6 cheaper alternatives to the MacBook Pro
Ready to ditch Apple? Here are your best options.
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Well, the Late 2016 MacBook Pros are here, and they're…different. Putting it politely, Apple replaced useful "legacy" ports like USB and HDMI with nothing but USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. Furthermore, prices went way up, upgradeability was stripped out, and RAM is capped at 16 GB. To make matters more tricky, Apple squished its previously great keyboards to within .5 mm of not moving at all. It's not all bad news, but it's easy to see how the shortcomings and omitted features have the Mac faithful feeling sore.
To make matters worse, the competition running Windows have never been better. If you're fed up with Apple putting thinness over utility, these are the best alternatives to the MacBook Pro lineup. And, guess what? Most of these awesome PCs are significantly cheaper and better-equipped.
About the Late 2016 MacBook Pros
Here's something that few people realize: Apple now sells five different products with the MacBook Pro name. There are three new models for 2016, and two models that are holdovers from the previous generation.
The new MacBook Pros are furthermore complicated by their choices in processor. The entry-level 13-inch (the one with two USB-C ports and no Touch Bar), that sells for $1,499, now uses the weaker 15W Intel processor, which previously was only in the MacBook Air line of products. Arguably, this model arguably shouldn't get the Pro moniker, but you're paying a Pro price for it anyway.
The middle-tier, $1,799 13-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly more powerful 28W dual-core Intel processor inside (with Iris 550 graphics), features double the ports of the entry-level, and also gives you Apple's new Touch Bar.
Apple's big kahuna is the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which features quad-core Intel i7 chips, also from the 6th generation. This time around, Apple opted for AMD graphics in the 15-inch, putting it behind the latest generation of Nvidia graphics that are VR capable. Unlike the last-generation product, you can't get Iris Pro graphics for less money.
Alternative to the MacBook Pro (13-inch, no Touch Bar)
We loved HP's latest 2-in-1 laptop, and it's a serious contender for your next computer. Even though it's thin and made of high-quality metal, and includes advanced tech (HP's built in a camera that lets you log in with your face, whereas Apple makes you pay more for TouchID) that Apple left out of its least expensive Pro. Inside is a newer 7th gen Intel i7. Granted, the Mac has better Iris graphics, but Intel's given its new HD 620 graphics a solid boost, narrowing the gap a bit.
If you're concerned about ports, HP has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports to match the entry-level MacBook Pro, but one-ups it with a standard USB 3.0 port. HP also hasn't forgotten that human beings need to be able to type on its keyboards, and the Spectre X360 one of the best we've typed on this year.
Since it's cheaper than the Mac you need not feel guilty when treating yo'self to the $1,300 Spectre X360, which gives you double the RAM and storage space. Ordering the low-end MacBook Pro with this much RAM and storage is almost $2,000 after tax, making it astonishingly overpriced.
The latest ultrabook from Razer is a big improvement over its first attempt early this year, sporting an updated 7th gen i7 processor as standard, and 16 GB RAM in every model except the cheapest. It's an awesome alternative to the cheap MacBook Pro.
When configured with a 12.5-inch QHD+ touchscreen, 16 GB RAM, and 256 GB of solid state storage, you're looking at saving $550 over the MacBook. Bump up to the bigger capacity 512 GB version and you're looking at a $600 savings. That's a lot of dough.
This Blade Stealth has Thunderbolt 3, just like the MacBook, but you'll also find normal USB ports, and an HDMI too. Look a little closer at the spec sheet, and you'll find that its single-core i7 performance outdoes the i5 in the Mac, and you get twice the RAM, all the while saving at least half a grand.
Alternatives to the MacBook Pro (13-inch, with Touch Bar)
Dell's awesome XPS 13 got a 7th generation makeover a little while ago, and as such, is totally worth considering. Its dual-core i7 option is a little slower than Apple's in the mid-tier version (the processor Apple uses here isn't common on the PC side), but the new 7th gen chips feature faster standard graphics than ever. Where Dell makes up for its shortcomings on sheer horsepower, is when it comes to versatility.
The MacBook Pro at this price level has four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, but Dell gives you a Thunderbolt 3, two USB 3.0, and an SD card reader. Where the XPS shines is if you want a big 1 TB SSD and 16 GB RAM—Apple makes you pay $450 more for both of these options compared to the Dell. Dell uses standard M.2 SSDs in its laptops, making storage upgrades a cinch.
This is a wild-card pick that, for some, will be a weird comparison. That said, what Surface Book offers is a more advanced, flexible design that can double as a tablet for short periods of time. For artistic folks, the inclusion of a great digital pen makes it way more interesting than the comparable Macs.
Sporting a 6th generation dual-core i5, Surface Book loses out on the performance front but with its solid keyboard, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and SD card reader, it's immediately more familiar and useful. It has a super high-quality display that almost rivals that of the MacBook Pro, and instead of a measly Touch Bar, you're treated to a full touchscreen instead.
If you're unwilling to compromise on build quality and design, Surface Book is a Mac alternative that, for the right buyer, feels more futuristic and versatile.
Alternatives to the MacBook Pro (15-inch, with Touch Bar)
Razer's hardware has never been better, and the new Blade really lands a solid right hook against the MacBook Pro. Built around much of the same hardware as the Mac, this looks for all the world like the evil mirror universe version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Inside, you get a quad-core i7, like the MacBook Pro, but what makes the Blade sharper than the Mac is its GPU. The Radeon-based GPUs in the 15-inch Macs is notably weaker than the new Nvidia GTX 1060 in Razer's laptops. Not only is this Nvidia processor faster, but you also get triple the GDDR5 VRAM of the entry-level MacBook Pro and it's VR ready. So, it's cheaper, faster, but still thin and light. Storage is provided by an M.2 SSD, which you'll be able to replace down the road if you need more space.
The only thing you might not like is the polarizing, tribal snake logo on the back of the display, but that's about it.
We were suitably impressed by Dell's big, sleek 15-inch XPS 15 earlier this year. It has a wider array of options than what Apple offers on its 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the quad-core i7 models start at $1,649. That nets you the same quad chip as the $2,300 base MacBook Pro 15-inch, twice the PCIe storage space, and the same amount of RAM. What you don't get in this configuration is a high-res display, as Dell has opted for a more efficient HD matte, non-touch screen.
If you want a glorious 4K screen, Dell has that as an option, as well. In its $1,849 XPS 15, you'll get a smaller 255 GB SSD but everything else plus the addition of a gorgeous, borderless 4K touchscreen. That makes the Dell an awesome option for video editing since Apple's portable Retina screens don't hit that resolution quite yet. Dell makes the transition to USB-C easier by including 2 old-school USB ports, HDMI, and an SD card slot alongside Thunderbolt 3.
There's one sticking point for a lot of MacBook Pro shoppers, and that's the lack of RAM. Apple's options only come with 16 GB, and it's not upgradeable later on. Dell, on the other hand, has two DDR4 slots, and you can max out the XPS 15 with a whopping 32 GB. Also unlike the Mac, Dell's used industry-standard M.2 SSDs that you can easily swap out later, a huge plus for media professionals who never can have too much space.
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