Microsoft

Best MacBook Air alternatives for 2019

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Dell’s XPS 13.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For years, Apple’s popular MacBook Air set the bar for what you could expect from a $1,000 laptop. And in 2018 the company announced that it was raising our expectations with a new version of the MacBook Air.

The new model featured some nice, though nonessential, upgrades including a higher-quality display, Touch ID and USB-C connections. And, significantly, Apple also jacked up the starting price by 20%, to $1,199. Since then, the company has issued another version of the MacBook Air, adding True Tone display technology and lowering the list price to $1,099 (though it can often be found for even less).

But some people simply don’t like the new model’s butterfly keyboard or the limits of its eighth-gen Intel Core i5 processor. Despite having what’s arguably the best computer operating system around, MacOS, Apple rarely delivers the best value on major components (processor, RAM and hard drive capacity), ports and connections and battery life. And, in 2018, the company still doesn’t sell a laptop with a touchscreen option — a useful feature found on an increasing number of competitive models. 

All six laptops highlighted below cost roughly as much as the MacBook Air, have a 13-inch screen, weigh less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), and are reasonably streamlined and stylish. Each will make a worthy alternative to Apple’s MacBook Air. Check them out.

Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.   

Sarah Tew/CNET

At 2.4 pounds, the 13.3-inch Lenovo IdeaPad 730S is lighter and thinner than the current MacBook Air. Its quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, faster 2,400MHz memory and speedy Samsung PCIe solid-state drive give it better performance than the Air, too. About the only place it lags is battery life. Still, starting at around $750, it’s cheaper than the 2017 MacBook Air — and you may find it discounted for even less.

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This Spectre x360 configuration costs less than the new MacBook Air and comes equipped with significantly better specs — you get an eighth-gen Intel Core i7 CPU (the Air has a Core i5), 16GB of RAM (versus the Air’s 8GB), a 512GB SSD (the Air has 128GB), a microSD card slot (the Air has none) and superior battery life (more than 13 hours versus the Air’s 11.5). Plus, you get the Spectre’s great HD touchscreen display, which can be rotated between tablet and laptop mode, and a terrific keyboard. 






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If you’re a Windows person and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better laptop than the XPS 13. Starting at $980, this laptop is attractive, incomparably slim and offers a ton of configuration (and price) flexibility. And though the last few versions of the XPS 13 were subverted by a poorly positioned webcam, that has now been fixed with the new 2019 model. Dell also makes a 15-inch version, which starts at $930.

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Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pro is less expensive than the newer MacBook Air, but includes mostly superior specs and a 13.3-inch touchscreen display. The base configuration features an eighth-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and at 2.8 pounds, it’s one of the lightest ultraportable two-in-ones we’ve seen. The 12-hour plus battery life it delivers doesn’t hurt, either.

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If you’re looking for a great laptop that’s a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the new MacBook Air, the entry-level Surface Laptop 2 will do the trick. (Note that the official Microsoft Store and other retailers often offer steep discounts on the base model.) You get a slim, modern design; a great 12.3-inch touchscreen; a solid keyboard and touchpad; and a decent set of ports. 

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Lenovo has spent years refining its premium two-in-one design to deliver a laptop that convincingly doubles as a tablet. The Yoga C930 is the form perfected. The keyboard and display are very good, the speakers are great, and there’s sufficient power for any productivity or entertainment task. Now starting at around $850, it’s a solid value — you’re getting a laptop and a tablet, after all — that offers flexibility and features beyond any version of the MacBook Air. 

Originally published Feb. 25.
Update, Aug. 13: Updated pricing, configurations and availability.

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