Usability/ergonomics of 15" rMBP in real-world situations

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by PDFierro, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. PDFierro macrumors 68040

    Sep 8, 2009
    There are so many threads asking how easy it is to carry the 15" around. Maybe 15" rMBP owners can chime in on how the 15" is when it comes to actually using the device?

    Because while there is no problem with the weight of the 15-inch, some people need to consider how they will be using the laptop in the first place.

    Have you used it on an airplane? A train? A coffee shop? Other tight spaces? I just thought this could be helpful to those undecided between the two sizes. Because sure, carrying around the 15" is easy, but how the 13" and 15" are in terms of usability are really different.
  2. Ccrew macrumors 68020

    Feb 28, 2011
    Owning both, if you're looking for portability and screen real estate the 13" rMBP is the winner, provide that you can work within it's hardware limitations.

    In my case I need 16gb of memory to run multiple VM's so i primarily use a 15" cMBP, and there are definitely places (airline table trays, etc) where it's at a disadvantage even getting the screen vertical. When I travel I always use the 13" or a 13" Windows convertible (Lenovo Yoga)

    It's all about your use case. The 15" is definitely bigger, bulkier, and less portable, but in most cases it's totally workable. That "most" part is the defining thing though.
  3. themumu macrumors 6502a


    Feb 13, 2011
    I think the difference between 13" and 15" as far as places it would fit is rather small. Yet, the difference in perceived screen space is much more significant. When deciding between the two, I would only be concerned with the software tasks I would be doing with the laptop, not so much the physical space it occupies. For the tasks I perform, I feel constrained by a 13" screen.

    One odd thing I noticed about the retina compared to the earlier unibody and pre-unibody design, is that it's so thin, it almost becomes razor-sharp if you have to carry it around with no case. I once took a 15" rMBP on a 1km walk (from one downtown office to another), and as it was a kind of spur of the moment thing, I did not have a bag for it, carried it in my bare hands. It's quite hefty for it's slim size, and my hands were surprisingly sore from the edges that were cutting into them. So a sleeve (if not a full blown bag) is a necessity for the times you carry the laptop on the go, more so than it used to be with previous generations of MacBooks.
  4. zI INFINITY Iz macrumors regular

    Sep 25, 2013
    I'll keep an eye on this thread as I have reached that point again where I can't make up my mind about 13 or 15" size.

    My contribution:

    From October 2012 till somewhere in June 2013, I carried a 15" Acer laptop to my university. Some weeks it was almost daily. That 15" Acer (5755g) was 2.65kg and 35mm thick, so a pretty big difference with a 15" rMBP, but still. I must admit that it wasn't a pleasant thing at all. I would only take that Acer laptop with me if it was REALLY (!) necessary.

    From June I got a 13" Dell XPS 13 ultrabook. Man, I could take that thing with me even if I knew I probably wouldn't use it. You just almost don't feel it (around 1.3kg) and it's just very small and thin.

    Now the thing for me is, while the XPS 13 is much, much more pleasant to take with you everywhere, I almost never USE it in a place/situation where I could not also use a 15" device. I worked 2-3x in the bus, it was decent, but after that I never did it again. It's just that a laptop in general, how small it may be (ok maybe the 11" laptop's... but those are almost tablets) is just not something I would use in a bus/train/any public transport. On the plane I have also never used my ultrabook, just my 4.7" smartphone.

    So most of the time I use my laptops in places where both a 13 and 15" device would be fine. For carrying it around though, I still have a trauma from that 15" Acer. The difference is over half a kilo (2kg vs 2.6), 17mm thickness (18vs35mm), but still it's other dimensions are pretty similar (the rMBP is less wide though, which is good).


    As you can see there is a part of me which really says go 13". But then I think of how it is to work on a 13.3" (16:9) screen: it's not very "welcoming" for me personally. I kind of... don't like working hard for hours on such a screen size.
    For me it's a real difference with a 15.4" screen. And on the other hand there is the power: you loose a considerable amount in terms of CPU, iGPU and dGPU all together. Yes the 15" with dGPU has a very high price to be able to do "everything" (just to name 2 things 3D rendering in Solidworks and playing games). But then again, 1500-1800 euro for a strong 13" isn't "cheap" either.

    Yes, I'm very confused about this atm haha.
  5. FuNGi macrumors 65816


    Feb 26, 2010
    I have the late-Oct. 15" rMBP and a late 2010 13" MBA. I have found for my uses and workflow that the 13" screen is just too small to work comfortably on for many hours. The weight/size differences obviously mean that the MBA is a better travel companion when flying/traveling and when I don't want to risk bringing the expensive rMBP on work trips.

    That being said, the rMBP is very light and easy to carry around on your shoulder – much better than my 2011 15" MBP it replaced. I think you if deciding between one or the other screen size then you should first decide what size screen you like to work on - not how heavy/portable it is for the brief periods of your life where you'll be working in a cramped space. If you can afford it (not my case) or have work purchase your laptops (which is my case) then obviously both have their ideal applications.
  6. PDFierro thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 8, 2009
    Just wanted to see if anyone else can chime in.
  7. commac macrumors regular

    Nov 1, 2013
    Contemplating the same.

    Bought the 13" and want to love it. Do for the most part for its performance, battery, form factor and price. But I find it a little straining on the eyes when increasing res for extra real-estate.

    Will likely return the 13" and give the 15" a try. I have a feeling my eyes will thank me. Just hope the 15" doesn't run much hotter. The 13" has stayed cool and silent so far.
  8. Orr macrumors 6502


    Oct 8, 2013
    My general rule of thumb is,

    If you will be transporting it around regularly and/or already have a primary desktop or Thunderbolt Display/large external monitor at home then 13".

    If you will be transporting it around infrequently/occasionally and plan to use it as your primary desktop monitor at home and/or to run multiple external monitors then 15".
  9. twingo macrumors regular

    Jul 3, 2009
    I transport my 17" on a regularly base. So 15" retina should be ok. If i need a smaller screen and more portability, i use my smartphone, which has the same amount of pixels than a classic 13 inch macbook pro.
  10. johnnylarue macrumors 6502a

    Aug 20, 2013
    It's no contest for me.

    I don't have a desktop computer, don't really have the space or budget for an external monitor, so my laptop is IT.

    The applications I use for my creative work--Logic/Digital Performer, Photoshop, and occasionally iMovie--are all INFINITELY more pleasant to use on a 15" display. For the audio recording software in particular, there's a night and day difference between being able to see everything on the screen at once and having to constantly tab between windows. Honestly, there's no comparison.

    But not everybody uses applications like those. I find writing/word-processing can be better on a smaller, more focused display. And for everyday stuff, sure, it's nice to be able to have a few windows open at once, but it's of limited value unless you're one of those cyber-stock-ticker folk who like to be bombarded with visual noise at all times.

    Ultimately though, I'm with 'themumu'--I really don't think there are many deal-breaker real-world instances where, ergonomically speaking, a 13" would "fit" and a 15" wouldn't. The 13" will almost always be nicer to carry around and use in most public places, but if you really need/want the screen real esate, you'll find a way to live with that extra pound on your back or that inch less of available space on your desk/table/park bench/lap/knee/etc.

    Consider what you actually use your computer for on a daily basis and make that your primary concern. The portability/ergonomics angle will work itself out if you need it to.
  11. Acronyc macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2011
    It all really depends on how often you're using your computer in tight spaces. If you need to use it in cramped spaces like an airplane or a train a lot, the 13" will be easier to use. Coffee shops are no problem with the 15".

    My first Mac was a late 2010 11" MBA and I used it as my sole computer for almost two years. I kept it hooked up to an external monitor and bluetooth keyboard/mouse at home and the office and was on the go a lot with it, so it was a good setup for me.

    Last year I stopped traveling so much and gave my Air to my sister and moved to a 15" rMBP. I waited until November 2012 to purchase to see what the 13" rMBP would be like, but I needed the dGPU because it's my main computer (have two early 2009 minis for server/work duties) and I like to have the option for casual gaming.

    I was worried about moving from an 11" computer to a 15", but I have no regrets. For me, the increased screen size and power far outweigh the slightly decreased usability in certain situations. I take it to work 2-4 days per week and there really aren't that many places where I can't use it as easily as the 11" MBA. I don't use my computer on the trains, and it works fine in meetings, cafes, or most other places. The only time I've found it a little difficult is if you are in economy class while flying. It's hard to get the screen up and if the person in front of you is reclined, it's going to make it more difficult.

    Overall, though, I haven't had any significant usability/portability issues due to its size and I can't imagine going to a smaller screen now.
  12. Wishbrah macrumors regular

    Oct 20, 2013
    Suggestions for 13" over 15" "for portability" is something I've read here over and over, yet nobody gives an example.

    Dimensions: The 15" is 1.78" wider and 1.11" deeper. Can somebody please enlighten me as to how that makes it significantly less portable?

    Weight: There is a 1lbs weight difference between the 15" and 13" rMBPs. This is negligible since most sane people are not carrying it in their hands all day. It will most likely be in some type of bag or backpack. For additional comparison, a 20 oz water bottle weighs a little more than 1.3lbs.

    Nobody should be concerned about portability issues with a 15". If you can manage the 13", you can manage the 15". Some people prefer the smaller form factor, which is what it really comes down to. Don't let the 2" larger screen size imply that it is unwieldy.
  13. ducatiti macrumors 6502a


    May 18, 2011
    Having owned both I find the 15" too bulky. It is significantly heavier and larger. I walk around the house a lot while using the laptop and found the 15" too cumbersome. For my needs, a 13" will suffice considering I have an iMac as well.
  14. IndoX macrumors 6502

    Oct 12, 2011
    I completely agree. I went from at 15" cMBP to a 13" rMBP and that is a massive difference. This time around I went for a 13" simply because I don't have any use for a 15" laptop for the type of things I'm going to be doing.

    The 15" retina is thinner and lighter than the 13" classic. The only excuse for portability purposes I can think of that actually effects the 15" retina is the vertical size of the screen, things such as opening that computer while on an airplane.
  15. Wishbrah macrumors regular

    Oct 20, 2013
    Very true. I would love to hear if there are more instances like this.
  16. fs454 macrumors 68000

    Dec 7, 2007
    Los Angeles / Boston
    I flew with my new rMBP 15" last week and will be doing so again on Friday.

    Standard coach class seating on US Airways (with wifi!) gave me just enough room to open it up to a semi-comfortable angle. Could have used another inch back on the screen, but it wasn't bad at all.

    When the seat in front of you reclines, it gets a little worse, but if I put mine back, I regained the usability.

    Coming from an 11" Air, it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. It seems to be just small enough. I'd love a 13", but I need the quad core and dGPU right now.
  17. johnnylarue macrumors 6502a

    Aug 20, 2013
    No doubt, econo class on planes is one of the few instances where that extra inch makes a significant difference. An important consideration for anyone who does a lot of flying; less so for someone who flies less than 10 times a year.
  18. Acronyc macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2011
    I also came from an 11" Air and agree, the 15" has been a lot better than expected in terms of usability when moving it around. Flying coach/economy is the only instance I've found to be less than ideal. Agree with you on the 13", too. A quad core dGPU in the 13" form factor would be perfect.

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