

    In particular, if you carried your rMBP to work every day , what would you choose?

    Thanks for your input!
  2. Bending Pixels macrumors 65816

    Jul 22, 2010
    If your doing any image editing using something like Lightroom or Photoshop, or video editing (iMovie/FCPX/Motion 5), you'll find the extra money spent for a 15" screen an advantage.
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    My vote is for the 15" because of the quad core processing and you get 16GB in the base model. VMs will definitely take advantage of the quad core processors and the Iris Pro GPU is much better then the Iris GPU in the 13" model.
  4. skaertus macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    I do have a 15-inch MacBook Pro and it is amazing. However, I think my next one will be a 13-inch because of its size and portability. The 15-inch is not heavy, but to carry it around every day with all the stuff... Well, I could have something lighter.
  5. taelan28 macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2014
    You need it to get work done and get money. Go quad core 15 inch. But if the air was just fine then go 13.

    youll love the res bump.
  6. johngwheeler thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    This is the dilemma I find myself in. I used to carry a 2007 MBP 15" - at 5.5 lbs and didn't think too much of the weight. But I've been spoiled by the MBA which is such as a joy to carry around.

    The downside is that I have run up against the limitations of the MBA and I have to make the decision of "power vs portabilty". In absolute terms, not having enough power can be a show-stopper (can't do the job), but being 1.5lb heavier is merely an inconvenience.

    I guess the decision has to come down to an honest assessment of needs. If you need the more powerful machine - even if only now and again, then a weaker machine will be frustrating. However, you pay for this flexibility by carrying an extra 50% weight whether you need it or not.

    The options are:

    1) Man-up and carry the load

    2) buy 2 computers, and take the appropriate one according to the job in hand.
  7. skaertus macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    Portability may be very convenient. Not just the weight. Size too. A 13-inch MacBook Pro fits inside nearly every suitcase, and perfect fits any hotel safe. The 15-inch does not.

    If you go with a maxed-up 13-inch, with a Core i7 processor and 16 GB RAM, then you'll probably have enough power for anything, unless you need the dedicated video card.
  8. Flexotron macrumors newbie

    Oct 9, 2014
    Ottawa Canada
    Go 15 inch

    Last year I decided to jump into the macworld and get a MBPR. My wife already owned a 13' MBP, but like you I was undecided as to which way to go. I wanted a real desktop replacement, but i didn't want a massive laptop to lug around. Finally I decided on the late 2013 fully 15' upgraded MBPr.

    My observations after 1 year of usage..
    - In all honesty, traveling with a 13 inch vs 15 inch does not make a difference for me. Both the 13 and 15 inchers take up significant more space and weight more that an ipad for instance....but IMO there isn't enough of a difference between them to solely base your decision on portability alone.

    -Screen real estate is better on the 15 inch. Probably because I'm so used to it now, but when I use my wife's 13'MBP I find the screen is a bit too small for me.

    - Comfort on your lap with be very similar. moving around in the house is similar.

    - Performance...well, obviously you have the option of specking out a more powerful machine if at 15 inches.

    Based on my observations, I'd say so you will not regret going a bit bigger....but you may regret going too small (Like the purchase of any tv lol). Yes I struggled with my purchase too, so i'ts understandable to look at your pros and cons. I will add one thing...after using my laptop a few times my wife has said that her next one will be 15 inches......as you spend more time looking at the screen that you do carrying the laptop around (which fits very nicely into my carry on bag, as well as my backpack.

    Good luck on your purchase!
  9. johngwheeler thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    Thanks for your comments. I'm now leaning towards the 15" - I have the sensation that I might regret going to the "compromise solution" of the rMBP, and always be wishing I had gone to the more powerful machine. The real driver for change is lack of power on the occasions when I need it, so if I don't address this, I'd probably be dissatisfied with the outcome.

    Of course, what Apple really wants is for all us to buy the whole gamut of their products so that we have a machine for every occassion! I could quite easily manage a two machine set-up as all my work is synced on cloud storage.

    I'm quite interested to see what products will emerge in the super-portable category. An iPad deosn't quite meet my needs for a work device, but a 12" ultra thin MBA might.

  10. nateo200 macrumors 68030


    Feb 4, 2009
    Northern District NY
    I'm not obsessed with screen size but the 15" offers a better choice with quad core and if applicable the discrete GPU....I honestly preferred my 13" MBP but went with a 15" rMBP for the dGPU and Quad Core. Now I really really love this thing! My 15" rMBP is actually slightly less clunky than my 13" MBP (2010). Fits in all my bags nicely and makes me feel at home whenever I'm riding the train or at school, etc.
  11. someoneoutthere macrumors regular

    Jul 27, 2014
    The Great Lakes State
    Go with the 15" rMBP. You'll find the quad core processing power more convenient for your needs. Speaking of the weight, there is a 1 pound (453 gram) difference between the two, which I'm pretty sure you'll find negligible. I carry mine around in a sleeve bag almost everyday, and I don't find it uncomfortable at all.
  12. johngwheeler thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    I tried the 13 and 15 inch today - prefer the 15!

    I spent some time at the my nearest Apple dealer today comparing the rMBP 13 & 15 inch models. Here are my thoughts:

    1) both are quite comfortable to type on - something that I didn't find witht the cMBP 13 (due to sharp edges). This wasn't an extensive test, but even resting my wrist on the computer (not an ideal typing posture) was fine.

    2) The 13-inch is a nice little package and feels (& actually is!) smaller than my MBA 13.

    3) The retina screen is definitely better than the MBA - text quality is excellent.

    4) I didn't see any significant lag on either when zooming, scrolling or switching desktops, but the 15-inch just felt a bit smoother.

    5) The 15-inch in default resolution looks big! I'm used to the same resolution on a 13-inch screen. However, moving the resolution up to 1920x1200 on the big screen still looked great, and I can see that as being really good for applications that have a lot of panes in addition to the main content area (e.g. programming IDEs)

    6) The 15-inch has quite a large footprint, but is not unduly heavy. The large screen makes more of an impact than the smaller model.

    7) I got the general impression (and looking a the CPU thread usage in System Activity monitor) that the 15-inch is working less to get the same result. CPU usage barely increases for most tasks. It gives the feeling of having a lot of power under the hood.

    Overall, the 15-inch seemed better to me. I tried the base models - 2.6GHz 13-inch & 2.2GHz 15-inch.

    My conclusion is that I would go for the base 15-inch. It's not as portable, but I think the potential to provide more CPU power will be the deciding factor.

    Thanks for all your comments!

  13. newellj macrumors 603

    Oct 15, 2014
    Boston, MA, US
    Your dilemma is power and screen size vs. weight. Sounds like you made the right call.
  14. Z3man macrumors 6502a

    Feb 19, 2012
    Are there any other differences between the 13" & 15" rMBP besides the processor and graphics that has already been mentioned. I know the screens are of very similar dpi resolutions, but is there any difference in quality like viewing angles and colour reproduction, does apple maybe use an uprated screen for the 15".

    Also are the speakers much better on the 15".

    I am only looking at getting one for mainly home use so the size isn't so relevant for me, but if i am only doing light tasks like surfing the net and watching videos, would the 15" be much faster in day to day use, or would the extra power not come into play for light duties. Would there be any advantages to me by going for the 15" beside the extra real estate.
  15. iososx macrumors 6502a


    Aug 23, 2014
    I have a 13" MBA and 15" MBPR. One or the other goes with me daily, weight and size have no impact since they're both so thin and light.

    Yet that said I should mention I'm extremely fit, therefore I don't notice what many users do. For reasons unbeknownst to me, lots of Apple users are hyper sensitive about size and weight. It's always been that way.
  16. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

    Sep 4, 2006
    I would go 15" as I bought the 2013 13" rMbp but returned it and will pick up a 15" later. I thought the 13" was too small especially used on a lap feels awkward. My iPad basically replaced the 13" but I still want a real sized laptop with quad core cpu as I will need it for development and virtual machines.
  17. MPclk2006 macrumors regular

    Sep 20, 2013
    I must say I only have had two Macbooks and both are 13'', I don't know how much more the 15'' weights but I do have another laptop that is 15'' and I would not want to carry that around, not to mention my computer at work is 15'' and when I have to carry that thing around it sucks. I am in shape as well but I'd much rather carry my macbook pro than my work computer specially if I had to do it daily.

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