Does Size Matter When it Comes to MacBooks?

macbook on desk
Since introducing its very first MacBook all the way back 2006, Apple has begun to offer laptops of all different sizes. The smallest of these is the 11-inch MacBook Air all the way up to the 17-inch MacBook Pro. That’s a huge difference in size. These laptops have varying screen sizes and also weigh differently too.

The reason there is so much variation is that Apple caters to different audiences with each of its laptop lines (MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro) and the different sizes within these ranges. The MacBook Air, for example, is a lightweight, entry-level system, while the MacBook Pro is heavier but provides much power.

For a person planning to buy a new MacBook, this can be incredibly confusing. How do you choose between the screen sizes, release years, and technical specs when that choice seems so overwhelming? And does the size of the MacBook even matter that much? Read on for our guide to figuring all of this out.

What Are You Going to Be Using Your Laptop For?

The biggest piece of advice that you can follow before making any purchase – whether that be a new MacBook, a new washing machine, or a microwaveable lasagna – is to figure out what you’re going to be using it for. By figuring out exactly what you’re going to be doing with that new purchase, you can set your expectations and rule out any ludicrous offers that you may be tempted by. For example, if you’re buying that lasagna as a way to eat your feelings, you’ll want to pick the cheesiest option available.

It’s impotant to ask then, what are your plans for this prospective MacBook? If you’re going to be using it for creative and design projects then you may want to opt for a 15-inch MacBook Pro that offers tons of power and a larger screen. This list of essential graphic design tools by TemplateToaster highlights the many, demanding pieces of creative software that you’ll be running, such as Photoshop, Inkscape, and CorelDraw. With all of these programs running in the background, the Pro will be able to keep them all going smoothly, with minimal slowdown and crashes.

laptop with notebook and coffee

Though, if you’re only going to be using your laptop for writing essays for college, for surfing the web, or just catching up on your new, favorite binge-worthy Netflix series on the go, then you will only need a low-end Mac (pun intended)! You aren’t going to need massive amounts of RAM, but you will need the portability and battery life provided by the MacBook Air, which is available with either an 11-inch or 13-inch screen. Again, this helps you to narrow down your options, saving yourself a whole lot of research time in the process.

What is Your Budget?

The next question to answer is what is your budget. The bigger the screen size, the bigger the price tag. As mentioned, Apple packs more specs into its larger-sized laptops and so with increased power comes an increased price.

When buying brand new, the 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $1,799 and includes a 2.3GHz Intel quad-core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. The 15-inch model, meanwhile, is several hundred dollars more expensive at $2,399 but includes the 2.2GHz Intel 6-core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. And it’s not just brand new laptops in which you’ll see these differing prices, either. RefurbMe compares offers for the refurbished MacBook Air 13-inch and notes that at the lowest price, the 13-inch model with the glossy screen will cost $449 (this also includes a warranty and free shipping). Although this refurbished model is a saving of several hundred dollars compared to the RRP, it is still a touch more expensive than the refurbished MacBook Air 11-inch which at its lowest price is $397 (a saving of 60% or $602). This means that you may have to adjust your search criteria, going for a MacBook with a smaller screen to save that little bit of extra money.

What Laptop Accessories Do You Have?

MacBooks, like most laptops, come equipped with USB and Thunderbolt connections making it easy to plug-in a whole host of useful accessories. Maybe you have an external hard drive full of movies, TV shows and music, or you have a giant pile of USB sticks all loaded with work files and documents on them. You’ll probably want to connect your phone too, to give it an extra charge when you can’t find a power outlet.

In that case, you should be wary of the fact that bigger laptops will have more USB and Thunderbolt connections. Depending on the MacBook model that you buy, you may only have two external ports to plug your devices and accessories in. You don’t want to spend half of you day fighting to decide whether your phone or your USB stick deserves to be plugged in, nor do you want to keep swapping between USB sticks and harddrives because you don’t have enough ports to gain access to all of these files at once. Although Lifewire does highlight some USB hubs that will give you more ports to work with, that isn’t a solution that will work for everyone. So before you buy, consider how many ports you might need and buy the MacBook that suits these needs best.

How Portable Do You Need Your MacBook to Be?

Another factor impacted by your MacBook’s size is how portable it is. There are already differences in terms of weight between the MacBook, the MacBook Air, and the MacBook Pro, with the Pro being the heaviest of the three Apple laptop lines. But there are further differences depending on which screen size you buy. A 15-inch version of the Pro is heavier than the 13-inch, and the 13-inch of the Air is heavier than the Pro. It’s not a huge difference but if your luggage is already filled to the brim with stuff, you’re going to want to try and lighten the load in any way that you can. A laptop with a smaller screen will also be able to fit into that luggage better.

Battery life also comes into the “portability” equation and again, the smaller the laptop, generally, the better the battery life. Your laptop will use up more power lighting a larger screen and the more powerful specs found on larger MacBooks will drain the battery quicker as well, ergo, smaller laptops = longer-lasting batteries. Granted, TechRadar does point out several battery-saving tips including dimming the screen, switching off Wi-Fi when you don’t need it, and even disabling certain features that could drain the battery when runnning in the background. But, you’ll still need a decent battery life in the first place, especially if you travel a lot and won’t have access to mains electricity and therefore won’t be able to charge your MacBook on the go.

So, does size matter when it comes to MacBooks? It really does. It’s not as cut and dry as figuring out whether you really need some extra inches of screen space, though, and hopefully the factors we’ve outlined above will make your choice a lot easier.