13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-Inch MacBook Pro: Which Is Right for You?

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Apple just updated its MacBook Pro lineup, injecting the company's top-shelf laptops with more speed than ever before. And while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and 15-inch MacBook Pro look super-similar to one another, some huge differences separate these machines.me or my son

The two laptops feature similar keyboards and sets of ports, but their performance, battery life and heft set them apart. One is also much pricier than the other, which may make up your mind for you. Here's how the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros match up:

13-inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-inch MacBook Pro

  13-inch MacBook Pro 15-inch MacBook Pro
Starting Price $1,799 $2,399
CPU 8th Gen, four-core Intel Core i5, i7 8th Gen, six-core Intel Core i7, i9
GPU Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 Radeon Pro 555X (4GB GDDR5 memory), Radeon Pro 560X (4GB GDDR5 memory)
Display 13.3 inches (2560 x 1600) 15.4 inches (2880 x 1800)
SSD Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Memory (RAM) 8GB, 16GB 16GB, 32GB
Ports Four Thunderbolt 3 ports, headphone jack, Touch ID fingerprint reader, Touch Bar Four Thunderbolt 3 ports, headphone jack, Touch ID fingerprint reader, Touch Bar
Battery Life 8:44 10:21
Size 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches
Weight 3.02 pounds 4.02 pounds

Design: Practically identical

When you look at the new, revamped Touch Bar MacBook Pros, they appear nearly identical. They look like the stretched-out or shrunk-down versions of each other, as each sports the same design that's been around since 2016 and offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports.13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-Inch MacBook Pro: Which Is Right for You?

So, that being said, this question comes down to how much you want to lug around. The 15-inch MacBook Pro (4.02 pounds) weighs 1 pound more than its 13-inch sibling (3.02 pounds), which is a pretty noticeable difference if you're trying to keep your bag as light as possible.

Winner: 13-inch MacBook Pro

Display: Bigger isn't enough

Both of Apple's 2018 MacBook Pros take advantage of the company's latest big display advancement: . This trick, borrowed from the iPad Pro, iPhone and iMac, allows the device to automatically adjust the color and intensity of its screen.

Color looks fantastic on both laptops, which I noticed watching the new Venom trailer. Not only did an exploding car render in a blazing mix of yellow and orange, but the whites of Venom's eyes also looked bright and clear. Watching a 4K documentary from the Evolve pro wrestling promotion, I saw the finest of details, including the textures of the scorpion patch on Joey Janela's flashy jacket. I also easily saw myself in the far background of a shot, standing in the audience of a performance.13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-Inch MacBook Pro: Which Is Right for You?

While the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 15.4 inch, 2880 x 1800-pixel display might be larger than the smaller MacBook Pro's 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel panel, that's the larger machine's only display win.

In fact, our colorimeter marked the 13-inch MacBook Pro as more colorful, with a 125.3 sRGB gamut rating (narrowly beating the 15-inch Pro's 119 percent mark). The 13-inch MacBook also shone brighter, with 398 nits vs. the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 354 nits.

All that being said, watching videos is no worse on one screen compared to the other, and both have a reason to win you over.

Winner: Draw

Audio: Larger is louder

Both the 13- and 15-inch MacBooks feature solid sound, but one is the better jam box. Listening to Mitski's "Nobody" on both notebooks, I noticed how clearly the drum cymbals came through and how serene her voice sounded. The 15-inch machine pumped out louder sound, without a hint of distortion at the loudest settings.

Winner: 15-inch MacBook Pro

Keyboard and Touchpad: Mostly the same

When you're typing, the experiences on these MacBook Pros are more similar than different. Both machines feature Apple's third-generation butterfly switches, which the company claims enable quieter typing, and teardowns suggest that these switches offer greater reliability.

Testing the keyboards on the 10fastfinger.com typing test, I click-clacked my way to rates of between 75 and 82 words per minute, with neither laptop offering speedier writing.13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-Inch MacBook Pro: Which Is Right for You?

While the keys on both laptops are relatively shallow, the 15-inch MacBook Pro's keys have a higher 0.7mm of travel, which is 40 percent more the 0.5mm travel in the 13-inch model. The keys require similar amounts of actuation force, with measurements of 63 grams from the 15-inch MacBook Pro and 61 grams from the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Both MacBook Pros feature large Force Touch trackpads, with the 13-inch version measuring 5.3 x 3.3 inches and the 15-inch version measuring 6.3 x 3.9 inches. The two trackpads are equally sensitive and offer a similar experience..

Winner: Draw

Performance: Fast and faster

Both MacBook Pros are speedy beasts, but it's much easier to equip one of them to the nines with the fastest parts. That's the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which sports 6-core Intel Core i7 and Core i9 CPUs, with up to 32GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is limited to less-powerful quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors and maxes out at 16GB of RAM.

To see how the fastest-possible models of these beasts compare, we tested a 15-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB of RAM and a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7-8559U CPU and 16GB of RAM.

The most drastic difference is shown on the Geekbench 4.1 general performance test, in which the 15-inch MacBook Pro notched a clobbering 23,138, beating the 17,348 from the 13-inch model.13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. 15-Inch MacBook Pro: Which Is Right for You?

The 15-inch machine won another round when we converted a 4K video to 1080p in the HandBrake app, with the larger machine finishing in 10 minutes and 16 seconds. That's about 3.5 minutes less than the 13-inch MacBook Pro's time of 14:47.

The 15-inch MacBook won again on the Excel VLookup test, which matches 60,000 names to addresses, finishing in 52 seconds, or 24 seconds longer than the 1:16 time from the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Both notebooks feature astonishingly fast storage, as the BlackMagic Disk Speed Test clocked the SSDs with write speeds of between 2,600 MBps (15-inch) and 2,682 MBps (13-inch).

The 15-inch MacBook Pro, with its discrete graphics, also clobbers its smaller sibling on graphics and gaming. In our tests, the AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU with 4GB of memory in the 15-inch MacBook Pro reached 106.22 frames per second on the OpenGL portion of the Cinebench R15 benchmark, dwarfing the 41.1 frames per second mark from the Iris Plus Graphics 655-based 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Similarly, the 15-inch MacBook Pro ran the Dirt 3 racing game (set to medium graphics at 1080p) at 83 frames per second, towering over the 46.9 frames per second rate from the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Winner: 15-inch MacBook Pro

Battery Life: Bigger is better

You'll see the difference between great and OK battery life when comparing Apple's two new laptops. The 15-inch MacBook Pro lasted 10 hours and 21 minutes — a pretty long time — on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 150 nits). Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro's battery lasted 8 hours and 44 minutes — which I'd charitably call "acceptable" — on the same test.

Winner: 15-inch MacBook Pro

Value

While the 15-inch MacBook Pro wins so many of the above categories, it starts at a whole $600 more than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Those entry-level models both feature 256GB of internal storage, four Thunderbolt 3 ports and the Touch Bar.

Yes, there are substantial reasons to get the 15-inch version: You get an 8th Gen Core i7 CPU (vs. a Core i5 CPU), 16GB of RAM (vs. 8GB) and discrete Radeon Pro 555X (4GB) graphics, but that over-$2,000 price places the larger machine out of reach for some people.

Winner: 13-inch MacBook Pro

Overall Winner: 15-inch MacBook Pro

  13-inch MacBook Pro 15-inch MacBook Pro
Design/Ports  
Display
Audio  
Keyboard/Touchpad
Performance  
Battery Life  
Value  
Total 4 5

So, the larger 15-inch MacBook Pro narrowly wins this one, though it's not the strongest victory. If you want the fastest performance and longest battery life, you'll get the 15-inch MacBook Pro. But if you prefer a lightweight machine along with a lighter price tag, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is your next Mac. No matter which machine you pick, though, you get a stellar screen.

Which MacBook Pro are you thinking of getting? Have you already ordered yours? Let us know in the comments!

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
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2 comments
  • Akhmadi Says:

    Hello. And what about the portability? I'm really hesitating about those 2. I need a laptop that has great performances, since I'm working on photoshop, illustrator, indesign and sometimes finalcut pro.

    But I'm travelling around the country a lot. And here's the question:
    What is better a 13 inch Macbook pro with 16ram and i7 processor, or the basic 15 inch macbook pro?

    I'm not sure that the 15 inch will be easy to travel with. But I never had a 15 inch laptop so idk...

  • Peter Guyton Says:

    Curious if you'd consider comparing these: a 13" top of the line (32GB) + Blackmagic eGPU .... vs ..... a 15" middle of road i7 32GB , 1TB 2.2ghz 6 core. Both solutions are within $100.

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