Tech & Science

Four Ultra-Thin Laptops Not Named Macbook Air to Consider Buying

1030_ultrabook
The ultrabook market is full of thin laptops aiming to dethrone the Macbook Air. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

When it comes to thin laptops, Macbook Air is often the first product that comes to people’s mind. For years, PC laptop makers have been experimenting with a laptop class called ultrabooks to best the Macbook Air—but most have fallen short. Is 2015 the year that changes?

This year, there has been a flurry of claims that newfangled laptops are either thinner or lighter than the Macbook Air. Whether they are better than the Macbook Air is up in the air, so we have picked up four ultrabooks and stacked them against the Apple product.

Lenovo LaVie Z ($1,200)

Lenovo deserves a tip of the hat for somehow packing everything necessary for a functioning 13-inch laptop into product that weighs only 1.87 pounds—half a pounder lighter than the Macbook Air. And here’s a curveball: You can turn the screen 180 degrees and use it as a tablet.

But the LaVie Z does have some snags. First it has a shrunken keyboard with buttons a bit smaller than what American consumers are used to. Second, its battery life is quite mediocre, so no matter the portability, you will likely be plugged in somewhere more often than not. And there’s also the $200 price difference between a LaVie Z and a 13-inch Macbook Air.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($900)

Is this really a laptop? In its basic concept, the Surface Pro is a tablet that can act as a laptop with an attachable keyboard. But during its presentation talk for the product earlier month, Microsoft repeatedly touted Surface Pro 4’s computing horsepower as being twice as fast as Macbook Air’s, which felt like a throwdown of the gauntlet.

There are numerous advantages to the Surface Pro 4 over Macbook Air—including that it's lighter, only weighing 1.73 pounds with a 12.3-inch multi-touch display—but it’s on shaky grounds with the twice-as-fast-as-Macbook-Air claim, according to independent benchmark tests. Considering it is $100 cheaper (albeit the price can go up to $1800 quickly for larger RAM and memory space), though, the Surface Pro 4 may be a good alternative to the Air—as long as you are not expecting a workhorse laptop.

Asus Zenbook UX305 ($600)

Among all the mid-range laptops, the Zenbook shines. Literally. While its glossy exterior has a cheap knockoff look, it is the most affordable ultrabook that can hold its own in the ultrabook market. Weighing around 2.6 pounds, a tad heavier than a Macbook Air, the Zenbook can do almost all the heavy lifting a Macbook Air can do.

For the Zenbook, the battery life—the most common place where ultrabook manufacturers cut corners to make the laptop lighter—is actually impressive, clocking at 9-10 hours. Anyone who dreams of owning a Macbook Air but is constrained by a tight budget should consider the Zenbook.

LG Gram ($1,400)

The Korean manufacturer LG is known more for its televisions or refrigerators, but this fall LG is launching its first ultrabook to be sold in the United States. The LG Gram is a 14-inch laptop that somehow weighs a fraction less than the Macbook Air. From its gray exterior to the black, island-style keyboard to the large touchpad, the LG Gram inches dangerously close to looking identical to a Macbook Air.

So what’s the selling point for the LG Gram, considering it is $200 more expensive than the most expensive Macbook Air? We don’t quite know exactly. One advantage is that Microsoft designated the Gram with a Signature Edition label, meaning there is no bloatware pre-installed into the laptop. Its battery life is disappointing, clocking at 7.5 hours at its best.