17" vs. 15" Macbook Pro

Has someone asked this before? It will be my main computer at my new academic position (I work in the humanities–cinema and visual arts, so that’s why the 17" is so attractive–but I travel a fair amount abroad); it’s on a 4 year replacement cycle–so it has to last 4 years. My current, 2 yr. old 13" MBP and will be around the house so it will mostly be in my office, except, I suspect, for summer research trips abroad and perhaps conferences, unless I get an iPad.

So anyone with 17" experience, I would be very happy to hear. I haven’t had anything larger than a 15" Macbook, but even that was when they were just turned grey things called “Powerbooks” and it had a 10gb harddrive… so yeah, I just don’t remember what a bigger than 13" screen is like and what the jump to 17" might bring–I’ve mostly had 13" computers since then, but it was always more to save money than anything else and now that the school will pay for the computer, I’m curious to know “more objectively” the pros and cons.

Many thanks for any input and advice.

For desktop use, you want the biggest screen you can get. For travel use, you want the smallest. Might I suggest getting a smaller MBP and a large standalone monitor?


These days, even the smallest Apple portable, the MBA 11" can drive their largest Cinema monitor, so that’s a very nice approach, and the new Apple displays have an integrated power cable you can plug the laptop into while home—so that’s one less wire to worry about. If the 13" MBP has done well by you, you’ll like the 13" MBA, as its screen actually supports about as many pixels as the 15" MBP. The 11" is about the same as the 13". Given that the price of a new MBA with a 27" Cinema display is about the same as a 17", unless you need a lot of space on the go, I’d give that configuration some thought. At home you’ll have a luxurious amount of space, and on the go you’ll have a solid state computer that weighs very little. Solid state will make hitting four years just that much easier, since the #1 point of failure on a laptop is removed: the spinning platter hard drive. Visual arts though—on the go—I do fear the 11" would feel cramped. Like I said it is roughly equal to the 13" screen you are accustomed to, but it is packed into a smaller space. If you use some of Apple’s “pro” products for multimedia, you might find the interface is a bit overly compact. Definitely check out these screens live, if you can. They render text like a laser printer, but this does come at the expense of font size; 12pt will look like more like 10pt text. Fortunately, you’ve got the text zoom features in Scrivener at least.

Do be prepared for a big size change over the 13" MBP if you do go with 17" though. It’s a monster, though not as massive as most similarly sized PC counterparts, it’s definitely a shoulder breaker, and if you are running around on the concourse a lot, that might be something to consider. It’s not the type of laptop that is conducive toward grabbing it and running out to a coffee shoppe for the day; more like a mobile workstation. If you need multimedia production on the go, though, it’s pretty hard to beat.

The iPad is probably not quite ready to take up as an alternative to a laptop. With a keyboard, it’s okay, but you might find yourself frustrated with the limitations. This is bound to improve with time, both from iOS and third-party offerings. With a keyboard though, it’s hardly more (personally, I’d say less) portable than a MBA, so that’s something to consider, too.

Thanks, Ioa!

ITS doesn’t offer the Air as an option, unfortunately. (Just not hip enough?) Because I def. agree, my ideal set up would be an 11" Air with an external monitor, or even a 13" w/o. I think the modest step up in screen size to the 15" will probably be enough (maybe I don’t need the enormous jump…) and that way I can carry it around when I need to. Maybe it’s just hard to turn down the 17" if one’s dept. is paying…

Sad that your institution won’t offer you an MBA. I have the 13" and a revision 1 17" MBP, which I’m now seriously thinking it’s time to replace. I now find I use the MBA almost exclusively, even at home with the MBP sitting on the desk 12 feet from where I’m typing with the MBA on my lap.

I lugged the 17" around for a couple of years, and had to do so again last year for a couple of months. It’s do-able with a backpack, but by the time you’ve got a couple of books and other things in the backpack too, you certainly know you’re carrying it … in my mid-60s, I don’t want to do that too much! That said, I’ve also travelled a lot with it in a backpack that meets the airline carry-on size; you know you’ve got it with you, but it’s fine. On the other hand I do like the screen real-estate on the 17", though it isn’t as high resolution as the current model.

This 13" MBA has the same screen resolution as the 15" at 1440x900: it’s great for Scrivener with the screen split as long as you don’t need the inspector showing all the time. I wouldn’t want to do much using a palette-heavy application — PhotoShop or InDesign — or any serious movie editing on it — I don’t count iMovie as serious. For that I’d definitely turn to the 17", especially the new one with its 1920x1200 — you can also get that with a non-glossy screen, though I don’t know whether the same’s true for the 15".

In fact, one of my current issues is whether to replace the old 17" with a new 17" or go for something static, since I have the MBA and think of the MBP as a “portable desktop”, and in that sense an iMac or a Mac Mini with a suitable screen etc. would probably be a cheaper solution. But part of the problem is that I really like the smaller, high-resolution screens of the MBA and MBP and their relationship with the keyboard and visual distance … I’m really not so comfortable using my wife’s 21" iMac, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

I think I’d have to say, if it were me, I’d go for the 17", but then … YMMV.


I’ve my 15" MacBook Pro docked to a 24" display and a full keyboard at my studio. While out for some weeks or months, I’m happy with its 15" display. I would love to go around with a smaller laptop, for example the 11" MacBook Air, but I don’t see it feasible (I do mostly publishing and music composing).

So, when time comes to replace my Mac, I’ll be still undecided between the smaller and the bigger, but I guess I’ll go for the bigger. Fifteen inches is not huge, but it is, unfortunately, not small.


We are talking MBP…

If you are getting a laptop you must want portability. So go with a 13".

If you want desktop connivence then go with a 13" and get an external monitor, wireless mighty mouse, and a wireless keyboard (I like he feel, you may not).

If you can’t get the accessories get a 15".

Don’t get a 17" unless

  1. You are married to a chiropractor.
  2. You are dating a chiropractor
  3. Your significant other is dating a chiropractor on the side and you can leverage guilt to your advantage
  4. You use a cart to haul all your stuff from point A to point B.
  5. You are a professor who utilizes slaves, I mean students to move your stuff.

Let us know what you decide.

Will they let you get a proper computer instead of a Mac?

Think of all the choices then!

For shame! For Shame! Herr Schweinkotflügel. For shame! :open_mouth: :frowning:
Crew members have been flayed, and keelhauled for far less.
As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

15 is a rather nice middle of the road.

As for size

Go with a pocket Projector


And have a very LARGE screen size

Wock–you’ve convinced me. 15" is a good medium size; now that I think of it, a projector solves the some of the main issues that attracted me to the 17" (e.g. use it as a TV under certain circumstances…) Many thanks for the creative solution!


Yeah, okay. It was argumentative. I really shouldn’t drink and type.

Still, the Apple idea of not trusting consumers by giving options much more complex than screen size…

No, stop it! Step away from the keyboard.

's better that, than flaying and keelhauling, pal

So sacrifice simplicity and operability for confusing choice, under powered HW, a short lie cycle, and the need to “beat it into submission”?

There are only 3 options that matter when selecting a system from a product line. In order of importance.

  1. Screen size
  2. Amount of RAM
  3. HD size

Everything else should be covered by the product line designation. Apple’s way only seems wrong if you are looking at it from the outside or are a control nut (like me). They really do make it impossible for a user to buy a system what won’t work as expected.

You forgot Number 4

Alternate use as a weapon against zombies.

That is a huge untapped marketing scheme.

The MBA with the razor edge or the 17" with sledgehammer heft.

Or go with a pro tower dropped out of a 30 story window for crushing results!

youtube.com/watch?v=T8WiPy1x … re=related

youtube.com/watch?v=3zzwbYyv … re=related

It´s true that fewer consumer choices are offered–as a Windows user or two noted. I don’t particularly care–this is not an argument against any particular consumer choice, but rather a very powerful—and common–symptom of late capitalism which holds that consumption is the realm of freedom. Coke or Pepsi. I happen to like Coke and think its superiority is real; but there is nothing necessary or “justifiable” about this decision. It is completely contingent; yet I experience it as real. To me the only question worth asking–a question I suspect many here have dealt with–is how technological interfaces stimulate thinking and writing. Our identification with one company or another–our partisan investment in our own consumption–is one of the final conquests that capital has taken on. And it has done a damn fine job!

Only thing to think about here is your large screen, i.e. projection screen, will have even less resolution than the 15". It’d be good for watching videos on, but editing them? Well, I suppose you could put all your palettes and editing tools on the computer screen and the video you’re working on showing on the wall … wouldn’t suit me, though …