Should I get a 13″ or 15″ MacBook Pro – which one performs better?

Kyle November 30, 2011
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I’m becoming a more avid web and mobile application developer and I think it’s about time for me to go with the flow and pick up a MacBook (mostly because I need xCode for IOS). But I’m torn between the 13″ and 15″ models.

What I know:

13″ – 2.8 GHz Dual-Core I7, smaller screen, 4.5 lbs – $1500

15″ – 2.2 GHz Quad-Core I7, larger screen, 5.6 – $1800

I would prefer the 15″, but it’s a brick to carry and lower clock speeds. I’m just not sure the performance difference between the two, especially with difference in graphics (15″ gets ATI Radeon, 13″ doesn’t). I plan on running Photoshop and Illustrator as well as standard developer software (xCode, Eclipse, Dreamweaver, etc).

Just looking for an educated opinion from someone who has had experience with this with some technical input from the related field of web developing.

  1. Anonymous
    December 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    On screen The resolution isn't that much better.
    Res on 13": 1280 x 800
    Res on 15": 1440 x 900

    speakers are louder on the 15"?
    slightly longer battery on 15"?
    Bigger spce on 15" screen so multiple opened windows are better?

    The 13" 2.7 benchmarks at 6796
    The 15" 2.0 benchmarks at 8794
    the graphics it should be a no-contest: the 13" uses an integrated GPU and taps into the main RAM, while the 15" uses a dedicated/discrete GPU with its own VRAM

  2. M.S. Smith
    December 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    There's no question that the 15" is quicker, but I don't think your usage is so demanding that it will be a major issue. Buy the one which you prefer in terms of weight and size.

  3. Mike
    December 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    My personal perspective of the mobile Mac world:
    MacBook Air 13" < MacBook Pro 15" < MacBook Pro 17"

    The only reason one would get a 13" MBP is because of it's size and portability where the MBA definitely excels [the only downside being no optical drive].

    Photoshop does benefit from GPU acceleration and if your other tasks require some performance or a lot of RAM the MBP 15" will be your best friend.

    Having thrown in the MacBook Air I want to note that it's memory is not upgradeable hence you are limited to 4GB on the 13" MBA.

    • Kyle Taylor
      December 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      I considered a Macbook Air simply for the weight, but the specs I wasn't really feeling suited me. I really think I decided on the 15", but I'm just trying to justify screen size and processor speed. I helped my girlfriend buy her 15" MBP and that thing is a BRICK. I couldn't believe how dense it was.

      I appreciate your response!

      • Mike
        December 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

        Frankly, both the 13" and 15" are unpleasant to carry around in your hands. Although I haven't done any tests I guess you won't notice much difference if you use a backpack for carrying it around.

        As for the screen size I suggest to look at the resolution: 
        The 13" MBP only offers 1280x800 ~ that's going to be a pain especially with webdesign if you have Dreamweaver with a few pallets open.
        The 15" MBP comes with 1440x900 and an optional upgrade to 1680x1050.

        But for any doubts I really suggest you to go to the next store [be it Apple or a distributor] and take a look at all considered models. 
        Open up Safari, Mail, iPhoto and whatever else is installed and get some hands on experience with the device... after all a MacBook Pro is quite an investment.

    December 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Hello, from the few specs you have posted, I would pick the 15" only because it has an ATI card......would you be able to post links with specs for the two laptops so that they can be compared side to side?

  5. Jeff Fabish
    December 1, 2011 at 8:27 am


    From the specs you've posted, I would certainly chose the 13" laptop, as it's going to be significantly quicker than the 15". However, there are other variables that you have left out such as amount of memory, hard drives, video card, etc.

    I do application development (C++ and C#) just fine from a Windows environment, switching frequently to my Linux Mint dual boot. You can viably write iOS apps without purchasing a Macbook.

    - Jeff

    • Kyle Taylor
      December 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Hard drive space is no concern for me and RAM is the same, and they have the same chipset except the I7 has a better video card.

      Could I write Objective-C programs in Notepad? Sure. But I don't have access to the already available tools of Xcode that provides to significantly reduce development time without going through hoops of different SDKs and compilers. Basically, if I'm going to be doing something, I want to do it right the first time around.

      • Jeff Fabish
        December 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        RAM is a very significant part when choosing a PC, it can make or break a decent computer.

        False. There are plenty of objective C IDE's for Windows.

    • Aabc
      March 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      Um, you might have mistaken the specs. the 15" mbp is quad core, while 13" is only dual core. I don't think the 13" one gonna be quicker at all.

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