The great 13" vs 15" debate

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by hollyhotsauce, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. hollyhotsauce macrumors newbie

    Nov 23, 2011
    Hey guys,

    I want to get some second opinions. I currently have a mid-2006 Core Duo 15" MBP. It has been a great machine, but the battery doesn't work and it's starting to make rattling noises. I know it is out of date and, basically, it's time for an upgrade! I've lurked on some of the Ivy Bridge forums, but I don't think I can hold off that long!

    I desperately want a new low-end 15". However, I am on a first year teacher's salary, am moving into a new house with furniture and miscellaneous items to buy, topped off by the fact that it's about time to start buying Christmas gifts for all of the people in my life! Obviously, I don't have much money to work with. I feel like the low-end 13" is so much more affordable at $600 less than the 15". Although I could get a PC with more power cheaper to at least hold me over, I am in love with OSX (like most of you probably are.)

    One part of me thinks if I'm gonna go big on a purchase ($1,000 or more), I might as well pony up the extra and get the best I can, even if it means making sacrifices elsewhere for a bit. My concern is that I'm so used to the 15" screen real estate and want to have something at least a little "future-proofed" because I've never been one to buy something then turn and sell it. What's worse is that the idea of a high-res screen has me drooling, but I must control myself!

    Do you think I would be dissatisfied with the low end 13"? It seems as though dual core is on its way out in favor of quad core, but I'm trying to be frugal and realistic with my needs.

    My usage is this: Lots of daily Powerpoint and Word because I am a teacher. Some web design. Some Photoshop tinkering for fun and occasional freelance. My current set-up does these things, but slowly.

    Thanks for any input!
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I've owned both, and I feel the 13" model is the sweet spot, great mobility and very good performance.

    You can also extend the usefulness of the 13" MBP by using a larger external monitor, if you don't have the funds now, down the road.
  3. dionysious macrumors newbie

    Nov 19, 2011
    My mother has the 15 inch, i have the 13. i love the 13. Half the time its on my lap. i bought it in 2008, still loving it!
  4. mape2k macrumors regular

    Apr 18, 2011
    The new 13" will power-wise be more than enough for your needs. The difference between your 2006 model and the late 2011 models is huge. To wait for Ivy-Bridge is not necessary in my opinion.

    As for 13 vs. 15. I am not comfortable with the low resolution of the 13" model. It is just not enough space for me to comfortably multi-task and work. But that is just my opinion. If you are low on budget, I would suggest (like maflynn) to go for a low end 13" with an external display (which you might already have?).
  5. oxfordguy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2008
    Oxford, England
    The main thing that would stop me getting a 13" is the poor integrated GPU, but for your needs, it doesn't sounds like that should be an issue.
  6. tonino1, Nov 23, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2011

    tonino1 macrumors newbie

    Aug 13, 2010
    Mine is slow

    I had a 2006 15" core duo 2gz and 5200rpm 120gb hardrive. Now I bought a 13"basic it has a 300gb hard rive and 4gig memory. It takes a long time to start and every time I try to do something it starts thinking..
    I'm not new to mac world, I have a mac pro for my heavy photography work and know how to keep a mac up and running ok.
    SO there is something holding it back, hardrive is the same 5200 as before, it has more memory, the only difference is graphics integrated as compare to the nvidia independent before.
    I was expecting more speed for a 5 years newer machine, but it 's not giving the numbers.
    I'm thinking on adding 4gb more memory but i'm not sure it would make it run better. I know that the 5200 hardrive is a bottle neck but the older machine had it too.
  7. Laco macrumors 6502

    Apr 23, 2008
    The biggest issue you really need to consider is graphics performance, it is huge!!! I would suggest trying to get a teacher or perhaps a student discount (if you can find a friend) because that would decrease the price of the 15 inch by 200 dollars which is significant.

  8. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    It depends on what the OP is planning on using it. For games, yeah it will be a major difference. For many other apps, the difference is not noticeable.

    One reason I opted for a 15" MBP a few revisions ago was for that very reason but I found the integrated GPU was performing most of the work and its performance was very good. I used Aperture which relies on the GPU and found it to be fine. I don't play games so I cannot state how well the integrated GPU will handle for that but for most business and even design apps I'm not sure the OP will see a major improvement.
  9. szolr macrumors 6502

    Jul 27, 2011
    London, UK
    I you want my completely honest opinion... Sounds like you favour the MacBooks to the desktops for your needs. So I'd go for a 13 inch Air. The optical drive's on the way out in future years. The solid state drive should prove handy. You could pay for the i7 upgrade if you want for amazing performance. You'll love the high res display and the incredible lightness.

    If that's over budget though, by all means go for the 13 inch Pro. It's also a big improvement over your current Mac. You can look at my signature-my Macbook Pro is way better than my iMac from 2009.

    The advance between Sandy Bridge and the old Core 2 Duo series can't be emphasised enough.

    Well, not quite yet I don't think. ;) Let's not forget how a lot of high end professional apps in use at universities and research institutes can't take advantage of more than 4 threads (cross reference to the 12 core Mac Pro for Aerospace engineering thread). And a dual core i7 has four virtual threads.
  10. dusk007 macrumors 68040


    Dec 5, 2009
    I don't see any need for a 15" in that case. Would I be a teacher I would go 13". If you move into a new home get a Desktop for gaming or a console.
    I am a 15" guy but I do very different things also I move to much and a desktop or console wouldn't be worth it.
    For everything in OSX the Intel GPU is easily fast enough. For Powerpoint, Word a little Photoshop the screen size is big enough and the mobility to take it to school is better. CPU speeds is easily enough for that usage.

    I think a 15" is worth it if you want to game and cannot or don't want to have some extra PC or console. If you do extensive professional Photoediting/Movieediting and the extra power saves time. If you do stuff that requires more screen real estate or greatly benefits from it. (I would wait for a 15" Air if that is the only reason) For programming or extentive photoshop the extra screen helps.
  11. hollyhotsauce thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 23, 2011
    Thanks for all the input so far!

    I've come to the conclusion that I mostly like the 15" for screen real estate and the extra power "just in case" I ever would want to get into gaming or video editing--though I have never actually played any intensive game on my current MBP or done any serious video editing above iMovie, so I think what I think I need is not what I actually need.

    I am hoping to get to an Apple store or Best Buy over my Thanksgiving break and play around with both computers. If I don't mind the look and feel of the 13", I likely will go for that one because of cost. Hopefully it won't seem eensy-teensy after using this 15" for so long!
  12. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    While I'm very happy with my 13" MBP, don't discount the screen real estate. I think its sound advise to check out both in person to see if the look, feel and operation meets your expectations.
  13. Zumino macrumors member

    Jun 7, 2011
    As has been said a couple of times, the main difference is graphics performance really.

    Do you need graphics performance? Most people honestly don't unless they are gaming. (There are other uses, but gaming is the most common).

    If you don't, the 13" has the form factor that I prefer.

    I do need the dedicated graphics card (for actual work, rarely do I get to game!), so I went with a 15".

    I've already decided, the next time I will go with either a 17" MBP or a 27" iMac and either an 11" MBA or an iPad, and remote desktop in to the big puter when I need power on the road.

    The mobile power's nice, but honestly 19 times out of 20 I have no need of anything more powerful then a MBA or iPad when I'm on the road. And the larger amounts of real estate would be very handy.

    It's up to you really. Do you need graphics power, if so, get a 15". If not, the 13" is nice and portable.


    I would order it from the Apple store as you can't get the high-res screen from Worst Buy, it's a CTO item only.
  14. dyehead macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2011
    The other thing to consider is the display. If you're a fan of the glossy then ot doesn't matter, but if you like the Hi-Res Antiglare, it's only available in the 15" and the 17". I personally prefer the AG display and picked up a 15" a week and a half ago, and love it. Plenty of real estate, doesn't feel too huge, and fast as all get-out. Best of luck on your decision!
  15. Naimfan macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2003
    In your place, I would get the base 13" and upgrade the RAM (NOT through Apple) for $40-50. It's going to be substantially faster - like literally twice as fast - as your current machine. The graphics concerns are vastly overstated - the HD3000 will offer better graphics performance than the graphics card (1600) in your Core Duo MBP.

    Get a 13" and see what you think - if it doesn't provide enough screen space, you have two weeks to exchange it with Apple for the 15".
  16. Spencer Reynen macrumors member

    Apr 3, 2011
    I have a 13" MBP 2011 and I kind of wish I had gone with the 15" for mainly the screen size and GPU. :/

    Try both in person, see what you like.
  17. jlc1978 macrumors 68000


    Aug 14, 2009
    Many people have pointed out the difference in GPU performance - but for your needs I doubt you'd notice it.

    If you go with the 13" you can get a nice large (22"+) monitor relatively cheaply - which would be a lot nicer for PowerPoint and Photoshop as well as web design. I used to do a lot of powerPoint on a 13" screen just fine - but now have a 15" MBP. the main advantage is I do a lot of side by side editing - such as cutting and pasting from W to PP - and the extra space makes it easier. For ordinary use a 13" is just fine; it really comes down to a matter of preference.

    Don't forget to check out the refurb prices online as well.
  18. Nielsenius macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2011
    One of the best ways to save money on Apple products is to buy refurbished. I bought a refurb MacBook Pro a year ago and it's as good as new. The internals are used, but the aluminum shell is new. Here's a link to Apple's refurb store:

    One of the crappy things (in my opinion) about the 13" MacBook Pro is the lack of a hi-res anti-glare display. You, obviously, don't get as much power as with a 15" or 17", either. Though, it doesn't sound like you need the power.

    The bottom line is this:
    If you're looking for savings, get a 13". If you need the power (and prestige?) get a 15". Either way, really consider a refurb.
  19. bniu macrumors 6502a

    Mar 21, 2010
    cut out all the holiday gifts! I haven't bought holiday gifts for several years...

    there, now you have money to jump all the way to 17" MBP!
  20. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    I own both a 15" MBP 2008 matte display and an early 2011 13" MBP. The 15" is my wife's Mac.

    The 15" is now for sale and will be replaced with another early 2011 13". The 13" is plenty of screen real estate and it is simply a more portable computer than the 15". It is truly a "laptop" computer while the 15" is a bit large, particularly if you are smaller than average.

    And the 13" can be purchased for roughly half the cost of a 15". The early 2011 13" is an excellent value if you can live with a smaller internal drive (320GB vs. 500GB) and a CPU that is only 100MHz slower than the late 2011 model. PC Connection currently has the early 2011 13" for $988. Apple has recently had refurbs for $929.

    I dislike the current "glassy" displays, so I purchased a $35 anti-glare film from Power Support. It really does the trick without introducing bothersome artifacts and color-shifts like less expensive films tend to do. Applying the film as soon as the MBP comes out of the box means you don't have to mess around with cleaning the display and dealing with much dust. (I removed a few dust specks with a clean, dry micro-fiber cloth.)

    The only other purchase to consider is upping the RAM to 8GB if it turns out you need it. You may find that 4GB is plenty for what you do.

    Frankly, it makes no sense to me to spend $1700+ on a 15" when money is tight. You haven't previously needed the extra CPU and GPU power in the 15" so it's crazy to get a 15" because you "might" get into gaming or video editing sometime in the future. And even if you do, a 13" is capable of handling those chores, albeit with some minor limitations. If you were making money doing video, I could see it. But not if it is done as a hobby on an occasional basis, when strictly-speaking time is not equal to money.

    The MacBook Air? You trade display quality, RAM upgrades and limited drive space for better portability at a higher price. The MBA display caused me so much eyestrain it isn't even an option for me.
  21. samcolson4 macrumors member

    Aug 16, 2011
    I went from a late '08 unibody 13" to my 15" pro.

    Screen size alone is just a massive winner for me. Doubt I'll go back to 13".
  22. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
  23. Blues003 macrumors 6502

    Apr 18, 2010
    I'm on a 15" Sony Vaio and I'll be moving to a 13" MBP soon. Not only because I'm waiting for the next revision (which should bring a 13" res around the MBA 13"'s spot), but also because it's far more portable than the 15", significantly cheaper, and I can just connect to an external display if I ever need more screen space.
  24. Gillespie81 macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2011
    i have the 13. i am a business consultant and i use mine a lot on iWork. I've played with ps and other editors and i had no problems. if you are going to do more web and editing i say go for the 15. i needed mine to be portable but i didn't want the air because i can mod the mbp more. my next one i will buy will be the 15 unless there is a change in the 13 and its made more like the 15.

    also jan I'm getting the tbd so I'm not really worried about screen size and res
  25. diannao macrumors regular

    Aug 21, 2010
    When I got a 15" instead of a 13", it was because of screen real estate. The same reason for going from a 15" to a 17". I strongly recommend holding out until you can get something with enough screen real estate for you. Otherwise you're going to hate your purchase every time you try to use it.

Share This Page