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13" MacBook vs. 15" MacBook Pro
Max Waugh, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 4:47 AM on 11.29.06
->> Sorry, it's yet another laptop thread. I was hoping I could get the opinions of some of the seasoned MacBook experts here.

My five year old Dell Inspiron is nearing the end of its run. It's big, heavy and most of the time can't handle PhotoShop and Photo Mechanic at the same time (and actually can't really handle the latter well at all). I'm looking into a new laptop, and for various reasons I've been leaning toward a Mac. Now the problem... deciding between a 13" MacBook or a 15" MacBook Pro.

I'm looking for something relatively light and compact, which I can use either working on site at a game, or working remotely overseas (it'll definitely be needed in Africa next year). However, I obviously also want something powerful enough to handle photo processing quickly and seamlessly, and hopefully something that'll last me at least a few years.

What I'm wondering is whether a maxed-out 13" MacBook, appealing due to its compact size and cheaper price tag, is truly capable of meeting my photo and web design needs. When I visited the Apple Store today, the sales person insisted I needed the MacBook Pro because of the better graphics card, and I know it has a few ports the 13 incher lacks... but what may amount to a $1000 price difference makes me wonder if the extra investment is absolutely necessary, or if the smaller laptop will suit my photo/travel needs just fine.

I appreciate any thoughts you guys may have.

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Bastian Ehl, Photographer
Magdeburg | _ | Germany | Posted: 7:08 AM on 11.29.06
->> Performance wise, both systems are nearly equal. The graphic card isn't an issue with photo editing, unless you're using Apple Aperture - the software outsources lots of rendering operations from the processor to the graphic card.

The Macbook is small and compact, but the MacBook Pro is only slightly larger (check dimensions on the Apple website).

The biggest issue with the MacBooks is their glossy screen. That's what drove me towards the 15" MacBook Pro. The glossy screen is a mess when working outdoors. Even indoors, lights tend to mirror in the screen.

Be sure to check the glossy screen in a store to be sure you might be able to work with it.
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Michael Burns, Photographer
San Mateo | Ca | USA | Posted: 9:06 AM on 11.29.06
->> Depending the $ you'd like to spend MacBook's black is $500 cheaper than the 15inch. If you select black it'll offer you near or very close to the 15's 2.16GHz package.

Macbook Pro offers better performance than the MacBooks.

My wife has the MacBook pro and truly love it does perform much better than my G4 Powerbooks. MacBook is great too lighter if you add more memory then it'll alright.
Plus with the MacBook Pro is you'll have the Illuminated keyboard allows you do the work in dark places.
Do review at and compare the two to decide what would work for you the best.

good luck deciding
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Matt Barton, Photographer
Lexington | KY | USA | Posted: 9:25 AM on 11.29.06
->> Go with the pro and get the Core 2 Duo. It will be worth it for Photoshop CS3 down the road.
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JohnPaul Greco, Photographer, Assistant
Waukesha | WI | USA | Posted: 9:51 AM on 11.29.06
->> Hmmm.... because of your reply Michael,... I've decided to go with the Macbook Pro as well.. :-)

My 14"ibook has run it's course fairly well.. I just had to replace the HD.. to an upgraded 120gig..(111 gigs available).. and to upgrade to a super drive for the thing is another chunk of change that will be in my slowish old computer..

Boy,...and that screen on the 13" really scares me, having worked outdoors, on a beach,... having to try to cover the screen with light stand bags just to see a faint image on a matt screen is hard enough...(Now they make accessory hoods for them but still....) and to have a high gloss screen outside in the sun..? Oh boy....not good..

That, and the backlighted keyboard sold me..


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Kirby Yau, Photographer, Assistant
San Diego | CA | USA | Posted: 10:26 AM on 11.29.06
->> As of Wednesday morning, Apple's deals site doesn't have any refurbished MacBook Pro Core 2 Duos, but check periodically because it can save you a couple hundred dollars and its a full one year warranty with the option to purchase an extended 2 year AppleCare Warranty. I highly suggest AC.
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Max Waugh, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 11:02 AM on 11.29.06
->> Thanks for the quick feedback. Bastian, I thought I had seen non-glossy 13" screens at the store, but now that I'm re-checking the Apple web site, I see I was mistaken. I'm glad you mentioned that. :)

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Caleb Simpson, Photographer, Assistant
Dallas | TX | USA | Posted: 1:26 PM on 11.29.06
->> I recommend the MacBook Pro because of the matte screen mostly and the graphics card in case you want to eventually us Aperture. Other than that the 13" will do all you want and more. That glossy screen is a huge downside IMO though you can see almost everything in the reflection. Screen size is also something to consider, I find my 15" Powerbook is often to small.
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Caleb Simpson, Photographer, Assistant
Dallas | TX | USA | Posted: 1:28 PM on 11.29.06
->> p.s. you can trust your Mac Specialist, they don't work on comission and truly care about helping the customer get what they truly need. And do get the Apple Care as well, Pro Care won't hurt either. They will try to sell you .Mac too, but I see less value in that than the other two.
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Daniel Bersak, Photographer
Boston | MA | USA | Posted: 1:48 PM on 11.29.06
->> Hi-

For what it's worth, I'm typing this on a brand new black 13" MacBook and I have had no problems with the reflective screen. I'll post again if it becomes an issue, but so far it hasn't affected my ability to edit photos.

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Scott Morgan, Photographer
Burlington | IA | United States | Posted: 2:10 PM on 11.29.06
->> I'll second the no-problems with the glossy screen. I've been using a Black MacBook since July, and though I thought the reflective screen would bother me, it doesn't. I don't work outside much, so I can't speak for that, but even in a car, I don't notice reflections.

If you want to compare the screen to an older powerbook, you have to remember that both the MacBook, and the MB Pro screens are way brighter than the old screens. There's no comparison.

That being said, you don't want to do critical color editing on this screen. Everything looks too pretty straight out of the camera. You'll want an external monitor.

Performance wise, unless you plan on using Aperture, the graphics card isn't going to make much difference, and the C2Duo is really fast. It'll spank your Dell. Get 2 gigs of ram for sure though.

BTW, If you're a member of NPPA you get about $100 off on MacBooks, and $200 of MBP's.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 6:38 PM on 11.29.06
->> I've been using the MacBook - ordered the day it was announced back in May and think it is extremely competent for photo editing. It is very fast with Photo Mechanic and very workable with non-Intel native PS CS2.

A lot of people don't like the glossy screen, but personally I don't find it to be much of a problem.

In extremely bright outdoor conditions, it is not a significant problem to read the display and edit photos in a contact sheet, etc. Random specular reflections are much less distracting if you don't focus on them. Rather, focus on the content of the display and those reflections will kind of fall off to the background, if that makes sense. Sure, there are times, such as working indoors with a large window directly behind where the reflection can be difficult to avoid but that's a problem scenario for any laptop. However, compared to the iBook with matte screen that I used for years previously, I am not troubled by the MacBook screen. With the iBook there were many times when the matte screen created an even sheen or haze while working outside, making it extremely difficult to even see the content of the display. Granted, as Scott already mentioned, the previous generation Mac laptops had darker screens. Where I would criticize the MacBook display is for somewhat oversaturated colors, even after it has been calibrated. Since I don't use a MBP, I can't say if it is more color accurate.

I've had no problem editing and transmitting from location. Don't let the lack of a card slot deter you since a data capable phone with bluetooth or USB cable works just as well. But, if you need to plug into a phone line, be aware that all Macs no longer have a standard phone port. You'll need a USB modem.

Aspects of the MacBook I like are:

The ease of access to the hard drive. It is user interchangeable and takes 5 minutes max.
Smaller than the MBPs (though still not small enough IMO). I travel a fair amount and would not want to carry a 15" laptop.
As fast as my G5 tower for many everyday tasks.
Very solid build with much less body flex than the previous generation iBooks.
True dual monitor (expanded desktop) support.
In summary - Great performance for the dollar.

The MB is a "budget" laptop, but the first one from Apple that performs well and is very close in features and timings to the pro versions.
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David Grubbs, Photographer
Billings | MT | USA | Posted: 6:49 PM on 11.29.06
->> Max,

I am also typing this on a new black MacBook. The computer I replaced was the Powerbook G4 titanium. I like the MacBook computer much better. I actually like the smaller size and the screen is beautiful. I don't think it really matters about the glossy or matte screen, either way you can't see much outdoors. I like the price and I don't think you are going to notice the small difference in speed. I will write back if I experience anything indifferent in the future.
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Marc Browning, Photographer
Wichita | KS | | Posted: 7:24 PM on 11.29.06
->> I have both.
The Macbook pro stays at home with 7 firewire drives & a 20.1" monitor hooked up.
The Macbook is with me all the time. It's battery is much better, starts & goes to sleep faster, & is a better "on the road, mobile machine."

Macbook 1.83 chip, 1 gig ram, 80 gig drive, & white.
Macbook Pro 2.0 chip, 2 gig ram, 120 gig drive.
Just my 2 cents.
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
New England | | USA | Posted: 8:03 PM on 11.29.06
->> You cannot colour correct what-so-ever with the high gloss screen of the 13" MacBook.

My beloved 12" PowerBook is dying and I bought a 15" PowerBook to replace it. I really hate the size of the 15" but there is no smaller alternative. I need to be able to do basic editing on my laptop and the screen of the MacBook makes the computer unsable.

Also, try using that laptop outside or near any window....YIKES!
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Chuck Randant, Student/Intern, Photographer
St. Peters/Bowling Green | MO/KY | United States of America | Posted: 8:04 PM on 11.29.06
->> If you have the money, I'd go pro.

-Better graphics card
-Better screen (1440x900 pixels over the 1280x800, plus the non-glossy option)
-Light up keyboard, I think this makes a big deal when working in the dark. Easier on the eye.
-Now has a Fire Wire 800 port

The 15.5 inch Pro really isn't too much bigger than the 13 inch. When I was looking for a notebook back in August for school, rather than asking myself "what do I need for a computer" I asked myself "what will I need for a computer in a couple years." If I were you, and if you have the money, with whatever you get, max it out. If you go pro, now they have the option for 3Gb of RAM!! (although it costs an arm and a leg).

I have a Macbook Pro (first gen. Intel Core Duo 2.16Ghz/2GBram/100GB 7200RPM HDD)

Not sure if what I said helped at all, ha. But I tried.
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Matthew OHaren, Photographer
Harrisburg | PA | USA | Posted: 1:22 AM on 02.10.07
->> I'm in the same boat here. I've finally decided that I'm going with a mac over a pc. Now I face the next hurtle...which one to go with...the 13" black Macbook or the 15" Macbook Pro. I've looked at all the specs between the two and the difference are very small.

Here is why I am purchasing my mac:
I plan to run photo editing software, photoshop, possibly aperture, etc. and be able to either edit at home with it hooked up to an external desktop monitor or use it on location if I need to submit my work in order to make deadline.

2.0 GHz Core 2 Due Processor
120GB Hard Drive
Intel GMA 950 Graphics Card
13.3" Glossy Screen (1280x800 pixels)

Macbook Pro:
2.16 GHz Core 2 Due Processor
120GB Hard Drive
ATI Mobility Radeon X1600- 128 MB GDDR3 Video Card
15.4" Matte Screen (1440x900 pixels)

Like I mentioned before, there are some small differences, but not too much. I don't know if I like the glossy sceen on the macbooks. I heard it can be hard to edit and color correct and get a true picture with a glossy screen. Just what I've been told. I also have been told and have read that if I'm going to be running software like Aperture, that a bigger and better video card would be better in the long run.

Any help or feedback on this would be greatly apprciated. I'm just looking at which would be best, for the money quality. I mean is it worth the extra $500-$1000 or would this money be better off spent on camera equipment...this is the biggest question I keep asking myself over and over!!
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Andy Heidt, Photographer
Columbus | IN | USA | Posted: 2:03 AM on 02.10.07
->> I had a similar dilemma when my TiBook died in December. I looked closely at the MacBook and 15" MacBook Pro and opted for the black MacBook with 2GB of RAM. I've used it on the road a couple of times since I got it, and haven't had any problems with editing or using Photoshop. I highly recommend the black MacBook unless you absolutely have to have a FireWire 800 port and dual display ability. The glossy screen has also not caused me any problems with color, contrast, etc...
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Evan Parker, Student/Intern, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 2:13 AM on 02.10.07
->> If you're planning on using an external monitor at home, the MBP has dual-link DVI, and will support up to a 30", whereas the MB will only do the 20" or the 23". Also, if you plan on using Aperture, get the 256mb video card in the MBP. Its one of the few things you can't upgrade later on. And definitely keep and eye on the refurbs- same warranty and service, just a smaller price.
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William Hallstrom, Student/Intern, Photographer
Pasadena | CA | USA | Posted: 2:50 AM on 02.10.07
->> For me the 15" Powerbook, to get as much workspace and area to view images. If I was going for a MacBook now, I would get the same size. The 17" was too big/ it didn't fit a lot of the backpacks I was looking at(also I've used a friends and it makes it large footprint in a cluttered workspace). The wee one is—I think—just too small for photo work.
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Peter Hoffman, Student/Intern, Photographer
Aurora | IL | U.S. | Posted: 2:59 AM on 02.10.07
->> I hate to advocate one of these 'internet deals' ... but my brother and I both just got mac book pros for less than 200$ a piece. It's kinda a pain in the arse, but if you have some time and patience it's worth it. The whole process took me like 5 weeks. (you do have to pay taxes on it too) tells you how to do it, without getting screwed.

so, basically, if you have some spare time I might recommend getting the macbook pro...cuz, hey, less than 200$.

Also, I have a 12 inch working on both side by side I feel like I can breathe on the macbook pro screen. I did photo stuff on the 12 inch for like 2 years and its ok, but this extra screen size is going to be niceeeee.
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Thread Title: 13" MacBook vs. 15" MacBook Pro
Thread Started By: Max Waugh
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