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Top Windows Alternatives To The New Macbook Pro

By Justin Heyes on November 5th 2016

One of the biggest releases to come out of Apple this year was their long overdue refresh of their MacBook Pro line. The New MacBook Pro is supposed to be ultra-portable, with a thinner chassis, longer battery life, and a new Touch Bar, but instead of praise for Tim Cook and Co as anyone would expect, the immediate reaction from the professional community was: ‘meh’. The new MacBook Pro lacks critical things that professional users actually need, like an SD card slot, dedicated HDMI port, a memory option to expand past 16GB, or the lack of, well, pretty much most ‘pro’ features. The only thing Pro about the new Macbook is the ‘Pro’-liferation of Apple’s profits by selling dongles.

[REWIND: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USB-C & THUNDERBOLT 3 ]

Since Apple’s MacBook Pro systems are marketed as premium products it’s probably going to come as a disappointment to some who have already placed their pre-order, that the processor inside is already year-old technology, but then again this has always been the case. For those who are ready to jump ship, there is a veritable cornucopia of powerful yet attractive PC laptops that will make the transition seamless. Granted, all of the alternatives below are running Windows, but they will provide some (if not all) the ‘Pro’ features that Apple deemed unnecessary from their new line (with Thunderbolt 3 to boot).

[RELATED: Apple Announced New Macbook Pro With Dynamic Touch Bar But Missing A Key Ability ]

Alternatives To The 13-Inch MacBook Pro

Dell XPS 9360

macbook-pro-alternative-dell-xps-9360

Let’s start with a direct ‘copycat’ of Apple’s formula. The Dell XPS 9360 has a wonderfully minimal bezel around the display (thanks to the InfinityEdge), a great keyboard, good trackpad, solid construction, and attractive design. Just like the new MacBook Pro, the memory options top out at 16GB, but in every other way it’s arguably a superior professional laptop. On the exterior, Dell’s Ultrabook packs multiple USB 3.1 ports, Thunderbolt 3.0, QHD+ Screen and an SD card slot

Specs:

  • Intel Core i7-7500u 3.5 GHz Processor
  • Intel HD Graphics 620
  • 8GB LPDDR3-1866mhz
  • 256GB PCIe SSD storage
  • 13.3″ QHD+ (3200 x 1800) InfinityEdge Touch Display

HP Spectre

hp-spectre-thunderbolt-3

HP boasts its ‘Spectre’ as the thinnest laptop in the world, but you would be wrong in thinking it’s impossible to build a super-thin laptop without compromise. The Spectre’s thin outline and small footprint negates the integration of USB Type A ports, just like the New Macbook Pros, with a USB-C (5Gbps) and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The screen is a non-touch 1920 x1080 and while not retina-tearing will still provide 94.3% of sRGB coverage.

Specs:

  • Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5 GHz, up to 3.1 GHz)
  • 13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS UWVA BrightView Corning Gorilla Glass WLED-backlit (1920 x 1080) non-touch
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • Bang & Olufsen Quad speakers
  • 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 8 GB LPDDR3-1866 SDRAM
  • 802.11ac (2×2) and Bluetooth® 4.0 combo
  • 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C, HP USB Boost, Thunderbolt); 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Type-C, HP USB Boost)

Razer Blade

macbook-pro-alternative-razer-blade

Instead of lugging around a giant desktop to get the most out of your photos and videos, Razer claims you’ll be able to have desktop level graphics in a sleek laptop roughly the size of Apple’s smallest MacBook Pro with Retina display. The Blade’s slim chassis doesn’t have a lot of ports, but the ones that are there can support a portable workstation. The Blade is flanked by USB 3.0 ports, full HDMI and Thunderbolt 3, and adorned with a Chroma keyboard which is great to be able to customize depending on what application you are running. I have added the Blade Stealth to my everyday carry. Razer offers the Blade in a retina ripping 3200 x1800 QHD+ touch display (120% sRGB gambit) or a 1920 x 1080 Matte display, the latter offering better battery life and less glare.

Specs:

  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad Core (2.6 GHz, up to 3.5 GHz)
  • 14″ diagonal FHD IPS (1920 x 1080) non-touch
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX1060 (6GB GDDR5 VRAM)
  • 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 16 GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Option of Matte display

Alternatives To The 15-Inch MacBook Pro

Acer Aspire V15

macbook-pro-alternative-acer-aspire-v15

The Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition is a slim, sleek, powerful entertainment laptop, thinner and lighter than most other similar 15-inch laptops on the market. It packs looks, nice build quality, a great screen and a GeForce GTX 960M GPU. The Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition could easily pass as a business laptop, thanks to its classic looks, but underneath is a powerhouse ready to take on the most difficult of Pano-stitching.

Specs:

  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad Core 2.6 GHz
  • 16GB DDR4 Dual-Channel Memory
  • 1TB 5400RPM Hard Drive, 512GB Solid-State Drive
  • 15.6-inch 4K Screen, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM

[RELATED: THE PANORAMIC STITCHING WORKSHOP | PANORAMIC STITCHING 101 ]

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW

macbook-pro-alternative-asus-zenbook-pro-ux501-vw

Asus’ ZenBook Pro UX501VW offers an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and Nvidia 960M discrete graphics at a price point cheaper than the lowest-end MacBook Pro, let alone the 15-inch model. Its 15.6-inch 3840 x 2160 UHD touch screen display is ideal for photo and video editors who aren’t married to Apple, and it’s able to produce 110% of the sRGB color gamut.

Specs:

  • 15.6″ Touch IPS 4K Ultra HD display, 3840 x 2160 resolution
  • Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Quad core CPU
  • Nvidia GTX960M GPU
  • 512GB PCIe SSD
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0, SDXC reader, 802.11ac Wi-Fi

MSI GT83VR Titan

macbook-pro-alternative-msi-gt83-titan

I am going to be honest, this list was originally only 5 laptops that fit the slim Macbook like aesthetic with while providing performance. The MSI GT83VR Titan was added as a joke to fit all of the areas that the fanboys are complaining about. 17-inch screen? Check, Thunderbolt 3? Check, Nvidia graphics? check. Under 5 lbs? Not so much. The MSI GT83VR Titan is hefty beast at close to 13 pounds, but you would be hard pressed to find any Macbook that can match its specs or performance; hell it can  even make the Mac Pro sweat.

Specs:

  • 18.4″ FHD, Anti-Glare IPS Wide View Angle (1920×1080 Resolution) Screen
  • Intel Skylake  i7-6920HQ Quad Core Processor (2.9-3.8GHz)
  • 2x Nvidia GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X) Graphics Cards running in SLI
  • 64GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  • Super RAID 4 1TB SSD (PCIE Gen3 x4) [512GB x2] + 1TB (SATA) 7200rpm

Conclusion

Apple has always provided an alternative computer for the creatives and the ones who thought different in the world, but Apple doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Ever since the death of their beloved founder, it’s my opinion that Apple Computers has remained stagnate in a quickly evolving market and their only “innovations” have been things that Steve Jobs passed on when he was alive. The word ‘Pro’ to Apple is just a buzz word meant to incite people into buying their slightly better products.

There are a plethora of other options available, including the sexy new Surface Studio, that offer better performance and features than Apple will provide, and each of the devices in this article has something to offer the Apple convert, from the sleek chassis of the Spectre to the powerhouse that is the Titan.

Windows itself is even bending over backward to cater to professionals.  With a new Windows 10 Creators Update on the horizon, there’s never been a better time for dedicated Apple users to make the switch.

About

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

22 Comments

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  5. Robert T. Johnson

    I use my Asua ROG Intel i7, 17.3, PNY 480 SSD, 1TBG HHD and 20GB ram. I don’t like using anything smaller for editing. Windows 10 Pro works great for my needs.

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  6. Kyle Stauffer

    Wow – That Asus packs in a lot for the price.

    I am a fan of Lenovo products and was considering the P50
    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1217304-REG/lenovo_20en001eus_15_6_thinkpad_p50_mobile.html

    Any thoughts on that machine?

    | |
    • Justin Heyes

      It is a nice machine and I like the built-in color calibrator and user replaceable parts, but with a 58% sRGB and 37% AdobeRGB color space, it is not going to be good for photo editing.

      | |
    • Kyle Stauffer

      Where do you find color specs? A recent review I saw said this thing had an SRGB rating of 180 ish %. Some of this is new to me in terms of what is acceptable.

      | |
    • Justin Heyes

      My Mistake I was looking at the non 4K model. The 4K is much better.

      I use http://www.notebookcheck.net as they use Argyll for their color test.

      Other websites don’t tend to list their sources on how they calibrate. Software from Datacolor and X-Rite will calibrate differently. Argyll is open source and very powerful compared to to the stock software.

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  7. Njoi Fontes

    Great article and I pretty much agree with every word, however your forgot to mention the surface book. Going all the way from an i5 to the new i7 version with an intel 960 m (if im not mistaken), It is a near perfect device for photographers. I love using mine to work in laptop mode and then remove the screen to show photos to my clients, which is usually followed by a “wow” comment.

    | |
    • Justin Heyes

      I did not forget to mention the Surface Book. It was not included in the list because it lacks Thunderbolt 3.

      | |
    • Njoi Fontes

      ok … but why? every day I transfer between 6 to 30 GB and USB 3 is definitely fast enough. Everything is personal preference but I think you should consider that other photographers might, for example, prioritize having the best two in one in the world with phenomenal battery life and the ability to have a 2 gb graphics card in an incredibly slick 13 inch device.

      | |
  8. Alexandre Mello

    Nice article. Just one “but”: but you can’t install OS X in these machines. Or you can jump in the dark pool of hackintoshes. The only reason I don’t quit using Macs, so far, is that there’s no option. Windows is crap; Linux lacks of good apps and are not friendly. About the missing ports and card readers, I read the same when iMac was launched with USB…

    | | Edited  
    • Justin Heyes

      It says these laptops run windows in the title. There is no “but” believe it or not Windows 10 is a more stable system then Sierra.

      Messing around with a hackintosh is fun for enthusiasts, but as a professional I would rather not have to troubleshoot my computer with the latest update.

      Windows 10 can run legacy apps with little to no problem. When Sierra came out it broke compatility with many versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. I have had a version of Lightroom 4 running on a wkndows machine with no hickups

      Have you ever used Linux? It is by far the most stable of the 3 and I would have switched long ago if Lightroom was available for the system

      | | Edited  
    • John Cavan

      I’ve used and coded on all three platforms (as well as a few others). They’re all fine to use, though Linux is missing on the professional end. I too would be there if the apps I use regularly were available on the platform.

      However, for a system to be an alternative, I think the essential point of MacOS is valid. If you’re used to, and much more comfortable with, a given platform, there is definitely a productivity cost to a switch. The days of X is better than Y should be over, it’s generally nonsense, but they are different and people can struggle with that difference.

      In any event, it’s beginning to look like the Surface Studio is my frontrunner to replace my iMac. That’s pushing a lot of the right buttons for me, regardless of the OS running on it.

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  9. Timothy Bearden

    I’ve been looking to upgrade from my MacBook pro as well. In many ways I see touch screen as something MacBook could use. Their compromise is a touch bar, which is good in all, but a touch screen is useful. The surface Studio is a prime example of improvements and innovations that Mac is lacking. I’ve used macs for about 2 decades. There were many benefits of macs for the first decade. The past decade there is less and less reasons to stay. I already thought about jumping ship when the 17″ MacBook pro got axed. It was very beneficial to my work flow. Now I’d have to use adapter cables for everything, just because of USB-C is the way to go. I love my SD card adapter on my current mac, which is no longer on the next gen. I’m sure the next MacBook after this one won’t even have a headphone adapter like the iPhone. Too bad they don’t listen to the ones who actually use the devices. I already jumped ship from the iPhone to android. No reason to remain on their laptops
    .

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  10. Kevin DiOssi

    I currently use a Dell XPS 15 9550 as my mobile workstation and it has been exemplary. I’m really surprised this article talked about the XPS 13 before it talked about the 15, which is a MacBook Pro slayer. The 13-inch variant isn’t available with the same 4K display with mega-wide color gamut.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Yes, the 15-inch XPS is a killer option. I tried to include a broad range of companies without duplication.

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    • Victor Iwotor

      I used a dell XPS model (can’t remember the exact model since I gave away the laptop to a family member). Problem I had was depending how you tilt the display, the color tends to change. It was hard for me to accurately do postprocessing on this laptop. Have you experienced this issue with the XPS 15 9550?. I use their ultrasharp 24″ monitor with my Dell desktop. Would like to invest in another laptop eventually especially when I go on the road.

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    • Martin Pernecký

      I have the Precision 5510 (workstation version of XPS 15) and it perfect. You can configure it to 32GB memory, the SSD (with NVMe) can have trasfer speeds of up to 2.5GB/s. Performance-wise in every aspect a very powerful machine. Build quality might be a bit behind MBP and the ergonomics of Windows vs macOS is something to get used to. But would always recommend

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    • Kevin DiOssi

      Well it would have been nice to have at least mentioned the 13- and 15-inch variants since the MBP is available in both sizes. The 15-inch can be fitted with a 1TB NVMe SSD built by Samsung and 32GB RAM directly from Dell…which is impressive and creates a blazing machine.

      As for color shift ont he screen. If you remain along the same vertical plane as the hinge, I haven’t seen any sort of color shift even at the most extremes. If you more to the left and right of the screen and get to the extreme end of things, you’ll see the blacks shift to a slight red hue. Not a deal breaker for me and I believe that Dell replaced some screens for the issue.

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    • Justin Heyes

      Like I say in the article “There are a plethora of other options available”. I didn’t want to make a list that was heavily bias to one brand or another. Some people love obviously love Dell over another brand like ASUS.

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