15 Inch -The Missing MacBook

by Chris Howard Jun 01, 2009

Lately I've been investigating laptops, including non-Apple ones. One thing I noticed among the Windows versions is 15" laptops are the cheapest. So it got me to thinking, if Apple made a 15" MacBook, it could be its budget laptop that we all want.

In the last week, I came within a skerrick of a gnat's leg of buying a Windows laptop. It was like standing on the edge of a chasm on a windy day. Fortunately the wind blew me back. My previous article is all about why I stuck with Macs despite PCs offering better hardware value.

In exploring the dark-grey plastic side, I noticed something odd: 15" laptops can be had a lot cheaper than 13" ones. For instance, in Australia, Dell's cheapest consumer 15" laptop is AU$799. However, it's cheapest 13" is a whopping AU$1799 - one thousand dollars dearer! These are in different ranges, but it still makes you wonder.

And if you visit the Dell US site it's the same (albeit with more choices). In it's Inspiron range, 15" start at US$349, while 13" start at $499. That's slightly misleading, as we're not comparing spec-for-spec. But if we spec them up as closely as we can, we still find the 15" is cheaper.

Dell Inspiron 13 US$614
    •    Intel® Pentium™ Dual Core T4200 (2.0GHz/800Mhz FSB/1MB cache)
    •    Glossy, widescreen 13.3" LCD (1280x800) w/o Camera
    •    3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 800MHz
    •    250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
    •    Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
    •    8X Slot Load CD / DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Drive)
    •    6-cell 56Whr Lithium Ion Battery
    •    Dell Wireless 1395 802.11g Mini-Card
    •    Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio - Software Enabled

Dell Inspiron 15 US$554
    •    Intel® Pentium® Dual Core T4200 (2.0GHz/800Mhz FSB/1MB cache)
    •    Glossy, widescreen 15.6 inch display (1366x768) w/o Camera
    •    3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 800MHz
    •    250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
    •    Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD
    •    8X CD / DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive)
    •    6-cell battery
    •    Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Half Mini-Card
    •    Soundblaster X-Fi Hi Def Audio - Software Enabled

The only difference is the graphics cards. The Inspiron 15 has better graphics card, but $60 better? I highly doubt it.

This is not unique to Dell. In fact, I first noticed this trend when looking at HP laptops. HP's cheapest 13" is US$650 but its cheapest 15" is US$400.

Obviously 15" is the sweet spot of demand, mass-production of components and has the least engineering or design challenges.

So it got me thinking, why doesn't Apple get in on this advantage too by offering a 15" MacBook? Would you pay $US50 to $100 less for a 15" MacBook? Could Apple maybe even do a 15" MacBook for US$699? Now that would be sweet!

Changes already afoot
The other day there was some activity in the MacBook range, with the white MacBook getting a minor but useful upgrade. It has become quite good value and is going to tempt more than a few people away from its big brother. Obviously Apple won't let that situation persist, so an upgrade of the unibodies must be imminent as well.

But why hasn't this occurred at the same time? One suspects that the upgrade must be a bit more significant than a processor tweak and extra hard disk space. Rumors are circulating of the whole unibody range being rebranded as MacBook Pros. One significant update many will be praying for is the return of FireWire to the MacBooks. And, Apple being Apple, it might even bring us USB 3.0.

If the unibody MacBooks become part of the Pro range, would Apple leave the white MacBook on its own? Or would it give it a sibling? If it's the latter, my vote is for a cheaper 15" white MacBook, and even if it doesn't, it'd be good to see a 15" MacBook,  because a cheap 15" MacBook is currently a glaring hole in the Apple laptop range.


  • I just can’t figure it out how come the 15” comes cheaper than the 13”. There must be a perfectly logical reason for this. - Mario Romano Colts Neck

    Alan Shortall had this to say on Sep 11, 2011 Posts: 35
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