2011 Back To School Guide: The 5 Best MacBook Air Alternatives

evolveteam August 23, 2011 0

Slim profile, sexy look, up-to-date specs, and iEverything integration—the MacBook Air, without a doubt, holds the laptop crown at the moment. But while a majority of us have made the transition over to Apple’s notebook, there’s still a hardcore PC fan base that either refuses to make the transition over to OS X, or flat out can’t afford it. And while the Air has changed the portable PC landscape with its thin frame and sleek countenance, Windows-based laptop manufacturers are starting to produce their own lean renditions: offering powerful specs, higher-quality build, and most importantly, cheaper price tags. So while most of your classmates end up jocking the Cupertino Clan’s latest creation come first day of class, be the cool kid that breaks from the norm by purchasing any one of these 5 MacBook Air Alternatives.


The spec sheet: 14-inch LCD screen, 2.10GHz Intel Core i3, NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 500GB of memory, 6GB of RAM, and HDMI port

MSI’s ultra-thin notebook measure at one-inch thick and 4.3 pounds, and squeezes in high-powered specs like a i3-2310M CPU and GeForce GT 540M graphics card under the hood. The 14-inch LED backlight display produces 1366 x 768 resolution, while the MacBook-inspired keyboard provides positive tactile feedback. Memory-wise, you’re looking at 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB 7200rpm SATA hard disk drive. And rounding out the media front is a DVDRW, two 1.5W speakers, media card reader, VGA and HDMI port, and two USB 3.0 one USB 2.0 ports.

 Buy It Now At Newegg, $749.99

 Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830 TG

The spec sheet: 15.6-inch LCD display, 2.1 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 640 GB of memory, 6GB of RAM, and HDMI port

Considering its mammoth, yet bright 15.6-inch screen, Acer still manages to give its popular Timeline X series the slim-treatment, compacted at one-inch thick. The 5830TG dons some serious hardware that includes an Intel Core i5-2410M chip, NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive. Images and videos look sharp on the huge LCD display, too. Wireless options include wi-fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and Clear.fi, which allow users to share and stream data on a home network with other compatible devices. The 10-hour battery life should be more than enough power to engage in some 3D gaming between classes and long breaks as well.

 Buy It Now At Amazon, $799.99

 Lenovo ThinkPad X1

The spec sheet: 13.3-inch Premium HD LCD screen, 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 320GB memory, 4GB RAM, HDMI, and DisplayPort

Lenovo keeps the spirit of the X300 series alive by building one of the best ultraportable business laptops on the market. It’s slightly thicker than the MacBook Air 13-inch and the Samsung Series 9 at 0.84 inches, but its solid construction and Gorilla Glass, scratchproof screen make it the least fragile of the three. Corporate types will embrace business facets such as security management, power settings, and troubleshooting, along with a strong-low-light sensitive HD webcam for web conferencing (Skype). ThinkPad conformists can also enjoy the infamous click touchpad, a spacious palm-rest, and well-built keyboard. There’s also an HDMI and DisplayPort to mirror content onto any compatible HDTV. Fun fact: It’s also the slimmest ThinkPad ever made.

 Buy It Now At Lenovo, $1,299.99

 Samsung Series 9

The spec sheet: 13.3-inch LCD display, 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5-2537M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 128GB of memory, 4GB of RAM, and an HDMI port

Quite possibly the sexiest Windows-based laptop ever built, the Samsung Series 9 is practically the PC equivalent of the Air—weighing in at less than three pounds and 0.7 inches thick. Samsung’s beauty sports a sleek aluminum finish, along with a stronger processor (Core i5 2537M processor) that clocks in at 1.4GHz. The 13.3-inch LED backlit generates 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and produces vibrant colors and great viewing angles. You’ll also find two other features here not found in the Air: an Ethernet port and double the RAM (4GB). Finally, there’s an emergency restore system and control center that lets you adjust screen brightness, switch wi-fi connections, and more.

 Buy It Now At TigerDirect, $1399.99

 Sony VAIO Z Series

The spec sheet: 13.1inch Full HD screen, 2.70GHz Intel Core i7-2620M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 256GB memory, 6GB RAM, and power media dock

The customizable Z series offers enough high-end specs to match its expensive price tag. Attach a 2.70GHz Intel Core i7-2620M CPU, along with an Intel HD Graphics 3000 and 6GB of RAM to get speedy results and manage multitasking with ease. Its 0.66-inch thick chassis and 2.6-pound density accommodates lighter travels. The anti-glare HD screen generates 1920×1080 resolution and 100% color saturation, producing bright and clear images and video output. Sony also includes a Power Media Dock, which features the powerful AMD Radeon HD 6650M chip, and 1GB VRAM, pushing premium HD visuals without putting pressure on laptop’s processor. The Z series is also capable of supporting up to 4 Full HD displays and comes Blu-ray-ready. The most high-end option at the moment? Believe it.

 Buy It Now At Sony, $1,969.99