Alternatives to MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro: The best 'copycat' laptops

The MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro area fine ultra-portable laptop, but they're not the only options on the market. Here are 7 excellent 'copycats' that are worth considering.

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  • Best alternatives to MacBooks
  • Microsoft Surface Book
  • Asus ZenBook UX303U
  • Asus Zenbook UX305CA
  • Dell XPS 13 9350
  • HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1
  • HP Envy 13
  • Lenovo Yoga 900
  • More stories
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Best alternatives to MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

The Apple MacBookMacBook Air, MacBook Pro are stunning ultra-portable laptops but they're not the only ultra-portable laptop. There are lots of other slim, light, affordable laptops out there, and however much a potential laptop buyer may like the look of the Air, it would be remiss of him or her to ignore the other options.

That's where we come in. In this article we've rounded up 7 of the most credible threats to the MacBook range: at least some of them could be derided as 'copycats' who closely followed Apple's winning formula (although several could not, and represent considerable design innovation), but these devices all have qualities of their own to bring to the party.

Bear in mind that these machines run Windows. Yeah, we know. We'd rather have a Mac too - the clue's in the name of this site. But if you're willing to hold your nose and join the Windows world, each of the devices in this article have something to offer the wise laptop buyer.

Our suggestion would be to thoroughly review your options, before purchasing a WIndows-based laptop. But when looking for a high-quality, value-for-money laptop, it's important to keep an open mind. 

See also: Best MacBook buying guide 2016 | Best ultraportable laptops

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The Apple MacBookMacBook Air, MacBook Pro are stunning ultra-portable laptops but they're not the only ultra-portable laptop. There are lots of other slim, light, affordable laptops out there, and however much a potential laptop buyer may like the look of the Air, it would be remiss of him or her to ignore the other options.

That's where we come in. In this article we've rounded up 7 of the most credible threats to the MacBook range: at least some of them could be derided as 'copycats' who closely followed Apple's winning formula (although several could not, and represent considerable design innovation), but these devices all have qualities of their own to bring to the party.

Bear in mind that these machines run Windows. Yeah, we know. We'd rather have a Mac too - the clue's in the name of this site. But if you're willing to hold your nose and join the Windows world, each of the devices in this article have something to offer the wise laptop buyer.

Our suggestion would be to thoroughly review your options, before purchasing a WIndows-based laptop. But when looking for a high-quality, value-for-money laptop, it's important to keep an open mind. 

See also: Best MacBook buying guide 2016 | Best ultraportable laptops

 

Microsoft Surface Book

  • RRP: From £1,299 inc VAT

Alternative to: MacBookMacBook Air & MacBook Pro

Fancy that: Macworld recommending not just a Windows laptop, but a Microsoft Windows laptop.

Granted, this is something of a left-field inclusion to round off our list. In terms of specs it's pushing the parameters of our Air-killer category somewhat - the Surface Book is 22.8mm thick at its stoutest part, 1.58kg in weight, and comes in at the best part of £1,000-2,300 - but it fulfils many of the same functions as its Apple rival. And it's a cool, bold product that we love talking about. 

Yep, it's expensive, but the Surface Book is an amazing piece of technology combining excellent (and unique) design, top-notch build quality and high-end specifications. Battery life is amazing, and the (optional) Nvidia GPU bolsters your capabilities still further. The big question is, can you afford one?

Read full Microsoft Surface Book review 

 

Asus ZenBook UX303U

  • RRP: £899.99 inc VAT

Alternative to: MacBook Air

At 19.4mm thick and 1.4kg in weight, the ZenBook UX303U is a shade bulkier than the 13-inch MacBook Air (17mm and 1.35kg), but it has considerably higher screen resolution: 1920 x 1080, to the larger Air's 1440 x 900. The Airs, of course, haven't got Retina screens, and you'll find that they lag behind many of their rivals on visual sharpness.

At around £900 the ZenBook UX303U approaches the build finesse but lacks the unbeaten battery of the MacBook Air, although it can claim faster processor performance and a superior full-HD matt display. This latest ZenBook is a well-balanced, smart and powerful Windows notebook.

Read full Asus ZenBook UX303U review

 

Asus Zenbook UX305CA

  • RRP: £649 inc VAT

Alternative to: MacBook & MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook UX305CA is a sensible upgrade to the UX305. It has a newer CPU, and a much higher-resolution screen (3200 x 1800, otherwise known as 3K). However, it remains a seriously portable, expensive-feeling laptop that really isn't that expensive. Indeed, the fact that you can get this standard of machine for around £600 shows that while Apple's pricing has improved, companies like Asus still have the edge in this department.

The Core M CPU limits the target market for this laptop, but it still feels fast for everyday tasks. And the fact that it will last all day with that kind of use makes it ideal for those who find themselves hopping between meetings or cafes as part of their daily grind.

Read full Asus Zenbook UX305CA review

 

Dell XPS 13 9350

  • RRP: From £849 inc VAT

Alternative to: MacBook Air

The Dell XPS 13 9343 stands as a shining beacon of hope in the world of Windows laptops, a compact laptop that outdoes the obvious competition in key respects like screen quality (1920 x 1080, like most of the machines here effortlessly surpassing the non-Retina 1440 x 900 that's the best you'll currently get from a MacBook Air) and near-borderless display. Here is a 13.3-inch laptop that takes up little more space than an 11.6-inch model.

Poor thermal management needs to be improved, however, while a non-touchscreen version could answer other outstanding issues.

Read full Dell XPS 13 9350 review

 

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1

  • RRP: £2116 inc. VAT

Alternative to: MacBook & MacBook Air

'Elite' is right: HP's attractive ultraportable represents the absolute upper end of our Air-killer category, price-wise, the laptop was over £2,000, but now can be found for under £900 - making it a more viable option.

Most ultraportables we test are dumbed-down MacBook Air clones with cheap construction and low-grade components, which is why it makes a particularly refreshing change to find a Windows laptop that not only matches but surpasses Apple's popular ultraportable in a key area like screen quality.

This is one Windows laptop that can make a statement in build quality and top-class components.

Read full HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 review

 

HP Envy 13

  • RRP: £1276 inc. VAT

Alternative to: MacBook & MacBook Air

The HP Envy 13 gets a lot of things right. The design, the trackpad, the performance and the screen are all very good. Physical portability is fantastic and it has clearly been designed with a sensible budget in mind. It's a good buy.

There are a few issues, though. For all but the lightest of users, battery life will be disappointing, and the build quality is slightly less impressive than it first appears; there's some flex to the body. It's not quite in the class of the MacBook Air or MacBook - and several other svelte rivals in this roundup - when it comes to thickness, measuring a comparatively chubby 24.6mm.

Given the excellent combination of features, performance and value for money, though, only the battery life should give you pause for thought before buying. The Asus UX305 (reviewed earlier in this article) lasts longer, and while that laptop lacks a backlit keyboard and some of the HP's raw power, this disparity might be enough to justify switching teams.

Read full HP Envy 13 review

 

Lenovo Yoga 900

  • RRP: £1,199 inc VAT

Alternative to: MacBook & MacBook Air

The Lenovo Yoga 900 is a laptop that really asks you to believe in its design style; for the price you can get a laptop with much more power if you're not out for something immensely portable. But that's where this laptop excels: portability.

As well as being slim, light and generally lovely, the smart hinge lets the Yoga sit where most other laptops can't. The battery should last through a full day's work as well. The trackpad can feel fiddly and the display isn't perfect, but if you're feeling flush - it's likely to set you back more than a grand, which is the upper limit for the MacBook Airs and Macbooks - this is one of the top ultra-portables around.

Read full Lenovo Yoga 900 review

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