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Laptops

Best MacBook Pro 15 alternatives for 2019

Think different about your laptop options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As much as some of us may deride the MacBook Pro's awful keyboard, annoying Touch Bar and over-reliance on USB-C connections, its balance of screen quality, weight, battery life and performance has no Windows-based peer. But once you plop price on the other side of that scale, things look somewhat different.

And that's OK. Because most people don't need that balance. For instance, the MacBook's screen is great for creatives because of its wide gamut with accurate Adobe RGB colors. But color accuracy is a niche the bulk of MacBook buyers don't need to squeeze themselves into. You may only care about sRGB or plan to plug into an external display. Maybe you plug in wherever you go and don't care as much about battery life. Or maybe you just want the most powerful portable available to use as a desktop replacement.

Windows laptop screens also have a bright spot on the horizon: Samsung's started production on 15-inch OLED displays. OLED delivers true blacks, which results in a high contrast, and it has the wide color gamut and accuracy that will allow for more competitive laptops on that front.

And one nice thing about Windows laptops is the variety. In this case there are 14-inch laptops that are slightly smaller and lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, but not quite as small as the 13-inch model, for less money.   

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Best overall alternative

Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Zenbook is the closest equivalent to a MacBook we've found, though it doesn't look anything like one. It's roughly the same size and weight, with a color-accurate 100 percent Adobe RGB 4K display -- and therefore a higher pixel density than Apple's Retina -- and discrete graphics. While it performs well, it still lags behind the comparable Core i9-8950HK MacBook, though that might be attributed to the difference in memory configurations. Its big weakness is battery life. But it costs $2,300 compared to $3,100 for an equivalent MacBook, and it will most likely outperform the entry-level 15-inch MacBook at around the same price. The second-screen touchpad seems gimmicky, but it might feed any Touch Bar nostalgia you're feeling.

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Best comparable design

Razer Blade 15

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If you're drawn to a MacBook Pro for its featureless-slab aesthetic, Razer's your Windows go-to, especially now that the company's offering a model in Mercury White. It's priced similarly to the entry-level MacBook Pro model and should provide a similar level of performance. But the white version of the Razer only comes with a 1,980x1,080-pixel screen and is limited to an i7-8750H processor, relatively small 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM. It also weighs 0.5 pounds more. 

If you're willing to go black, you can get a 4K 100 percent Adobe RGB screen (I haven't tested it for accuracy, though) and a GeForce RTX 2070 for $2,900. That's more expensive than the comparable MacBook configuration (around $2,700), but it's far more gameworthy. Battery life is pretty meh, however, and with the 4K screen is likely even worse.

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Best for battery life and light weight

Lenovo Yoga C930

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With roughly the same insides, the C930 is $1,600 vs. the 13-incher's $2,300 or the $2,400 base configuration of the 15. It's also a convertible, which is more flexible, and has better battery life. The performance won't match that 15-inch base configuration, however. You can opt for the 4K display over the default 1,920x1,080-pixel screen in order to get Retina-beating pixel density, but it will cost another $200 and tank the battery life.

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Best performer as a desktop replacement

Alienware Area-51m

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This lacks the elegant design of the MacBook, but if you need raw power in a desktop replacement, this 17-inch behemoth can be configured to outperform the top-end MacBook Pro. You can get a desktop-class i9-9900K processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, 64GB RAM and 3TB storage (2TB SSD). That will run you $5,150, though. 

Starting at a more modest $3,330, you can still get a desktop-class octo-core i7, RTX 2070, 16GB and 1TB SSD. That should still deliver comparable performance to a $4,500 MacBook, and you can add a boatload of connectors. It'll handle games well too. The Alienware only has an 1,920x1,080 display, which is kind of sad. It's intended to be run while plugged in -- with two AC adapters -- so it doesn't matter that a 4K display would sap the already sad battery life.

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Best budget option

Matebook Pro X

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You can save a lot of money by dropping to 14 inches. The Matebook Pro X delivers performance equal to the last-generation top-end MacBook 15 but at $1,300 (discounted from $1,500) costs less than the cheapest Retina MacBook 13. The 3,000x2,000-pixel screen delivers better-than-Retina pixel density, accurate sRGB color and the laptop is thinner and lighter than a 15-inch MacBook. Plus, battery life is decent.

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