As has been the case since Apple ditched the 17in MacBook Pro back in 2012, there have been two sizes of MacBook Pro. The 13in and the 15in model.
However, amid the range of MacBook Pro laptops there are some very different offerings. There may be two sizes of MacBook Pro, but there are actually three types of MacBook Pro to consider:
- 13in MacBook Pro with 1.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors (this replaces the 2017 non-Touch Bar model). From £1,299 Buy it here.
- 13in MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors (a minor tweak on the 2018 model). From £1,799 Buy it here.
- 15in MacBook Pro with 9th-gen 6-core or 8-core processors (a newer processor generation). From £2,399 Buy it here.
The 15in MacBook Pro is more deserving of the name 'Pro' than its smaller sibling, which is certainly not the same machine in more miniature form. However, now that the 13in MacBook Pro has a quad-core processor the smaller model is much more worthy of attention.
Prior to July 2019 we'd have said that the two entry-levell MacBook Pro models were even less pro than their more expensive 13in siblings. However, in July 2019 Apple updated these models, upgrading the 2017 chips from dual-core to more recent quad-core processors and adding the Touch Bar. Since being updated these models offer much better spec at the same price, but they still aren't anything like as Pro as the bigger models.
In fact these processorl MacBook Pros are more comparable to MacBook Air, and if you want to find out about the similarities and differences of those two ranges read: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air.
In this article we will weigh up the differences between all of the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models, assessing which set of requirements each will serve best.
What are the differences between the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models?
Before we look at the differences, there are a few features that are the same regardless of the MacBook Pro model you purchase.
- All MacBook Pro models are available in a silver or a space grey finish.
- The pixels on the display of the 13in model are ever so slightly more closely packed together, but the number of pixels per inch is practically the same (220 on the 15in and 227 on the 13in).
- Brightness is 500nits on both models, and both screens offer P3 which means they display a wider range of “more lifelike” colours.
- The Force Touch trackpad is available on all the MacBook Pro laptops. It features pressure-sensing capabilities so that you can “Force Click” and use Multi-Touch gestures.
- Despite the slightly different battery specs, all each MacBook Pro offers 10 hours battery life, according to Apple.
- Prior to July 2019 there was one physical difference between the two entry-level 13in models and the more expensive 13in models - the Touch Bar. Since July 2019 all MacBook Pro models have a Touch Bar.
- Prior to the July 2019 update the entry-level models also lacked True Tone, but now all MacBook Pro models offer this feature which adjusts brightness and colour on your screen depending on the surrounding lighting conditions.
- There are a variety of different processor. The 13in models offer 1.4GHz or 2.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors, while the 15in models offer 9th-gen 6-core or 8-core processors running at 2.6GHz or 2.3GHz per core.
- The 15in models have discreet graphics cards while all the 13in models have integrated graphics. This means they are much more suited to graphics intensive applications.
- The 15in models don't only have more RAM as standard (16GB) they have faster RAM than the 13in models (2400MHz DDR4 compared to 2133MHz LPDDR3) and they can be specced up to 32GB RAM ad a built-to-order option.
- The 2.4GHz 13in MacBook Pro features four Thunderbolt 3/USB C ports while the 1.4GHz MacBook Pro only has two.
What are the differences between the 13in MacBook Pro models?
It used to be that the key differentiator between the four configurations of 13in MacBook Pro was whether you get a Touch Bar or not. However, when Apple updated the entry-level MacBook Pro in July 2019 it gained the Touch Bar and better processors along with some other improvements.
So now the gap between the various 13in models isn't as big as it was and it is a lot easier to recommend the 1.4GHz models over the 2.4GHz models, although we haven't run our benchmarks on the them yet (at the time of writing - look out for our upcoming review). We're keen to find out just what a difference can be achieved from the jump from 1.4GHz to 2.4GHz quad-core processors and Intel 645 to 655 graphics. Is the leap worth £300? We'll update this when we find out.
As for the differences between both 1.4GHz and both 2.4GHz models - the only difference is how much storage you get. 128GB vs 256GB or 256GB vs 512GB. You pay £200 extra to double the storage. The question is do you really need that extra storage or could you make do with 2TB in iCloud for £6.99/$9.99 a month?
13 MacBook Pro Spec
- 13in MacBook Pro with 1.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors, Turbo Boost 3.9GHz, 128GB, Intel Iris Plus 645, for £1,299 Buy it here.
- 13in MacBook Pro with 1.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors, Turbo Boost 3.9GHz, 256GB, Intel Iris Plus 645, for £1,299 Buy it here.
- 13in MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors, Turbo Boost 4.1GB, 256GB, Intel Iris Plus 655, for £1,799 Buy it here.
- 13in MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors, Turbo Boost 4.1GB, 512GB, Intel Iris Plus 655, for £1,999 Buy it here.
Here are the other specs for the 13in models:
- Screen size: 13.3-inches diagonally.
- Dimensions: 30.41cm x 21.24cm
- Thickness: 1.49cm
- Weight: 1.37kg
- Display resolution: 2560x1600 at 227 pixels per inch
- RAM: 8GB standard, configurable to 16GB RAM
- Ports: 1.4GHz - two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports; 2.4GHz - four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- Audio: 1.4GHz - two microphones, 2.4GHz - three microphones
- Battery: 1.4GHz - 10 hour, 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, 2.4GHz - 58.0-watt-hour battery, also 10 hours. (Interesting fact: The older non-touch bar model's battery was just 54.5-watt-hour, now the entry-level model seems to have a better battery than the 2.4GHz model...)
What are the differences between the 15in MacBook Pro models?
The 15in MacBook Pro is available in two configurations. Apple long ago discontinued the 2015-generation non-Touch Bar model which had been on offer for £1,899.
15in MacBook Pro Spec
- MacBook Pro 2019 15in, 9th-generation (Coffee Lake R2), 2.6GHz 6-core i7, Turbo Boost 4.5GB, 256GB, Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory: £2,349/$2,399 Buy it here.
- MacBook Pro 2019 15in, 9th-generation (Coffee Lake R2), 2.3GHz 8-core i9, Turbo Boost 4.8GB, 512GB, Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory: £2,749/$2,799 Buy it here.
Rather than just being a difference in terms of storage, as with the two pairs of 13in models, here we see much bigger differences between the two 15in models. The processor on the flag-ship model is faster, and the graphics card better (although unchanged from the graphics in the 2018 model). With more storage to boot, this Mac costs £400 more than its sibling.
Here are the other specs for the 15in models:
- Screen size: 15.4-inches diagonally
- Dimensions: 34.93cm x 24.07cm
- Thickness: 1.55cm
- Weight: 1.83kg
- Display resolution: 2880x1800 at 220 pixels per inch
- Ports: four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- Audio: three microphones
- Battery: 10 hours, 83.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
- Price: From £2,349/$2,399
How the MacBook Pro specs compare
Regarding all those differences, we will examine each in a little more detail below.
We have four different processors here:
- 1.4GHz quad-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, with 128MB of eDRAM
- 2.4GHz quad-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, with 128MB of eDRAM
- 2.6GHz 6-core 9th-gen Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, with 16MB shared L3 cache
- 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-gen Intel Core i9, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz, with 16MB shared L3 cache
All this adds up to big leaps between the different MacBook Pro units.
The processor is a key differentiator between the models and one of a number of reasons why the 15in is better suited to creative pros. Find out what is the best Pro Mac here.
The more cores your computer has, the more problems it can solve at a time. The processor can either deal with lots of different tasks, with each processor devoted to each task, or it can split a task across multiple processors, either way that task can be done quicker. This matters if you are doing something like 3D rendering.
In addition, a Core i7 and i9 processor will be better able to cope with multimedia applications, gaming, and multitasking. You’ll find more on processor cache on i7 and i9 models too, which should make scientific calculations faster. The extra cache comes into play with multitasking too.
But it's not all about the 15in. The quad-cores in the 2019 13in MacBook Pro (as they did in the 2018 model) make us more comfortable with that machine's pro status.
You may be wondering what the difference is between a processor with 128MB of eDRAM and one with 16MB shared L3 cache? The eDRAM is related to the GPU that's integrated into the CPU in the 13in models. While the L3 cache option you see in the 15in models is fast memory that's placed close to the processor core, this cache stores frequently used instructions so that the CPU can access them quickly, improving performance. So they couldn't really be more different.
The differences continue when you look at the graphics offerings.
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
- Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
- Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
Both generations of 13in MacBook Pro offer graphics cards that are integrated on the processor, while the 15in MacBook Pro features discrete graphics as well as integrated graphics (so the Mac can switch between the two, thereby saving battery life when the faster card isn't required).
One of the key differences between integrated and discrete (or dedicated) graphics is that integrated graphics don’t have their own RAM and that will matter if you are doing something graphically intense, like rendering something in 3D, or playing a graphically intensive game.
That doesn’t mean that integrated graphics don’t have their advantages. They require less power, so battery life might be better, for example, and they are cheaper than a discrete card, so, in theory, should allow Apple to sell those models for less, and indeed it does: there is a difference of £400 between the top of the line 13in model and the entry-level 15in MacBook Pro. We’ll look in a bit more detail at the price later on.
You might think that the lack of discrete graphics means that the 13in MacBook Pro really doesn’t deserve to be called a Pro machine - assuming of course that the pros you are thinking of are creative pros. If you are just a professional, looking for a machine to create spreadsheets, presentations and emails on the 13in models might be pro enough though.
As for the graphics in the 15in MacBook models, the Radeon Pro 555X and 560X are the same graphics cards as the 2018 models offered, but there are also the following, impressive, build-to-order options available:
- Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£225)
- Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£315)
However, there is still one factor letting the MacBook Pro down in terms of graphics. In the past Apple has made a lot of noise about the Retina display, with its 2,560 x 1,600 and 2,880 x 1,800 pixel counts depending on whether you have the 13in or 15in model.
Embarrassingly, there are PC laptops that have 4K displays now, so Apple has a bit of catching up to do.
We were hoping to see Apple launch a 4K 16in MacBook Pro in 2019 - one has been rumoured. Some of Apple's rivals offer 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. However we were disappointed. Read more here: 16in MacBook Pro.
Back in 2018 the 13in and 15in models gained True Tone - which made them better at adjusting to the ambient light. At the time the older non-Touch Bar 13in lacked this feature, but since the July 2019 update to the entry-level model the whole range now has the feature.
For now, though, the Retina display quality isn’t really a reason to choose one MacBook Pro model over the other. The difference in display size may well be though.
Obviously the 15in MacBook Pro has a much larger display than the 13in model. In real terms, that’s an extra 320 pixels across, and 200 more pixels down. It’s likely to make a difference to you if you often have a lot of applications open, or if your work with images (although you actually get 7 more pixels per inch on the 13in model: it’s 220 ppi on the 15in and 227 ppi on the 13in model).
There are benefits associated with the smaller screen on the 13in model - it means the laptop is smaller and lighter. If that’s more important to you than a few extra pixels it’s a good reason to choose the 13in over the 15in.
And if you really need a bigger screen, plug your MacBook into a second display whenever you are at your desk.
If RAM is important to you there are a few differences between the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models.
- The 13in MacBook Pro ships as standard with 8GB 2133MHZ LPDDR3 memory, but it’s upgradable to 16GB RAM.
- The 15in model ships with 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory - that's faster memory than the 2133MHz above.
- There is also a 32GB RAM build-to-order option for the 15in MacBook Pro, which makes a lot of creatives very happy (although £360/$400 worse off).
Chances are you don't need 32GB RAM in your laptop, but if you do, then the 15in MacBook Pro can serve your needs.
Touch Bar, ports and trackpad
The Touch Bar is now available on all MacBook Pro models. Obviously the 15in machine offers more space for the Touch Bar, but beyond that there’s not really much of a difference.
The 1.4GHz MacBook Pros offer two Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the 2.4GHz 13in model offer four, as do the 15in models. None of the MacBook Pros offers USB-A.
MacBook Pro Price Comparisons
Apple put prices of the MacBook Pro models up by £50 and £100 in the UK when it introduced the new entry-level models to the lineup in July 2019. It's likely the company was adjusting according to currency fluctuations.
With a starting price of £1,299/$1,299, the 1.4GHz 13in MacBook Pro is a great option now that Apple has updated the entry-level model (as of July 2019).
The 2.4GHz 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,799/$1,799 - which is a leap of £500 compared to the entry-level model, and a leap of £300 from the 1.4GHz model with the same storage option (256GB). That's a big jump. Where previously there was a humongous gap between the specs of the models that gap has lessened since the July 2019 update, so we're not as keen to recommend the 2.4GHz model now - but maybe when we get our benchmarks back we will change our minds.
It's worth noting that for a similar price (£1,749/$1,799) you could get a 3.0GHz 6-core, 27-inch iMac that comes with 8GB 2666MHz RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, and Radeon Pro discrete graphics (as opposed to 2.4GHz quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and Iris Plus Graphics). That's quite a boost in power for the same price.
What the 2.4GHz offering does is lessen the gap between the entry-level 13in and the entry-leve 15in model though. Starting at £2,399/$2,399 there is a £1,100/$1,100 difference in the price! Enough to buy a MacBook Air too!
The price difference between the top-of-the-range 13in model (£1,999/$1,999) and the entry-level 15in (£2,399/$2,399) is still £400/$400, but that seems fairer than it would if the 13in offering wasn't as wide ranging.
And the £400 difference between the entry-level 15in MacBook Pro and the top-of-the-range 13in model does include differences in graphic capabilities, processor, screen size, and everything else.
The entry-level 15in MacBook Pro price starts at £2,399/$2,399 for a 2.6GHz 6-core 9th generation i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD, and costs more than the top-of-the-range iMac (£2,249/$2,299). That iMac offers a 3.7GHz 6-core 9th generation i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 2TB Fusion Drive and Radeon Pro discrete graphics.
The point of these comparisons is that while we understand that it's normal to pay a premium to buy a pro-laptop, currently, if you need a powerful machine the MacBook Pro doesn't look as good a deal as the iMac.
But, if you need a portable and price is no object then the 2019 15in MacBook Pro looks like an excellent machine.
If you want a laptop for gaming and graphics then the 2019 15in MacBook Pro will be the one to consider - perhaps treat yourself to a Vega graphics card upgrade though.
As for the 13in MacBook Pro, prior to the 2019 update we were disappointed with the entry-level 13in models. But now those 13in models come recommended.
However with the 13in MacBook Air back on the scene as of 2018, and at a lower price as of July 2019, there is some competition. It can't match the specs, but if it's a low-cost value-for-money Mac you are looking for the Air is a good option. Read our comparison of the best cheap Mac for more information.
We also round up the best MacBook deals every week, and there are some great discounts to be had on MacBook Pro and other Mac laptops. Read more here: Best MacBook Deals.
Whether you require a 15in or a 13in MacBook Pro depends primarily on what you will be using it for and how much you have to spend.
If all you do with your Mac is surf the web and open emails then you might find a cheaper MacBook Air might meet your needs.
Now that the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models have received an update (they'd been left untouched by Apple for a few years) we are much more positive about recommending that machine.
At the same time as Apple updated the entry-level 13in the other 13in models gained a price increase (if you are in the UK). To make matters worse, when they were updated earlier in 2019 they only saw a move from 2.3 to 2.4GHz, the processor generation didn't change. They are still impressive, but not as impressive as the 15in models, which have shot ahead thanks to the most to 9th generation processors.
But those 15in models are EXPENSIVE! And when you consider what you can get for the same money if you buy an iMac, well, it's hard to recommend them unless you REALLY need a portable.
We will be reviewing all these Mac laptops very soon and will update this article when we know just how powerful these machines are.