Wednesday, June 19, 2024

5 laptops you should buy instead of the M2 MacBook Air

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The keyboard of the MacBook Air.Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The M3 MacBook Air is the latest and greatest version of Apple’s entry-level laptop, but it’s not the cheapest version the company currently sells. The M2 MacBook Air is still being sold, and at a discounted starting price of $999. Even more enticing, you can usually find it for as low as $850 at online retailers.

Contents

  • Asus Zenbook 14 OLED
  • MacBook Air M1
  • Dell XPS 13 (9315)
  • Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
  • Lenovo ThinkBook 13x Gen 4

That sounds like a good price, but there are lots of really great laptops that sell for even cheaper. Before pulling the trigger on a shiny new M2 MacBook Air, I recommend you consider one of the following five options instead, which are all cheaper.

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Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

In terms of value, there’s no laptop quite like the Zenbook 14 OLED. Despite having an excellent OLED screen and the latest Core Ultra 7 processor, you can buy it for just $800. Now, you might look at that price and wonder if it’s really worth buying it over the M2 MacBook Air, which can be bought for just an extra $50. But this $800 configuration comes with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, compared to the 8GB and 256GB of the M2 MacBook Air. Apple would charge you an extra $600 for that upgrade.

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This becomes even more clear when you look at the $599 model, which still comes with 512GB of storage. So yeah, the Zenbook 14 OLED is a fantastic deal, and it has very few compromises. The keyboard and touchpad are great, it has a touchscreen, and there’s a wealth of ports.

Just don’t get this confused with the Zenbook 14 OLED Q, a spruced-up model that only comes in a high-end configuration. But really, the only true difference between the two laptops is a fancier lid design. That’s it. So, go with the Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405), and you’ll be delighted.

MacBook Air M1

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If there’s one really solid alternative to the M2 MacBook Air, it’s the M1 MacBook Air. I know, I know — it might feel like cheating, especially since Apple no longer sells it. However, you can find it online for a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the M2 model. Now, in general, I would point people toward the M2 MacBook Air since it offers a better webcam, better speakers, and a thinner chassis.

However, if you’re really pinching your pennies and are set on a MacBook, the M1 MacBook Air is as cheap as you can really want to go. In terms of the things that matter most, the M1 MacBook Air is still a really solid laptop that beats many Windows laptops in performance and battery life.

So, while I think the M2 MacBook Air is worth the extra cash, the M1 MacBook Air represents a cheaper version that is still quite good. The refurbished $599 model being sold at Best Buy is just a great deal.

Dell XPS 13 (9315)

Digital Trends

The latest version of the Dell XPS 13 is rather expensive. It’s a premium machine that is priced closer to the M3 MacBook Air. Looking at the previous generation of the XPS 13, however, offers some really good, affordable options. The XPS 13 Plus recently got a significant price cut, with a new starting price of $999. This, however, is a specced-up configuration with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It includes a 13th-gen Intel processor, as well as a gorgeous design.

Even better, however, is the XPS 13 (9315). It came out in 2022, but features a more standard design. It’s still a beautiful laptop, though, and it’s even thinner than the XPS 13 Plus. The one downside is performance, as the XPS 13 (9315) doesn’t use a fast processor. The $599 model is attractive, but the $799 model with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage is solid too.

 

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Zenbook 14 OLED is fantastic, but if you want something a little smaller to match the MacBook Air, then the Zenbook S 13 OLED is an equally good value. It’s a gorgeous little laptop that’s quite nearly as thin as the M2 MacBook Air. I like the black backdrop on the keyboard, which matches the MacBook Pro, and the fact that it has lots more ports.

The only real problem is that the Zenbook S 13 is currently only available in a more premium configuration with 32GB of RAM. That configuration doesn’t make a ton of sense for this type of laptop, unfortunately. But the 16GB version that used to be available was a fantastic deal. The other caveat is that it uses a Ryzen processor, so it may get refreshed with an update later this year.

Lenovo ThinkBook 13x Gen 4

Lenovo

The ThinkBook 13x Gen 4 doesn’t offer a significant discount over the MacBook Air, but it has a few advantages that make it worth the extra money. As of the time of writing, the starting price of the ThinkBook 13x Gen 4 is $1,027, which nets you 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a Core Ultra 7 processor. For that configuration, you’ll pay a bit more than you would for the MacBook Air M2.

More than that, the ThinkBook 13x has a better screen. It has a 13.5-inch, 2880 x 1920 panel with a faster 120Hz refresh rate. Not only is that a higher-resolution screen, but it’s rare to get a refresh rate over 60Hz on a laptop this cheap. That makes the ThinkBook 13x a standout.

The ThinkBook 13x is also a fairly thin and light laptop that’s only marginally chunkier than the MacBook Air.

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