Review: 13" Touchbar vs. 15" Touchbar

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by CaptRB, Feb 19, 2017.

  1. CaptRB macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #1
    So, as one of the more vocal fans of the new Macbook Touch Bar Machines, I was also certain that the base 13" Touch Bar was perfectly fine for my pro photography work and I was right and I ended up with two of them.

    But last week my friend offered me a deal on his never-opened base 15" Touchbar, and I've made it my primary machine after a few days. I grabbed it because it cost me $1300 instead of $2300...obviously I couldn't pass that up.
    As I was using the 13" TB for the last 6 weeks, here's a quick review and comparison. My 13" tMBP is the base 8 GB model and my 15" tMBP is the base version.

    INITIAL EXPERIENCE:
    One set up and settled, the 15" is very fast with everything I tossed at it and the larger screen is well worth the investment. Side-By-Side with my 2015 15" MBP, the Touch Bar screen looks more rich, and with deeper blacks. Along with more brightness, the new screen advantages are not subtle, especially if you are doing photo and video work & dealing with clients.
    As I was already used to the keyboard from my 13" tMBP, I am very much at home with this keyboard. I put the 13" away and connected the twin Dell P2715Q 27-Inch 4K monitors. As expected, things run flawlessly at 4K@60hz. Via the USB-C, everything from thumb drives and external SSD work great as does my large format photo and combo printers. This is a very bug-free existence thus far.

    SIZE ADVANTAGE?:
    While the new 15" is touted for having lost weight, it feels substantially larger and heavier than the 13"...more so than I expected. It might seem like a "duh" observation, but I'd never take the 15" on a plane when I have the 13" tMBP or Air available. Seen below, the air and the 15" TB seem close in size, but the Air feels less bulky and the 13" is the champ.

    20170219_070100_resized.jpg
    The screen size is an upgrade of course, and I like the extra real estate where the speakers are as my hands don't hit the edges anymore. The 13" was a bit too small on my lap, and the 15" feels a bit too big, but it's better for me overall. Still, if you're looking for a small and powerful package, the 13 is "just right" for many people and easier to lug around.

    PROCESSING POWER:
    So how much better is the quad core i7 machine with 16 GB of ram vs. the i5 based 13"? Well, it's certainly snappier and more satisfying! Obviously this is a clearer choice for video work and games will play more smoothly. I opened 8 RAW files from a Nikon D810 in PS and then 5 more in LR and the 15" has some serious desktop grunt. Shooting stills for catalogue I rarely open more than a few files at a time and the 13" did fine. Am I happy with the snappier performance? Of course. This is as good as my quad core iMac, so it's hard not to be impressed.

    BATTERY:
    Okay....first couple of charges and WHAT??? Only 3 hours remaining and draining like mad!!!! What the heck, man?! But I installed my software and updated EVERYTHING and I got over 10 hours on my 5th charge. That's with the screen at 75 to 80% much of the time and it's beating the 13" touch bar which typically gets 7-8 hours. Today I did a lot of editing in PS and after 4 hours I still had 39% left. That's easily better than my 2015 rMBP. Considering the better and brighter screen, touch-bar and better speakers, the battery life is a home run. Very impressed!
    20170217_102226_resized.jpg


    SPEAKERS:
    As much as the 13" TB improved on other notebooks, the 15" actually surprises with a lot more fidelity and volume. While bass is still not going to be there, clarity and detail most certainly are. As good as they've done, you will still want a proper speaker system for music.

    TRACKPAD:
    Make it bigger! Seriously. The new trackpads are most welcome for photo edit work. Huge improvement and more so on the 15". Thus far I have zero issues with palm rejection.

    PROBLEMS:
    None thus far. No glitches or odd behavior, but then I did update everything right away. Hooked up to my 4K monitors, external drives...it all works perfectly.

    WEAKNESSES:
    USB-C is a none issue and ultra versatile, but I DO think Apple should bring back the SD slot. I don't think they considered how many people were using the SD slot for portable memory expansion. Yes, I know an external SSD is superior, but it IS still external. As with the 13" TB, I'd like to see a brighter touch-bar that I can adjust, just like the keyboard back light.

    OVERALL:
    I guess it's fairly obvious. More is better...if you need it. The penalty is size, weight and price. And if you don't need "more", than the 13" is an amazing laptop and plenty of computer for most users. As for the 15" tMBP, I'm happy to own it because it does soundly best my 2015 rMBP 15" by making it feel seriously dated, but waiting for the next MBP cycle will likely net buyers a bit more speed and other small improvements.
    These are great notebooks, the best yet from Apple. I can make a case for either the 13 or 15 as being best because the size advantage of the 13" is important to a lot of people. It depends on your requirements.
    These are not toys for me. Nor do I care if a machine renders something a minute faster. I'm looking for the best overall user experience for my photo and writing work and these Macs do not disappoint.



    R.
     
  2. henrikrox macrumors 65816

    henrikrox

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    #2
    whats that battery touchbar app? Also great review :)
     
  3. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #3


    Battery Health 2 is the app. I also have coconut, which is just as good.


    Cheers,


    R.
     
  4. lobo1978 macrumors 6502

    lobo1978

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    #4
    Be careful as Battery Health 2 is a battery hog! I quit using it as it clocks battery all the time.

    Battery status in touchbar is nice feature though
     
  5. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #5

    Got it!

    If it's a battery hog, then I'm even more impressed with the battery life on the 15" tMBP.



    R.
     
  6. mcomp112 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2017
    #6
    Having used both, I would always recommend the 15 inch MBP over the 13 inch.

    Dollar for dollar, the 15-inch is just better value. The difference in price between a 13 inch touch-bar with 16GB of Ram and 512 GB SSD versus a 15-inch touch-bar with 16GB Ram and 512 GB SSD is just $350. For that money, you get more screen real-estate, a quad-core processor that is much more powerful than the dual-core in the 13-inch, a very capable dGPU, four FULL thunderbolt 3 ports (the other 2 on the tb 13 inch don't have full thunderbolt capabilities) and better speakers.

    Unless you really need the portability, I would always recommend buying the 15 inch variant.
     
  7. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #7



    The thing is, a LOT of people prefer the form-factor of the 13". Owning both, its easy to see why. The difference in weight and size feels like a lot more when you're going on meetings and I could barely use the 13" on the plane, so the 15 would be useless unless I was always in 1st class.

    At this point they can't shrink the dimensions of the 15" by much more because we're down to much less bezel. Still, when it happens, I'll buy it. I have the base 15" and 13" TB models. I think the buyer who upgrades the 13" is likely looking to maximize portability 1st and power 2nd. Since I paid 1300 for my 15", I'll happily trade it in on the next cycle or the one after.

    Value only matters if you can make use of what the 15" offers, but I agree, it's a LOT more machine for a few dollars more. BTW, I last years 15" rMBP for 1500. It got snapped up in just hours and the guy wanted to buy my 13" Touch bar, but I'm not sure I want to sell it yet.

    PS: I'm streaming some music now and not connected to my main speakers. The speakers in this 15" really do surprise with a lot of detail.


    R.
     
  8. StlCards80 macrumors member

    StlCards80

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2017
    Location:
    St Louis, MO
    #8
    I use the 13", and it's plenty. The battery life is perfect, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
     
  9. Tazoawake2016, Feb 20, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017

    Tazoawake2016 macrumors member

    Tazoawake2016

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2016
    Location:
    Deep Space 9
    #9
    Dayum, where do I find a nice friend like that? :)

    Seriously though, why did he sell that machine at such a drastically lower price??

    Btw, great review.
     
  10. lobo1978, Feb 20, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017

    lobo1978 macrumors 6502

    lobo1978

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2011
    #10
    I am using Better Battery app (apple store) - it is a quite nice app (very power efficient - average power impact 0.03 - compared to 2-3 for Battery Health 2). It shows time and battery % at the same time + monitors time on battery / plugin and recommends plug/unplug time.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2017 ---
    I wish 13" had more powerful CPU - but I know it is Intel global policy not Apple choice. i5/i7 dual core + integrated GPU are really useless for intensive computation or demanding software / VM. The real punch is quad core i7 but it is >28W so 13" size will just not dissipate this amount of power.

    Maybe when they finally switch to in-house CPU things will get better.
     
  11. caramelpolice macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2012
    #11
    I came from a 13" Air to a 15" Pro, and obviously the 15" Pro is bigger - but not by nearly as much as I thought it'd be. The 13" Air is kind of big for a 13" laptop these days, due to the huge bezels around the display. The Pros have much smaller bezels and thus much smaller footprints, proportionately. The weight difference is much more noticeable, however. The 15" Pro is quite a bit heavier than the Air. Still, I knew that going in, and I'm very happy with the tradeoffs. The 15" Pro is still very portable for a 15" notebook.

    I've also been blown away by the battery life on my 15" Pro, which surprised me, as I expected poor battery life going in due to all the reviews. 10.12.3 must have seriously fixed things up.
     
  12. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #12


    My friends are family. I gave him a Nikon D800 last year. He didn't even want anything for the 15" and already bought the 13" instead. I had to force him to take the money and he has yet to cash my check. This is a guy who lost over 800K to Donald Trump via unpaid contracts in NY, but sold his house rather than lay off half of his design team.
    Over time you tend to learn that money isn't worth very much relative to good friends.


    R.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2017 ---




    Yeah...my case exactly! I was prepared for 4-5 hours and shocked when I had times beyond my 15" rMBP and not that far off from my Air. I wonder what they did with the updates.

    One thing I did was match brightness levels to my 15" rMBP and then the touch bar easily outlasted it. But I tend to push the brightness on the touch bar higher and that brings down the battery life. Still, I'm really impressed. Too bad they didn't have it right from day one because the haters are still running around claiming battery life is poor.

    One more item...my friend has several maxed out 15" touch bars and they do run through battery life faster than my base version. He seems to be getting 1-2 hours less than me.


    R.
     
  13. Sanpete macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    Utah
    #13
    It isn't updates. The battery life for the 15" models has always been good, and reviews that actually tested it carefully showed that. The only model that has had trouble with battery life is the 13" touch bar, but blogs and such have confused all the models together.
     
  14. jerryk macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    #14
    Thanks for the review. The 15" sounds like the way to go. I am still going to wait for the 2017 refresh. Apple is one company from which I never buy the first generation of a new design. Until then my 2015 15" will have to do.

    BTW, I hear the D810 is great! If I was staying FF I would consider it. But I am getting ready to dump my Canon lenses collection and bodies to move more into m4/3. Getting old, and can't haul all that heavy gear any more!
     
  15. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #15


    The D810 is about to be replaced by Nikon, but at this point I'm 75% out of the photography business. I only keep my gear for two clients, though there's still some volume of shooting. I was using the 13" Touchbar with no troubles for my work. Yeah, the 15 is better, but not in the field shooting jobs where I want to keep size down anywhere I can.
    It's all about what you need.


    R.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 20, 2017 ---

    After a few days my 13" touch bar also got solid battery life, so I don't know where the issues were.


    R.
     
  16. jerryk macrumors 68020

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    Nov 3, 2011
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    #16
    I have heard the systems need a day or two to do indexing for Spotlight.
     
  17. Sanpete macrumors 68020

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    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    Utah
    #17
    Yeah, others have had that experience too, even before the software updates. Could be indexing, as @jerryk suggests, or maybe the OS or other software being adjusted independently of updates. OSX adjusts itself to its conditions in some ways.
     
  18. AppleFanatic10 macrumors 68030

    AppleFanatic10

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    Location:
    Encino, CA
    #18
    Great review @CaptRB. Was considering buying the 13" with touchbar, but couldn't justify why I would need a touchbar. Seems like a gimmick to me. So, I just went with the nonTB 13" MacBook Pro in space gray. Was also considering a 15" nTB MacBook Pro but didn't want to spend that much just for 128GB of storage.
     
  19. CaptRB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #19

    Thanks. The non TB version is a solid machine too. I'm finding the TB useful, but we'll need to see how it gets used by software companies. As an example, I'm a screenwriter and spoke with Final Draft, who plans to use the touch bar in the next version. I can see plenty of potential, so I won't call it a gimmick just yet.


    R.
     
  20. caramelpolice macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2012
    #20
    The 15" 2015 model starts with 256GB of storage.
     
  21. StlCards80 macrumors member

    StlCards80

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    Jan 10, 2017
    Location:
    St Louis, MO
    #21
    Almost a month in with my 13" TB, and I couldn't be happier. Battery life is solid, speed is incredible, and display is plenty for what I need. I still haven't taken on an external display because I like to sit and watch my gf play GTA online, but that's a whole different story.

    Has anyone else had a good experience with their machine?
     
  22. Sanpete macrumors 68020

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    #22

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