Best MacBook Air Alternatives: We pick the best thin and light laptops you should look for as an alternative to the Apple MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air has been the go-to thin and light laptop for both Windows and Mac users for years now. However, with Apple not keen on keeping it updated with the latest tech, its crown has begun to slip.
If you’re an Apple user happy to try an alternative, or you’ve always just installed Windows on your MacBook Air, then these five alternatives are the best place to start your search for a new laptop.
All prices were correct at time of publication but are subject to change.
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1) Dell XPS 13
- Price: £1,099.99 | $1,074
- Our Score: 9/10
- Our Verdict: “The Dell XPS 13 is one of the best no-nonsense portable laptops around”
It all starts with a fantastic design that’s different but easily the equal of Apple’s laptop. It’s markedly smaller too, with the 13-inch screen fitting in the same footprint as most older 12-inch laptops.
The screen itself is also great. Dell offers two versions – a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel non-touch model, and a 3,200 x 1,800-pixel touchscreen model. We’d recommend going for the non-touch version, as it still offers great quality, you get better battery life, and the extra resolution and touch features are of minimal benefit.
When the Dell XPS 13 launched in 2015 it was available for just £800, making it a bona fide bargain. However, prices for certain configurations have since risen to more than £1,000 – but even at this level it’s still a great option for those happy to pay MacBook Air prices.
- Price: $825
- Our Score: 9/10
- Our Verdict: “A fantastic machine at a fantastic price. This is a great option for those seeking a top-notch lightweight laptop without breaking the bank.”
That said, the design is the main area where you’re compromising a bit. While you get the overall look and feel of a MacBook Air-alike, you’re not getting the same build quality.
The Apple machine is made from solid blocks of aluminium milled down to form the various panels of its chassis, while Lenovo uses thin sheets of aluminium pressed into shape and attached to a plastic chassis. As a result it’s a little more flexible and lacks that reassuring heft that the Air possesses. This aside, though, you’re getting a heck of a lot for the money.
For a start, the screen is excellent. The 13-inch IPS panel has a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution and looks great – in fact, it absolutely wipes the floor with the Air.
Inside you’ve got a nippy Intel Core i7-6560U, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, where most rivals at this price point offer only 128GB of storage.
Connectivity is decent too, with plenty of USBs and an SD card slot, and the keyboard is very good. The trackpad lets the side down a little but it’s still perfectly useable, unlike some really cheap and nasty laptops.
Battery life can’t quite keep pace with either the Air or the XPS 13, but at comfortably over eight hours it’s enough for most of a working day.
- Price: £260 | $299
- Our Score: 8/10
- Our Verdict: “A long-lasting laptop that offers superb value for money.”
For around £200, you’re getting a laptop that’ll cover all your basic computing needs such as web browsing, email, word processing, basic photo editing, watching video – basically anything that you can do in Google’s Chrome web browser.
Inevitably at this price, you’re skimping when it comes to design, with no metal or other premium materials on show. But you still get a smart-looking laptop that’s impressively thin and light, though it is a slightly larger 14-inch machine rather than a 13-incher.
One crucial area where you really are missing out is the screen. With only a 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution, the quality just isn’t that great.
Still, with a perfectly decent keyboard and trackpad, and adequate performance from the Intel Celeron N3060 and 2GB/4GB RAM, you can get all your basic computing done and enjoy a far better typing experience than on a tablet.
If you’re coming from a MacBook Air, it will be significantly slower, so you should only consider a Chromebook if your needs are very basic, or you’re looking for a secondary laptop.
Note that you only get 16GB or 32GB of storage – the idea is you store most of your files on Google’s cloud services – and that you need an internet connection to get pretty much anything done on Chromebooks.
But with the better part of 10 hours’ battery life, this makes for a great laptop for students or those on a really tight budget.
- Price: £749
- Our Score: 7/10
- Our Verdict: “A thin, light and fast laptop that’s outshone by its rivals.”
The UX330UA continues this trend, including a 3,200 x 1,800-pixel display and 256GB SSD– all for under £800.
Like the Lenovo Ideapad though, the design here is more about aping the look of premium metal, rather than emulating its actual feel. Only the lid is metal – and it looks fab – but the rest of the machine is plastic with embedded metallic particles.
Other areas where it can’t quite match the competition are the middling keyboard and below par battery life. You’ll get only around six hours of use from a charge, which is below the 8-10 hours many others will manage.
If battery life is less of a concern, though, then the superb screen and good overall performance make this a good option.
- Price: £999 | $1,649
- Our Score: TBC
- Early Verdict: “You’re getting a great, powerful ultrabook with a bunch of freebies.”
The 12.5-inch laptop is just 0.52-inches thick, weighs only 1.25kg, and can be kitted out with either a 4K or QHD display. In almost every way, it’s a typical high-end ultrabook, packing an Intel Core i7-7500U along with 8-16GB of RAM, a 256GB-1TB SSD, and a claimed battery life of up to nine hours.
The real trick with this laptop, though, is that it can dock with an external graphics card so that it can transform into a powerful gaming machine.
The Razer Core (£499), as it’s called, is a box that contains a power supply and desktop graphics card – which can be upgraded – and it plugs into the Blade Stealth via a Thunderbolt cable.
We’ve yet to review the Razer Blade Stealth in full, but it looks set to be a truly exciting laptop for on-the-go gamers.
Watch: Apple MacBook Event 2016 recap
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What are your favourite MacBook Air alternatives? Let us know in the comments below.