The Definitive 2017 Macbook Pro 13 inch or 15 inch Thread

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by OSXCrusader, Jun 23, 2017.


Assuming maximum specs and excluding price as a factor, which 2017 Macbook Pro would you get today?

  1. 2017 MacBook Pro 13"

  2. 2017 MacBook Pro 15"

  1. OSXCrusader macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    Alright, here it is : The ultimate "Should I buy the 2017 13" or 15" Macbook Pro" thread.

    I"ll get this started by posting this video:

    I like the above video not so much because its an anandtech type analysis but for reasons such as him putting both macbook pros into a backpack, stacking them above each other, etc etc.

    PREFACE: I have no doubt that as past or future macbook pro owners, a large number of have grappled with the unavoidable question in every generation of the MBP: Should I get the 13" or the 15"?

    I had been a windows user throughout my childhood all the way until my freshman year at college. I owned seriously outdated laptops through high school and my first year. So at the end of my first summer in college (summer 2010), I took the leap. I bought my first ever Macbook Pro.

    I bought a 15 inch and maxxed out the hardware specs:

    Mid 2010 15" MacBook Pro, 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7, 8 GB 1067 MHz DDR3, Intel HD Graphics 288 MB, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M

    My final bill (with education discount and free printer) was just above $3000

    And what a journey it has been...I remember unboxing around my best friends, roommates, ex-girlfriend. I got through college with this thing, earned my engineering degree, found my future apartments, traveled everywhere, got my first job out of college. What a long way we have come together. I know, I'm romanticizing it all. So much has happened, so much has changed and of course, the MacBook Pro has come a long way in its evolution.

    7 years later (its summer 2017) and I am typing this post on the very same computer. I have gotten 7+ years out of this machine and it is still going strong. I have never encountered anything computing-wise that this machine couldn't handle. Some quick math > $3000/(7 years *365 days) = just under a $1.20 a day to own this machine and I have undoubtedly extracted more value from this machine than that in terms of productivity and pleasure.

    However, it is INDEED FINALLY time. I probably could have gotten one sooner but with all the holding out, upgrade issues, the skylake debacle, I held off but I really need one now. I'm VERY comfortable buying one today even though I know the touch bar is gimmicky and coffee lake could be 30% faster.

    I"ll describe my past use and future needs: I was an engineer in college so lots of time spent in MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint, lots of MATLAB, browser (unity player for red crucible), coffee shops and study rooms, lecture halls, airports, and lots of travel, lots of browsing (multiple tabs open), Netflix, HD content, VMs for my linux/programming classes etc etc.

    After lurking for years on macrumors in the comments sections/forums, I am definitely sure that I am in the "90% crowd that doesn't do video editing and could probably get by with a macbook air/macbook/base model pro and some might even say - iPad/iPad Pro"

    Well, I agree. Did I need all that power? NO. However, I didn't see it that way at all. I saw it as: This is the one computer I will buy and own for at least 4 years (all the way to graduation), I want to reward/motivate myself with the fanciest thing available in the market. We all know we can get cheaper, more practical, better specs, better value machines but I saw it differently. I saw it in the same way people see supercars.

    Is a supercar necessary? no. Is it practical? no. Can you drive it to its top speed regularly, and on public streets? no. Is the fuel economy better? no, but owning one and knowing what you have under the hood (just in case you might ever need it) is a special feeling.

    Sort of like comparing an Audi R8 with a Toyota Camry (the camry is an awesome car BTW)

    Anyway, 7 years later and the calculus hasn't changed much. Regardless of whether I need it, and knowing myself, supercar fetish, need to future proof, etc etc, I know I will max out whatever I buy whether it is the 12" macbook or the 13/15" pro. I have a feeling that a lot of people feel the same way.

    I"ll summarize this (sorry for CAPS):


    However, I've grown in 7 years, I'm more mature, more practical, I now have a "work laptop", I travel so much more, our phones have become so much more mature, I have less "power hungry" uses, I value portability suddenly over size, I even keep eyeing the 12" macbook as much as I'm not fond of the processor, the 480p cam or the single usb port.

    I have already decided that given the size and price difference, most people should just get the 13" pro if they want value for money unless they are EXTREME portability junkies.

    However, as this thread suggests, my dilemma is between the 13" pro and the 15" pro.

    The premise of this discussion assumes the following -

    >Price is not an issue but is a consideration. You would buy either if convinced.
    >You want a fair amount of life out of your laptop and want it to be capable over that lifetime
    (4 years or more)
    >you do value portability
    >you are sure you want a pro model (not a macbook, air, iPad, no touch bar version, older models, refurbished anything)

    My current uses for a laptop -

    lots and lots of browsing (20+ tabs)
    other streaming content
    really good screen for reading (nytimes, other high quality publications)
    editing documents that are important like resumes or business school applications
    ability to install awesome apps that may become useful (like financial simulators, i may pick up photography)
    travel research while i travel and working at airports
    serious imessage
    also remember I don't own a TV, my macbook pro is my primary screen, when I did own one, I usually streamed on my macbook pro and just connected over HDMI to my samsung tv, never owned an apple tv or some other streaming box set, just felt a computer was so much better for displaying or playing anything)
    the 2" of screen real estate feels like it could make a big difference in my experience having only ever owned a 15"

    Yes I know, I could probably still get my with an air/macbook/base model.

    Here's what I've done: read tons of reviews, followed infinite threads, watched many videos on both machines, talked to many people and friends, and of course gone into the store and played around with both - holding them in my hands, typing etc etc. I realize that when I open word docs, webpages just about anything else is usually able to display everything just fine. For example, opening on 15", the ends of the screen are just filled with white. The 2 extra inches don't do wonders but I can see this being more useful when I have multiple windows/apps being open.

    Still stuck in a dilemma.

    In terms of specs, when I price both the models and max our specs, the highest end 13" is only $300 cheaper than the highest end 15"

    I can't help but feel like that is so narrow compared to what you get for that additional 300 on the 15"

    >extra 2" of screen
    >quad core processor
    >discreet graphics
    >all 4 thunderbolt ports can drive displays, no difference between sides
    >slightly louder speakers?

    Of course, I spend more money and have a rather large laptop (described as a hummer by my friends and family who say - get the 13" instead. This includes working professionals, phd students, mba students and people who don't even care/obsess so much)

    I realize in the end, the decision is still mine to make but I don't want any purchasing regrets. I'm not the type to own multiple machines for different use cases. I want to be happy like I remember my last 7+ years being, but perhaps I need to create this thread and solicit feedback, if only gain some validation.

    So macrumors, let's talk about it - please post everything relevant - specs, performance, benchmarks, price, portability, resale value, useful life (future proofing), etc etc.

    I want to understand how others thought through this decision. I realize some of you just know right away whether you're 13" or 15" folks.

    I'm especially interested in people who have moved between these 2 sizes over time and people who have traveled extensively with newer generation 15" pro machines. What has that felt like.

    I'm interested in people that sit and work at coffee shops with their 15" and look across and see someone with a 12" and think - oh, my macbook pro is so much more powerful but those folks have so much more space for their phones, keys, coffee on the table, are probably doing the same things on their machines that I am but are just as happy but spent less.

    I have even had thoughts such as this - Why won't Apple just get rid of 13" and 15" so i don't have to make a choice. Get rid of air while they are at it. Just have 2 models - 12" macbook and a 14" pro model (15" screen in a 14" form factor) and of course have upgrade options for processor, RAM etc, stop selling older models (phones, iPads, laptops) as soon as new ones are released.

    Clearly, I am overthinking all this but I want to work through this and improve my decision making skills while also making the most informed decision I can and I know, some people feel the same way - hopefully, this ridiculously LONG thread will help.
  2. Trey M macrumors 6502a

    Trey M

    Jul 25, 2011
  3. redheeler macrumors 604


    Oct 17, 2014
    If price is not an issue, and this is your main Mac (not supplementing a desktop for portability), I say go with the 15". Even though it is not as thin/light as a 13", coming from a 2010 15" model, you'll still notice quite a difference.

    The extra screen space is always useful for two apps split-screen, watching videos, or certain other tasks that benefit from it. Having a quad-core processor and dedicated GPU is also better in the long-term, although I don't think there is a real need to max everything out on the 15" unless you plan to get into some heavier work.
  4. ab298 macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2017

    I went from a 2007 17" to a 2016 13" nTB and like it fine. Cost was an issue, I'm cheap. More than happy (surprisingly) with the compromise on screen size.

    Reading your post, you'll want the 15", b/c it's bigger and better; but like
    red heeler, I'm not sure of the need to max it out.
  5. nph macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2005
    I am in a similar boat. I have the 15" have 2 days left in the two week return window. I really like how it works but looking at the 13" and the smallness/lightness make me envious. However at the same time the real estate, the 300 bucks difference when specking it out somewhat equal I still get 2" extra screen, discrete graphics and quad core. Maybe not today but down the road I will thank myself for getting the 15", However seeing myself on the plane , in the rooms/ hotel the 13" is stil attractive. Curious to see what feedback you get!
  6. ryannel2003, Jun 23, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2017

    ryannel2003 macrumors 68000


    Jan 30, 2005
    Greenville, NC
    Had a 2016 nTB 13" Pro that I purchased the day after launch and I sold it a few weeks back for a 15" Pro and the extra screen size, processing power and RAM is worth the extra cost. I actually enjoy using the Touch Bar and have integrated it into my workflow pretty easily. It doesn't feel too much heavier than the 13" to me.
  7. serkan macrumors 6502


    May 14, 2012
    Menlo Park,California
    I enjoyed reading your post, even though it is long. I give you the points because I have them as well.

    I am in the same situation as you are, and decided to move on with 15 inch and that's all.

  8. wiffle macrumors regular


    Apr 5, 2017
    15". I could elaborate and provide paragraph level insight, but you've clearly thought this through and based on what you said: your needs, what you're using it for and your projected longevity of use, the 15" is undoubtedly in your best interests.

    Have fun!!
  9. OSXCrusader thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    I'm still interested in your paragraph level. Yes, I'm leaning towards the 15" but uggh, there are moments where I'm asking myself - is this smart?

    Regardless of my choice, if you elaborated (if you have some time), others including me would find your inputs helpful.
  10. funman895, Jun 24, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017

    funman895 macrumors member


    Jul 30, 2008
    Ann Arbor, MI
    OK here's my blunt advice: You will not be "future proofing" by buying anything except RAM and disk space. Your workload will be more than accommodated by the 13" integrated graphics and a standard dual core CPU. I would even save your money and get a non-touchbar model, but I figure you might like the feature so that's really up to you.

    As for screen size, if you scale the 13" one you won't lose any usable window space compared to your current 2010 MBP, especially if you change the default retina scaling. Buy the base 13" CPU (i7 will not give you any more threads than i5 on the 2-core CPUs), max 16GB RAM, and either 512GB or 1TB SSD (if you want peace of mind that you won't run out of space and don't feel like clearing out files once in a while for that peace, go for 1TB).

    With your savings, buy a dongle with USB-A, HDMI, and USB-C; a nice monitor to watch movies at home, and maybe 20 or so bottles of wine to enjoy with the movie.

    I currently have a 2011 MacBook Air and a hackintosh which I use for CAD only because I don't have enough RAM and disk space on the MBA to run a windows VM. Neither a faster CPU nor discrete GPU will make your daily tasks any faster.

    I just ordered a 13" nonTB MBP with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage. I never need more than 2 USB ports when I'm on the go and a dock solves that problem at home. If I ever need more GPU power (I likely won't, but I'll run my new machine through my normal workload to verify), it'd be easier to get an eGPU with real performance over a laptop GPU. I too have been floating back and forth between a 13" and a 15" but with how well my base 13" MBA has performed since 2011 I'm very confident that less is more.

    I use an iPad Pro for ALL my note taking between work and school and I'd say that's a far better investment and easily afforded by a decision to go 13". I totally get that you want to "treat-yo-self" but a square in a metal box that makes larger Geekbench scores is probably not the best way.

    Good luck and happy shopping!
  11. mydogeatsbeats macrumors regular

    Sep 16, 2016
    15 " has worse ppi and I noticed it. I enjoy the 13 " because you don't hear a fan. the 15" is always using a fan.
  12. PressureDrop macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2011
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it was an enjoyable read! It reminds me on my similar situation four years ago. Bought my first MacBookPro in 2007 (15") and was absolutely stunned when the new Retinas hit the market in 2012. So I bought one. I'm a software developer (mainly Java Enterprise Applications) and had always 15" notebooks. One year later I changed to a new employer which was further away from home and so I had to take the train instead of my car. Started to work (on/in?) train but had always bad feelings taking my 3000€ notebook out of my bag, because I threated it like a raw egg.

    Since Haswell I had always an eye on the 13" notebooks, because they were very compact, the performance for dual core processors was right and the overall design was much more harmonious. And so the journey began...

    Back in the days I played WoW but more as a casual gamer and was unsure if the 13" hold up well. Had the opportunity to test it on it, sold my 15" and bought the 13". Needed weeks to think about the pros and cons, but my gut feelings were always on the 13". And man, I was absolutely excited about it, because the portability and the overall handling of this machine was unbelievable good for me. It took some time to adjust to the smaller screen, but after that I thought that I had found my dream computer. Meanwhile my employer bought me two thunderbolt displays and so I had a very light machine and much space for development.

    Later the Skylake hype began and I waited for a new MacBookPro, because the 12 13" MacBook was a nice appetizer and showed us new design opportunities by Apple. Unfortunately Apple changed their Lineup in 2016... They presented a new MacBookPro in a smaller case...but even a Touchbar which is (for me!) an uncompleted development. The Touchbar brings only two advantages for me: the convenience of the finger print reader and the opportunity to skip commercials on youtube videos which can't skipped by the mouse/trackpad.

    Switched back to a 15" at the end of 2016, but only because of the good price/performance ratio. But...I have always an eye on the 13" system. My dream notebook is the 13" nTb with 16GB Ram and 512 SSD. Unfortunately it comes only with a 15W CPU and I'm unsure if its enough. CPU-wise the 13" TB is the perfect system, but there is the Touchbar, which I don't like and the "half-baked" ports on the right side.

    Conclusion: The 13" (nTb) is sexy! If it is available with a 28W CPU or a QuadCore CPU I would buy it in a heartbeat. But...for longer tasks you need an external display, because your eyes will be very tired with the time. The 15" is an absolute power system. Sure there are people who will tell you that there are better systems, but not in this size and not with the same electric consumption. The 15" is for minimal styled tables and it should stay there. Its okay to move it in the house or take it to friends/work, but not as a daily driver (for me).

    So, I went from 15" to 13" to 15" (there was an iMac 27" between), but I think I will switch to a 13" again. As a software developer I had a little help/inspiration by him:

    Hope it helps you.
  13. OSXCrusader thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    Thanks everyone for responding so far. I honestly thought I'd get more responses, people who have worked through the dilemma of 13" vs 15" in any generation.

    Folks, please share your opinion. I would imagine this is an issue that must get discussed quite a bit! When you walk into a store, how do you decide what size?

    If you don't respond, please at least think through it and vote? Thanks macheads!
  14. chezthoa macrumors newbie


    Apr 22, 2015
    I honestly have been thinking just today so I'm really thankful for this thread!! At first, I was totally decided on the 13 inch because it seemed like the reasonable compromise between power and portability. I have the 2015 MacBook and 2011 MacBook Pro. The former is super slow (for my tastes even though I'm your average user) and the latter is fast but heavy. So 13 inch Pro seemed like the reasonable upgrade... until I walked into the store today and saw the 15 inch next to the 13 inch... and realized how much better looking at the extra space just made me "feel". This feeling is not something you can really quantify I think, which is why I'm having such a crisis right now... I feel if I'm working in the 15 inch, I'd just feel better... similar to if you're working on a bigger desk rather than one that's "just right". So I think for productivity purposes, the bigger screen space is definitely better for me.

    However, when I think of lugging that in addition to all the stuff I usually carry in my bag- I don't know why but I just always carry a lot of stuff, even if I don't end up using it - it makes me kind of wary.

    So for me, it's a matter of, "how I feel when I'm working on the laptop" vs "how I feel carrying the laptop around".

    I still haven't made my decision yet but I hope others give their two cents so I can see what everyone's thinking!

    Also, I personally love how thoughtful and analytic you are in dissecting your decision! Sometimes, thoughts cannot just be explained in 160 characters!
  15. workerbee macrumors member

    Oct 26, 2006
    Best advice I've read here for a very long time. *thumbsup*
    --- Post Merged, Jul 2, 2017 ---
    If only it had the fingerprint reader – I imagine this makes working quite a bit easier and faster, with no more endless entering the MBPs and 1password passwords.
    I'd also very much like the non-TB MBP to have 1.3GBps WiFi, the 867MBPs feels a lot like just another, pretty transparent, Apple trick to get us to buy the more expensive model.
  16. Mr. Dee macrumors 68020

    Mr. Dee

    Dec 4, 2003
    When I decided I was purchasing a MacBook Pro for the first time back in 2015, my original intent was the 15 inch. But cost at the time after buying an iPhone 6s, I had to settle for the 13 inch. It has turned out to be a great purchase, not saying, I wouldn't want the 15 inch, particularly, for the larger screen. One little concern though was the profile, when I played with it in the Apple store, I didn't realize it was so large. I haven't gotten the chance to play with with the new 2016/17 15 inch models, but I did get to try out the non-touch bar 13 bar model last year; its surprisingly thin, small and light. I can only imagine what the 15 inch must be like, almost like the new 13 inch.

    When I do decide to upgrade in the future though, it will likely be the 15 inch, its just amazing to have that screen real estate and be able to have multiple programs up on screen side by side. Then again, I am looking at more diverse options, maybe a 27 inch iMac and I want to get a 12.9 inch iPad first. There are some clear benefits in iOS for me. I am going to be totally honest, I am not using my Early 2015 MBP 13 as much as I would like. I am limited to mobile data and macOS devastates it. If Apple doesn't include something like Trip Mode High Sierra, I am going to have to purchase a license for it.
  17. OSXCrusader thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    So true, you could not have described it any better! Let's start consolidating the difference.

    -> We know the 15" is more powerful in terms of better 4 quad core processor, discreet GPU, 4 equal thunderbolt ports, slightly louder speakers and of course, 2 EXTRA diagonal inches of screen size.

    -> We know that it is less portable.

    -> We know that the 13" has a dual core, asymmetric thunderbolt ports, no discreet GPU and 2" inches less of screen

    -> It is more portable and really a "laptop"

    ->The price difference between the 13" (maximum upgradable specs) and the 15" (maximum upgradable specs) is about $300, not much at all considering all the additional goodies (that I will probably never need LOL, but some people may) and when considering the total price of both laptops

    -> I know that a lot of people have suggested that not maxxing out on specs in either model but we have to control for something here.

    -> To me the question really comes down to the following two things:

    // Whether the additional $300 is worth paying which I think everybody agrees on: That is YES! You get so much for an additional $300!

    //Is the 15" MacBook Pro a "comfortably" PORTABLE machine? Again, We need to really understand ease of use and portability here. Is it portable? sure. I am still lugging around my Macbook Pro 15" from 2010 with optical drive. That thing is one heavy brick especially when you consider moving around with the accompanying power cable and adapter.
    I have gone into the store and held and played around with 13" and 15". There is a striking difference between both but the 15" has obviously gotten so much lighter in years.

    15" owners, what has your experience been owning and carrying around 15" MBPs (2016 and later), especially thru airport security, to cafes, in backpack, in classes. Do you wish you had a 13"? or do you really not carry it around that much? What about the 15" (aside from being able to do video editing) makes it worth owning and the extra cost and reduction in portability.

    Uggh, I still can't make a decision lol!
  18. Feenician, Jul 3, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017

    Feenician macrumors 603


    Jun 13, 2016
  19. OSXCrusader thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 2, 2015
    Yes! I know, I could have been much, much more succinct. I'm sorry. I appreciate the patience of all readers. Maybe this post should get pinned in the forums every year so in any given year, people who struggle to make the decision between a 13" and a 15" (the 2 offering in the Pro line) can make an educated decision?
  20. Feenician macrumors 603


    Jun 13, 2016
    I’m just messing with you. No offense intended.

    My advice is to get the most powerful machine you can afford. Rarely do we say, “man I wish this machine was less powerful” but too often we say the opposite.
  21. funman895 macrumors member


    Jul 30, 2008
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I finally got my 13" nTB in the other day and have been loving it so far. I can run my CAD programs with no hiccups whatsoever so I'm frankly not too worried about speed. My biggest thing is the portability and size; I'm comfortably typing this post in bed whereas the 15" would be a bit unwieldy. I went to the apple store a few times and I didn't like how "wobbly" the screen was. So I'd honestly say the following as my final advice:

    If you plan on moving it around a lot, you're going to love carrying the 13" around; it's tiny and light. So if you wanna be able to quickly hop on your laptop without it being a big deal, 13" is great.

    If you want a "desktop replacement" that's going to spend most of its time in one place, I'd say get an external monitor (27"+), keyboard, and mouse and the 13" so you can get some real workspace AND the portability as stated above.

    If you want a powerhouse laptop that you can churn out a heavy workload and the extra screen space is useful in those instances where you can't use an external monitor, but don't mind only using it on occasion in this sense, you might be more inclined to the 15". Note that you're going to sacrifice the quick portability of the 13".

    If you wanna get scientific, you might want to log the daily usage of your current laptop and see how each decision would improve or decrease your experience in each usage scenario.
  22. windows4ever macrumors member


    Aug 14, 2011
    If there's only a $300 price difference, then getting the 15" is a no brainer. Quad core vs. dual core is the biggest benefit, but it also comes down to how much time you plan to spend in front of the screen. If you plan to use the built in display a lot, then the 15" is far and away the better choice, even if it means a bulkier laptop when traveling.
  23. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    In 2015, after seeing and being disappointed in the specs offered with the then-new iMac, I went through a decision-making process about getting a 15" rMBP 2015 as a desktop substitute and keeping my 13" rMBP 2015 as the portable machine..... I did get the 15" rMBP and am indeed using it as a desktop substitute. Right now, in fact, it is serving as the go-between as I transfer some folders and files between external drives. LOVE that thing, very glad that I went ahead and bought it when I did! In the meantime, I kept my 13" rMBP 2015 and actually am typing on it right now...... Recently for various reasons I took the 13" rMBP on a brief trip with me rather than the 12" MacBook I bought in 2016. The MacBook, which I adore, is used frequently here at home but it is still a sort of gateway to the future, due to the USB-C port and such.....

    Someone who is looking at purchasing a 2017 MBP with its different ports and having it as one's only machine will have different considerations and issues, of course. For portability, the 12" or 13" wins hands-down, no contest -- for being able to do more heavy lifting and also still providing the option of portability, the 15" is just great, too. If it is to be an only machine used mainly at home, not supplemented by either a 12"/13" MacBook/MacBook Pro or an iPad, then probably the better choice is the 15". If fairly frequent travel is going to be a consideration, then the 13" (or a 12" MacBook supplementing the 15" rMBP) is the way to go..... And don't forget the possibilities of an iPad, too......
  24. anthony13 macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2012
    In 2011 I had this dilemma and bought a 13' mac book pro. It was the worst buying decision I ever made as it simply wasn't enough screen real estate. I also didn't realize how much the lack of discreet graphics would affect my apps for work (QLab struggles without discreet graphics). I got the 2012 15 retina the next year which I am only now having replaced 5 years later, and that's only because the battery is shot.
  25. lcseds macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2006
    NC, USA
    I don't do a lot of heavy work. More of a casual user. I am contemplating the 13" because the 2013 rMBP 15" I have gets rather toasty underneath. And that's usually on my lap. So I am thing going without the discreet video might may for a cooler experience. I have been playing with a new 12.9 IPP and I can live with a smaller screen.

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199 June 23, 2017