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I am ready to buy a new MacBook Pro. I am drawn to the portability of the 13" and the better specs of the 15". If you take money out of the picture I would really like to know where I would see the difference in performance between: the 13" i7 Duo Core 2.9GHz and 15" i7 Quad Core 2.3 or 2.6 GHz?

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It's not really what you are after, but I say spend all your money on SSD. When you've reached a pain point there decide weight / screen size and quality. Only then do RAM and lastly CPU make any difference. Both i7 will speed boost when not committed and heated to the max. How often are you waiting hours for a render to finish? Only for sustained, week in and out high CPU loads does it make sense to have more than 2 or even 4 cores. Happy hunting! –  bmike Jun 15 '12 at 3:55
    
Not also that both will have hyperthreading. If you've an app that will use four cores, the dual-core might be sufficient. –  CajunLuke Jun 15 '12 at 3:57
    
With that being said, would a 13" MacBook Air with SSD be faster than the 13" MacBook Pro with standard HDD? –  fmz Jun 15 '12 at 8:28
    
Here is another thought about my computing needs that may help. I do web development most of the time and photography part of the time. As such I need about 10 apps open most of the time, but the heavy processing with photos is limited to occasional bursts of activity. How does this change the recommendation? –  fmz Jun 15 '12 at 8:53

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FMZ after looking at how you are using you system, aka with 10+ program open, in a development environment, you are going to more than likely have programs that can make use of all those cores, and even if the individual programs don't the sheer number of programs open will be better suited to a quad core. And if you come across flash content in a browser you will thank yourself for getting more cores in that case too, especially with a large number of programs open.

So since you are really going to be exercising your CPUs, taking a look at bench-marking results from Mac Geekbench results, etc will give you a good indication of how much total power you will have at hand. Going from dual core i7 to a quad core i7 is going to offer a noticeable improvement for you.

Oh and don't forget to get more RAM 8GB or more would suite you well.

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I took an extended trip to the Apple store and had a look at the new computers. I finally opted for the 13" MacBook Pro with i7. It is really nice. The processors are all doing fine. I have 8GB of RAM and with everything open I use about 7GB of that. At this point, I think the next step would be to opt for 16GB of RAM. –  fmz Jun 19 '12 at 21:23
    
Check activity monitor under the memory section. If your not paging out memory while doing all you want to do, then 8 gb will work for now. –  MrDaniel Jun 20 '12 at 11:15
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I recently updated my Macbook Pro (2011) to 16 GB of RAM and I notice a big difference in "snappiness" and overall performance. –  webworm Jun 28 '12 at 20:25

The analogy is the choice between having two really fast employees, or having four quick ones. If not a lot is going on, the two fast ones will be tearing things up. But if things are busy, and a lot is going on, having twice as many will really show up.

Note that with the i7 Quad Core, if you need a lot of speed from one or two cores, you can get it through the Turbo Boost.

I would lean toward as many cores as possible, because I like to have lots of programs open and be switching in and out. If you like to work on one thing at a time, and if those things aren't all that compute intensive, it may be a harder decision.

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Both i7s have Turbo Boost, but you're right in that it should be more obvious in the quad-core part. –  CajunLuke Jun 15 '12 at 3:56

I own both a 13 macbook pro dual core i7 and a 15 macbook pro i7 quad core. I am an iOS programmer and I can say without any hesitation that the 15 macbook pro is almost twice as fast, especially if you are trying to run multiple apps at the same time. One recommendation is no matter what computer you go with, if you are planning to run that many applications at once I would get at least 8 GBs of memory.

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I would update this for 2014: get 16GB of RAM if you do any kind of development work and/or have a significant amount of browser tabs open at any time. Also note that with the new MBP's you can NOT upgrade your RAM after you buy. –  user93341 May 30 at 19:10

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