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Laptops

Best MacBook Air alternatives for 2019

Here are the best non-Apple laptops that cost around $1,000.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For years, Apple set the bar for what you could expect from a $1,000 laptop with its popular MacBook Air. In 2018, the company announced a new version of the MacBook Air that featured some nice, though nonessential, upgrades including a higher-quality display, Touch ID and USB-C connections. And, significantly, Apple also jacked up the starting price by 20 percent, to $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,849). 

For some people, that price increase pushes the MacBook Air out of contention. Others may be put off by the new model's butterfly keyboard or the limits of its eighth-gen Intel Core i5 processor. The older version of the MacBook Air, which has Apple's traditional, beloved keyboard, can often be found for far less -- usually under $900 -- making it, in my opinion, the better value. (And, of course, there's also the 12-inch MacBook, which is more expensive, less powerful and more portable than the current MacBook Air.)

But Apple charges a premium for all of its laptops -- and for what's arguably the best computer operating system around, MacOS. Still, other major brands almost always deliver more for your money when it comes to major components (processor, RAM and hard drive capacity), ports and connections and battery life. And, in 2018, Apple still doesn't sell a laptop with a touchscreen option -- a useful feature found on an increasing number of competitive models. 

All six laptops highlighted below cost roughly as much as the MacBook Air, have a 13-inch display, weigh less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), and are reasonably streamlined and stylish. Each will make a worthy alternative to Apple's MacBook Air. Check them out.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.   

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S

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At 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg), the 13.3-inch Lenovo IdeaPad 730S is lighter and thinner than the current MacBook Air. Its quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, faster 2,400MHz memory and speedy Samsung PCIe solid-state drive give it better performance than the Air, too. About the only place it lags is battery life. Still, starting at $825, it's cheaper than the 2017 MacBook Air -- and you may find it discounted for even less.

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HP Spectre x360 13

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This Spectre x360 configuration costs as much as the new MacBook Air and comes equipped with remarkably better specs -- you get an eighth-gen Intel Core i7 CPU (the Air has a Core i5), a 256GB SSD (versus the Air's 128GB), a microSD card slot (the Air has none) and superior battery life (more than 13 hours versus the Air's 11.5 hours). Plus, you get the Spectre's great HD touchscreen display, which can be rotated between tablet and laptop mode, and a terrific keyboard. It's a no-brainer.

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Dell XPS 13

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If you're a Windows person and want a balance of portability, power and price, it's hard to find a better laptop than the XPS 13. Starting at $899, this laptop is attractive, incomparably slim and offers a ton of configuration (and price) flexibility. And though the last few versions of the XPS 13 were subverted by a poorly positioned webcam, that has now been fixed with the new 2019 model. Dell also makes a 15-inch version, which starts at $999.

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Huawei MateBook X Pro

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This MateBook X Pro configuration costs about as much as the newer MacBook Air and offers some distinct advantages. You get a bright 13.9-inch display, an eighth-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and, unique among the laptops in this collection, a discrete graphics card -- Nvidia's MX150 GPU. On the downside, the webcam's placement atop the keyboard makes it challenging to use. 

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

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If you're looking for a great laptop that's closer to $1,000 than the new MacBook Air, the entry-level Surface Laptop 2 will do the trick. (Note that the official Microsoft Store and other retailers often offer steep discounts on the base model.) You get a slim, modern design; a great 12.3-inch touchscreen; a solid keyboard and touchpad; and a decent set of ports. 

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Lenovo Yoga C930

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Lenovo has spent years refining its premium two-in-one design to deliver a laptop that convincingly doubles as a tablet; the Yoga C930 is the form perfected. The keyboard and display are very good, the speakers are great, and there's sufficient power for any productivity or entertainment task. Now starting at $1,000, it's a solid value -- you're getting a laptop and a tablet, after all -- that offers flexibility and features beyond any version of the MacBook Air. 

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Originally published Feb. 25.
Update, Feb. 28: Added the Lenovo IdeaPad 730S.