My go-to laptop buying advice has been the same for the last two years, at least for anyone who doesn't know their PRAM from their Linux kernel. Oh, you're looking for a new laptop? Buy a MacBook Air. Apple's cheapest and lightest notebook is the easy choice — it's fast enough, has a fantastic keyboard and trackpad, has solid battery life, and comes with few of the quirks and issues that plague nearly every Windows device.

This year, every PC manufacturer is determined to change that. Toshiba's Kirabook offers the specs, size, and even service of Apple's best; nearly every other manufacturer has renewed its focus on quality as well. Rather than race to the bottom and leave Apple alone at the top, Windows-powered PCs are creeping back up to Apple's level.

Sony's not even pretending about its designs for the new VAIO Pro lineup. "We're going to war with the MacBook Air," VAIO product manager Travis Furst told me. Its weapons? 13- and 11-inch laptops that are lighter than Air — not to mention higher-res, with better specs and a near-identical price tag ($1,149 for the 11, $1,249 for the 13).