Just when I thought I was out… You pulled me back in!
Yeah, I did pretty much every single MacBook Pro comparison I could think of. Hit subscribe to see them all. But I didn’t do 16-inch vs. 13-inch, because I figured anyone who wanted the 16-inch would know it.
But… that didn’t stop all you all from asking. And asking. And asking.
So, this… is the MacBook Pro 13-inch vs. 16-inch — FIGHT!
While the 13-inch MacBook Pro just got updated… the design part of it simply never got the memo. It’s still got pretty much the same look and build that it debuted with back in October of ought 16.
Same boxy, unibody aluminum chassis. Same silver and space gray options. Same four USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports on the higher-end model, and same 13.3-inch display.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro… well, late last year is when it went to 16-inches.
Not much changed, granted. It’s also got the same boxy, unibody aluminum chassis, silver and space gray options, and four USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports as it debuted with back in 2016, but the display has been stretched out from 15 to 16 inches to not just reduce the bezels but increase the useable work space.
And, in an age where competing laptops are going full edge-edge, it’s currently the only MacBook Apple has that’s coming close to keeping up.
The difference between the 13.3-inch and 16-inch displays doesn’t just come down to size alone. Not quite.
Sure one is 2560 by 1600 and the other is 3072 by 1920, but they’re both LCD, both 500 nits of brightness, both wide P3 color gamut, and both have True Tone ambient color temperature matching.
The subtle difference is that the 16-inch can change refresh rates between 60hz and 48hz, so if you produce video like I do for this channel, in glorious 24 frames per second — say it with me — the way nature and Hollywood intended, you can set the 16-inch display to properly show it to you that way while you’re editing.
Which is, yeah, nice to have more than anything else, but it’s really super nice to have.
But, the 13-inch is a tiny bit thinner, almost 3 inches skinnier, over an inch less deep, and over a pound lighter.
So, if size matters to you, get the 16-inch.
If portability is more important, get the 13-inch.
Audio / Video
Let’s just get this part out of the way: Both the 13-inch and the 16-inch MacBooks Pro have the same terribad 720p webcam that’s ok in full light but bad and worse in backlight and low light, and pretty much everyone wants Apple to apply their iOS prowess to fixing it up and soon.
The speakers on the 13-inch aren’t bad, though. In fact, they’re pretty good. High dynamic range, wide stereo, spatial audio, even Dolby Atmos. They make it sound like whatever you’re listening to is right in front of you.
The speakers on the 16-inch, though, are next level. Like Apple shoved a HomePod under the keyboard next level. And they make it sound like whatever you’re listening to is all around you.
Same with the mics. The 13-inch has a 3 mic array that’s ok for video calls in a pinch. The 16-inch has a 3-mic array that’s tuned for high signal-to-noise, what Apple calls “studio quality” and what I’d call equivalent to a mid-range dedicated USB mic. Which is ok for even podcasting or voice over in a pinch.
And yes, both still have 3.5mm headphone jacks.
So, if you want the best sound possible, you want the 16-inch.
The new high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro — and I’m really only going to focus on the new high-end model for this — starts off with a 2.0Ghz quad-core Intel 10th gen Core i5 but you can spec it out up to a 2.3Ghz quad core i7.
The 16-inch starts off with a 2.6Ghz hex-core Intel 9th gen Core i7 and can go all the way up to a 2.4ghz octo-core i9. Yeah.
Moreover, the high-end 13-inch only comes with Intel Irish Plus graphics where the 16-inch has Intel HHD Graphics 630 but also comes with a discreet AMD Radeon Pro 5300M and can be upgraded to a Radeon 5500M.
Both have the same T2 ARM-based co-processor for Touch ID, voice-activated Siri, camera and mic security, real-time encryption, accelerators, controllers, and all the other custom silicon advantages.
Neither have WiFi 6, because Apple, while jumping right into it on iOS, seems to be staying the hell away from it on the Mac.
And both promise the same 10hrs of battery life for light workloads, which means roughly the same for heavy workloads as well.
But even though the 16-inch still has previous generation CPUs, it’s got much more powerful GPU options.
So, if performance matters more to you than portability, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is going to give you more.
The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro update means the high-end model now starts at 16GB of RAM and can finally — is finally fair here? — go up to 32GB of RAM.
Likewise, the storage now starts at 512GB but can also finally — also fair here? — go up to 4TB of SSD.
The 16-inch, though… well, that also starts at 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD but… but… they can go all the way to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD. 8TB.
So, if you want to run a ton of virtual machines, simulators, or super pro apps, or you want to keep a ton of pro projects and content on your internal drive, you need the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
One of the most important updates to the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the new Magic Keyboard. The same one the 16-inch MacBook Pro got late last year.
That means they both have the new scissor switches, which maintain some of the stability people liked about the butterfly switches, but restore more travel and, so far, reliability, which is what people hated about the butterflies.
I just call them the best of both keyboard worlds.
They also both have distinct escape keys now, Touch Bars, combined Touch ID power buttons, and inverted T arrow keys.
So, while this is a draw, it’s an excellent, excellent draw.
The new high end 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,799 U.S. That’s for the 4-port, 10th gen model, which can go all the way up to $3,599 U.S. with all the bells and whistles.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 U.S. But, because graphics, RAM, and SSD can go much higher, you can bell and whistle it all the way up to $6,099 U.S.
Now, some people have complained that the price difference between the 13-inch and the 16-inch isn’t really that different… But… ok.
There is absolutely an overlap, especially if you tilt your head and squint to look just at that overlap.
But you’re not really paying per inch here. For some pros, they have a Mac Pro or iMac Pro at home and really just want something as light and capable as possible to travel with. For other pros, they work almost exclusively while mobile so they want the biggest screens and higher performance possible.
And, yeah, those pros typically charge hardware purchases to clients and pay them off with big jobs, so things like portability vs. performance are far more important to them price.
If price is important to you, though, the 13-inch starts lower. Much lower at the lower end.
So, if you need to do pro-level work on a Mac while mobile and you don’t want to carry a pound or an inch more than you have to, everything else be damned, than you want to carry the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
But, if you need to do most of your pro-level work on a Mac while mobile, and you need the absolute best Mac possible regardless of size or weight, or you just want the better audio and graphics, then you want the 16-inch MacBook Pro.