Best MacBook Pro Retina Display alternatives

Does Apple’s new laptop star sound a little too rich for your blood? Take a look at what else is on the market

The new Retina Display-equipped MacBook Pro (which we've got our hands on – take a look at our impressions) is getting the computing world all hot under the collar, and rightly so – but that £1,799-plus price tag is enough to give any non-one percenter pause. So let’s look at the alternatives: the rivals available for a similar wedge of cash.

£1,808.99, Dell

We specced up this 17-inch beast from Dell’s Alienware gaming laptop range in order to get it to a similar price to the new MacBook Pro – and it’s pretty impressive. The screen is 17.3-inch (but the 1920 x 1080 resolution means it isn’t as sharp, obviously), the Intel Core i7 processor and NVidia graphics card are both beefier than the Pro’s offerings, and there’s an optical drive able to read Blu-ray discs.

On the downside, the battery life (around an hour) and level of overall portability don’t come close to the MacBook Pro’s, and while there’s more storage it’s a traditional SATA hard drive rather than speedier solid state. Dell offers an SSD option, but at £360 for the cheapest it’d send the price way above that of the MacBook Pro.


17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 screen

Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.6GHz processor (turbo boost to 3.6GHz)


NVidia GeForce GTX 660M 2GB graphics

500GB HDD, plus 64GB HDD boot drive

Blu-ray combo drive

9-cell Li-Ion battery

Windows 7 Home Premium


406 x 54 x 321mm

Alienware M17x

£1,199.99, PC World

At the other end of the laptop spectrum from the Alienware sits this waif-like ultrabook from Samsung. It’s much cheaper than the MacBook Pro, but at just under £1,200 it’s at the pricier end of the ultrabook scale – and yet it can’t really compete with the Pro unless you’re talking about portability. Spec-wise the Apple trounces it on all fronts, with double the storage and RAM and far more muscle when it comes to processing and video.


13.3-inch 1600 x 900 screen

Intel Core i5-2467M 1.6GHz processor (turbo boost to 2.3GHz)


Intel HD Graphics 3000


No optical drive

6-cell battery

Windows 7 Home Premium


328 x 16.3 x 227mm

£1,399, Asus

If you’re going to be ensconced in an office or study, an all-in-one like the E2700INTS is well worth considering: what you lose in mobility (pretty much everything), you gain in storage space and screen acreage – plus with a Blu-ray drive, TV tuner and external subwoofer thrown in, this doubles as an excellent home entertainment hub. That said, the MacBook Pro beats it in a lot of key areas, being significantly more powerful on the performance front.


27-inch 1920 x 1080 screen

Intel Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz processor (turbo boost to 3.3GHz)


NVidia GT 540M 1GB graphics


Blu-ray combo drive

Windows 7 Home Premium


660 x 233 x 508mm

Samsung Series 9 900X3B



Asus E2700INTS



Argos might not be your first thought when purchasing a PC, but they have a decent online exclusive deal on this 16-inch entertainment-slanted Sony laptop, which stands out from the pack by virtue of its 3D skills, which apply to both gaming and Blu-ray movie playback. Elsewhere the F Series delivers a solid showing that comes close to the MacBook Pro in many ways – but do note that while the processor might initially appear faster on paper, it's an older Sandy Bridge model so isn't as powerful as the Pro's, and the GPU is older too. Portability though, at least in comparison to the MacBook Pro, is not its strong suit.


16-inch 1920 x 1200 screen

Intel Core i7-2630QM 2GHz processor (turbo boost to 2.9GHz)


NVidia GT 540M 1GB graphics


Blu-ray combo drive

Battery life “up to 3 hours”

Windows 7 Home Premium


398 x 34 x 271mm

Sony VAIO F Series

£1,849, Apple

If you max out the 13-inch MacBook Air you get something not too far from the cheapest Retina Display-equipped Pro. The specs may appear slightly better on the Air (there’s double the SSD storage), and it’s a fair bit thinner and lighter, but you lose a couple of inches on the screen – and a whole heap of pixels. The i7 processor is an older dual-core model too, so despite its higher clock speed the Pro's new quad-core i7 has it beaten. And the Air’s graphics processor is on-board, rather than a dedicated card – and for video editors and gamers, that could be a big ol’ deal-breaker.


13.3-inch 1440 x 900 screen

Intel Core i7 2GHz processor (turbo boost to 3.2GHz)


Intel HD Graphics 4000


No optical drive

Battery life “up to 7 hours”

OS X Lion (with free upgrade to Mountain Lion)


325 x 17 x 227mm

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