The Thick and Thin of MacBook Air Alternatives

The Thick and Thin of MacBook Air Alternatives

Range Govindan
Aug 3, 2011

A walk down the store aisle and it's obvious not all laptops are created equal: some are thinner, a few offer desktop power in a portable form factor, others just look cooler. Right now the hype meter is reading high with the newly released MacBook Airs, but that doesn't mean there aren't other laptops to consider that share a slim form factor and powerful specs...

At this year's CES plenty of PC laptop manufacturers were touting their latest and greatest products, most notably in the category of "ultrabooks", basically PC alternatives to the MacBook Air. We're finally seeing a few enter the market. Sony's VAIO Z is definitely an intriguing option if you're looking for something with a slim form factor yet still capable in performance.

You're looking to buy a Sony laptop
While the Sony VAIO Z starts off at a higher price than the MacBook Air ($1969.99), it certainly comes well equipped. The secondary hard drive, ports, and graphics card in the docking station make a lot of sense for a buyer looking to bridge the gap between laptop and desktop, a viable alternative to owning two computers, one for travel and one for home.

The Sony VAIO Y series packs a lot of punch for a 3.23 lbs, 11.6" laptop, yet starts at a wallet-friendly $549.99. Specs include 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, AMD graphics, and HDMI out in a pretty in pink or serious silver form factor.

The graphics workhorse VAIO F series update was launched this year at CES with a spacious 16" 3D or 16.4" 2D display. Multimedia and gaming is the focus of this line, powered by an Intel Core i7 quad core processor. The line starts at $999.99 with integrated HD web camera and 3D HDMI out as notable features. And a notable software bonus: The Adobe Bundle comes preinstalled. Photoshop Elements 8.0, Premiere Elements 8, Acrobat Standard 9.0 are all ready to use.

How long you might have to wait
Most of Sony's laptops have received updates this year or spec refreshes, meaning that if you're interested in a Sony laptop, now is a good time to purchase.

Sony Laptop Release History

  • VPC-Z21 June 27, 2011

  • VPC-Z11 CES 2010

  • VPC-Z5xx July 2008


  • Updated F series CES 2011

  • F series replaces FW January 2010


  • Y series refresh July 2011

  • Y series replaces X series January 2010

Should you buy now or wait?
A new Z series was just released, so if you are interested in this model, it's safe to buy. There will most likely be a spec update next year. The F series was updated for CES 2011, so it's also a good option for a desktop computer replacement.

Acer has come a long way from its more budget targeted beginnings. Thanks to innovative products like the dual-tablet Iconia, the company continues to make grounds in the PC laptop market. The Acer TimelineX received an update in 2011, and it offers battery life of over 10 hours, making it a good travel option. Prices start at $599.99.

The Aspire Ethos also received a refresh recently, aimed as a desktop computer replacement. The keyboard is backlit, and there's a detachable remote hidden in the touchpad.

You're looking to buy a Acer laptop
The TimelineX and Ethos have received updates this year, so we consider them a safe buy. Acer laptops are significantly cheaper than similar offerings from Sony or Apple, making them a worthwhile alternative for budget-conscious Windows buyers.

How long you might have to wait
Just like Sony, most of the Acer laptops receive refreshes every year. Since the line was updated just a few months ago, these models are considered still newly updated and won't see a refresh for awhile.

Release history

  • Acer Iconia January 2011

  • Acer TimelineX April 6, 2011

  • Acer TimelineX 2010

  • Acer Timeline January 29, 2008

  • Acer Aspire Ethos July 1, 2011

Should you buy now or wait?
Now is a good time to purchase a Aspire Ethos and TimelineX.

More Tech Cycle Update and Release Schedules
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Video Game Console Product Life
Mac Product Life
Extending Your PC's Life

(Sony VAIO Z photos by Dana Wollman for Engadget, Flickr member Hamachi licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr member Microsoft Sweden licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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