12" MB v. 13" rMBP - Which would you choose?

over 7 years ago from , Position @ Company

Up front, it's important to know that I've got this at home for all my heavy lifting:

21.5" iMac w/

2.7GHz quad-core i5


1TB Fusion

My current work machine is a maxed 15" rMBP from this year, and it's WAY more than I need

I used to work at Apple, so I don't need a lecture on Apple computers or the differences between the two or the benchmarks, I am simply looking for advice from those who have used the new 12" MB for design & related things from a community that I trust.

Most of my work is UI / UX in Sketch, with some lighter Photoshop editing, and I run Illustrator a lot for my vector work, though I'm shifting toward Affinity Designer & Photo. Also do light front-end development, but I don't see that being an issue with any machine as it's mostly local w/ ST3 & Transmit

The dilemma is as follows:

12" MacBook w/

1.3GHz Dual-Core Intel Core M, Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz


512GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage

Intel HD Graphics 5300


13" rMBP w/

2.7GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz


256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage

Intel Iris Graphics 6100


  • Emily SaforrianEmily Saforrian, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Hi there, I recently sized this consideration up and with with the 12" MB. Like you, I have a top of the line 15" rMBP through work and a 27" (older) iMac at home.

    While you didn't say it I'm assuming you want the 12" for an on-the-go, everyday carry to take between home and work. At least that was what I was seeking. I do a bit of design and development but really got it for research and writing papers (yaaaa grad school).

    All in all, it's a fine little machine but I would probably recommend you go with the 13" rMBP. Here's why:

    • Despite being called a laptop, a 12" retina screen becomes hard to read when sitting in your lap. Real estate aside, it's hard on the eyes at that distance. For instance, I typically have to bump google docs up to 125% or zoom in on pages. I didn't think this would be a problem as I used to have one of the old 12" macbooks (that was a decade ago, man I'm getting old) but it totally is.
    • It's bouncy in your lap. No seriously, it's so light that typing in your lap is wobbly.
    • It really struggles. I got the baseline model and things like google docs and PDFs in Chrome cause it to lag. You'll notice things like the interface stuttering when switching between full screen apps. I haven't done a lot of design or coding on mine (yaaaa grad school) but judging from my experience thus far, you will be frustrated.

    Now for the pros:

    • It's light, like super light. This makes for a great everyday carry.
    • It's small, if you have some big backpack (30+ liters) you could totally downsize to something around 20L and get by.
    • It's really sharp looking
    • I actually prefer the keyboard, it feels nice and oh yeah, force touch is a gimmick.
    • Ok, really, the pros are that it's small and light.

    Hope that helps you.

    Edit: just noticed you went to NEU, huskies represent! Also, I work right off of Alewife so Cambridge/Somerville represent too!

    5 points
    • , over 7 years ago

      Appreciate all of the feedback. As much as I want that 12" beauty, I don't think it makes sense JUST for the lightness / portability. While it is an on-the-go machine, I will definitely end up doing some real design / dev work on it, so there's no reason to sell myself short for just a few pounds.

      Maybe someday I'll have one on my desk just to look at and touch, but for now, at the same price point, looks like the rMBP takes the ticket.

      Keep representin'

      1 point
  • Alex VerdaguerAlex Verdaguer, over 7 years ago

    I bought both, the mb 12" 1.3Ghz and mbp 13" 2015 base model, and worked with them for 2 months. I do photoshop, sketch, sublime text, ( front end developer ) and by far I recommend the mbp.

    The mb lags a lot while the mbp does the job much faster and no lag at all. I sold the mb and kept the mbp.

    Hope that helps.

    3 points
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 7 years ago

    Bang for buck 13" rMBP. If you can live without retina then MacBook Air; save yourself some money and still have better performance.

    1 point
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, over 7 years ago

    12" is dramatically more portable, 13" is dramatically more capable. simple matter of what you need.

    1 point
  • Jon MyersJon Myers, over 7 years ago

    I'm pretty much in the same boat, and have a similar set up and pattern of work.

    When the 12" MB came out, I was a big hater. Then I saw it and changed my mind. lol

    I went with the 12" MB and love it.

    It's not my primary workstation, but the big thing - I take it everywhere. Battery life is great and it travels well.

    Runs Sketch and other programs fine, as others have said.

    And, I'll leave the 12 MB open and go back and forth during the day just to take a break from the big screens.

    My setup:

    Image alt

    0 points
  • Kyle CaseKyle Case, over 7 years ago

    I was recently in your same position. I decided to go with 13" rMBP. I actually like it better than the 15" rMBP I use for work. When you compare specs side by side with the 12" mb, it just feels like you're getting taken for a ride with the MacBook. It's a beautiful piece of hardware, but unless they drop the price the 13" is definitely the better option.

    0 points
  • Eli SladeEli Slade, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I have a 15 retina MBP and wish Apple would release a 15 or 14 inch Macbook Pro that is lighter and tapers like the MBA and comes in Space Grey. I would buy in a heart beat. In your case I would go with 13 as the extra real-estate and performance will be better suited to UI/UX work on the go.

    0 points
  • Account deleted over 7 years ago

    I got the 13" MBPr and upgraded to 3.1GHz and 16GB RAM. I run a development environment, Sketch, multiple browsers, Spotify, Slack while plugged into a 27" cinema display as well and it kicks ass.

    I also manage to get 60FPS in League of Legends for those that have spare time to game on weekends :)

    Love the machine. Won't go back to 15"

    0 points
  • Lance LiuLance Liu, over 7 years ago

    I have both the 13 rMBP, the 12 MB.

    I do most of my on my iMac, while occasionally take my laptop outside for meetings and casual work/writing sessions in coffee shops around. The 12 MB does lag from time to time when handling medium to large Sketch files. Think 10 - 20 iPhone 6 screen size Artboards on a page, while the 13 rMBP handles most situations very well. However, I honestly think this is due to some poor file handling optimization from Sketch, rather than the lack of CPU power from the 12 MB. (Hope this could be improved overtime.)

    I tend to not to do any serious work on laptops because the smaller screen sizes really limit my productivity. In my opinion, workstation is for work, laptop for portability.

    Bottom line: Try to picture the scenarios when you'll use your laptop. If you see yourself spend hours working on it, then go with 13 rMBP. If you simply use your laptop as a companion sometimes, just to have a mac with you on-the-go like I do, then 12 MB will serve you just as well, with a smaller footprint and less impact on your spine/shoulder.

    0 points
  • Bryce HowitsonBryce Howitson, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I haven't used the MB 12" very extensively (just in the Apple store for a while) but I'd shy away from it for several reasons. I do own a 2013 rMBP and I've owned a 13" MB Air as well.

    Connectivity - Sooner or later you're going to want to plug something into it. This might be the TV in your client's conference room. It might be a HDD, your phone & the charger. One USB-C port is going to make that at the very least difficult and you're signing up for adaptor hell. Sure it's "only" $80 for an adapter but those will add up quick...

    Keyboard - I can't stand the keyboard on the MB for a decent amount of typing. Some people love it, others don't so your mileage may vary BUT if you need to write code and you hate/aren't accurate with the keyboard your only real option is an external KB (see above).

    Screen - 12 inches is quite small, especially with the higher resolution. I think you're just asking for eye strain when you're writing code or dealing with the Sketch interface. That diagonal inch on the rMBP makes a bigger difference than you might think. You could always plug in an external monitor... Oh wait Apple doesn't offer a USB-C monitor yet so even with an adapter you'd lose the benefits of the extra connectivity...

    Honestly I think the price on the MB 12" is way too high for what you actually get (specs wise). It's not significantly more portable than an Air and the Air has more connectivity options. Plus you get quite a bit of computer for the price in the Air.

    If you want portability above all else I'd look at an Air. If you're going to use it very much (which sort of seems like the point) then I'd suggest going with the rMBP.

    0 points
    • Elliott ReganElliott Regan, over 7 years ago

      +1 for the Air. I have an 11" 2012 max out, and it's pretty great. El Cap sped things up over Yosemite, and everything is like butter again.

      I also use Duet Display to turn my iPad into a second screen, and that wouldn't be an option for the MB (severely cuts down battery life and I usually need to charge while using the screen).

      0 points
  • John PJohn P, over 7 years ago

    13' RMBP doesn't lower it's clock speed when it actually gets under a heavy load so it's a no brainer for professional work

    0 points
  • Scott WilliamsScott Williams, over 7 years ago

    I have that 13' rMBP and looove it. Zippy and portable. Never had an issue in Sketch.

    0 points