MacBook Pro 16 vs. MacBook Pro 13: Is bigger always better?

With the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has brought out a totally overhauled laptop that looks to address some of the lingering problems we’ve had with Apple’s MacBook Pro devices. However, it also replaces the 15-inch MacBook Pro, meaning your choice is now between the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Pro if you’re after one of Apple’s high-end laptops.

Which should you choose? Is the MacBook Pro 16 better than the MacBook Pro 13, and if it is, is it worth the extra cost? We decided to investigate and give you the facts to help you decide.

Design

As the name implies, the 16-inch MacBook Pro comes in slightly different dimensions to the MacBook Pro 15 it replaces, and it’s noticeably larger than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The larger device measures 14.09 x 9.68 x 0.64 inches and weighs 4.3 pounds, while the MacBook Pro 13 is 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches and weighs 3.02 pounds.

That increased size means the MacBook Pro 16 can fit in a larger display — 16 inches across as opposed to 13 inches across — and this is another area where the two models diverge. The distinct display sizes mean different resolutions: the MacBook Pro 13 has a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution at 227 ppi (pixels per inch), while the MacBook Pro 16 comes in at 3,072 x 1,920 and 226 ppi, and comes with notably thinner bezels. Both clock in at 500 nits of brightness, and both support the P3 wide color gamut and Apple’s True Tone technology, which matches your displays white balance to the ambient light around you. Apple’s MacBook Pro monitors have always performed superbly, so you should be happy with either of these displays, though the thinner bezels of the 16-inch model make it look more modern.

One of the biggest differences between the devices’ designs lies in the keyboard. The MacBook Pro 13 has Apple’s butterfly keyboard with large keys and shallow travel. This has been a point of contention in recent years due to its somewhat unsatisfying feel and relatively high failure rates.

The MacBook Pro 16, in contrast, has an all-new Magic Keyboard, which sits somewhere between the butterfly keyboard and Apple’s stand-alone Magic Keyboard in terms of feel. It’s got more travel than the butterfly design, which you may find makes it more comfortable to type on.

There are also differences in the port selections between the two models. The two base MacBook Pro 13 models come with two super-fast Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the two high-end MacBook Pro 13 laptops have four. In contrast, both models of the MacBook Pro 16 have four Thunderbolt 3 ports. No matter which version you go for, you’ll also get a headphone jack.

Both laptops have a lot in common in terms of design, though. They both come in all-aluminum unibody designs, which are solidly build and come with no bending or flexing. That gives both of them an exceptionally premium feel. They also both come with the Touch Bar and large Force Touch trackpad for performing gestures in MacOS.

As for color options, both the larger and smaller MacBook Pro models let you choose between silver and space grey (the gold color is reserved for the MacBook Air only).

Performance

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Performance is where these two laptops really begin to diverge. The 13-inch version is stuck with a four-core processor and integrated Intel graphics. While that’s plenty of power for basic productivity and multitasking, you shouldn’t expect to run more demanding software or games. That remains true even with the top configuration of a Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM.

Not so with the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Every version of the larger MacBook Pro comes with a discrete graphics card from AMD. That alone can make a huge difference, particular in games and professional apps. Even more importantly, the higher-core count processors bring some impressive capabilities for content creators.

The entry-level MacBook Pro 16 comes with a 9th-gen six-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card. You’ll notice a major uptick in speed from these two extra cores. If you’re a professional video editor that works with high-resolution files, this is the bare minimum we would recommend. In this case, the more cores the better.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t stop there. You can equip it with a 9th-gen eight-core Core i9 processor and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card, which is really where should start to see impressive speeds. We tested that same Core i9 processor on the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro and were impressed by the results. Apple promises even more power thanks to its new cooling system, so it can only go up from here.

As for gaming, the MacBook Pro 16’s dedicated graphics card will make a huge difference; not only does having a stand-alone graphics card up the performance, but Apple has opted for AMD’s latest Navi architecture. The company says this will give you 95% better Fortnite performance when comparing the entry-level MacBook Pro 16 and baseline MacBook Pro 15; when the top-end models square off, you get a 55% performance improvement with the MacBook Pro 16.

We’ll be sure to update this once we’ve taken the MacBook Pro 16 through its paces, but for now, if you need a powerful machine then the MacBook Pro 16 is the one to get.

Portability

There are two things to consider when deciding which laptop is the more portable: The physical size and weight of the device, and how long its battery can last. There’s no point getting a thin and light device that dies as soon as you head off on your travels, after all.

Let’s take another look at the dimensions of the two devices. The MacBook Pro 13’s measurements of 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches make it noticeably smaller than the 14.09 x 9.68 x 0.64 inches of the MacBook Pro 16. It’s also well over a pound lighter, which could make quite a difference when you’re carrying your laptop around in a backpack all day.

However, this isn’t just a cut-and-dried win for the MacBook Pro 13. One of the key new features in the MacBook Pro 16 is its huge 100 watt-hour battery, up from the 58.2 watt-hour or 58 watt-hour battery (depending on the model) in the MacBook Pro 13. That’s a massive difference in capacity, but what does it mean in the real world?

When we tested the MacBook Pro 13, we found it offered merely “adequate” battery life but no more, despite Apple quoting up to 10 hours of web browsing and video playback. Its reduced capacity (down from 74.9 watt-hours in the previous model) was disappointing, and it certainly didn’t hold a candle to some options, such as the Microsoft Surface Book 2 13 or the Dell XPS 13.

While we haven’t tested the battery in the MacBook Pro 16 yet, Apple says its increased battery size gives you an extra hour in both wireless web browsing and Apple TV app movie playback. Considering the far more powerful components lurking inside the machine, that’s not too shabby.

The MacBook Pro 16’s improvements trump its smaller rival

We’ve been disappointed with the MacBook Pro for a few years now. From the uncomfortable keyboard to the lackluster components, it’s often felt hard to justify the cost when there is so much competition in the laptop world.

It looks like the MacBook Pro 16 may change all that. On an initial reading, it seems to have addressed most (if not all) of the concerns we’ve had with the device over the past few years. While we want to put it through a thorough testing before unconditionally singing its praises, it makes us a lot more excited than the MacBook Pro 13 currently does.

Of course, if you don’t have a use for higher-core processors or discrete graphics, the 16-inch MacBook Pro will be overkill. It’s absolutely worth it for those with demanding professional-level needs, but its starting price of $2,399 should make you really consider the use case. The $1,299 MacBook Pro has a more