MacBook Pro 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which 2019 MacBook Should You Buy?

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Apple's latest MacBook Pros have emerged from the labs of Cupertino, California, and hit stores everywhere, leaving consumers with an interesting question: should I buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar or the new 15-inch MacBook Pro?

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This question isn't as easy as which size you prefer, though portability does come into play. While both laptops are similar in important ways, their performance greatly differs, as do their prices. Here's everything you need to know about how Apple's latest laptops differ.

13-inch MacBook Pro (2019) vs 15-inch MacBook Pro (2019) specs

  13-inch MacBook Pro (2019) 15-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
Starting Price  $1,799 $2,399
Processors 8th Gen Intel Core i5 | i7 9th Gen Intel Core i7 | i9
Memory 8GB | 16GB 16GB | 32GB
Storage 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB 256GB | 512GB | 1TB | 2TB | 4TB
Graphics Card Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 Radeon Pro 555X (4GB) |  Radeon Pro 560X (4GB) | Radeon Pro Vega 16 (4GB) | Radeon Pro Vega 20 (4GB)
Screen  13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels, 227 pixels per inch 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800 pixels, 220 pixels per inch
Weight 3 pounds 4 pounds
Dimensions 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Battery Life 8:41 10:21

2019 MacBook Pro Price and Configuration Options

These are not cheap machines, but one is certainly much more expensive. The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $1,799 and features an 8th Gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. And, yes, while there are cheaper 13-inch MacBook Pros, they're from yesteryear, depending on older processors.

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The 15-inch MacBook Pro costs $600 more at $2,399, bumps up the processor to a 9th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, doubles your RAM to 16GB and gives you a discrete GPU, the Radeon Pro 555X (with 4GB of memory). That's a notable step up from the integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 chip in all of the 13-inch MacBook Pros.

MORE: Best and Worst Laptop Brands

For both, I'd consider bumping up internal storage to 512GB, which costs $200 for both the 13-inch and 15-inch models, bringing them to $1,999 and $2,599, respectively. Power users looking at the 13-inch MacBook Pro should also consider spending $200 to double their RAM to 16GB.

Display: A matter of real estate

The difference in these MacBook Pro screens isn't found in quality — they're both great panels that reproduce color incredibly well. As I watched a 4K version of the Tears of Steel sci-fi film on both screens at the same time, I couldn't tell a difference in how they rendered green trees, a giant glowing pink brain or slate-gray buildings.

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This lines up with our test results: the 13-inch MacBook Pro's brightness (408 nits) and color output (118% of the sRGB spectrum) ratings are very similar to those of the 15-inch MacBook  (114%; 403 nits).

Each panel sports a Retina-grade screen with tight pixel density, so the details of a dingy flying ship looked just as clear on the 227ppi 13-inch MacBook Pro as they did on the 220ppi 15-inch MacBook Pro.

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These panels do differ, though, in acreage for apps. The 15-inch MacBook Pro's screen measures 2560 x 1600 pixels, which translates to around 5.1 million pixels. That's around 1 million more than the 4million-plus pixels in the 13.3-inch's 2560 x 1600-pixel display.

The Difference: The 15-inch MacBook Pro's screen is best for those doing all of the multitasking.

Buy the 15-inch MacBook Pro

Design: The clone wars continue

Looking at the 13-inch MacBook Pro and its 15-inch big brother, I'm reminded of the medium and large-size McDonald's fry sleeves. These are nearly identical curved rectangles of machined aluminum, both available in silver and space gray.

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At 3 pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is three-quarters as heavy as the 15-inch MacBook Pro (4 pounds). And while these laptops are equally thick, the 15-inch MacBook Pro (13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches) is wider and taller than the 13-inch MacBook (12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches).

The Difference: Mind the heft? Pick the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Keyboard, Trackpad and Touch Bar: Same, same, same

No matter which MacBook Pro you buy, you will use the same "Butterfly"-style keyboard, which offers shallow travel and is divisive at best. Apple says that it is using a new mechanism to make the keyboards more reliable, but the jury is still out on that. Apple changed materials inside this version of the key, in an attempt to solve its issues, but the keys don't feel different.

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Each MacBook Pro features the same Force Touch trackpad, though the 15-inch model's 6.3 x 3.9-inch touchpad is slightly larger than the 5.3 x 3.3-inch one in the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

MORE: Apple Must Ditch the MacBook Butterfly Switch to Regain Trust

Similarly, Apple's OLED Touch Bar touch screen is the same on both MacBook Pros. Each gives you a Touch ID sensor for Apple Pay and biometric authentication, and the same size display for virtual buttons.

The Difference: Nothing much, really.

Performance: A tale of two generations

The 15-inch MacBook Pro features 9th Gen Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors, a league ahead of the 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs in the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That translates to the 15-inch model packing much more punch, with our Core i9 model netting a 31,012 on the Geekbench general performance test, leaping over the 18,221 score from the 13-inch, Core i5 MacBook Pro.

Both MacBook Pros deliver the same SSD speed. The Black Magic test rated the 13-inch MacBook Pro for a write speed of 2,573 MBps, which is quite close to the 15-inch model's rate of 2,611 MBps.

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We saw a real difference, though, in our Handbrake video-encoding test, which times how long a 4K video transcodes down to 1080p. The 15-inch MacBook Pro finished in 8 minutes and 10 seconds, and 6 minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the 13-inch MacBook Pro's 14:20 time.

Similarly, the 15-inch MacBook Pro smashed its little brother in video games, running the Dirt 3 racer at 120 frames per second (at max settings) and wiping the floor with the 13-inch MacBook Pro's 38 fps score (at low settings).

The Difference: The 15-inch MacBook Pro is for the most demanding creators and editors.

Audio: Size matters for volume

This round depends on how big of a room you need to fill. As I listened to tunes from James Blake, Carly Rae Jepsen and Lana Del Ray on the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, I found that each served as a great speaker, with sweet vocals, solid bass and clear percussion.

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Turning each up to the maximum volume, however, saw the 15-inch MacBook Pro provide much more sound than its little brother, without a dip in quality.

The Difference: Love your music and movies loud? Bet on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Battery Life: Go big or don't forget your power cord at home

The Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing on Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness) killed the 13-inch MacBook Pro hours before it could knock out the 15-inch model. The bigger 15-inch MacBook Pro packs in a lot more battery, lasting 10 hours and 21 minutes compared with the 13-inch model's 8:40 runtime.

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The Difference: The 15-inch MacBook Pro does a better job at lasting all-day than the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Heat: Two cool customers

After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on both MacBook Pros, neither heated past our 95 degrees Fahrenheit comfort threshold. The 13-inch MacBook Pro's temps ranged from 84 degrees (touchpad) to 92 degrees (underside), while the 15-inch MacBook Pro ranged from 83 degrees (touchpad) to 91 degrees (underside).

The Difference: In a word? Negligible.

Who should buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Medium-level power users — those who need more speed than the MacBook Air provides, but not all of the bells and whistles — should look at the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Not only is it a pound lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, but its high Geekbench 4 score is still proof of its brawn.

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Also, the 13-inch MacBook is also $600 cheaper, which leaves you money to spend on accessories or the pro-level video-editing apps you may need.

Who should buy the 15-inch MacBook Pro

If you push your computers as hard and as far as they can go, you're going to want the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Not does this model feature faster processors and discrete graphics, but it also lasts a notable bit longer on a single charge.

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Yes, it's pricier and heavier, but true power isn't cheap.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
Henry is a senior writer at Laptop Mag, covering security, Apple and operating systems. Prior to joining Laptop Mag — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and wondering why Apple decided to ditch its MagSafe power adapters.
Henry T. Casey, on