By Tom Samiljan
Is the world’s best travel laptop dead? Ten years after Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air to the world, the laptop is on Apple’s back burner and some fear that it’s being phased out entirely.
Rather than redesigning and upgrading the hardware like all of the tech giant’s other marquee products, Apple has left the Air to collect dust, and now the MacBook and MacBook Pro are taking the spotlight. While they’re more powerful, they’re not as convenient for frequent travellers.
Add it all up, and it’s no surprise that Mac-loyal warriors around the world are increasingly being seduced by lighter, sleeker, sexier, and more powerful laptops — ones that run Windows and Chrome OS.
These five MacBook replacements are guaranteed to meet your work and play needs. Based on a global road test that took us from New York to Los Angeles and Tokyo to Paris, these were the best of roughly a dozen new options all standing out for their excellent portability, keyboard comfort, battery life, and computing power.
If efficiency is your middle name, get the Google Pixelbook. The supersexy, two-toned body, which features Gorilla Glass and brushed metal, won’t smudge no matter how many times you have to unpack and repack it around the airport. There’s top- of-the-line hardware inside this laptop, including quad-core i7 processors and 16 GB of RAM, making for ultrafast loading speeds and easy multitasking. In 15 minutes, you can add two hours of juice to the nine-hour battery thanks to the Pixelbook’s quick charger.
Besides the free security software, Google gives you 1 TB of complimentary online storage. However, while Chrome OS has become a nimbler, more versatile operating system in recent years, non-Google-owned productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Evernote still feel clunky on this browser-based platform.
If you want to turn heads, get the Microsoft Surface Laptop. Call it the first laptop to give the MacBook Air a run for its design money. The Surface laptop comes in a bevy of sharp colours and the fabric trim around the keyboard is polished and sophisticated. It’s also comfortable on the wrists and easy to clean.
The battery lasts an impressive 14 hours, but be sure to upgrade the hardware specs as you customise your model. However, the default operating system, Windows 10 S, is cumbersome; it limits you to Microsoft’s Edge browser and Office programs. Splurge on the Surface laptop commercial edition which costs more and ships with Windows 10 Pro instead.
If you frequently work in cramped quarters, get the Dell XPS 13. Sometimes, adjectives like slim and lightweight translate to a far-too-tiny screen. Not so with Dell’s redesigned XPS 13. It’s lighter, thinner, and smaller in volume than the MacBook Air and yet the 13.3in screen is identical in size, thanks to a “virtually borderless” InfinityEdge display that you can order in touchscreen 4K definition.
Despite those diminutive proportions, the XPS 13 doesn’t feel flimsy: The body is made of block-machined aluminium. And the small physical footprint means you can easily type away with the screen fully open. However, the built-in webcam is at the bottom of the screen rather than the top, which keeps the bezel thin but makes for bizarre and unflattering angles on conference calls.
If you never, ever unplug, get the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. The sixth-generation ThinkPad Carbon X1 from Lenovo is built for business, with an unparalleled 15-hour battery life. It also has the latest eighth- generation quad-core CPUs for faster performance, multiple inputs, fingerprint authentication and a sliding webcam cover, a richly hued HDR screen, and a stealthily quiet keyboard. This is a lean, mean productivity machine. It’s even shock-resistant, temperature-proof, and vibration-resistant, should you get stuck in turbulence.
Oh, and did we mention it’s one of the first laptops to have built-in Alexa capability? However, with its signature black exterior and red TrackPoint mouse in the middle of the keyboard, the look is a little outdated.
If you want the best bang for your buck, get the Huawei Matebook X Pro. Don’t overlook this Chinese manufacturer.
Like its phones, Huawei’s flagship laptop offers significantly better performance for less of an outlay than its rivals. There’s plenty to love besides the price, including a superslim bezel, 3K-resolution touchscreen, and four Dolby Atmos- enabled speakers that offer the best audio quality on any laptop we tested.
Plus, the oversized trackpad makes it easy to go mouse-free, while a spill-proof, back-lit keyboard takes the stress out of ordering coffee on your red-eye. However, forgive the generic-looking aluminum alloy construction — along with the Gorilla Glass touchscreen, it ensures durability. The improbably placed webcam, like that of the Dell XPS 11, is harder to justify.