Apple’s Macs vs. Windows PCs: 17 Best Mac and MacBook Alternatives (2020)

Apple’s MacBooks and Macs are unquestionably nice hardware, but they’re also closely tied to macOS, an operating system that isn’t for everyone. What if you want to play Fortnite or run computer-aided design programs? And now that Apple is transitioning to its own M1 chips, if you want to run Linux your only option is PC hardware.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of excellent Windows and Linux-based alternatives to the most popular Mac models. From the low end to beastly, 32-core prosumer rigs. Switching to PCs means you’ll be able to grab the latest and greatest computers at a wide array of prices from any number of manufacturers, without having to light prayer candles at a shrine dedicated to Steve Wozniak.

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MacBook Air Alternatives

Dell XPS 13

Photograph: Dell

Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD

Apple’s most portable notebook is one of our favorites. The new MacBook Air (9/10, WIRED Recommends) features Apple’s M1 chip, and it is speedy, with stellar battery life. The Air ($999+) is defined by its form factor; it sacrifices power and ports to remain thin and light.

Fortunately for PC lovers, there are plenty of Air competitors. The top of the list is undoubtedly Dell’s XPS 13 (9/10, WIRED Recommends). It shares the Air’s light, thin design, solid construction, and all-metal shell. The extremely thin bezels on the XPS 13 mean the screen is larger than what you get in the Air, and if you opt for the 4K screen, it’s considerably sharper as well.

More Picks

  • Microsoft Surface 3 Laptop (13-Inch) for $1,400: The Surface Laptop 3 (7/10, WIRED Recommends) makes a solid substitute for the MacBook Air. You get an eye-catching design, a great screen, and the only trackpad that’s on par with what the Air offers. The downside is the price. For similar specs, you’re paying a premium for Surface hardware. But then, maybe that makes it even more Mac-like.

  • Acer Swift 5 (14-Inch) for $984: The Swift 5 is incredibly thin and light, and it manages to have more ports than the Air, so you won’t have to tote around a bunch of dongles and hubs just to download some photos from your SD card. It fares well in performance for the money, and it edges ahead of the Air in battery life.

13-Inch MacBook Pro Alternatives

Photograph: Lenovo

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD

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