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The best Windows alternatives to the new MacBook Pro

The best Windows alternatives to the new MacBook Pro

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macbook pro 2016
Vjeran Pavic

The new MacBook Pro was so long and painfully awaited that our hopes probably ran away with us. We thought Apple would conclude the wait with a laptop that would last with us for years, but instead we got a transitional device that bridges the perpetual gap between present and future with the metal corpses of (almost) every useful port we now use and rely on. Apple’s position is clear: you either sign up for its vision of wireless and USB-C communications dominating everything, or you go elsewhere.

For those adventurous MacBook users who are now finding themselves more open to exploring Windows waters, here’s a quick rundown of the top alternatives to Apple’s new, port-less MacBook Pro.

Dell XPS 13

This laptop is the most obvious and direct alternative to the MacBook Pro. Dell’s 13-inch XPS 13 has a wonderfully minimal bezel around the display, a great keyboard, good trackpad, solid construction, and attractive design. Its battery life stretches up to 10 hours and it has recently been upgraded with Intel’s 7th-generation (Kaby Lake) processors, a generation ahead of Apple’s latest MacBook Pros.

Handsome, affordable, and a proven design that won’t spring any surprises: there’s very little wrong about the Dell XPS 13. It can be had with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and that lovely gold shell above for $1,199. To get it with a high-resolution (3,200 x 1,800) touchscreen display, you’d have to step up to $1,449, but that’s still $50 less than the MBP and it manages to fit an SD card reader and two regular USB ports alongside the Thunderbolt 3 connector.

Razer Blade Stealth

This one, I’m less confident about, but it sure is a stunning piece of machinery, isn’t it? Razer’s 12.5-inch Blade Stealth is the gaming gear maker’s first ultrabook, and it does the whole aluminum unibody thing in a gorgeous matte black highlighted by the company’s signature Chroma keyboard backlighting. You can have it with a Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) display, a Kaby Lake CPU, 256GB of storage, regular USB and a Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C for $1,250.

Now, granted, the Blade Stealth is kind of in a funny position with its own lack of an SD card slot, and its battery life won’t rival the MacBook Pro’s, but Razer’s secret weapon with this laptop is the ability to plug it into the company’s Core box. For another $400, the Core lets you hook up a full desktop graphics card to the Blade Stealth, which raises it gaming ceiling exponentially, lending this laptop a unique advantage that many in its category lack.

HP Spectre x360

Props to my colleague Dan Seifert for calling this one out as a very attractive escape route for dissatisfied MacBook users. HP’s newly updated 13-inch Spectre x360 has an edge-to-edge display much like Dell’s XPS 13, but it also has a fully rotating hinge like Lenovo’s Yogas. It’s got a quad-speaker array, and HP makes some terrific claims about it lasting up to 15 hours on a single charge — even if it only achieves two-thirds of that claim, it seems likely to be able to keep you productive through a whole day’s work.

At 2.85lbs (1.29kg), the 13.3-inch HP Spectre x360 is lighter than Apple’s corresponding new MacBook Pro. It also has two USB-C ports, but HP doesn’t forget to include a regular USB one "for added flexibility." Alas, this super thin and light computer does lack an SD card slot, so you’d have to go to the 4lbs (1.81kg), 15-inch model to have that photographer-favored port. Still, with prices starting at $1,159, there’s a lot of headroom to max out a Spectre x360’s spec before reaching even the entry-level MacBook Pro’s cost. Worth considering.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

I saw this laptop at IFA 2016, and The Verge’s Tom Warren reviewed it very recently. Our shared conclusion? The ThinkPad X1 Yoga has a couple of foibles, but its OLED display is easily among the very best we’ve seen on a laptop. Spanning a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and including touch capabilities, it’s pretty close to our ideal laptop display.

Being a Yoga laptop also means this one can rotate a full 360-degrees, which doesn’t matter on a daily basis but is a nice extra to have. Apple’s MacBooks have always opened to just a little bit past vertical, which can be problematic when they’re used in bed or in any other circumstances that are less than ideal. Now, buying into this OLED futurism isn’t cheap, and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga with OLED starts at $1,682 right now, but I’d say this is a much more enticing use of the technology than Apple’s thin strip of it above the keyboard (aka the Touch Bar).

Microsoft Surface Book

Well, it couldn’t be a roundup of the best Windows computers without one from Microsoft, now could it? The newly refreshed Surface Book has more of everything: more power, longer battery life, and a higher price. Kicking off at a mighty $2,399, this 13.5-inch laptop includes a stylus and a touchscreen along with an SD card slot and some trusty old USB ports. The display is detachable from the base, and there’s a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics chip to amp things up.

The biggest advantage of this upgraded Surface Book is Microsoft’s claimed 16 hours of battery life, which is an extraordinarily long endurance by any laptop category’s standards. And it doesn’t weigh all that much, either, at 3.63lbs (1.65kg). As its screen size, weight, and price suggest, the Surface Book sits somewhere between Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, but it offers plenty of functionality (and ports) that Apple’s new computers lack.