The best MacBook Pro (2016) alternatives
With the 2016 MacBook Pro, Apple left some of its most loyal customers in the dark. Making the company's pro-tier laptop lighter and thinner was a welcome move, but the model's higher price, weaker port selection and less-than-essential Touch Bar were anything but. Ready to give up on Apple's highest-end laptop line? Here are some other options.
2015 MacBook Pro
It's a generation older, but if you can't bear to jump to Windows, the 2015 version of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is still a terrific laptop.
It gives you all the pro-level ports you'd need, including two USB 3.0, two Thunderbolt, HDMI and an SD reader. (It even has a standalone "MagSafe" charging port, something Apple dropped in the new models.) The 2015 model includes Apple's current-gen Force Touch trackpad, just a smaller version of the oversized 2016 trackpad. And the overall quality of its sharp screen isn't far behind the displays on the 2016 MacBook Pros.
Most importantly, you can save money – especially if you wait for sales or consider buying a refurbished or lightly-used model.
The biggest drawbacks are its 15-percent heavier (13-in) or 11-percent heavier (15-in) build compared to the current model. You also lose the Touch Bar, though at this stage we don't consider that to be a big loss. (It's more about shortcuts than adding extra functionality.)
The 13-in MacBook Pro (2015) technically starts at $1,300 and the 15-in one has a base price of $2,000, but don't pay that now. Best Buy and other retailers have had this generation on sale on-and-off since the new models launched.
- Buy 2015 MacBook Pro on Amazon
2015 MacBook Air (13-in)
Your only other semi-viable option that involves staying on macOS is the 13-in MacBook Air. While this will save you more money, it's also a more compromised alternative than the 2015 MacBook Pro.
Display resolution is this model's Achilles' heel. Apparently in the name of pushing its new (port-limited) models on customers, Apple has refused to add a sharp Retina Display to the MacBook Air line. (The Air's 128 PPI pixel density is 44-percent less sharp than the MacBook Pro's.)
If your eyes don't mind the fuzzier view, though, the MacBook Air delivers solid performance, macOS and a light/thin build starting at $1,000.
- Buy 2015 MacBook Air on Amazon
Dell XPS 13 (2016)
If you can part with macOS in favor of Windows 10, Dell's sleek-looking XPS 13 is one of your better options. Its light and thin build is positively MacBook Air-like, its "InfinityEdge" display is nearly bezel-less on three sides and its typing and trackpad experience is better than what you'll find on most Windows notebooks.
Its touchscreen may also help you forget about the lack of a Touch Bar. (And if you prefer, there's also a 2017 2-in-1 model that folds back into a tablet.)
The 2016 Dell XPS 13 starts at $800 for an underpowered Core i3 processor. Core i5 models start at $1,000 with speedy i7 versions going up from $1,600. Note, however, that this laptop often pops up in sales at Best Buy.
Microsoft Surface Book
Another top Windows option is the Surface Book: a laptop that lets you pull its screen off to use as an ultra-light (but not very long-lasting) tablet.
Its premium, metallic build harks back to the MacBook Pro lineup, and its 6th-gen Intel Core processors line up with Apple's controversial 2016 models.
The big hesitation is that there's a fair chance Microsoft will update the Surface Book within the next few months. If you're going to buy this original model now, wait for a sale: In recent months, it's common to see the entry-level models at several hundred dollars cheaper than MSRP.
The Surface Book starts at $1,500.
If you're considering breaking from Apple's tablet lineup, we also have a few iPad Pro alternatives. And if you're still considering the 2016 MacBook Pro, you can check out New Atlas' review of the Touch Bar model and impressions of the non-Touch variant.