When Apple released the MacBook Pro 16 in November 2019, the 15-inch MacBook Pro was completely discontinued. However, there are still reasons to buy the 15-inch model – not least because retailers are likely to offer deep discounts after discontinuing it.
Also, you may not like the new Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Pro 13 and 16 models. Sure, the butterfly keyboard has been known to have had reliability issues, but there are plenty of people who prefer the low travel to that of Apple's latest keyboard.
That brings us to the question: if you don't want the MacBook Pro 16, should you buy the 15-inch MacBook Pro or its smaller 13-inch sibling? It's a big call as it isn't as easy a choice as just a size preference.
If you faced this choice at any point in the past three years it would be easier. This is because if you didn't want the Touch Bar, Apple's OLED control strip, you had to go for the 13-inch model as it was the only MacBook Pro you could do without. Now every MacBook Pro is equipped with the Touch Bar.
Of course, other factors also play a role, such as the processor, the graphics and of course the price. We're here to help you find these options. Just follow this guide and you will know exactly which MacBook Pro you should get. Then, find out about the best MacBook deals and laptop sales available right now.
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In terms of design, there is no need to make a wide selection. Unlike the MacBook Pro 16, both the 13-inch and 15-inch models look essentially the same and feature the classic unibody aluminum design that Apple has used for many years. Now that the Touch Bar is available on all MacBook Pros, the two models are even less separated from each other.
The touch bar provides you with app-specific links on an OLED control bar in which the function keys were located. It's been pretty divisive since its debut, although it undoubtedly has a lot of potential. To the right of this is the power switch with a Touch ID sensor for logging in and confirming purchases using a fingerprint.
The most obvious design difference between the MacBook Pro 15 and MacBook Pro 13 is the size of the display and case. The former comes with a 15.4-inch screen and a 13.75-inch wide and 9.48-inch deep chassis that weighs 4.02 pounds. The latter, on the other hand, has a 13.3-inch display while its case is 11.97 inches wide by 8.36 inches deep and weighs 3.1 pounds. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to take your laptop with you on the way to work.
Aside from the raw dimensions, there are a few other differences to each model's Retina display. The 13-inch model offers a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 at 227 pixels per inch. The 15-inch model has a size of 2,880 x 1,800 and 220 pixels per inch.
In other words, although the resolution is higher on the 15-inch version, they look very similar to the naked eye in terms of pixel density. According to Apple, both reach a brightness of 500 nits and come with a P3 color gamut and True Tone technology that adjusts the white balance based on the ambient light. Both have excellent color accuracy as well.
Another division factor is the keyboard. Apple introduced the Magic Keyboard in the 16-inch model in late 2019 and then in the 13-inch model in April 2020. Despite numerous revisions to the butterfly keyboard over the years, it remained a point of contention due to MacBook users' low travel and relatively high failure rate. The 15-inch model keeps the butterfly keyboard design.
Both models give you super-fast Thunderbolt 3 ports, although the number depends on the model. Each iteration of the 15-inch MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The two entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro options offer two ports, while the two high-end versions have four ports. Thunderbolt 3 uses the newer USB-C port, which transmits at up to 40 Gbit / s (Thunderbolt) or up to 10 Gbit / s (USB 3.2).
While the MacBook Pro 16 has some of the best laptop speakers we've ever heard, both the 13-inch and 15-inch models still give you audio enjoyment. When we tested the 13-inch MacBook Pro, we called its speakers "the best we can remember hearing on a 13-inch system". Our review of the 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2019 shows the speakers are so good that "the speakers on other laptops sound pretty pathetic by comparison". Both versions are also equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
When it comes to performance, the real differences between the 13-inch and 15-inch models come to the fore. At the beginning of 2019, Apple equipped its 15-inch models with Intel Core i9 processors with eight cores. This is a significant step up from the best 13-inch offering of a quad-core Core i7.
What does that mean in practice? Well, the 15-inch model's Intel Core i9 achieved some impressive numbers in our test. Our Geekbench tests scored 5,423 for single-core and 29,708 for multi-core performance. For a laptop this thin, that's pretty remarkable.
The 13-inch model isn't child's play either. While you can't equip it with a hideous i9 processor, you can still equip it with a quad core i7 chip. That difference means that the 15-inch model is better suited for power users who can take advantage of the extra cores, while the 13-inch model is better suited for everyday tasks that aren't as demanding.
Elsewhere, both models can achieve a significant graphics boost by connecting an external GPU (eGPU). This uses the 40 Gbit / s transfer speed of Thunderbolt 3 to massively increase the graphics performance of the MacBook Pro.
For example, Apple claims that adding a Blackmagic eGPU would give the 13-inch model 3.2 times the performance in Final Cut Pro X and the 15-inch model 4.7 times the performance in Maxon Cinema 4D Compared to the same tasks without eGPU. That is a noticeable increase.
Of course, such an increase in performance comes at a cost. Blackmagic's compatible eGPU boxes start at $ 699, including the graphics card. You can get a Razer Core X eGPU case for $ 299, but it doesn't include a graphics card.
In short, great performance comes with great cost. However, if you are considering an eGPU, go for the 15-inch model rather than the 13-inch version. An extremely powerful graphics card should be combined with an extremely powerful processor to ultimately avoid bottlenecks.
Well, to get our hands dirty. Performance should really be the deciding factor between buying a 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro. The easiest way to fix this is that you probably won't need the extra power that comes with the larger model unless you need your device to edit 4K videos or play games.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro has four different basic configurations, each of which can be further customized. The price ranges from $ 1,299 to $ 1,999. The base model starts with a 1.4 GHz quad-core Intel i5 processor of the 8th generation with Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz. It has 8 GB of memory, a 256 GB SSD and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645. This model can be connected to a 1.7 GHz quad-core Intel i7 chip of the 8th generation with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz, 16 GB of memory and up to 2 TB SSD storage can be customized.
If you want the most powerful 13-inch option, go for the $ 1,999 version. This comes with a 2GHz quad core 10th generation Intel i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, 16GB of storage, a 1TB SSD, and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 Intel i7- Generation processor, 32 GB storage and up to 4 TB SSD storage.
While this shows that the 13-inch MacBook Pro has some room for maneuver in terms of customization, there are some limitations. For example, there is no way to update the onboard graphics or go beyond 32 GB of memory. That's because the 13-inch model is aimed more at consumers than professionals – the type of person who encodes a video here and there, but doesn't go much further than that.
If your workload demands more power, then you need to look at a 15-inch configuration. The larger model has two basic variants to choose from. The first comes with a 2.6 GHz Intel i7 processor of the 9th generation with six cores and Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz, 16 GB of memory, a 256 GB SSD and a Radeon Pro 555X GPU . The starting price was originally $ 2,399.
Since you cannot preconfigure this laptop, you will also find it with a 2.4 GHz eight-core Intel i9 processor of the 9th generation with Turbo Boost up to 5.0 GHz, 32 GB of memory, a Radeon Pro 560X graphics chip and up to 4 TB SSD storage. That max configuration will usually set you back a whopping $ 4,799.
The second variant has a 2.3 GHz Intel i9 processor of the 9th generation with eight cores, Turbo Boost with up to 4.8 GHz, 16 GB of memory, a 512 GB SSD and Radeon Pro 560X graphics . The starting price was originally $ 2,799.
Since you cannot pre-configure this laptop, the configurations include a 9th generation Intel i9 chip running at 2.4 GHz and eight cores with Turbo Boost up to 5.0 GHz, 32 GB of memory, a Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics chip, and more up to 4 TB SSD storage. However, this will cost you a pretty penny and potentially set you back $ 5,149. That's about as expensive as laptops.
Customizing the MacBook Pro 15 wins
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Apple designed its 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops for a variety of use cases. If you're looking for a great portable computer but don't need a pro-level power supply, the 13-inch model is for you. If you have a heavy workload but aren't affected by the MacBook Pro 16, consider the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Now that Apple has updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and quad-core 10th generation Intel chips, this is an extremely tempting option. Starting at $ 1,299, it's Apple's cheapest MacBook Pro and has a gorgeous display, industry-leading trackpad, and lightning-fast Thunderbolt 3 ports. This makes it a great option for the majority of consumers. However, you should also consider the cheaper MacBook Air if you don't need a lot of extra power.
However, if you need more power and want to take advantage of the price reductions on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, this model is for you. You probably won't mind the added cost of the MacBook Pro 13 if you have demanding tasks that need to be done in no time. Not only do you get a bigger screen and speakers, but you also get a lot more customization options. The ability to add just a discrete graphics card can justify the price hike.
Extra storage, better graphics, and more storage space come in handy when encoding videos, editing photos, or complex A.I. Algorithms. These tasks will feel more limited on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
That's why we have to give the nod to the 15-inch model. If you're on a tight budget and need portable power, the MacBook Pro is for you.