Laptops are a necessity for modern living. They offer a variety of conveniences that keep us engaged with the digital world and simplify our daily workflow. But picking out one of these portable computers is no easy task, especially if the funds aren’t available.
Public demand would lead you to believe that buying a MacBook is the right move. Truth is, there are a number of affordable laptops out that can provide similar, if not the same, performance as Apple’s high-priced ultrabooks. Before jumping into our list, it’s worth noting the several laptop models that are out there:
2-in-1: Also known as convertibles, these machines are laptop/tablet hybrids designed for portability. Chromebook: Netbooks running Google’s Chrome OS that rely on cloud storage and Wi-Fi use. Ultrabook: High-end sub-notebooks that mate powerful hardware with a sleek design and don’t compromise battery life. Mobile Workstation: Notebooks with advanced computing features intended for business and power users.
Now that you’ve gotten past the home screen, it's on to the market’s top offerings under $700.
Price: $199 The cheapest of the lot, HP resurrects the netbook with a super-cheap machine that over-delivers on numerous ends. Usability serves as its prominent hallmark with a comfy keyboard, long battery life, and the added utility of the Windows 8 spearheading everything. Performance is just as impressive with an eMMC solid-state drive speeding up operations. HP gains points as well for its colorful and stylish design, plus its free offering of OneDrive cloud storage and Office 365 for up to a year.
Toshiba Chromebook 2
Price:$299 Chromebooks are blowing up and Toshiba’s latest Google-powered laptop is generating a ton of noise. The CB2 packs a booming spec sheet that complements its bass-heavy sound quality, which is tuned by Skullcandy. A 13-inch 1080p screen guarantees sharp imagery and 4GB of RAM results in a smoother Chrome OS experience. Google also gives away 100GB of cloud storage and two months unlimited Google Music to keep your music library growing and bumping.
Acer Aspire Switch 11
Price:$400 Caught in the uncompromising position of choosing between your laptop and tablet before heading out the door? Acer gives you the best of both worlds with its detachable 2-in-1 convertible. The Aspire Switch 11 balances usage between both devices thanks to its versatile magnetic hinge, while carrying the full functionality of Windows 8.1. Aesthetics might steal the spotlight here, but its gorgeous 1080p IPS touch screen is sure to draw some stares from spectators (aka co-workers) with its clear video presentation and responsive feedback.
Dell Inspiron 17 5000
Price:$449 Media mongers who desire screen real estate have more than enough to work with here. The 5000 series boasts a 17.3-inch screen that delivers vibrant colors and visuals, alongside a fourth-gen Pentium CPU that speeds up multitasking and Windows navigation. Dell even includes a DVD burner (yes, they still exist), HDMI output, and a multi-SD card reader for all you pirates scouring the Net for movie torrents. Relatively long battery life also makes it a solid desktop replacement.
Price: $499 A shrunken-down version of Microsoft’s flagship device, the Surface 3 proves to be just as fast, sturdy, and versatile as its upscale sibling—at nearly half the price value. Much of the signature attributes remain intact such as the adjustable kickstand, Intel x86 processors, Windows 8.1, and detachable Type Cover keyboard (sold separately). However, this model receives a sweet upgrade in an 8MP rear camera that surprisingly captures high-quality shots. Throw in other notable accessories like the Docking Station and Surface Pen, and you have a full-fledged workstation in slate form.
Asus Zenbook UX305
Price:$699 They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It couldn't be truer with Asus' latest ultrabook. The Zenbook UX305 serves as the ideal MacBook alternative with a light, slim, and sexy profile that accommodates portability, along with a crisp, glare-free display to binge-watch Hulu shows for hours on end. Not to mention it's $600 cheaper and shares a similar spec sheet to its Mac OS X counterpart. Now that’s a steal.
Lenovo Edge 15
Price: $699 A full HD display, great Windows support, loud speakers, and an aluminum chassis designed for show—the Edge 15 is no more than a premium netbook disguised as a mid-level laptop. Rotating its display 300 degrees will enable a “stand mode” that’s incredibly convenient for media consumption. The combination of an Intel Core I5-4210U CPU, 6GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive should have you running multiple applications without a hitch.
Alex Bracettiis a contributor to Supercompressor, Complex, HOOP, Man of Many, and several other popular lifestyle outlets. Follow him on Twitter @AlexBracetti.