The best 12-inch MacBook alternatives
The 12-inch MacBook is Apple's lightest and thinnest laptop – it also has its smallest display, only one USB-C port and a starting price of US$1,299. Before you take the plunge, what are your other options? New Atlas has rounded up a few.
Asus Zenbook 3
With its sleek stylish chassis, 12.5-inch display and yes, a single USB-C port, the Asus Zenbook 3 is clearly angling itself as a MacBook competitor. Depending on what you're looking for, it does have a few advantages.
Most notably, it packs in significant processing power. It uses the latest seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, as opposed to the MacBook's more modest (but still capable) dual core m3, m5 or m7 chips. It also packs in 512 GB of flash storage, 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM, as well as impressive-sounding speakers. It also comes with a splitter accessory that plugs into your USB-C port and converts it into a USB-C, HDMI out and a legacy USB 3.0 port.
Of course, the Zenbook is a Windows 10 device, which could be a benefit or a disadvantage depending on your feelings about macOS. It also has relatively poor battery life and a slightly lower resolution display. Starting price is $999 for the i5/8GB RAM version, or $1,599 for the version sporting an i7 chip and 16 GB of RAM.
When it was introduced, the MacBook Air was Apple's ultra-slim laptop with a greater focus on luxury than functionality. Now that the 12-inch MacBook has overtaken the compact title, you could think of the MacBook Air as a slightly larger, older option with some more user-friendly details.
MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch display, but at 1,440 x 900, it's lower resolution than the MacBook. As the oldest laptop in Apple's current lineup, it lacks some recent updates – but that could be a good thing. It still has a hinged trackpad as opposed to the newer solid state Force Touch models, but it's also one of the last MacBooks with a dedicated MagSafe charging port and legacy USB 3.0 ports (it has Thunderbolt/USB-C x 2 and USB3 x 2).
Although it still has fifth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, it can be configured with additional RAM and storage so as to be very forward-friendly, without driving you crazy with dongles in the process. MacBook Air starts at $999.
It seems strange to think of an accessorized Windows-10 running tablet (coming from a Chinese manufacturer little known in the US) as an alternative to an Apple laptop, but hear us out. The sleek 12-inch tablet has several features in common with the MacBook in a convertible form factor.
If you add on Huawei's keyboard cover and MatePen, the Huawei Matebook tablet becomes a super portable 2-in-1 that stands in well for a laptop in many situations. Its m3/m5 processor options aren't as powerful as some other desktop-running tablets, but they rival the MacBook's. This spec comparison shows a more direct side-by-side look at the two machines.
Of course, you can also use the tablet alone, which is a nice feature if you want a truly versatile machine. Take note, however, that the type cover – which props up the tablet in laptop mode – has only two positions and can be flimsy. It doesn't have the 360-degree movement of higher-end 2-in-1s.
Huawei Matebook starts at $699 for just the tablet; the MatePen stylus is an additional $59, while the keyboard cover is $129.
- Buy Huawei Matebook on Amazon
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
If the MateBook's tablet-into-laptop form factor caught your eye, but you want something slightly more heavy-duty, check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Its entry-level processor is Intel core m3, but (unless you really care about the silence of a fanless machine) we recommend the i5-sporting variant for its processing boost.
The Surface Pro 4 comes with the pressure-sensitive Surface Pen; the keyboard cover is sold separately. For both the tablet and the keyboard, the m3 variant starts at $1,030 while the i5 version starts at $1,130.
The Surface Pro 4 also has a lone USB port, but it's a legacy USB 3.0 port and not the newer USB-C. It also sports a microSD slot and mini DisplayPort. Its 2,736 x 1,824, 12.3-inch display is slightly more pixel dense than that of the MacBook.
We do expect Microsoft to release the Surface Pro 5 (or its equivalent) sometime in the first part of 2017. It could be worth seeing what the new generation brings. Even if you don't end up purchasing the latest edition, its release will likely drive down the price of the Surface Pro 4.
- Buy Microsoft Surface Pro 4 on Amazon
13-inch MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar)
Paying just $200 more will get you the latest 13.3-inch MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar, and it's worth considering. It offers the latest Apple tech, sans the debatable Touch Bar and its associated price hike.
The MacBook Pro is heftier than the MacBook, but as you can see, this is still a slim device with the same characteristic Apple unibody. There are many spec and build similarities, but the MacBook Pro's main advantages are a larger display, much faster i5 processor, one more USB-C port and a higher resolution webcam.
You may have noticed we included both Apple laptops and Windows 2-in-1s, but not the iPad Pro, Apple's only offering that could qualify as a 2-in-1. Because the iPad Pro is a strictly mobile machine that runs iOS 10 instead of macOS, we don't consider it a true laptop alternative. If you want to investigate this option, check out our iPad Pro (12.9-in) review and roundup of alternatives.