5 MacBook Alternatives (plus a bonus!)

The new MacBook is a bit of a polarizing device.

It seems that people tend fall into one of two camps regarding the new MacBook: you either think it’s the greatest mobile device ever conceived or that it’s “LOLWAT?!”

I fall into a sort of middle ground where I think that, the new MacBook is a precision engineered, impressively refined, 2 pound slice of ‘Meh’. I don’t think it’s a useless machine, but from a user standpoint it isn’t worthy of any particular high praise either.

The MacBook is beautiful to behold from an esthetic standpoint. It is not however, all that groundbreaking from a hardware perspective. I admit that the Force Touch is an interesting idea and I may end up eating my words, but I just don’t see it as a system seller. This is said in complete ignorance, so maybe it’s the greatest thing to happen to Human Interface Devices since the mouse… I just don’t see it yet.

New MacBook vs. Existing Ultrabooks

Regardless of what you think about the new MacBook a smart shopper always considers the competition and despite what Apple PR would have you believe there are competitors out there. Let’s take a look at 5 of them in no particular order.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Macbook vs Yoga 3

Yoga 3 Pro MacBook
CPU M-5Y71 M-5Y70
Storage 256 GB 256 GB
Display 3200 x 1800 2304 x 1440
Thickness 12.8 mm 13.1 mm
Weight 1.19 kg 0.92 kg
Ports 3USB, HDMI 1 USB – C
Price $1,199.00 $1,299

The Yoga 3 essentially meets or beats the MacBook in all regards except weight, all while being a convertible tablet with touch and coming in $100 cheaper. The build quality on it is not to the same standard of the MacBook, so there’s a tradeoff here for features and specs to build quality.

ASUS Zenbook UX305

Macbook vs UX305

Zenbook UX305 MacBook
CPU M-5Y10 M-5Y70
Storage 256 GB 256 GB
Display 1920 x 1080 2304 x 1440
Thickness 12.2 mm 13.1 mm
Weight 1.2 kg 0.92 kg
Ports 3 USB, HDMI 1 USB – C
Price $859 $1,299

The ASUS Zenbook is a slightly out of its league in terms of CPU and display resolution, but otherwise packs the same storage space and is actually thinner than the MacBook. (I honestly consider the thickness and weight measurements to be nearly moot here, as the numbers are so small that any difference is negligible.) It does still have a 1080p screen and comes in at a whopping $440 less than the MacBook.

Dell XPS 13

MacBook vs XPS13

XPS 13 MacBook
CPU i5-5200U M-5Y70
Storage 128 GB 256 GB
Display 1920 x 1080 2304 x 1440
Thickness 15 mm 13.1 mm
Weight 1.18 kg 0.92 kg
Ports 3 USB, HDMI 1 USB – C
Price $999.99 $1,299

The XPS brings a generous screen size, fast processor and respectable weight, thickness and port selection to the party. This particular model is slightly over-matched, but I felt it brought enough to the table to be considered – especially since it’s $300 less expensive. You can get the XPS 13 with 256GB SSD and a 3200 x 1800 screen for around $1,399 from Dell directly.

Acer Aspire S7

MacBook vs S7

Aspire S7 MacBook
CPU i5-4210U M-5Y70
Storage 256 GB 256 GB
Display 2560 x 1440 2304 x 1440
Thickness 12.9 mm 13.1 mm
Weight 1.3 kg 0.92 kg
Ports 3 USB, HDMI 1 USB – C
Price $1,299 $1,299

The S7 brings a lot of nice features to the table and directly competes in all categories but is about 3lbs. Still, it offers a significantly faster CPU, 3 USB ports, HDMI, and a higher resolution screen for $100 less. All that and it still manages a claimed battery life of 8.5 hours with normal use.

Lenovo X1 Carbon

MacBook vs X1 Carbon

X1 Carbon MacBook
CPU i5-5200U M-5Y70
Storage 128 GB 256 GB
Display 2560 x 1440 2304 x 1440
Thickness 17.8 mm 13.1 mm
Weight 1.3 kg 0.92 kg
Ports 2 USB, HDMI 1 USB – C
Price $1,199 $1,299

Okay, so this machine isn’t bad, but I admit it’s arguably the weakest of the 5 competitors, based on its price. It does pack a faster CPU and higher resolution, multi-touch screen though, so that can be forgiven. The inclusion of only 4GB of memory and 128GB SSD is a bit baffling to me. You can get it with higher specs, but you will pay dearly for the upgrades. I’ve used this machine before and it’s quite quick actually, even with only 4GB of memory.

The new MacBook wins in one category above all other comers: weight. The next closest machines are 0.3 kg heavier. Looking at the rest of the charts it’s a mish-mash of one-upsmanship in the various categories. This is the way the ultrabook category goes – accentuate your positives and belittle the competition for what they don’t match up on. Now that I think about it, I suppose that’s just marketing in general but I digress.

Frankly, the biggest winner against the MacBook, in my opinion is the Asus Zenbook – it ticks almost all the right boxes; though the MacBook is lighter, packs its pixels more densely, and has a faster CPU. In the Zenbook’s favor, it has comparable drive space, 3 USB Ports, Micro HDMI and an SD slot. On top of all this it’s thinner than the MacBook and it costs about $440 less.

But wait, there’s more!

Granted none of these machines runs OS X, so if that’s your “have to have” item guess what, I still have a better alternative: the new Retina MacBook Pro 13″.

Here’s the odd thing with the new lineup of laptops from Apple. The MacBook line is more fragmented now than it has been in years.

The MacBook is the new king of light and thin, leaving the MacBook Air to grasp for relevance. Meanwhile the newly updated 13″ MacBook Pro is a bit bulkier than the MacBook or MacBook Air, but packs so many more features, connectivity options and speed at the same price as the new MacBook that it’s simply better value for money. It truly is an odd time to be shopping for a MacBook.

Look back at that previous paragraph for a moment. I used the word “MacBook” 9 times and that’s my next point. Why, Apple? The “MacBook” was dropped from the product line back in 2011 in favor of the Air and Pro – 2 options to choose from. Simple. Apple is big on simple; or was big on simple. There are now 3 MacBook models again – re-fragmenting the model lineup. I don’t follow the logic.

In any case, be sure to do your homework on this before making a purchase decision. I truly believe that you can do better than the new MacBook, whether that’s with one of my PC picks above or the new MacBook Pro.

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