These powerful PCs may cure your MacBook Pro spec blues
If you're a creative professional disappointed by the specs of Apple's new MacBook Pro, you have options -- take a look at how these powerful Windows laptops compare.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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Apple's new machines don't feature the latest Intel and Nvidia processors, don't offer more than 16GB of memory, and ditch nearly all the traditional ports -- including full-size USB ports and the SD card reader -- in favor of the new Thunderbolt 3 standard.
Some pros are even considering a switch to Windows instead. But which PCs are worthy replacements for the MacBook Pro? Here are five Windows laptops alternatives that creative professionals should consider.
The all-around creative
The Dell XPS 15 laptop matches up nicely in both price and specs against the new 15-inch MacBook Pro. Its practical design houses a 15-inch 4K display that renders 100 percent of the Adobe RGB color space -- a plus for editing photos or color-correcting videos. Its $1,850 US price tag is another win. Check out our full review of the Dell XPS 15 here.
Advantages over the 15-inch MacBook Pro: 4K display, touchscreen, 32GB of RAM and ports including HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0 and an SD card reader.
Disadvantages: The Nvidia graphics card is not VR-ready. The battery life is just OK. And the 15-inch MacBook Pro's design looks better than the clunky wedge shape of the Dell.
If you are looking for pure power in a laptop, meet the new 17-inch Razer Blade Pro. This computer has pretty much every spec you could ask for: a giant 4K touchscreen with a wide color gamut, loads of ports, the best graphics chip you can get in a laptop, 32GB of RAM and even a scroll wheel! Read our in-depth look at the Razer Blade Pro.
Advantages over the 15-inch MacBook Pro: 4K touchscreen, Nvidia GTX 1080 (8GB) graphics, an SD card slot, 32GB RAM, and a 2TB PCIe SSD (in RAID 0, which means up to twice the read and write speed by combining two drives together).
Disadvantages: Weight (it's nearly twice the weight of a 15-inch MacBook Pro), price ($3,699 where the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 in the US) and it's unable to run Final Cut Pro (which is true of any Windows laptop).
Designers and artists
Recently, Microsoft announced that it was going to offer a premium version of its Surface Book with an i7 processor. In our review of the Surface Book, we gave "Archie" comic book artist Dan Parent some time with the laptop/tablet hybrid. He viewed the Surface Book as a serious contender to replace his Wacom tablet and stylus.
Advantages over the 13-inch MacBook Pro: A top-of-the-line Surface Book comes with better (game-capable) graphics, more ports (including an SD card reader) as well as both a touchscreen and the Microsoft Surface pen stylus.
Disadvantages: A top-of-the-line 13-inch MacBook Pro is cheaper, lighter, smaller and comes with a faster processor and Thunderbolt 3 ports. It can also charge with a standard USB-C power adapter, where the Surface Book still requires a proprietary cable.
VR and game developers
The new Alienware 13 is basically a 15-inch laptop crammed into a 13-inch body. The quad-core processor, heavy-duty Nvidia graphics chip and particularly the optional OLED display make this an ideal machine for developers previewing HDR game content. You can even buy the optional Alienware Graphics Amp ($199) to boost its performance even further. For more on the new Alienware 13 check out our review.
Advantages over the 13-inch MacBook Pro: A plethora of ports (Thunderbolt 3, USB-3, HDMI, Mini Display Port), a quad-core processor, 32GB of RAM, 2TB PCIe SSD and Nvidia 1060 graphics.
Disadvantages: A fully loaded new Alienware 13 ($3,425) costs much more than a top-of-the-line 13-inch MacBook Pro ($2,899). It's also nearly 2 pounds heavier and lacks an SD card slot.
Value and battery life
The 14-inch ThinkPad T460 offers a lot for a relatively low price -- a top-specced machine only costs $2,034 US and comes complete with 32GB of RAM, a touchscreen, and a fingerprint reader. One of the nicest features is the tremendous battery life -- Lenovo claims 18 hours on a charge.
Advantages over the 13-inch MacBook Pro: A comfy keyboard, 32GB of RAM, touchscreen, price, dual batteries (the rear one is swappable) for tremendous battery life, an SD card reader and an HDMI port.
Disadvantages: Smaller-capacity slower SSDs, average screen resolution, and no Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C ports.
It is a great time to buy a computer, even if you're a creative professional. If you were pining for a new MacBook Pro but disappointed by the specs, I'd recommend waiting a bit to read our review on the higher end models with Touch Bar. Specs are just one part of the story. Here's our review of the new baseline 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.
If your creative workflow allows for a Windows based-machine, these five deserve your consideration. Though, one of the complaints some creative pros had against Apple, was its choice of a sixth-generation Intel processor instead of a seventh-generation version. All five Windows machines in this article also have a sixth-generation Intel processor. So there are some specs, that will take time to make it into our creative machines.
If you can't make that jump to a Windows machine, you should also consider last year's MacBook Pro. While the specs are 2015 (which in computer years is old), a top-of-the-line model costs $2,899 and comes with a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor, 16GB of memory, a 1TB SSD and all the ports you're used to (USB-3, SD card reader and Thunderbolt 2).
Take a look below to compare the specs of the new MacBook Pro against these Windows alternatives -- all specs are for the top-of-the-line model of each computer.