Macbook Pro 13 inch vs 15 inch for Gaming

I am considering buying a new Macbook pro, either 13 inch or the lower end 15 inch one. The only thing thats getting in the way of my decision is the graphic card. I am not a huge gamer but I do play some games like Starcraft2, Sims3 and Diablo3 when it comes out. If the graphics are good on the 13 inch then I would love to buy the 13 inch, because the 15 inch is a little out of my price range. Anyways my question is, is the 13 inch macbook pro good enough for a mid level gamer? I also like to watch movies and shows on my laptop but i will probably get a bigger monitor in the future.

16 Answers from the Community

  • Best Answer:

    The 13 inch will very likely *run* all of the games you mentioned (Starcraft2, Sims3 and Diablo3). I suspect this because I have a 13 inch model from 3 years ago when they first introduced the uni-body and made the 13 inch a Pro category laptop.

    Here is the problem: it will very likely NOT run them *well*. The on-board Intel card for the 13-inch is, compared to 15 and 17, a *horrible* card. You can see that by looking all three cards up here:

    google: "Mobile Graphics Cards - Benchmark List" (first hit)

    The 13-inch's card (Intel HD Graphics 3000) ranks 208. For comparison, my card from 3 years ago ranks 257. Both are buried deep in the "Low-Midrange" category.

    The lowest 15-inch card ranks 79. It is only 3 slots away from the "High End" category.

    So the CURRENT 13-inch card is closer to my card from 3 YEARS ago than it is to the current 15-inch card. Not much of an upgrade, if you ask me. I will be going with the 15-inch. If I am going to shell out $1000+ for a new computer, want my gaming experience to be significantly better, not basically the same.

    • Answered by Chris R from Lawrence
    • 12 4, 11
  • Any modern MacBook (2010 or later) will play HD video without a hitch. Size is irrelevant if you use an external monitor.

    The biggest impact to gaming is the graphics card. The 15" and 17" MacBook Pro laptops (current model as of Nov 2011) offer the AMD Radeon graphics card, which is vastly superior to the Intel graphics that come standard in the 13" and 15" models.

    For games like you mention above, the current model base 13" MacBook Pro should suffice. But, it is always best to check the "Minimum Requirements" on the retail software box.

    • Answered by Chris A from Norristown
    • 11 13, 11
  • Less than 2 months ago I bought the upgraded Late 2011 13" Macbook Pro and found it totally unsuitable for gaming. While SC2, WoW, and D3 run ok they did not run at a smooth framerate. Was getting 30 fps in WoW on high settings and 20 to 22 fps with SC2 with high settings. Took it back to the Apple store and bought the highest 15" 2011 MBP and have been much happier with it. Getting 60 fps with WoW and 50 fps with SC2 and D3. I'm sure the new 15" models will run even better since they have the same graphics chip as the Alienware M14x (with less vRAM).

    • Answered by David G from Ladera Ranch
    • 06 14, 12
  • From my extensive Youtube video surfing, the reading of reviews, and common knowledge on graphical horsepower, I can safely say that I know the 15 inch higher end model can run todays games, (not tomorrows, as I can assume will be too taxing for ultra/high settings) fairly easily. As long as you realize it can't play games such as Crysis 2 on ULTRA, then you're good to go, but according to Youtube videos, people are playing at great settings with solid frames per second.

    My 15 inch is in the mail as we speak, and I look forward to putting many games on mine. Do some simple Youtube searches and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

    • Answered by Shawn D from Gore
    • 05 9, 11
  • I would recommend that a 15in should be used for gaming. The 13in is just a macbook with a better case and some internal upgrades. The real jump is to the 15in because you actually get a quad core and a dedicated graphics card. I know from experience the 13in doesn't play games very well, because COD 4 has to have the graphics turned all the way down and that takes away from the experience you should have from a $1300 laptop.

    • Answered by Joshua M from Smithers
    • 06 15, 12
  • For gaming, the 13" will be a disappointment. Games like Splinter Cell: Conviction and Assassin's Creed will not even work on the machine. Bioshock and Modern Warfare work fine. But do you really want to spend an extra $1000 so you can play the few games available on the Macintosh system? I do not know all of your considerations, but portability was a big issue for me. And I'm a pretty fanatical gamer. So I use my Mac 13" for work and my PS3 for gaming. This solution also prevents me from gaming when I should be working.

    • Answered by Paul T from Seattle
    • 08 30, 12
  • I would say the 13 inch maxed out model. The graphics should still be good and it's easier on your wallet.

    • Answered by Lindsey W from Detroit
    • 01 16, 12
  • I currently have the newest macBook pro 13" and it runs any game i play on it with high graphics with no problems for hour... i have the highest level macbook 13" i play WoW everyday and have never had a problem with heat or graphics..

    • Answered by Michael S from Grafton
    • 09 19, 12
  • I have a 13" macbook pro and its runs games superbly, its incredible, the graphics are 1.6x above the baseline for most high graphic games, i play WoW with the graphics set at ultra, most valve made games with a third party plug-in too improve the graphics, it runs absolutely superbly, trust me, i know.

    • Answered by Zak Q
    • 10 14, 12
  • We've had some very good answers to your question. To sum it up even easier - a 13" is not build for gaming or any graphically demanding application - main reason being that the 13" models don't have a graphics card.

    Get a 15" macbook pro, or for even better value-for-money, an entry level iMac at £999 will cover you a nice 21.5" monitor for those films, a graphics card and decent quad core for gaming.

    Dont forget we still have the student deals at the moment if you are a student!

    • Answered by Matthew D
    • 08 30, 12
  • MacBook Pro 15 inch because it have bigger screen and more graphic card

    • Answered by Monther A from Springfield
    • 07 30, 12
  • The non-retina 15 inch is considerably better because it has a dedicated graphics card, while the 13 inch only has integrated graphics. I have the 13 inch, which has Intel HD graphics 3000, which are not very good for gaming. Of course, when I bought it, I didn't play StarCraft II or any graphics-intensive games. But now, I play StarCraft II frequently, but the frame rates are inconsistent and I worry about my MacBooks's processor. The best option, if you get the 13 inch is to get the Asus SG Station 2(whenever it's released), which is an external desktop graphics card enclosure which connects via Thunderbolt.

    • Answered by Joshua B from Waterford
    • 01 22, 14
  • I would definitely have to go with the 15 inch. I have been playing pc games all my life and the bigger the better. WW Craft and Mario cart racing games are better on the smaller screen however because it requires higher resolution. Sports games however require lower resolution so it would be better on the 15 inch. I hope this helps!

    • Answered by Peter G from Orchard Park
    • 08 13, 12
  • If you haven't already made a decision, you should totally get an iMac if you can. I play SC2 and I can run most of the settings on high. I have the older imac from last year. The new one is even better. If portability is an issue, you are going to have a difficult time with the graphics requirements of SC2 on a Macbook.

    • Answered by Taylor W from Merritt Island
    • 06 2, 11
  • 15 Inch is better for gaming because most game you download need a big screen or it will slow not fast. simple answer

    • Answered by Frank E from Oakville
    • 09 23, 12
  • definitely the 13" and get a large monitor to use at your desk this way you have the best of both worlds where ever you go or do.

    • Answered by Lucas M from Hong Kong
    • 08 29, 11