The Best MacBook Pro Alternatives: Microsoft, Razer, Samsung - Rolling Stone
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These 3 MacBook Pro Alternatives Do Things Apple’s Laptop Can’t

Windows PCs and Chromebooks offer similar (or in some cases better) features than Apple’s top laptops

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft

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Apple’s MacBook Pro has earned a reputation as one of the best laptops you can get because it offers a balance of powerful internal hardware inside a well-designed case. But the company has been facing steeper competition than ever as well-known PC manufacturers like HP, Samsung, and even Microsoft itself have began releasing really compelling alternatives.

These laptops don’t sacrifice build quality or performance, and in some cases have features the MacBook Pro doesn’t because of hardware or software limitations. If you want a no-compromise laptop, and don’t want to limit yourself to Apple’s tech, consider the four MacBook Pro alternatives below.

What Are the Best MacBook Pro Alternatives?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best MacBook Pro alternative for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Operating System: The laptops in this guide either run Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s OS, or ChromeOS, an operating system build by Google based on its popular web browser.

Screen Size: The computers in this guide have screens between 13.3 and 15.6 inches wide. Larger screens are better if you intend to watch a lot of media, but smaller ones are easier to take with you.

Screen Resolution: A laptop’s screen resolution will determine how sharp text, photos, and videos look. Our minimum requirement for this guide was a 1080P (Full HD) display, but some of our picks have a higher resolution (even 4K) screen.

Processor: All of our recommendations have a modern Intel processor inside, and are capable of running many power-hungry apps without a hitch.

RAM: The laptop we’re recommending have between 8GB (gigabytes) and 16GB of RAM (memory). Having more RAM can help apps run more smoothly, and allow you to use more of them simultaneously without slowdown.

Storage: We’re recommending laptops with between 256GB and 512GB of storage. You won’t run into trouble with a smaller SSD (solid state drive) if you stream most of your media, but you’ll need a larger one if you like to keep large video files or projects on your machine.

Webcam: Every computer in this guide has a bulit-in webcam, so you don’t need to plug an external one in to use apps like Skype or Zoom.

Inputs: A computer’s inputs (known more commonly as ports), are what allow you to connect accessories to your machine. Each of our picks has a different assortment of ports, which you should strongly consider depending on how you intend to use your machine. All of them support WiFi and Bluetooth, though, so you have a range of wireless connectivity options, too.

Battery Life: The laptops below all get between 8 and 12 hours of battery life on a single charge, which is more than enough to get you through a standard day of use.

Weight: We know you’ll be carrying your college laptop around a lot, so we chose computers that weigh between 2.8 and 8.7 pounds.

1. BEST OVERALL: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Amazon

Microsoft only entered the computer hardware business a few years ago, but its Surface Laptop 3 can stand toe-to-toe with Apple’s best gear.

The Windows machine has a 13.5-inch touch-sensitive display with a resolution of 2256 x 1540, which puts it right between Full HD and 4K. Text, photos, and videos will all look very clear on the Surface Laptop 3, plus you’ll have the option to operate the machine by touch, which is especially helpful if you’re flicking through photos. The computer has a 1.2GHz quad-core Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. These specs mean the Surface Laptop 3 will be ready for almost anything you throw at it.

The one place where it lags behind is graphics. It has Intel’s integrated Iris Pro graphics chip, which is fine for basic photo or video editing and video streaming, but not up to snuff for graphically intensive tasks like gaming.

The Surface Laptop 3 has a 720P (HD) webcam that you can use for video conferencing in apps like Zoom. The camera also enables you to use the Windows Hello feature, which enables you to log into your computer by letting the camera scan your face.

This computer doesn’t have too many ports, but it covers all the basics. It has one USB-C port, one USB-A port, a Surface Connect port, and a headphone jack. You shouldn’t have any trouble plugging any of your accessories into the Surface Laptop 3, but you’ll need a hub (we like this one from Belkin), if you want to connect several peripherals at once.

Microsoft says the Surface Laptop 3 can get up to 11.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, but your experience will vary based on the apps you’re using, your screen brightness, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings. Still, this battery spec puts the Surface Laptop 3 ahead of the MacBook Pro. It’s also ahead on size: this laptop weighs just 2.8 pounds, which makes it the lightest computer in our guide.

If you want a modern-looking laptop with very impressive specs, and don’t need a lot of graphics horsepower, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 is the best choice.

Buy: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 at $949.00

2. BEST FOR GAMING: Razer Blade 15

Razer Blade 15

Amazon

Razer’s Blade 15 is a gaming laptop with more that enough power to let you get your work done, too.

This machine has a 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1080P. While that resolution is a little lower than most of the laptops in this guide, the Blade 15’s screen makes up for it by having a 144Hz (hertz) refresh rate. This means the screen will update itself more frequently, so scrolling will look a lot more smooth. This feature is essential in serious gaming, where every millisecond counts.

This laptop has a 2.6GHz six-core Intel i7 processor, 512GB of storage, and 16GB of memory; these specs put the Blade 15 in a league of its own. It also sports an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card with 6GB of dedicated graphics memory. The bottom line is that this laptop will be able to handle anything you throw at it.

The Blade 15 has an IR webcam that supports Windows Hello, so you can video conference with colleagues or friends, and get into your computer without typing a password. The machine has three USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB-C port, an SD Card reader, HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet port, and a headphone jack. These ports make it easy to connect all of your accessories to the Blade 15 without any adapters.

The Blade 15 is a powerful machine, but it has two downsides you need to be aware of. First, Razer doesn’t offer any information about the computer’s battery life, which is suspect given how powerful the machine is. Second, it weighs 8.7 pounds, which makes it way heavier than any of the other laptops in our guide.

Still, if you want an ultra-powerful computer you can take with you anywhere, the Razer Blade 15 is your best bet.

Buy: Razer Blade 15 at $1,497.00

3. BEST CHROMEBOOK: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

Amazon

Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook is the only machine in our guide that doesn’t run Windows, but it overcomes that limitation thanks to its excellent design, competitive tech specs.

The laptop runs ChromeOS, which can’t run all of the same apps as Windows or MacOS, but is still perfectly fine for tasks like writing, creating presentations, working on spreadsheets, light photo editing, web browsing, and video streaming.

It has a 13.3-inch 4K OLED touch sensitive display, which means it has the best screen out of any laptop in our guide. I’ve been testing this laptop, and have been consistently impressed with how sharp everything looks on this screen. The Galaxy Chromebook has a quad-core 1.6GHz Intel i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. These are solid specs, and substantially better than what you’d find inside most other Chromebooks.

This laptop has two cameras: a 1MP (megapixel) camera built into the laptop’s lid, and an 8MP camera on its keyboard deck. That second camera comes in handy when you put the Galaxy Chromebook into tablet mode. Tablet mode means flipping the computer’s screen 180 degrees, so it’s parallel with its keyboard.

The Galaxy Chromebook has a fair amount of inputs: two USB-C ports, a MicroSD card slot for adding additional memory, and a headphone jack. The absence of USB-A ports means you’ll need a hub to connect older accessories to this machine.

Samsung says you should get about eight hours of battery on a single charge, which is solid, but not great. Part of the problem is that this laptop weighs just 2.3 pounds, so you’re choosing portability over battery.

If you want an ultra-light computer with a beautiful screen, and don’t mind getting so-so battery life and the limitations of ChromeOS, you should definitely go for Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook.

Buy: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook at $675.00

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