13 inch vs 15 inch MacBook Pro Retina

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rchlmc, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. rchlmc macrumors newbie

    Dec 11, 2012
    I am looking to buy a MacBook Pro Retina but am torn between 13 inch and 15 inch models.

    I am going to be starting a graphic design degree next year and will be using programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, etc and I will sometimes need to use a large screen when working on projects. I won't really be working with video much and I don't use my computer for gaming, so a really high spec graphics card isn't really a priority, as from what I can see the 13 inch is more than enough to handle the Adobe suite.

    I live far away from my uni and getting there and back involves a lot of walking and train travel, so portability is a huge consideration for me. The smaller and lighter the better (within reason). I have heard conflicting advice from some people saying the 13 inch is perfectly fine, and some saying that it is way too small. Obviously this comes down to personal preference, but do you think it would be wiser to purchase the 13 inch along with a 24 inch external monitor so that I have the best of both worlds - portability combined with a large screen area when I need it? Or should I just purchase the 15 inch on its own? The 15 inch may still not be big enough for some projects I may need it for, and is more expensive. I can get the 13 inch with double the storage space for almost the same price...

    I am really torn about which option is the best to take. Any advice would be appreciated, especially from those that use their MacBook Pros for graphic design. Thanks! :)
  2. yinz macrumors 6502a

    Apr 12, 2012
    15" is a MacBook Pro. 13" is a MacBook Air with retina display... It sounds like 15" is the better choice...
  3. Valkyre macrumors 6502

    Dec 8, 2012
    From what you are saying I think you should go with a 15 inch.

    Yes you will lose some in the portability department, but you will gain a lot more.

    Obviously for the work you need it for, you need -as you say- a display with some moderate real estate. And then there is the biggest advantage of a 15 inch which is... discrete gfx card. The 13 inch doesnt have a discrete gfx card and with the retina display it could be taxing to do some of the work you want to do with editing and such. With the 15 inch you will have a better experience overall I believe. And the difference in weight really aint that much of an issue.
  4. boto macrumors 6502


    Jun 4, 2012
    I would suggest the 15", unless 128GB of storage is sufficient for your needs. Also, you get more value for the buck when it comes to all of the specifications and features the 15" offers.
  5. HishamAkhtar macrumors 6502a

    Oct 22, 2011
    I was dead set on getting the 13 inch Retina Macbook pro. I watched in awe when the 15 inch came out but waited for the 13 inch. Needless to say, the 13 inch was underwhelming but I still racked my brain trying to justify buying it. In the end, I couldn't. The price does not justify what you get and that would annoy me forever so I ended up getting the 15. In terms of portability, it'll be similar to the 13 inch cMBP but considering you'll be spending a lot of time with graphics design, the 15 just seems like a better deal.
  6. Essenar macrumors 6502a

    Oct 24, 2008
    I don't really consider the Retina 13" to be a 'real' Retina MacBook Pro. Hear me out.

    The display is absolutely gorgeous, but the specifications are a lot like an upgraded regular 13", with the exception of no Super Drive.

    However, added pixels isn't always a good thing. The HD4000 is about 35% of the GPU power of a GeForce 650M in the 15" MacBook Pro. You might think this doesn't make a difference doing design work but as a designer, you will most likely upgrade to a 30" Cinema display or some variation of multiple monitors. The HD4000 is great for low resolutions but when you start throwing out a lot of screens and photo editing to multiple displays, the 650M (Which performs more like a 660M thanks to its generous over clock) will really shine.

    But that doesn't touch the tip of the iceberg. The real advantage to a designer lies with the processor. An Intel Quad Core eats Photoshop for breakfast. While the Core i7 Dual Core isn't exactly a slouch but compared to the quad? No contest.

    The next big question: Is it really cheaper? Not by as much as you think.

    The 13" MacBook Retina comes with a 128GB SSD. If you upgraded the processor to the 2.9GHZ Core i7 and the SSD to the 256GB to somewhat match the performance of the Retina 15", you would be paying the same price for much less power. The base Retina 15" comes with a much better processor, much better GPU and double the SSD space.

    "Well I can just upgrade later..."

    Not as easily as you think. Standard 9.5mm SSD drives don't fit. You need OWC SSD drives specifically built for the same port and that means $$$$. In most cases, with a Retina MacBook Pro, it's "what you see is what you get" and what you see with the 15" is a lot more than what you see with the 13", hypothetically and literally.

    The next question you have: So does the Retina 13" suck?

    Not at all! The 13" Retina Pro is a marvel of modern mobile computing and a landmark of Apple's engineering. To fit a display with that high a resolution in as small a form factor as a 13" screen is a testament to Apple's creativity. However, it is severely underpowered compared to its competitors and the next version will be miles better. Mark my words, the June 2013 MacBook Retina 13" will have MUCH more impressive stats and early adopters will be infuriated. I would safely bet on discrete graphics and 2.9 Core i7 at a minimum, and possibly a 256GB standard SSD. It has to justify the price difference.

    Are either of these computers the best option for you? That's a hard question to answer. Other options include a standard MacBook Pro 13" and upgrading yourself. With a student discount, you can get the 2.9 model for as low as 1150 or so, an 8GB ram kit and an optical hard drive replacement kit plus an SSD will set you back 200. For 1350-1400 you'll have a light, Fusion Drive enabled speedy little laptop and with the 900 you saved you can pick up an iPad for books or a Mac Mini plus a couple of 24" monitors for home.

    My advice? Go with the 15" Retina. It's almost a pound lighter than the standard 15" and you probably won't need to bring the Magsafe with you. You'll get used to the weight and you'll most likely get an iPad or an iPad Mini for textbooks so your backpack will be pretty light.
  7. willcapellaro macrumors 6502

    Oct 20, 2011
    I hope you end up being right, but Apple doesn't like to make choices easy for people in the portability vs. power department. I don't see that changing in 6 months, unfortunately.

    People need to actually stop making the MBP 13 model so popular to send Apple the message that people want a discrete GPU, even if it's only enabled when you're plugged in. The only thing people who choose a 13" model should have to compromise is screen and speaker size.
  8. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I agree it will have better specs, but nothing significant, especially with Haswell and HD5000, it will keep a iGPU since HD5000 is significantly better. Early adopters will be infuriated regardless, its inevitable.
  9. switon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 10, 2012
    RE: graphics design and screen real estate...

    Hi rchlmc,

    Good suggestions by everyone, but I don't entirely agree with all of it -- of course, this is just my opinion.

    For me, the choice would really be down to portability and screen real estate. Does graphic design really need the punch of the fastest quad core i7, or is screen size more important? If you aren't doing video and motion, then your load on the CPU/GPU will be less stringent. For me, doing a modicum of graphics design on occasion, I appreciate the screen real estate more than I would being able to run photoshop faster. I guess that for me the ability to see the entire project on the screen in a size that my antediluvian eyes can perceive means more and saves me more time than a faster CPU would save me in time. Hence, my recommendation would be to get the 13", and perhaps even a 13" Air for true portability, and a large 27" external display for the actual graphics design work. But, of course, this is just me and my opinion. You need to figure out what is best for you as a graphic designer and what saves you the most time, a faster CPU/GPU or more screen real estate?

    If you live far from school and have to walk long distances, the 13" Air might suit you better. Since you aren't doing heavy gaming, you don't need a discrete GPU for the gaming. Since you aren't doing video or motion editing, the fastest CPUs/GPUs are not an issue for you either. Synopsis: 13" Air + 27" Display.

    Good luck at school,

    P.S. In my naive opinion, since I have no insider information about upcoming Apple products, but I suspect that next year's 13" rMBP will not have a dGPU, for thermodynamic reasons alone.
  10. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT

    I agree with a lot of this users opinion, except I myself dont like the Air.
  11. idunn macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2008
    Graphics and screen real estate

    In graphics it is hard to have too much screen real estate.

    If at all serious, you'll want a separate larger monitor. So, aside from mobile uses, negating much of the difference in screen size between the 13" and 15" models. The 13" is usable, and to many a preferable size overall, but either ideally too small when working on a graphics project.

    The 13" rMBP is, in my humble opinion, underpowered and overpriced in comparison to its larger 15" cousin. Moreover, the next iteration in less than a year is likely to cause many early Version A adopters a serious case of heartburn. If retina, today, the 15" is the better choice. The only problem, aside from cost (and possible early teething problems), being its size.

    In weight alone the 15" rMBP weighs about the same as the 13" cMBP, so more a question of the extra bulk. If traveling everywhere and campus with this thing, you may thank yourself later in opting for the slimmer choice now. Which would mean 13", either the cMBP or Air (retina only if money little object). The Air is the most svelte, but check out its screen in person; particularly for graphics this alone might be a deal breaker. As for the cMBP, one could economize even further by opting for a late model refurbished unit from Apple. Upgrade the RAM and to a SSD yourself, and with something that will do the work perfectly well. The Air of course lighter, but again, check out that screen side by side with the others.

    And for the retina, maybe it can wait. The screen is quite beautiful—but on exactly which screen will you be spending most of your creative time?
  12. ZhenyaF macrumors 6502

    Mar 28, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    As much as I love the 13" screen, I couldn't give up the value that the 15" rMbp offers
  13. Ploki macrumors 68030

    Jan 21, 2008
    2013 13" is due for a quadcore... else apple should reinstate the name "MacBook"
  14. ssn637 macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2009
    I switched from a Dell XPS to a MacBook 13" in 2008 and never looked back. Thought the 13" form factor was perfect. But this year's 15" rMBP is a stunner. It simply provides more value for the money compared with the 13" Retina, and I actually prefer the larger display now that I've worked with mine for a couple of weeks. I take it to work every day, and the larger footprint is hardly noticeable because it weighs no more than my previous 13" notebook. And for virtual machine use the quad-core processor is a must. When running my Boot Camp Windows 7 x64 partition in Parallels I can allocate 2 CPUs and 8 GB of RAM to the virtual machine! Just awesome.

    If you must have a 13" then I would also (like many others here) suggest the MBA. Still a fine machine and ultraportable.

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