Retina MacBook Pro - 13" vs. 15"

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Razzosinni, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Razzosinni macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2013
    Hi. I'm a college student and I will be buying a MacBook in the upcoming weeks. I can't hold out for the fall update, so I want to purchase it as soon as possible. I had a 2013 MBA, which was really light and got the job done (browsing the web, word processing), but I sold it because I couldn't stand the screen anymore. Having also an iPad and an iPhone, the resolution seemed mediocre.

    I also want this MacBook to be my primary computer for years to come. I don't do professional work on it, I'm relatively a light user, but what bothers me the most is the fact that I may pick a configuration that won't handle future OS updates well. I don't want a computer that will get slow in about 2 years, especially considering the fact that I won't throw hard tasks at it.

    What should I pick between the two of these? I initially thought about the 13" rMBP : 2.4GHZ Dual Core i5, 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM - 1700$. But as I want this laptop to be my primary computer, I soon became interested in the 15" version : 2.0GHZ Quad Core i7, 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Pro, 16GB of RAM - 2200$.

    Which one should be better? Could I actually go with 13", being given the fact that the screen estate on the MBA wasn't an issue for me? But I would also love a slightly larger screen. Will the quad-core make any difference in the long-run? What about the RAM?
  2. AnorexicPig, Jul 15, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014

    AnorexicPig macrumors 6502


    Dec 12, 2012
    Winnipeg,Canada/New Delhi India

    I was in a similar boat not too long, upgrading from my 2012 MBA because I was finding the screen hard to accept.
    I went for 13" because 15" is quite a significant up gauge in terms of weight and size over the rMBP 13, nevermind the MBA. Even the 13" which is quite lightweight, is a step up from MBA when it comes to weight. I however was not a fan of 1280x800 default, so I have been using 1440x900 scaled and it works like a charm.

    And all of the macs currently on sale will handle future OS upgrades easily, just look at how macs from 2009 or 2008 (not exactly sure) are being supported in Yosemite.

    Seeing your usage, I will say go for 256 GB SSD and 8GB RAM, why to burn money when it won't give you any significant gain in performance.
  3. nightlong macrumors 6502a


    Jun 16, 2012
    For the use you have described the 13" with 8/256 would easily be enough. But if it will be your only computer and without an external screen and you can afford the 15", that might be more comfortable.
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I'd opt for the 8 of ram and 256GB of storage. You'll not need 16GB of ram, unless you'll be using professional apps, like PS and/or using Vmware to run Windows in a virtualized environment.

    As for the 15" vs. 13" You get more horse power with the 15", i.e., quad core CPU, and a much better GPU. Plus you get a lot more screen real estate. The down side is its more expensive and its larger/heavier.

    I'd say go and check out both and see if the weight size is to your liking (on either model).

    I personally prefer the 15" for the screen size. I think most students that post here asking for advice seem to go with the 13" if that matters.
  5. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    Pretty much my sentiment as well, though I'd suggest the extra RAM. You mentioned you plan on keeping it for years to come and while your current usage might be light, who's to say it doesn't become more intensive in the future. I'd prersonally spend a bit more now to add some future proofing--amortize the extra cost over the years of ownership and you're basically looking at an extra $100+ per year. Plus, at that time when you do sell it for your next upgrade, 16GB will likely be the norm and/or minimum expected in a computer.

    I went through the same exercise about 7 months ago. I tried the 13" and while it was perfectly acceptable, I found I wanted a bit more screen real estate and the 15" models are not unwieldy and quite portable. Also, as maflynn mentioned, there's a pretty significant performance difference between the 13" and 15" models.
  6. thagomizer macrumors 6502


    May 26, 2005
    13" Pro is not a happy medium

    You might see some screen lag on the 13" retina Macbook Pro when using a non-recommended resolution like 1680x1050. I know this screen lag has been "debunked" by many people on this forum, but I have both the 13" retina (2013) and 15" retina (2012) and I can definitely notice a lag on the 13" that does not occur on the 15". It's most apparent on Web browsers when scrolling through long pages. Facebook is particularly slow. My 13" has the Iris graphics, whereas the 15" has the dedicated 650M. The only puzzling thing is that it doesn't always happen. So it might be triggered by Flash or Java.

    And it's definitely not a software difference between the two machines, because my systems are identical. My 13" is an exact clone of the 15".

    If you want to use a 13" retina Mac at a resolution other than 1280x800, be forewarned.

    So you're a college student... The 13" Pro is not a happy medium. You had an Air, was it 13" or 11"? Either go for a new 15" and use the built-in screen all the time, or get the 11" Air 1.7GHz model for portability and note-taking use, and a 20" or 24" monitor to go along with it at your dorm room for real work. The 11" Air with the 1.7GHz Core i7 CPU is no slouch. Don't be fooled by the low GHz rating, as the CPU ramps up to 3.3GHz on single-core tasks.

    Also the 13" Pro doesn't feel significantly lighter to me than the 15" Pro. But the 11" Air is like it's barely there. If I had to do over, I would have gotten the 11" Air as my "portable".

    Just my 2c.
  7. Razzosinni thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2013
    Thank you all.

    I had the 13" version and I loved it - it was thin, portable, fast, had an excellent battery life and it only got better as soon as I upgraded it from ML to Mavericks. But the screen was killing me - the resolution was incredibly poor. No way I could handle an 11" MBA. This is why I want the Retina Display.

    I don't think I will ever use it for more than basic tasks. It's just that I don't think that I will be able to make another purchase like this in the upcoming years. So whatever I get now, I'm stuck with it for the next 3 years. Getting the 13" 8GB RAM/256SSD seems fine for now, but I fear that the next OS X updates will get some power hungry features that will eat RAM like there's no tomorrow and that's when it gets obsolete. This is why I'm so tempted to max out the RAM. I don't care that much about the CPU, as it's unlikely to benefit me in the long run. I can hardly think of the higher resale value - anyone who buys an old computer instead of a new one wants cheap options.
  8. sonicrobby macrumors 68020


    Apr 24, 2013
    New Orleans
    Honestly, for your uses the only pro here for the 15" in the screen size. I for one prefer the form factor of the 13" but because I do need the quad core and dGPU, I had no choice but the 15". As far as longest lasting support for years to come, if they are both 2013 versions they should both be able to handle equal amounts of updates. By this I mean it is unlikely in the coming years there is an OSX that is able supported by the 15" and not the 13" model of the same year. The only thing I would consider is maxing the RAM as that would be the most likely thing to affect the future upgrade's performance, but again, for your needs 8GB may actually suffice for years to come.
  9. MacRazySwe macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    I got the rMBP 13", 2.4/8/256.

    I upgraded from a 2011 MBA, as I, much like you could no longer stand the MBA-display. The rMBP is a great computer and I absolutely love the retina-screen. It also feels way more premium/high quality than the MBA. However, it needs to be said, my old MBA did feel a bit snappier for day-to-day use, such as web-browsing, scrolling, et.c.

    I'm sure Apple will continue to optimize retina-performance in future OS X upgrades, which should make the rMBP the absolute best computer out there.

    Seeing as you don't need the quad-core processor of the 15" model, I'd advise you to opt for the middle 13"-model I've got myself. Why spend so much more money on a computer which is both larger and heavier, especially as you won't be utilizing its performance?

    Good luck! :)

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