Sunday, June 16, 2024

A new wave of powerful laptops rises to challenge the MacBook Pro

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Apple MacBook Pro 16 downward view showing keyboard and speaker.Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The MacBook Pro got really powerful in its most recent update. The 16-inch M3 Max configuration bumps the graphics performance significantly, making it unlike anything you can buy for professional content creators.

Contents

  • Samsung Galaxy Book4 Ultra
  • MSI Prestige 16
  • Dell XPS 16
  • Asus Zenbook Pro 16X
  • Other options

But Windows laptops are responding. There’s a new wave of non-gaming laptops that are integrating GPUs up to an RTX 4070 and challenging the performance of the MacBook Pro — often at a much lower price.

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Samsung Galaxy Book4 Ultra

Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Book laptops haven’t been known for performance over the years, but the Galaxy Book4 Ultra aims to change that for good. The 16-inch laptop has two configurations available, one with an RTX 4050 and one with an RTX 4070. It’s the RTX 4070 I’m more interested in for this comparison. That model sells for $3,000, coming with 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a Core Ultra 9 processor.

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Beyond that, the Galaxy Book4 Ultra features a 3K OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. That’s a pretty good match for the MacBook Pro’s mini-LED screen — if not an outright upgrade. There are a few major downsides to the Galaxy Book4 Ultra. I don’t love the keyboard, which has very shallow keystrokes and a numpad, which most people won’t need. It also has a pretty wimpy set of stereo speakers, especially compared to the impressive set on the MacBook Pro.

Compared to the MacBook Pro, however, it’s around $500 cheaper. It’s not a cheap laptop, of course, but when you’re already spending this much, $500 of savings is a big deal.

MSI Prestige 16

MSI

If you weren’t impressed by the $500 savings you can get with the Galaxy Book4 Ultra, this next one should catch your attention. The MSI Prestige 16 has been updated in 2024 with both the Core Ultra 9 and up to an RTX 4070 — all for just $2,300. Not only is that $700 cheaper than the Galaxy Book4 Ultra, but it also comes with 2TB of storage. That makes it a full $1,600 cheaper than a similarly configured 16-inch MacBook Pro.

One of our biggest problems with the 2023 MSI Prestige 16 was its mediocre mini-LED screen. This year, that’s been swapped out for a 3840 x 2400 resolution OLED screen. The display only has a 60Hz refresh rate, but you still get the stellar image quality of OLED.

The biggest downside is the look. It’s toned-down a bit from the gaming laptops it was based on, but not enough. It has some pretty thick bezels, a gamer-type logo, and some protruding hinges. It’s also considerably thicker than these other laptops at 0.75 inches thick.

Dell XPS 16

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

If there’s one laptop that can go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro in terms of premium design and aesthetics, it’s the Dell XPS 16. The laptop was redesigned this year to port over some interesting new features, including the invisible haptic feedback trackpad, new keyboard, and LED function key touch buttons. Not everyone is excited about these changes, of course. The limit to just USB-C ports is unfortunate for a laptop of this category, as is the soldered RAM.

But the XPS 16 is a powerhouse performer, with an RTX 4070 and Core Ultra 9 on board. None of these laptops, including the XPS 16, can quite compete with the horsepower of the M3 Max, but the XPS 16 matches these other laptops in a much prettier package. When you’re talking about competing with the MacBook Pro, design can’t be sidelined. Putting that all together, the XPS 16 manages to rival the MacBook Pro in a way no other laptop can right now.

Asus Zenbook Pro 16X

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

This last suggestion is a laptop from last year that features a processor from Intel’s previous generation. But that’s not a huge deal when it comes performance, especially when you have an option for the RTX 4070 for graphics. When it comes to video editing, 3D modeling, or design, that GPU is going to matter much more to overall performance.

But because the Asus Zenbook Pro 16X is an older laptop, it comes in at fairly cheap price. The $2,700 configuration comes with the aforementioned chips, as well as 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a 120Hz OLED screen. So, while it’s more expensive than the MSI Prestige 16, the Zenbook Pro 16X has the better screen.

This laptop is far more than just specs though, as it has two very unique features. It has the Asus Dial to the left of the trackpad, which could be useful in a variety of creative applications. It also has a keyboard that tilts up for improved airflow and more comfortable typing. It looks a bit odd, but the result is some solid performance.

Other options

There are a few other RTX 4070 laptops to consider. First, there are all kind of gaming laptops that can match the power of the MacBook Pro, but don’t have the compact and minimalist design to match it. The one I’d point out that sidesteps this problem is the ROG Zephyrus G16. This year, the design has been remade into something that looks a less like a conventional gaming laptop than it did in the past. The same is true with the Razer Blade 16, although the glowing green snakes might give its true identity away.

There are also a number of less powerful options out there that undercut the MacBook Pro even more in terms of price. I’d check out the HP Envy 16 and Lenovo Slim Pro 9i for starters.

And finally, it’s worth mentioning that none of these laptops truly replicate what the MacBook Pro 16 is able to do in terms of power efficiency. The quiet, cool performance that still allows for exceptional battery life just isn’t able to be replicated at the moment. And yet, the new laptops above reveal that companies are attempting to make a concerted effort at fighting back, even if it means having to sell at a discount.

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