After Apple updated the MacBook Pro 13-inch with the Magic keyboard and doubled the storage space, it has become a more worthy competitor of the MacBook Pro 16-inch. If you want to buy a MacBook Pro, which one should you buy?
In this guide, we'll walk you through the main differences between the two and explain where each stands out and struggles. In the end, you should have a much clearer view of which MacBook Pro is best for you.
Outside of price, performance is the biggest difference between the MacBook Pro 16 and MacBook Pro 13. On paper, the larger laptop is way ahead, but what does that mean in practice?
The number of cores is the first thing to consider. The 13-inch MacBook Pro offers either the 8th generation Intel base class model or the 10th generation model for $ 1,799. In both cases, it is a quad-core processor. The MacBook Pro 16 meanwhile starts with a 16-thread processor with six cores. You can even expand the 16-inch chip to a Core i9 eight-core chip. Each core is like an additional player on your team. More cores mean more performance, like a soccer team with an additional player on the field.
This gives the MacBook Pro 16 a huge advantage straight away, especially if you want to use it for content creation or large applications. While we found that the 13-inch MacBook Pro beats most other 13-inch competitors in our test, it is still way behind the MacBook Pro 16. You can run Photoshop or Lightroom on the 13-inch model, but if you are when you're editing 4K video, you want the extra cores and threads of the larger MacBook Pro to speed up rendering.
The MacBook Pro 16 also benefits from Apple's completely redesigned cooling system. Apple claims this contains a heat sink that is 35% larger than the previous generation MacBook Pro, resulting in 28% better airflow. In our test, we said that the difference is "astonishing" because the MacBook Pro 16 "leaves its predecessor in the dust in every benchmark and real-life test we did." The MacBook Pro 13 does not have this revised thermal system, which means you are likely to get a lot more performance with the larger MacBook Pro.
What about graphics? Apple has traditionally reserved dedicated graphics chips for its larger laptops, partly due to the limited space available in the MacBook Pro 13, partly to advertise the larger models as premium models. This is no different in this comparison.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch offers many graphics options, from a 4 GB AMD Radeon Pro 5300M to an expensive Radeon Pro 8 GB 5500M with faster HBM2 memory. The MacBook Pro 13, meanwhile, does not have a dedicated graphics option at all, but has to rely on the Iris Plus graphics of the 8th and 10th generation Intel processors. The integrated 10th generation graphics chips have been significantly improved compared to previous generation processors, but cannot keep up with the AMD Radeon Pro graphics in the MacBook Pro 16. Regardless of whether it's gaming, video editing or 3D modeling, this discrete graphics card offers exponential performance better performance.
The final consideration when it comes to performance is RAM. Here the MacBook Pro 13 has improved compared to previous years and offers up to 32 GB of fast LPDDR4X memory with 3,733 MHz. However, there is a notable limitation in that the speed and amount of RAM you get depends on your processor choice. The cheaper MacBook Pro 13 models are based on 8th generation Intel processors and are limited to 8 GB or 16 GB slower 2,133 MHz LPDDR3 memory. If you want the faster RAM – or up to 32 GB of it – you have to buy one of the more expensive MacBook Pro 13 models that run 10th generation Intel processors. That pretty disappointed us.
The MacBook Pro 16 has no such complications, since both models use 2,666 MHz DDR4 memory. It's not quite as fast as the MacBook Pro 13's 3,733 MHz RAM, but RAM capacity makes a bigger difference than RAM speed in most cases anyway. More importantly, the MacBook Pro 16 offers up to 64 GB of storage. That's more than most people need, but if you need that much, the MacBook Pro 16 is your first choice.
Portability, size and battery life
Performance is an easy win for the MacBook Pro 16, but portability turns the tables. The MacBook Pro 13 measures 0.61 x 11.97 x 8.36 inches and weighs 3.1 pounds. In comparison, the MacBook Pro 16 comes in at 0.64 by 14.09 by 9.68 inches and weighs 4.3 pounds. That is the difference you will notice if you put one in a backpack and carry it around all day. Of course, 3 extra inches of screen space could be worth the weight for some.
The other key component when considering portability is battery life. There's no point in spending a day on the go if your laptop only lasts a few hours.
Apple claims the MacBook Pro 13 gives you up to 10 hours of wireless internet browsing and 10 hours of movie playback in Apple TV apps. When we tested the MacBook Pro 13, we had about 6.5 hours on a typical workday using web apps, which is far below Apple's numbers. The 1360-inch display with a size of 2,560 x 1,600 plays a role in this – the MacBook Pro 13 lasted longer than 4K competitors, but far less than the 1080p laptops that we tested.
In comparison, according to Apple, the MacBook Pro 16 offers up to 11 hours for wireless internet surfing and Apple TV app films. This is partly due to the much larger battery of the larger laptop – the MacBook Pro 16 has a 100-watt-hour battery (the largest battery approved by the Federal Aviation Administration) compared to the 58-watt-hour or 58.2-watt Battery hourly battery (depending on model) in the smaller MacBook Pro. In practice, however, we found that the MacBook Pro 16 did not meet Apple's requirements. It only took about 5.5 hours with an average workload, which included "dozens of tabs, streaming music in Spotify and Slack".
Is the MacBook Pro 16 worth the cost?
With all this performance, it should come as no surprise that the MacBook Pro 16 is, at first glance, much more expensive than the MacBook Pro 13. The smaller MacBook Pro starts at $ 1,299 and is even the cheapest with the MacBook Pro 16 $ 2,399 back – over $ 1,000 more.
However, it is not an open and closed case. If you buy the MacBook Pro 13 for $ 1,299 or even the updated model for $ 1,499, you're stuck in an outdated 8th generation Intel processor and slower RAM. If you want more up-to-date components and two more Thunderbolt 3 ports, you'll have to pay at least $ 1,799. Suddenly the price difference is not that big anymore.
That extra $ 600 buys a much more powerful computer, though you have to pay an extra price for the Core i9. It is the absolute best choice if you have to do a demanding job, and if that sounds like you, you might just have to bite the ball and strive for it. This is especially true if you need additional graphic functions for tasks such as 3D modeling or games. With the MacBook Pro 16, you get a number of other benefits, including the redesigned thermal system so that your processor is throttled less and your device runs cooler. You also get a bigger display with much thinner bezels, giving you an even more intense and enjoyable visual experience. Finally, there are incredible speakers that are simply the best on any laptop.
If you can afford it, the MacBook Pro 16 offers a significant increase in performance.
If your workflow is more focused on heavy multitasking and lighter applications, the MacBook Pro 13-inch is for you. It can even create lighter content like programming or photography.
When comparing the MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Pro 16, the choice of a winner largely depends on your current situation and the type of work you expect. If you don't need anything particularly powerful, it's best to save money and purchase the MacBook Pro 13 (or even MacBook Air).
If you can afford it, the MacBook Pro 16 offers a significant increase in performance. It's not like there are many other great MacBooks to choose from. In a situation where you really need a MacBook now and don't like the price or footprint of the larger device, consider the MacBook Pro 13. Think carefully about which processor you want to get, and don't forget to use MacBook Air once – to see if it suits your needs.
If you can wait a little longer, Apple is expected to launch a completely revised 14-inch MacBook Pro in late 2020 or early 2021. This will replace the MacBook Pro 13, and many of the MacBook Pro's improvements bring 16, such as better thermals and a thinner bezel. If time is not critical, this may be your best bet.