13" vs 15" - My Not So Useful Observations

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by anoobis, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. anoobis macrumors regular

    Jul 26, 2012
    I've owned an early 2011 15" (2.2 GHz, non HiRes) and a late 2011 13" (2.8 Ghz) for about 3 weeks now. I couldn't decide if I wanted a 13" or 15" so I bought one of each. Reading any posts on the web were basically "YMMV", so I thought I'd just write my experience having owned both at the same time.

    I do development - a lot of ssh'ing to remote servers and also local Perl and Java (intelliJ) work. Just recently started using XCode for iPhone/iPad apps. I travel about an hour each way on a bus+subway to/from work (NYC). Carry the laptop in a small Camelbak bag :)eek:)

    I loved having both since it was a great way to encourage continuous work as the two gave different user experiences and I would therefore switch off and feel a little refreshed.

    I ended up keeping the 15". Sometimes it's annoying having to bring your laptop home especially if you have plans in the evening, but I thought that wasn't enough reason to have two laptops (have one at home if I decided to leave the one I brought to work). I had a Mini at home and sold that once I got these two laptops.

    -biggest con for the 13" was the heat; it would get hot easily and the fans would kick in immediately whenever I watched a Flash video (my current job does live video streaming so I'm continuously checking streams); my 15" rarely kicks in the fans (really only when I secure deleted something in the Trash and occasionally when playing Counter Strike) though it does get warm when watching videos for long periods of time - maybe it was just my 13" specifically...when the fans kicked in, I couldn't feel, with my hands, where the air would be coming out (air just goes in?)

    -13" screen was fine for even working all day in ~4 terminal windows + intelliJ + IM + email

    -weight/size difference didn't seem noticeable though I think mentally I definitely felt a little better whenever I put the 13" in my backpack (placebo effect?); I'm 5'11" and a [slightly] athletic build, so that could be worth mentioning (?) - walking avg ~0.5 mi each way with either on didn't have me caring much about weight either way - my pack consisted of MacBook Pro, charger, and iPad (usually)

    -the keys on the 15" feel much better for some reason - looser/softer; the keys on the 13" are stiffer

    -the 13" has a 7200 RPM HD and the 15" has a 5400, but in everyday tasks the 15" performed much quicker (probably not a surprise given quad core vs dual but I could have believed the 13" would be at least as snappy had I not tried both out, I mean you're not using all the clock speed all the time...)

    -the 13" had much better battery life

    -the 15" screen was noticeably larger whenever I went from working on the 13" to the 15"

    -people have said the 15" has way better sound - not sure about that - you can definitely get it louder - the 13" didn't get loud at all and the 15" is just a little louder than that; I feel like my 2007 17" was much louder than either (shouldn't be listening through laptop speakers anyways, right? :cool:)
  2. jaysen macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2009
    Thanks for the writeup, I've been debating on going 15" - this definitely puts a lot into perspective. I would love the extra screen real estate but don't want to sacrifice battery life.
  3. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    Did you force the Intel GPU?
    For all the work you do you never need the dGPU but as we all know it gets active for some editor windows. The bigger battery should off set the bigger screen. The quad vs. dual depends on the load.

    Me personally I would put an SSD in either and enjoy the silence of the 15". In single monitor mode you can stay on the Intel GPU and the two fans keep it quiet until you really get heavy load.
    I am only an inch taller but I never quite felt the 15" is too big. I just don't like the small screen of the 13" and 1280x800 is something i don't ever want to go back too. Yes one can make it work but I wouldn't want to.
    Had a 1280x800 screen for 2 years of university and now 1680x1050 for another 2. Both can be dealt with but one is just more versatile. I found Eclipse and bigger editors annoying on low res. Putting two things next to each other and being able to comfortably read a sharp text is quite something.
    Terminal is space saving but for IDEs more pixels are better.
    I probably would have gone with an 13" Air or today a Asus UX31A ;) before the 13" MBP.
  4. Fed macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2012
    In my personal experience from using the 15" rMBP for a little over a day, I thought it was massive. Though before I summarise it in the paragraph below, I probably should have opted for the MBP rather than the rMBP in the first place for a fairer review and therefore I'll only focus on the size (as IO, upgradeability, etc is unfair given the nature of the 15" rMBP that I purchased).

    From work, I have a Windows 15" laptop which is quite thick. So whenever I use that, it literally has to be on a desk. When I got the rMBP, I used it in my usual 'personal laptop' way e.g. on the couch, bed and floor. It just didn't feel the same - it felt huge. I'm a little over 6 foot and have a fairly normal/athletic build so it should be OK for me. Obviously I was wrong. My other half then used it for a few hours and she's around 5'7 with a slim build and obviously felt similarly uncomfortable using it.

    I understand some people don't like the smaller resolution of the 13", but it doesn't mean anything to me. I use an external display a lot when I need more space (different terminal windows, VMs) and I generally view applications in full screen.

    It's all obviously personal preference. I never understand why people dismiss the MBP 13" and imply the Air is the obvious choice - it's not that simple. Personally, I find the Air uncomfortably thin (quite like the largeness of the 15" MBP/rMBP) and lacks IO/upgradeability. Whereas the MBP offers a lot more value for money in my circumstances (please note: I'm not making any sweeping generalisation here).

    I've been using the 13" MBP all week now. I do a lot of coding (Eclipse,Xcode), e-mailing (Outlook/web/Apple Mail), general office work and lots of web. Yesterday it lasted the entire day on the battery (got down to 7% before leaving work). It seems to handle everything perfectly, it fits straight into my bag, I can use it on the go very easily and it feels a lot lighter than my predeccessor. I couldn't be happier. However once I throw in the SSD and RAM - I'll be laughing :)
  5. terraphantm macrumors 68040

    Jun 27, 2009
    Hmm I find that kind of surprising. I'm not a big guy (only 5'8"), and had little issue going from a 13" MBA to the rMBP. It took me a couple days to adjust admittedly, but now I can't go back.

    It is a bit more awkward to use in class... but I never really liked taking notes on a laptop anyway. Everywhere else I just love this thing.
  6. Fed macrumors 6502

    Jul 7, 2012
    That's fair enough and again it's all about personal preference. I don't think anyone could really make a decision to go for a 13" or 15" on the sole basis of a review. You kind of need experience using both. I knew instantly when I got the rMBP that it wasn't for me. When I went back for the 13" and took it home, it felt right.

    Actually, it was quite surprising for me as well. As I said, I've always used 13" notebooks for personal use and a 15" business one. Therefore I opted for the 15" rMBP mainly for the display and extra space on screen. Only once I had it did I realise I never liked the added size.
  7. LeeM macrumors 6502a

    Jan 1, 2012
    13" for me, 15 is that little bit too big to be effortlessly portable.
    I'd love to see an ultimate spec 13" in the same body as it is now so its upgradeablr but with quad core, retina, nvidia. My idea of a perfect MacBook
    I think the 13 is nice to look at when you're typing the keyboard is the right size, it looks too small for the 15 with the speakers next to it
  8. EwanMcTeagle macrumors 6502


    Mar 26, 2012
    Lodz, Poland
    I have had 13" for about 4 months now and the 15" (cMBP) for a a little over 2 weeks and I think I can give my thoughts on the subject pretty fairly. It'll be subjective of course, but almost everything is, so here it goes.
    1. portability - the answer is obvious, but I gotta say that the 15" surprised me in a good way on that subject. I sometimes go a coffee bar (not Starbucks:) on weekends (OK, I know it's so cliche, but I used to do it with an Acer before I went Mac:) to do some writing (I write for a living, but it's nice to change scenery. It helps to find some inspiration). Anyway, i take the 13" with me, but two weeks ago I forgot to charge it and since I wanted to sit outside the coffee bar and enjoy the nice weather I couldn't have charged it, so I took the 15". And although the weight difference was noticeable it's wasn't a "heaven to hell" kind.
    2. Graphics - it's a bit unfair since the 15" has better specs (faster SSD, 8GB RAM and dGPU), but the 13" manages simple Creative Suite jobs (I'm still at "playing around" level:). The difference is noticeable when plugged to an external 23" display. When I plugged 13" to it and put on some simple game (RC mini racers), the fans would go all the way rather quickly. Nevertheless it handled max resolution (1920x1200). Obviously 15" is far superior in that field - thus I use it as a desktop.

    Anyways. Both are great machines. Even though the 13" has its limitations it's still a brave little beast.
  9. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    I have a 13" at work - which spends most of its time plugged into a Cinema display, making the screen size moot. However, when I do take it on the road I appreciate the reduced weight over the 15" I had previously.

    However, if I were buying today, portability was an issue and cost wasn't too important I'd probably get an Air with a Thunderbolt display for the desk - higher res screen and much thinner and lighter and the TB display would solve the connectivity issues when it was at home. Hopefully some decent TB hubs will soon emerge so that won't be the only option. The main deal-breaker (assuming you're not playing FPS games or editing 4k video) is the small SSD (or the rather expensive upgrade to 512G) - but that just needs a bit of organization and a 1TB USB3 external drive (even if you carry that around it's still lighter than a 13" Pro).

    (At home I have the late lamented 17" - not intended for use on the road, but I occasionally want to re-locate for a week or so & I nearly knackered myself getting my Mac Pro and monitor into the car).
  10. Oofie macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2006
    Bay Area, CA
    Thats funny how you mentioned the keys on the 13" and 15" are different. I've been through a Late 2011 15", Mid 2012 13" and a Late 2011 13" in the last month or so and I noticed the same thing. The keys on the 15" are softer and on the loose side. However, I prefer the 13" keys as it felt better for me.

    I really thought I was just over analyzing the keyboard difference until you mentioned it also ;)

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