13" vs 15" Screen Size, Portability, and Lifespan Value

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by JimBannister, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. JimBannister macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2013
    Owings Mills, MD
    Hi everyone,

    I've been following threads on the rMBP since the first generation was released, and I know that there are already a million of these threads (I've read many of them), but given that everyone's interests and needs differ, I figure one more won't hurt anyone.

    I'm trying to decide between the 13" rMBP and the 15".

    I'm a rather light user nowadays and typically use my current machine for Internet / YouTube / email, writing articles, occasional Photoshop, iTunes, the occasional light game (generally games that are 10 years old or so), etc. To be fair, based on reading many other threads on these forums, even a Macbook Air, or almost an iPad, could likely do any of my typical tasks in terms of power, but I am sold on the Retina screen and don't mind paying the extra money for it. Rather than power, I'm really more caught between the size of the screen, the portability of each computer, and the lifespan value of the laptop.

    My current laptop is a 2007 15" MBP 3,1 with a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 128 MB GeForce 8600M GT video card. It's still chugging along after 6 years amazingly, but the battery is starting to lose it's charge and the 120 GB hard drive is so overfilled at this point that I've been forced to offloaded just about all my pictures and videos. Although the 15" rMBP is way overpowered for my usage, I am concerned that I might regret dropping from a 15" screen down to a 13" one.

    At the same time, the idea of a smaller laptop is appealing. In regards to portability, I carry my laptop to lunch just about every day and, although it's not that far to carry a computer, fitting my current 15" MBP on a restaurant table is tight. Panara, for example, has awfully small tables! Outside of lunch, I frequently use my laptop on my lap, so a smaller footprint there wouldn't hurt!

    Seeing as I'd like to have at least a 256 GB SSD, there is, of course, roughly a $500 difference between the 15" and the 13" (comparing the base 15" with the mid tier 13"). I'm less concerned about the immediate cost to own than the long term value of the device. Given the difference in price, I'd be looking for a 13" rMBP to last at least 3-4 years, whereas the 15" would have to last 4-6 years to be worth the increase in cost (roughly $500 per year cost to own). With the stories of image retention, though it sounds to be less frequent now than it used to be (possibly due to the 2nd revision of the LG screens), and other issues, I wonder whether the current generation of rMBP will last as long as the older models and whether it wouldn't make sense to get a lower cost one and keep it for less time in hopes that future innovations such as IGZO solves such issues.

    Any thoughts on what might be a good solution here? Thanks for your help!


    P.S. I'm also in the market for a bag for said laptop. While I'm aware that there is a huge topic on bags for MBP's, the topic is rather overwhelming with its size. Do any of you have a bag you'd recommend?
  2. Tears Apart macrumors 6502a

    Tears Apart

    Jun 10, 2009
    Outside Closer
    Difficult to say. But what's clear is that, as you say, the decisive point for you is the form factor.

    And there's no better way to find out whether to go 13'' than using it for a bit. Can you get one and in case return it if you don't have enough real estate?

    Personally, years ago I went from a 15'' MBP to a 11'' MBA and never once regretted it. I am now buying a 13'' rMBP and I know that that is the sweet spot size-wise for me.

    Only thing I can say safely is, try the 13'' out! If I were to guess instead, I'd say you would be happy with a 13'' and wouldn't miss the larger screen.
  3. iWeekend macrumors regular

    Nov 28, 2012
    ^^ everything he said

    I am sorely tempted to get a max'd out 13" but have settled on a lower spec one with a robust external storage solution here. I am counting on selling in a few years (maybe 3) and people I know are more the "email and facebook" crowd, so its makes getting top dollar hard.

    The 13" is a little low on screen real estate, but liveable. I played with a res switcher app, and will use for those programs that demand a high res count, even for a moment of "where's waldo" button hunting.

    You may want to look at getting a tablet as well, for those times when you are "just" surfing the 'net.

    Your bag question is best asked in a separate thread. Along with your intended use (business professional, college causal, how many accessories you like to stuff in there (cables, phones, pens etc)).
  4. RobboMB macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2013
    I'm in a similar sort of boat by the sounds of things, I don't need a games beast or a workhorse, but at the same time I also don't want something that's going to be useless in 3 years time. As for portability I'm usually not far from a car or I'd go by train so carrying a 15" wouldn't be the end of the world, but having tried the 13 and 15 in store I massively prefer the smaller form factor.

    When it comes to screen real estate it's not really something I'm concerned about, despite what the mrs says I don't think 2" makes all that much difference. I guess it's a trade off, for me having the bigger screen isn't worth having the bulkier laptop (for my use case, obviously if you need a discrete gpu or the extra grunt then fair play)

    Cutting a long story short, I decided to go with my gut and am waiting for a 13" arriving (2.6Ghz/16Gb/512Gb). From what I've seen it'll still handle some gaming but I'm not counting on it. Will be more than enough for what I need it for though.

    Hope you figure it out anyway!
  5. JimBannister thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2013
    Owings Mills, MD
    Thanks for your advice, and I shall move my question about a bag to the proper thread. Do you guys feel that a 13" screen has enough space to multitask with 2 or 3 programs, let's say Safari, Word, and Mail, running simultaneously?
  6. iWeekend macrumors regular

    Nov 28, 2012
    Yes, those will be smaller windows that lend themselves nicely to overlapping. Or tap F3 for the OS to separate them.
  7. Mr Mystery macrumors member

    Nov 3, 2013
    As in tiled multitasking? I'd say no
  8. pat.micunnis macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2013
    As others have suggested, go to a local store & spend time on a 13". Or buy it and try it out for a few days.

    (I have a 15") Last year, I bought a 13". The size was very appealing. But after 3 days, I returned it. I didn't like the loss in real estate.

    Since you currently have a 2007 15", the new 15" is considerably smaller and less bulky. My old machine is / was a 2010 15". I am quite happy with my new rMBP 15".

    But it's a personal preference. Good luck! You can't lose.
  9. rMBP2013 macrumors member

    Oct 22, 2013
    There is no replacement for displacement.

    If you can comfortably afford the extra $500, by all means go for the 15" Pro.

    It won't last "longer" per se, but the extra performance that you will gain should make the laptop last longer before you need a replacement.

    Though, do keep in mind that 13" would be a lot easier to cart around for when you're travelling. This is not just because of the weight, but also due to the 13" form factor.

    Good luck with your decision!


    Is the form factor your decisive factor, OP?

    Because you need to figure out what is important to you: screen size or form factor.

    If you need the extra size: 15"
    If you want more portability: 13"
    If you want to save money: 13"
    If you want power and make the computer last longer: 15"

    There really is no tie-breaker, except if you can tell me where do you place more emphasis on: size or portability.


    Can't lose, except for the extra $500. :p
  10. JayDH macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    I was recently in your exact situation. I came from a 2011 15" MBP. I don't need the power of the 15" rMBP, but was drawn to the screen size. I travel a good bit, and knew the 15" model would be difficult to use on the road/plane. I debated the 13 v. 15 forever. I ended up with the 13" rMBP and am very happy. It's really the best of both worlds.

    I went to the store and used both models quite a bit. The 13" model allows you to scale the display to 1440x900, the same resolution as my 2011 15" MBP and the default resolution of the 15" rMBP. So, in a smaller, lighter, form factor, I have the same screen real estate as before. I've experience no performance problems due to the scaling. The 13" rMBP gets GREAT battery life when doing simple tasks like word processing. I've been getting 12+ hours regularly.

    Regarding the bag, I got this bag and it's fantastic for the 13". Fits perfectly in a suede padded pocket in the bag. Lots of pockets for stuff.

  11. iShane macrumors 6502a

    Jan 7, 2006
    New York -> SF
    I currently have a 13" MBP that I use for the same tasks as you. I've always regretted not getting the 15" screen and my next computer will be a 15" rMBP, almost exclusively because I want the larger size screen.

    It really is just a matter of personal preference in your case.
  12. luffytubby macrumors 6502a


    Jan 22, 2008
    1) when looking at the 13 and 15 next to each other you really can see that there is not a lot of different. rMBP15 is a very small and thin computer that has a very small bezel for its size. it brings its footprint down.

    the weight is also way down. Getting rid of the hard drive and the optical drive and other fluff makes it lighter. coming from your 2007 machine the new 15 retina will feel very, very light in general usage.

    just like people who come from macbook air sometimes find rMBP 13 very heavy and anti-mobile.

    It's all a matter of perspective, getting used to things and habits. You will most likely be happy with either machine. everything has tradeoffs.

    However, I will say that the old 15 was very anti mobile. the new one is very mobile. If you look at it as a two way street, you lose a lot more workflow going down to 13 than being at 13 going up to 15.

    Virtually the only thing you lose with 15 is a bit larger dimensions, but they are neglible. its not any more difficult to carry around than the 13. they are both heavy aluminium products, and compared to a tablet or a plastic carbon fiber ultrabook they are also more heavy (some at least).

    When you go down to 13 inch you have a lot less room for all the UI elements in adobe programs. any photoshop user knows how many pans, extensions and the likes it has. it's a galore UI fest and it basically works better with more screen real estate. That's not to say you cant do good work on a 13 inch. of course. but it wont be as fast. it simply can't be just for the logical fact that there is less screen real estate unless you have a crazy eyesight and run it at proper native rez without resolution independence. lool.

    if you can afford it, the stronger components of the 15-will last you longer. if you aim at 6 year more, it will be feel more powerful, because it is a high end quadcore. it does have 2 graphic cards solution as well..
  13. jondunford macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2013
    Going for a poo Moderator
    you can't go wrong its like having to choose between an aston martin and a helicopter
  14. JimBannister thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2013
    Owings Mills, MD
    Awesome way to sum it up!

    Having given what everyone here said a lot of thought, I believe I will pick up the 13" rMBP with the 256 GB SSD and the 8 GB RAM. Since both screen size and portability seem like a fairly even trade, it's probably best to get the less expensive machine and upgrade sooner so I can try out the 13" screen for a few years and determine first hand whether future machines should be 13" or 15". Thank you everyone who took the time to help me out with this!


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