I have just sold my iMac 27 inches for the reason it being too big! I will avoid mentioning the reasons, but...

Now that I have got the exact money to buy the new 13 inch retina one. Problem is I am a programmer and I am wondering if such screen is not too small for working. I doubt I will have, in a good span of time this money again so chances are the following:

  • buy MBP 13 inch retina, that has a very good display for my sight.
  • buy any other random laptop that is 15 inch or more or an older version of MBP.

So in short, the question is:

Does the MacBook Pro 13 inch retina have a good ( / big ) enough screen to be productive at work, particularly for a programmer?

Any experience with this?

  • please read the FAQ before asking questions on any stackexchange site: - "a few exceptions to the general scope exist. Please refrain from asking about ... a shopping or buying recommendation for hardware or accessories like bags and cases .....
    – Chrisii
    Feb 17, 2013 at 9:59
  • 1
    it's not about buying. it's about whether such screen is good for programming or not, read the bold text. the rest is just a back story that does not really matter.
    – john smith
    Feb 17, 2013 at 10:21
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    Global Nomad's answer below is good but maybe a more general way of putting it would be: what programming tools do you use and how do you like to lay them out? Do you like overlapping windows or everything laid out so you can see it all at once? While I agree a 27" iMac screen is overwhelming, I would think 13" is too small and you'd want a 15" screen.
    – Richard
    Feb 17, 2013 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


If your programing needs include displaying an iPad with retina simulator, then perhaps a 13" MBP limited real estate will slow you down. Choose a 13" MBP for mobility.

From my talks to programmers who are happy with only MBP 13" (without external display) are programming HTML, Terminal/console shell scripter types. The others who develop apps for iOS tend to either have an MBP 15" or MBP 13" with an external display.

  • so for web-dev would be a better fit?
    – john smith
    Feb 17, 2013 at 10:24
  • The smaller screen size was less of an issue for some web developers who didn't need mind scrolling even if they're developing web pages for larger displays. Feb 17, 2013 at 10:26

I recently switched to a 13 inch retina MBP from a 27 inch display. I regularly write Java and C++ code, and don't really regret the change. It was a little hard at the beginning but now it's fine.

What I miss in the 13 inch screen is (was) screen real state (i.e number of lines of code that you can visualize). However, when I really need more screen real state, I switch to the "scaled" mode (a feature of the retina MBP) and aim for more space (1680x1050, the characters are really small but you can fit a lot of content in the screen).

What I miss when working on any other computer (despite a 27 inch display) is the retina resolution (the retina display ruins your experience with other displays). Crisper text really changes your life (specially if you write code/text).

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