Question about the 17" MBP & Resolutions.

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by phased, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. phased macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    I'm currently in the quandary of deciding between the 3.06GHz 15" or 17" MBP.

    Originally I wasn't interested in a 17" notebook, but the hi-resolution is tempting me (and to a lesser extent, the matte-screen option).

    I spend a little bit of time on PS, CAD, etc.

    So, why not buy the 15" and hook in an external monitor? I wish things were so simple. I have two or three bases (parent's home, apartment, school) in which the computer will be used. I think I'd prefer the ability to utilise the hi-res in all of these circumstances.

    My question is, as my eyes aren't the greatest, and I'll probably only want to use the native resolution (1920x1200) when working in the aforementioned programs, is it possible to turn the resolution down to, say, 1680x1050, without losing sharpness? For me, this is about the optimum resolution on a 17" screen for browsing.

    (If I do end up deciding on the 17", is the matte-screen option the way to go? I've never owned a glossy screen in the past, but I can't really get comfortable in front of the ones in the store.)

    It's a shame they don't offer anything higher than 1440x900 in the 15". If they did, my decision would be simple :p.

    Thanks for the help!
  2. coolbreeze macrumors 68000


    Jan 20, 2003
    After returning a 15" and getting the 17" matte uMBP, my decision is 100% certain .... the 17" is stunningly beautiful and I find the extra size negligible.

    No way I could stand the low resolution 15". I also use a 24" external monitor - pure bliss.
  3. Nasus macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2006
    My advice is go to the Apple Store, if you can, and compare them side by side at different settings. I too was considering the 17" because my eyes are getting a-hem "older" but I couldn't find a resolution setting on the 17" that I was happy with. The 15" and surprisingly the 13" offered "IMO" better resolutions for text and I was able to see spread sheets far better on the smaller units. Why? I have no idea. I have an older 15" MBP that I can see just fine on but it's time to upgrade and I also need a new desktop so I was hoping the 17" could serve both needs now I don't think so.
  4. mcpryon2 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 12, 2008
    Are your eyes good enough that you could just use the pinch feature to make the text bigger?

    I just got my 17" and I love it. I got the glossy screen over the matte because I work primarily indoors, though I do some audio in a studio once in a while that can cause some glare. For what I do I can live with the glossy, but the matte looks really, really good, too.
  5. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    Good advice. I was just in the Apple store the other day, and whilst the SA told me of the ability to lower the resolution on the 17", I didn't take the time to actually fiddle with these settings.

    TBH, I don't want to have to continually **** with pinching / etc. to make browsing easier. It's not like the screen isn't usable for me at 1920x1200, I'd just prefer something a little bigger when I'm not using PS / CAD (I perhaps only use these programs 10% of the time, but when I do use them, the extra res is almost necessary).

    I'm now leaning back towards just getting the 15" and setting up a few external monitors.

    Can anyone confirm, though, that I lose the native sharpness when I turn the resolution down on the 17"? If so, is it that evident?

    Thanks, again.
  6. sharpblade1986 macrumors newbie

    Feb 1, 2009
    I have an uMBP 17'. If you turn the resolution down you will lose native sharpness!
  7. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    That's what I figured. Thanks.

    How bad is it? Turning down the resolution, that is. Unusable?

    I really need something larger than the 1920x1200 for browsing.
  8. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

    May 28, 2004
    In a false sense of reality...My Mind!
    Well to be honest you need to check it out since everyones eyes are different and to me it's not very pleasant to view.

    It's really not bad doing it that way if you need the res. of 1920x1200 for your other stuff other than text. Not much easier really using pinch other than buying the 15" MBP and living with the screen limits ;)

    Yes, not great. I have good eyes and it was distorted to me anyway.

    The 15" MBP and one external monitor for your PS is most likely the way for you to go since browsing is your main intent. This should make those eyes happy :D
  9. Nasus macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2006
    I found this to be true when I was at the Apple store "testing" out the different settings BUT the one thing I did like about the Matte 17" was no black ring around the screen. I don't about anyone else but I'm not crazy about the black border. Without it, it seems you have so much more real estate.
  10. emcham macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2009

    based on what you've said, i would say definitely go with the 15". i don't think you'll be sorry. the 17" screen is stunning, but if the size of the text/icons is important to you, going for the computer that is easier for you to use (without fiddling or squinting) will probably be more satisfactory in the long run.

    i have good eyesight and found things on the 17" a bit small for comfort after using it for a week. and as far as i am concerned, lowering the resolution is not an option. things are blurry - no question!

    if you do decide on the 17", the nice thing now is that when you are browsing with the latest version of safari, you can pinch to expand the entire page and make it easier to view. previously it only made the font bigger, not images, which was unpleasant.
  11. oYx macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2007
    agree with using the zoom when browsing. after the initial visits to my usual sites, my browser remembers the zoom setting for each site (i use firefox). because of that, i very soon didn't need to deal with zooming any more.

    even if you have lower res, some websites have text that are just way too tiny anyway, or just design that'd be easier to deal with when zoomed. :)

    i also keep my browser to a certain width so the eye travel for text is less demanding.

    as for work, the 17" is just about right for a laptop when it comes to working in 'pro' media creation apps. every time i spend time on audio, photo or video work, i'd be really glad it's a 17". then again, if it's purely display we're talking about, i can't think of a reason not to like a bigger one. :)

    if i have one fixed 'home', i think the 15" + external display will be really good.
  12. NovemberWhiskey macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2009
    I have the same problem. My eyes are not that bad, but I find the words to be WAY TOO small in the 1920 x 1200 resolution. I literally have to move my head in, close to the screen, and squint my eyes a little to read clearly.

    Changing to the next lowest resolution (1680 x 1050) helps with the size problem, but you are right, the text becomes a little blurry.

    What I have done is added nosquint to FFx so englarge all the pages I load by default, and I zoom into MS word to 120%-150%. However, there are still menus and windows which have the small font...

    Go to a store and see if you can live with the small size. The screen real estate is amazing though. You really do get much more space.
  13. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    Thanks for the help guys, it's much appreciated.

    As a current non-mac user, this 'pinch' technique appears to be more intuitive than it originally sounded.

    Okay, I'm now back leaning towards the 17"!

    Primarily because, and I can't believe I omitted this earlier, my current 15" laptop has a native resolution of 1600x1200 (about the equivalent, in terms of DPI, of a 1920x1200 resolution on a 17" widescreen, right?) and I have my resolution set to 1280x1024 when using non-graphics intensive programs.

    Now, when changing from the 'native' resolution to my 'browsing' resolution the 'crispness' is lost, but evidently hasn't really bothered me over the last few years!

    The only negative I can really think of is that I'm unintentionally further deteriorating my eyesight by browsing many hours a day in this ever so slightly blurry resolution (blurry is probably too strong a word, just the screen lacks the pure sharpness of the native resolution).

    Damn, I really with I just had the single 'base' where I could set up an external monitor and be satisfied with the 15"!

    Oh well, what are everybody's thoughts?

    Thanks again.
  14. oYx macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2007
    when lcd was still catching up to crt, i was using a sony 21" crt monitor, which had blurry text when compared to lcd. but having had to use a lcd monitor elsewhere for a prolonged time and then going back to my crt, i believe my eyesight began to suffer because my eyes just got used to crispness and demanded a sharper display. :)

    but ever since i moved on to lcd displays, i find that i could take finer text on them screens with higher resolutions.

    to cut to the chase, i wouldn't put up with less-than-crisp text, simply because it's bad for my eyes. since almost all reading text (browsers, word processors, pdfs, etc) can be 'zoomed' into a comfy size easily and still retain crispness, i'd go for the high res screen.

    as for your 'home' setup.. unless you intend to plant an external display at every working base or at least at the base that matters the most, the 17" seems to be a good one to go with if you don't mind lugging that around.

    i've never used the 15" before, so i've no idea how the reduced estate would feel like when working in ps, but with images of ever-growing resolutions, i'd say it'd be nice to have as much screen res as you can if you can only have one display.
  15. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    Some sound advice there. Thanks, oYx. Now that you mention it, settling for less-than-crisp text is a sacrifice I shouldn't have to make.

    How easy is it to zoom / pinch / whatever? Is it merely a matter of adjusting the sizing properties in my browser? Or is something that must be manually performed?

    Still, I'm unsure.

    I think I'm just going to have to commit to one or the other and see how it pans out. I'll probably go the 17" route, that way if things don't work out, i'll be able to sell it off and still afford the 15".

    I'll head back into the Apple store again this week (for the 3rd time!) and have a proper play with the resolution settings on the 17".

    If anyone else wants to chime in, please feel free to do so!

  16. oYx macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2007
    best thing to do is to try it for yourself in firefox or safari: command and + or - to enlarge/reduce. command and 0 brings it back to the original size.

    i'm sure you already know this, but just in case: if you're using windows now, then swap command for control.

    i believe that works the same in pdf readers and in word processors, although the shortcut command may vary.

    in all cases, you'd find that the enlarged text will be crisp and clear unless it's text in bitmap image form. not sure if bitmap image is the right term to use though. on that note, pictures and graphics in bitmap form will also blur when enlarged.

    it used to be that only the text would enlarge, thus creating a disproportion between the text and the graphical elements, but everything gets enlarged when you zoom now. very nice – save for the blurred graphical elements.

    sorry if you already knew that! :)

    edit: forgot to say that i don't have experience with the whole pinching thing, because i'm on a mid-2007 mbp which doesn't have the pinch feature. i can still do a dumb-zoom by holding down control and scrolling up or down, but the result for the text is the same as enlarging a bitmap image – slightly blurry to very blurry depending on how much you zoom – so i always prefer the aforementioned method.

    however, despite the inevitable blurring effect, dumb-zooming has been very useful when i need to quickly enlarge content that doesn't have enlarging options coded in, usually in a temporary, moderate-distance viewing scenario (a group of people).
  17. UnexpectedHuman macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2009
    I had the same debate. Personally, I would have preferred the 15" purely for portability, but the ultra-reflective screen and low-resolution ruled it out. I use the computer for work and needed a screen that was clear and non-reflective.

    Changing the display resolution to 1680x1050 in the Monitor control panel will enlarge text and graphics, but the result is IMHO too blurry to use.

    However, it is also possible to use the OS to scale either individual applications or the entire system - google for "AppleDisplayScaleFactor". This has the advantage that it will scale everything in the application - including menus and dialogues. Not all applications work perfectly- notably there are some graphical glitches with Finder windows under 10.5. Resolution is scaling is very useful for apps like Logic, which use extremely small font sizes in the UI.

    I wish Apple would support resolution scaling in 10.6 - it was promised as an 'official' feature for 10.5... however this looks unlikely at this point.

    -- Mark
  18. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    Brilliant. Thanks, oYx. I don't suppose you know if there is a way to set an increased zoom as default on Firefox? It's all well and good to have to manually set each .com, but it'd be even better if Firefox could do this for me.

    There is talk of Mac OS introducing an internal scaling system? Wouldn't that be great..

    I'll have a further play with the lower resolutions on the 17", but, from all accounts, it is too blurry to use day-to-day.

    This "AppleDisplayScaleFactor", is it widely used? Supported? Could just be the answer to my issues..

    Thanks again guys, and please, keep the anecdotes coming - they are helping (believe it or not)!
  19. oYx macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2007
    never knew this existed myself. i won't be needing it though, because my 17" mbp is at 1680 x 1050, which i found to be the right resolution for me.
  20. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    ^ Quite a handy little add-on there. Thanks, once more.

    But I still can't help but feel I'm making all these concessions on the 17" screen.

    Does anyone else have issues when using the hi-res screen? I'm talking about text/icons/etc. being a little too small.

    If so, what do you do to make it easier?

    Wish they had OS scaling..
  21. geoffreak macrumors 68020


    Feb 8, 2008
    Holding Crontrol while scrolling in and out with mouse or two finger scroll on trackpad will actually zoom in and out on an OS level. :rolleyes:
  22. phased thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2009
    Yeah, thanks. But I hardly want to have to zoom into everything. Talk about a time waster..
  23. geoffreak macrumors 68020


    Feb 8, 2008
    It stays at the zoom level you leave it at and follows your mouse around.:apple:
  24. UnexpectedHuman macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2009
    Unfortunately, the scale factor does not work well with all apps in OS 10.5. Some work better than others.

    In particular, Safari 4.02 completely screws up page rendering with zooms of more than 1.1 (and you need a zoom of 1.2 to simulate the size of text from the 15" screen). Safari 3 worked better...

    However, the scaling can be a life-saver for some programs. For example, Logic seems to work reasonably well aside from some truncated text in warning dialogues.

    Apple could make like a *lot* easier for users even if 10.6 were only to officially support resolution scaling for menus. Most applications already have their own view zooming functions for data anyway, so it is only the menus and pallets that can be problematic (and then only if you aren't instinctively hitting the keyboard shortcuts without looking anyway).

    I was kind of hoping that Apple would have fully implemented resolution independence with Snow Leopard. It would have been cool to release it along with new 13 and 15" laptops using higher resolution displays. However, the current state of apps like Safari make this look unlikely.

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