13 inch versus 15 inch macbook pro for a freshman designer

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by neversaynever, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. neversaynever macrumors member


    Apr 12, 2009
    g'day to everyone.

    I am considering a macbook pro, be it 13 or 15. to specify my needs i need to give a little info about myself. I am a freshman student designer and I started school this year. I have full scholarship, but the school gives this in exchange to that I work for them. (for in-school exhibitions etc.) the work did not start yet, but I am told I should expect a busy schedule.

    I would normally be content with my imac at home, but one of my uncles said that as a scholarship gift he'll buy me a macbook pro,and I need to choose. he said the cost is no object and I'm pretty much free to select anything.

    I am thinking about 13 inch one because I will probably carry it with me all the time, it is light, portable and when I need there are spare monitors on the scholarship hall so while at the school I'm pretty much fine.

    As disadvantages I am worried(should I be worried?) about processing power of 13 inch one.(think of 13 top end versus 15 top end) secondly while I'm out of the school I'm pretty much confined to 13 inch screen which I have no experience with. does that 2 inches really make a difference?

    I also want the machine to be as future-proof as possible since I will not be in position to buy another one in foreseeable future. I have an imac at home, so the laptop does not have to do real hardcore jobs, but needs to be versatile enough to tackle most day jobs of a graphic designer in next few years.

    I will probably be carrying this to everywhere I go, so weight is a real concern.

    I also heard that 13 inch screens are far worse than its bigger counterparts, is this true, or does it make a real difference?

    Sorry if I messed it all up :) and thanks.
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    The weight difference is only one pound (450 grams) so I doubt you'll notice a lot but there's a noticeable difference in CPU power, mainly because of bigger L2 cache. I would get the top 15" if money isn't an issue but 13" should be fine for you
  3. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Just go to a store and look at the two models side by side. I prefer the 15", some of my friends prefer the 13". You can do everything on the 15" that you can on the 13" and vv, so it's really just a matter of taste.
  4. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    The 13" would be fine, combined with books you'll thank yourself for saving even a pound. The 13" attached to an external monitor is even nicer when you're home. Finally, future proofing computers is useless.
  5. BanjoBanker macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2006
    Mt Brook, AL
    Since you have an iMac for the big stuff and you said you will be carrying it around, go with the 13" I have a 13" BlackBook and the wife has the 15"MBP. She always comments on how much lighter my laptop bag is than hers and I carry a ton of stuff in my bag. I call it the "electronic warfare kit" when I travel for all the stuff in there. One pound doesn't sound like much, but it the weight of a power brick,a blue tooth mouse and a miniDVI adapter. The weight of a bare machine is only the begining when you are looking at how much weight you will be carrying. Don't forget the add-ons. That being said, spend some time at the store that carries them. Look them over side by side and see which one you feel will best fit your needs.
  6. techound1 macrumors 68000


    Mar 3, 2006
    You can pick up an extra dell monitor for $150-ish. It will give you a ton of extra real-estate when you're back at your desk and your back will thank you about 2 months into classes.
  7. Mr. Brown macrumors member

    Jan 15, 2008
    Can I borrow your uncle? :D I'm also debating between the 13" and 15". I would prefer the 15" for the extra screen space and power but unlike you, money is an object.

    Anyway, whatever you choose, have fun with it!
  8. emcham macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2009
    for the work you are doing, i would get a top end 15" with the anti-glare screen. that is my vote. i am also in art school. you won't regret it.
  9. neversaynever thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 12, 2009
    Why future proofing is useless?

    I was actually hoping that I could leave power brick at home :D Well, 13 inch is superb, but it seems rather small, which is normal because I used 15" laptops all the time. I am asking because I know I have bias in favour of 15" screens. According to the answers I think 13" is perfectly usable, though.

    Anti-glare would be perfect, though I live in Turkey and any customization options(such as 3.06 top end, anti-glare or additional software or printers etc.) is not available for me. If I get to the States, is there any chance that they already have an antiglare top end on the stock? or are they all built upon order?

    my uncle rocks:D if I were you I'd definitely go for 13".

    additional two inches is not really worth all the energy you're gonna spend if you haul it to the school everyday. my problem is the cost being no object. and thanks :)

    Anybody have an idea if 13" creen is really inferior to its bigger counterparts?
  10. rKunda macrumors 65816


    Jul 14, 2008
    I think the above posters are right on. 13" will meet almost anyone's needs, but if you can afford it, the 15" is a big improvement. It's not that much heavier and the screen real estate alone is worth the price, imo. Don't think I'd want a 17" inch, though. That's too big for a laptop.

    I'm pretty happy with my 13", but 15 would be pretty cool.
  11. Moriarty macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2008
    2209WA. Don't buy any of their TN crap. Even if you're not doing colour-critical work (though as a designer it would help), IPS panels are much nicer to use.

    Or splurge for their new 24 inch IPS.

    Anyway that's off topic. Go for the 15 inch, unless you regularly carry a lot of textbooks, the extra 0.5 kg won't make much of a difference. You'll be glad for the bigger screen with higher resolution (and lower DPI if you hate small fonts).

    And get the matte screen, even if you don't mind glossy... once you go matte you'll never go back! So much easier to use and less strain on the eyes.
  12. neversaynever thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 12, 2009
    I have a 24" imac with IPS panel for color critical work, calibration is a pain in the a** though.

    glossy isn't available for me as I live in Turkey. :(
  13. MacFanUK macrumors 6502a


    Jul 29, 2009
    When it was Aluminium Macbooks vs Macbook Pro's, yes the screens were worlds apart, but the 13" Macbook Pro's have fantastic screens. Maybe not the same quality as the 15" (I don't know), but pretty close.

    I also spent a lot of time trying to decide between the 13" and 15" and it really boiled down to the fact that the 13" MBP has the same resolution as the 15" PC laptop I have been using until recently. Therefore, I would not be losing any actual screen real estate. The 15" is nice, but I think the 13" is perfectly usable, and as others have suggested, you could get a second display, or use ScreenRecycler to use your iMac's screen as an external display for your laptop.
  14. neversaynever thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 12, 2009
    thanks for clarification. yeah, I saw that too, but the point is, is it easy to read text from 13" screen with that high PPI?
  15. silentnite macrumors 6502a


    Apr 21, 2009
    Outer sight.. Outer mind
    I read about a lot of people who question the integrity of the 13" Mac pro. All I can say owning it & seeing what it is made of will change one's mind.

    Lately, I've seen more people in my local BORDERS book store with one or at my guitar practice. A lot more then the white Mac book. In fact some 15" owners are surprised at the improved screen clarity when they compare theirs to mines.

    At the time of my purchase money was no object either. I had a budget of $1700. However, I thought wisely about my needs and saved the money towards a well needed ssd & memory. Which has made my pro super fast & loved. I have recently gotten myself a 24" monitor & have no regrets. If you own the Imac already I don't see the need of lugging another one around. Only spend the money if you really think you need it. Good Luck!
  16. beatledud macrumors 6502

    May 4, 2006
    Ok, you're a designer...what kind of designer? Graphic Designer? Industrial Designer? These things matter. Are you going to be running just CS4 programs? Rendering programs? Video Editing?

    I had 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo 15" MBP through the end of my B.S. Arch and 3 years of my M. Arch. It worked great and never let me down! The 15" was a bit small to work on SketchUp and CS4 programs but was doable. I'd much prefer to do the heavy work by plugging into an external in my studio. More than a year after graduating It's still running strong!

    There's one major thing that no one's talked about between the two. There's three major configurations of the 15" (defined by processor speed). the 2.6 and the 2.8 GHz come with dual video cards! All the machines have GeForce 9400M chip with SHARED 256MB of VRAM (including the 13"), but the 2.6 and up also can boot up into a GeForce 9600GT with DEDICATED 256MB of VRAM. Much more powerful video card that can handle heavy graphics (both CS4 and Renderings). And yes, you can only use one of these cards at a time (they include two so you can switch to the lower end one to save battery life) but it's been shown that Snow Leopard's OpenCL can use both of them for regular processing, so that's 4 Cores/Processors working at once.

    And you want to make it future proof (the best you can you said) then make sure you get the best in what can't be replaced. HDDs and RAM can be replaced (albeit the HDD isn't as easy, but still doable). The video card and processor are built in. Select the 2.8 GHz 15" and you can choose to upgrade the processor to 3.05 GHz. Ram is 4GB standard and while RAM is cheap right now, you need two 4GB DDR3 sticks to get to the 8GB. Usually Apple charges too much overhead (it's a $1,000 to upgrade to 8GB) but last I checked 2x 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 was $700-800 on newegg. Still a lot of profit but obviously the 4GB individual sticks are a bit pricey right now. Easy enough to replace yourself. The HDD isn't (but doable). Definitely upgrade the 2.8 from a 500GB 5400RPM drive to a 7200RPM drive for $50. Personally the $250 upgrade to a 256GB Solid State Drive just isn't worth it right now.

    Ok, so the last paragraph was more about taking advantage of the money is no object option you've got, but you want to future proof your machine. The two new items you'll probably see coming out in the next revision or two that will be worth having will be the new Core i7 processors and USB 3.0. Those would be nice, but can you wait 3 months or so? Probably not, and right now the MBPs are still really good machines, just max out your CPU and Video Card.

    I've personally been thinking about switching to a 13" now that I'm out of school just so I can bring it around the house and carry it with me all the time. But you'll find you'll want to be doing your work at school and in studio more and more, and not going home, the 13" would have driven me crazy to work on in school. So give yourself the bigger screen and more power and it will last you for 5 years like mine has lasted me.

    Hope this helps.

    EDIT: And again I don't know what type of designer you are, but as an architect and with friends who were Industrial Design students say good bye to your home. You will at some point (be it freshman, sophomore, or junior) stop seeing your home. Once I didn't go home for 7 days, slept very little or not at all. Your studio will be your new home, so that iMac won't help you unless you chain it to your desk at school.
  17. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Seeing cost is not an issue, I'd get the 2.8GHz 15" with a 24" Dell UltraSharp U2410. Or just the laptop. I know a few design majors and they all have the 15". I'm guessing that model would be suitable for you.
  18. Intense macrumors regular

    Sep 18, 2008
    design major here.

    I don't take my 15.4" macbook pro to school, it's very heavy ... it's not the one pound that makes the difference, it's the surface space that the computer takes, we're talking a few inches extra and a pound extra, sounds ridiculous in theory yet once you're in and out of classes, workshops, labs, checking for info quickly on your laptop, then putting it back, or if you're at the printer doing minor tweaks, on the road, train, bus, metro .... the 13" will come in very very very handy ...

    as far as performance, I want to sell my 15.4" and willing to lose money and risk losing performance just for the annoying flexibility in mobility issue ... for me, a 13" makes a difference ... that's why I always carry my 13" dell latitude around ... yet I am getting to a point where I will be doing lots of rendering and video editing ... so I am aiming at the 13" macbook pro with 4gb of ram with an aftermarket hard drive upgrade to 500gb @ hopefully 7200rpm when I can afford to do so ...

    going to the store won't help, you'll need a year of using the laptop and you'd start to grasp it a bit, maybe carrying a 15" for you won't be that big of a deal

    good luck !
  19. Full of Win macrumors 68030

    Full of Win

    Nov 22, 2007
    Ask Apple
    If you are thinking about a 13 inch, let me warn you ...don't


    Many programs expect a higher resolution than the 13 inch 1280 X 800 display can give you. Its not something that you can easily scale down either, since many programs have predetermined button and element sizes. For example, when I try to make a video using Premiere Pro CS3, the button to start the encoder is hidden and the screen cannot be lifted up to see it. I literally have to press enter to begin the process.

    With that said, my thing is Biology, but I do use a lot of programs for presentations (e.g Cinema 4D, Premiere Pro, After Effects) so I'm not a design person.
  20. LazersGoPEWPEW macrumors regular

    Aug 26, 2009
    Pensacola, FL
    I think you should go with the 15in. Dedicated graphics in the midrange, matte screen option, more screen real estate...

    the matte screen is huge for just reflections. School is not a place where you can actively control light either so it's nice when you don't have school lights bouncing off your screen area.
  21. ziggyonice macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    If you're wanting to future-proof it, with some portability, go for the mid/high range 15". If you're wanting more portability than anything else, go for the high-end 13".

    It's all in how you use it.
  22. beatledud macrumors 6502

    May 4, 2006
    I feel you, and again I guess it goes back to my original question of what kind of designer are you. I agree with you it's not as much about the weight as it is about the real estate space in your bag. I love that idea. But taking it out for notes all the time never proved that reasonable to me. I don't know. I took mine to school each day for 4 years. The question is a 13" MBP really a pro that can handle a designer's demands. I'll break down the win/loss for what I think are the most important categories:

    The Following list assumes two things. 1. That the 13" will be the max 2.53GHz version. 2. That the 15" will be at least 2.66 GHz if not the 2.8 GHz processor that can upgraded to 3.05 GHZ.

    1. Processory (Daily Use and Future Proof) - 13" max is 2.53 : 15" max is 3.05 : Win 15" *note 15" has higher L2 cache
    2. Video Card (Daily Use and Future Proof) - 13" single shared memory VCard : MBP 15" Dual VCards and much better 2nd one : Win 15"
    3. Memory (Daily Use) - 13" is 4GB Standard : 15" is 4GB Standard : Push
    4. Storage (Daily Use) - 13" is 250GB 5.4kpm with $150 upgrade to 500GB 5400rpm : 15" 2.8+ is 500GB 5.4krpm with $50 upgrade to 7.2Krpm : Slight Win 15" but record a Push
    5. Weight (Daily Use) - 13" is 4.5lbs : 15" is 5.5 lbs : Win 13"
    6. Size bag space (Daily Use) - 13" is 2.41 x 32.5 x 22.7 cm : 15" is 2.41 x 36.4 x 24.9 cm : Win is 13"
    7. Size screen quality and rez. - 13" good and gloss only : 15" larger screen and rez. Matte online option available. Quality may be better but noticeably the same : Slight Win 15"

    So there you have it. In 7 categories that I think applies to this threadstarter I give 3 wins to the 15" and 2 wins to the 13" with 2 Pushes. One push I could easily give to the 15" and one 15" could easily give to push. So those cancel each other out and the 15" wins 3 to 2. But ultimately do you want a higher processing machine with better future prevention or something more portable.

    Personally, get the 15" highest end. If it just is too big you could always sell it used (assuming you take care of it) and buy the 13" with money left over...

    On a side note: Lots of people are in different types of design and if you are in a group like I was, your studio will be your home and you need your best computer with you all the time and at school. If so HIGH END EHIGH END! Also I realize you said you don't think you can get a matte screen where you are online. Double check because Apple essentially still offers it for designers. Much better to have a Matte but a Gloss wouldn't be the end all to be all, but I would go out of my way not to have it.
  23. neversaynever thread starter macrumors member


    Apr 12, 2009

    As a matter of fact I am not able to get any BTO upgrades like matte screen or hdd upgrade or 3.06 upgrade since apple does not have direct service here and we dont have apple online store. we have a third party distributor which charges ridiculous markups (essentially doubles the price, something like %80 price increase with taxes)

    If for example I came to New York, Would I be able to buy a customized top-top-end 15" right away, or would they ask me to wait three weeks? any ideas?

    How hard is it to change the hdd and the ram? I mean, is it something I can do at home? (I'm pretty much tech-savvy) This is a very good idea, a SSD would almost double the performance.

    Well, to be honest I don’t know :D My course is called Visual Communications Design, it encompasses all of the new media, video, graphic design, web design and anything that may pop out in the future. It’s a very heavy programme as far as I can see. In addition I have scholarship which means I have to work for school. School is good, one of the best in Turkey, and they are probably not going to accept sloppy work, which means I will (and the hardware I have will) be forced to the bleeding edge.

    Do dual video cards really make a difference in CS4 Suite? I mean, did photoshop(and any of them) start to fully utilize the GPU yet?(except video-oriented ones of course, they are already using that)

    oh god. the last sentence? they exactly said that. I'm freaking out.

    Are you sure that they are coming in three months? I mean, if I could be sure I would wait but i guess nobody's sure about that, and I can't afford design school without a mac for 3 months, without a very solid reason.

    I was talking about that. I am a very petite person (1.62m, 50kg) and every pound and inch I carry extra will cost me dearly. You’re right that going into the store won’t help, as it didn’t. You can’t see how hard will it be while carrying, at the store.

    very nice point, but when I will be at the school I have access to 21" external monitors, and when I'm out, I have a 24" iMac at home. My point of concern is processing power right now.

    beatledud has a nice comparison right there. But you forgot that I may have no customizations while doing the list. If I strip these out, there’s not much difference left except video card and and CPU. CPU comparison: 2.53 vs 2.8, GPU comparison is 9400m versus 9400m+9600. if you scale both in ten-scale, what do you think, how would they compare? I mean, 2.53 6/10 2.8 8/10 or so. If the gap is narrow enough I’m going to buy 13”, if there’s a huge difference in the GPU, I’m going to get 15” top non customized.

    and thanks :)
  24. MacFanUK macrumors 6502a


    Jul 29, 2009
    Has anyone had any experience using Premiere Pro CS4? I do the ocassional video editing (although starting to use iMovie more and more), but would like to know if this is going to be a real issue before I purchase a 13".
  25. beatledud macrumors 6502

    May 4, 2006
    I figured on the Matte screen item, didn't think about the 3.06GHz thing. Yes, they will have matte screens in the store. As a designer YOU WANT A MATTE SCREEN. Not sure about the 3.06 since it's not one of their 3 base models. Since you're going to NYC you can go to the 5th St or one of their other large stores, they have the largest inventory. Do you know someone in the states? It may be better to just ask (or you) to order it and delivered to them.

    And with an 80% price increase I'd definitely travel to get it. You're paying over $1,800 in surcharge, that's enough for the plane ticket!

    I'd wait on the RAM. 4GB is enough for now and 4GB DDR3 chips are too pricey, especially since most other RAM is super cheap (although I see Other World Computing sells them for $520 for the pair). Wait for them to drop in a year and upgrade. It's easy and Apple considers it user upgradeable. With the older MBP models replacing the HDD was a bit of a chore. From what I've read the newer ones are much easier. May still need the a Torx6 Wrench though. I couldn't find the standard how-to manuals, but iFixit has a tear down and you can see how easy it is to get to. This isn't user upgradeable (see void warranty) and you technically need a certified Apple repair tech to do it. But you don't need to present proof to Apple that a cert. tech did it, so just don't screw it up and your warranty will be fine.

    Right, video orientated programs will require a more powerful GPU. Photoshop is CPU and memory intensive. The better GPU is important in more ways though. I'm not sure if the lower end VCard supports dual link displays (extra large displays of the 30" variety). Also, I would go with the higher end since you'll want better color quality and trueness since you're a designer. You can only run one GPU at a time, but OpenCL can use both of them for calculations. This helps out Photoshop since it's CPU intensive. When new versions of CS and other programs come out the extra GPU for more processing will be a huge boost.

    I'm not going to pretend to know the exact experience of your degree, especially being in another country. But if it's anywhere close to how mine was, a computer at home isn't going to help you. You're laptop will be your new best friend.

    I don't know if Apple will adopt the USB 3.0 right away but they are usually right on top of new spec releases. Gizmodo recently had a post about waiting for a laptop right now. Go to reason 3 for a direct point to Mac users.

    Again I sympathize with the desire for a smaller machine. And even though the 13" are a bit more powerful now, not a single person in my studio (let alone the design school I believe) had a 13". Many carried around the giant 17" because they needed the power. Unless you are willing to risk upgrading half way through your degree because CS6 runs like crap on your 13".

    Also don't take for granted that every time you need to get work done you have to run to where the external monitors are. You have things planned out in your head right now, but they probably won't work out that way down the road, especially in the latter years of your degree.

    Check out everymac for a comparison summary. It doesn't state exactly a comparison with the top 13 and top 15, but it looks like it would be at least 15-25% faster. A big difference. From them comparing, it looks like a 10-15% increase in each step up of processor. More surprising is a Quake4 bench test showed the top 15" to be twice as fast as the low 15" (essentially what you'll be getting in a 13") because of the video card. Now of course you aren't buying this for Quake but that's important for the higher end rendering programs you may use.

    I think we've beaten the topic to death. If you're really concerned about the 1 pound then go 13". But you want this to last a long time and you'll really need the power for graphic programs. If you were an economic major, this would be a 13" hands down, but you're not.

    15" High end, no question really. Now the real question is can you get the 3.06 somehow?

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