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In Depth: Stacking the new MacBook up against its competition


PCHF Tech News
Jan 10, 2015

Introduction and comparisons

Earlier today, Apple unveiled its new MacBook, a device that looks to be a marvel of laptop design. Fortunately for laptop enthusiasts, the new MacBook has a ton of competition.

In addition to the MacBook, which is sure to rank highly on the spectrum of consumer-class laptops, the new Dell XPS 13, the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550, and the Asus Zenbook UX305 are the best laptops introduced this year. I'll take you through the specs and design features of each device to help you better understand how the MacBook stacks up against its competitors.

Keep in mind, we haven't run the soon-to-be-released MacBook and LaVie through our series of benchmarks, so we're basing many of these comparisons on manufacturer-provided spec sheets. Once we've fully tested these two laptops we will be able to provide you with a much more comprehensive comparison.

The MacBook

At just 2.0 pounds (0.90kg) and 0.5 inches (13.1mm) thick, the MacBook is a highly portable laptop among the lightest on the market. It features a fanless Intel 5th Generation Core M processor, a 2304 x 1440 Retina display, and its battery will provide up to 10 hours of video playback.

Among Apple's other innovations, the new MacBook features a butterfly mechanism in its keyboard that Apple says will provide more precise clicking. It also features a Force Touch TrackPad that enables you to click anywhere and get the same feel across the surface, unlike old trackpads that are more rigid up top and looser on the bottom. You can use the TrackPad to Force Click, which allows you to preview Wikipedia pages when you select words and phrases, or preview documents before clicking in. You can also Force Click to go faster or slower while scrolling video depending on how hard you press.

One of the more interesting innovations is the reversible USB C, which allows you to input and output USB, DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA from one port.

The new MacBook is available starting April 10 at $1299 (£1,049 in the UK).

MacBook versus XPS 13


The new MacBook features a 12-inch edge-to-edge display, which stretches your screen pretty close to the edge of the laptop's top panel. The Dell XPS 13, which we awarded a coveted five-star rating, bests this by providing a 13-inch edge-to-edge Infinity Display that packs a typical 13-inch display into an 11-inch body.

The MacBook features only a 2304 x 1440 Retina Display, whereas the XPS 13 comes in a full HD model (starting at $799, £520, AU$980) and a quad HD+ (3200 X 1800) touchscreen model ($1,299, £852, AU$1,605). The MacBook does not feature a touchscreen.

Because of its Core M processor, the MacBook narrowly beats the XPS 13 in size and heft. The standard XPS 13 is 0.6 inches (15mm) thick and weighs 2.6 pounds. So you're sacrificing about a half-pound by getting the XPS 13 instead of the standard MacBook. However, Core M is less powerful than the XPS 13's Intel Core i5 processor, so you'll have to ask yourself if processing speed is more important than portability.

In terms of battery life, the standard XPS 13 is reportedly capable of providing 15 hours of video playback, compared to the Mac's 10 hours. However, we tested the XPS13 QHD+ model and we were only able to crank out 7 hours and 40 minutes of video playback by lowering the screen brightness and audio volume to 50%. So if you're not interested in touchscreen design, but battery life is your number one priority, then you're probably better off getting the standard XPS 13.

The XPS 13 is also much more connectable than the MacBook. It features two USB 3.0 inputs, a mini DisplayPort, and a 3-in-1 (SD, SDHC, SDXC) reader. The MacBook only has a USB C input, which will require you to purchase adapters to connect more than one input and output at a time.

In terms of storage, the standard MacBook features 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD, which is comparable to the standard version of the XPS 13.

Against Asus and Lenovo

MacBook versus Zenbook


We also awarded the Asus Zenbook UX305 a five-star rating. At an incredibly affordable $699 (£649, around AU$902), the Zenbook provides a solid alternative to the MacBook at almost half the price.

The Zenbook only comes with a full HD display, but it is exactly as thin as the MacBook. Like the XPS 13, the Zenbook weighs 2.6 pounds, so by choosing the Zenbook, you're sacrificing screen quality and heft in order to save a pretty penny. Don't fret: Asus also plans to ship a $999 (about £648, AU$1286) version of the UX305, with a 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display in April.

Like the MacBook, the Zenbook features an Intel Core M processor. However, the MacBook bests the Zenbook in terms of battery life: we were only able to stretch five hours and 26 minutes out of the Zenbook when pushed at a moderate pace. According to Asus, the Zenbook can run for eight hours of video playback, which is two hours less than Apple's projected 10 hours.

Like the XPS 13 and MacBook, the Zenbook comes with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of memory.

MacBook versus Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550


At just 1.72 pounds (0.78kg), the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 ($1,299, £852, AU$1,605) is the lightest laptop on the market. The MacBook is slightly heavier at 2.0 pounds, but if weight is your primary concern, you can't beat the LaVie. Slightly thicker than the MacBook, the LaVie measures in at 0.66 inches (15mm).

Internally the Lenovo LaVie features only 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. As for connectivity, you'll get two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, and an SD card reader, which is similar to the MacBook, minus the DisplayPort and the VGA, but doesn't require an adapter to input and output multiple cords at once.

What's really cool about this device is that Intel was somehow able to pack it with a Broadwell Intel Core i5 processor, rather than the less powerful Core M chips you find in lightweight devices.

Unfortunately, the LaVie's battery life only nets up to six hours for the WQHD (2560 X 1440) touchscreen model. When comparing this device to the MacBook it is really an apples to oranges comparison; the Lenovo is built more for its portability, touchscreen functionality and processing power, whereas the MacBook is designed to be portable, long-lasting and crazy thin.

What to do. What to do.

You can't go wrong with any of these devices. Neither of them runs the table in terms of specifications, so you'll have to determine what the most important features are for you and then select your device based on that assessment. This has been an excellent year for laptop design, and the new MacBook furthers a category that was already stacked with major players.



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