The best Windows PC laptop alternative to a Macbook Air

For the past year or so, I’ve been doing work on an Asus 1000HE EeePC. Well, its no longer “working” for me. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a great little netbook.. probably one of the best made still to this day. It’s got excellent battery life, pretty quick, lightweight, and very small. But as a computer programmer and web developer, I just need something (literally) bigger.

But not too big. My main concern is ultraportability. I’m not looking for a desktop replacement. Especially since you can make a pretty killer desktop nowadays for under a grand (see this article). I’m sure there will be more articles to come on that project once its completed ;.)

I just want a laptop I can quickly throw in my bag and take to the coffee shop, and yet which has a big enough screen to actually get some business done on it. So I started looking at the (13.3″ Macbook Air). With it’s dimensions and weight, it’s a great balance between size and portability. But at ~$1300, it decreases the thickness of my wallet a little much for my liking. I also don’t need the frills and thrills of the Mac OS so much. Most of my business is done best in Windows. So my search for a comparable PC began.

I was sort of surprised to see that in terms of hardware layout and “slickness” (pure coolness factor), there weren’t many companies trying to compete. Apple certainly has the edge in terms of marketing. It took me a couple months, but I think I finally found a great alternative to the Macbook Air. I’ll just have to boost my image elsewhere.

So without further ado… the best “PC Air” that I found is the Toshiba Portege R835-P56X.

Let’s take a look at the specs compared to the Macbook Air… keying in on the most important features.

Portability / Size

Mac Toshiba
Display 13.3″, 1440×900 13.3″, 1366×768
Battery life 7 hours 8 hours (6 cell li-ion)
Weight 2.9 lbs 3.2 lbs
Thickness 0.68″ 1.05″

They have the same screen size, but Mac’s native resolution is higher… so you get a bit more screen space (at the cost of smaller text). The Toshiba squeezes out a little more life, and also has a removable battery for easy replacement in the future. The Mac is 0.3 pounds lighter, and 1/3 of an inch thinner.

Now lets take a look at the power aspect. Time is money. The faster, the better.


Mac Toshiba
Processor 1.86ghz Core 2 Duo 2.3ghz Core i5
Memory 2gb 1066mhz ddr3 sdram 4gb 1333mhz ddr3 sdram
Hard drive 128gb ssd 640gb sata

Toshiba is quite a bit faster (Mac has a 2.13ghz option at the cost of $300 more, but even then, it’s still slower). Toshiba also states speeds of 2.9 GHz with it’s “Turbo Boost Technology” (whatever that is). Toshiba’s memory is faster by 125%, comes with twice as much, and is expandable to 8gb (compared to only 4gb max in the Mac). Toshiba’s hard drive is larger, while Mac’s is faster. However, some people have replaced Toshiba’s internal hard drive with a solid state drive. With several reports of power-on-to-fully-loaded-OS times of 20 to 25 seconds, this seems like a great option for this laptop (unless you’d rather have the extra space). Here’s a comparable SSD to the drive in the Macbook Air. You could even sell the Toshiba’s internal 640gb hard drive on ebay for $50 to $80, and end up making a great upgrade for ~$200.

Let’s try to compare apples to apples as much as possible (after all, we are looking for “an alternative to the Macbook Air”). If you were to upgrade each Machine to get them as close as possible to each other, here’s what you’d end up with:


Mac Toshiba
Starting Price $1300 $800
Hard Drive Upgrade n/a $200
Memory Upgrade $100 n/a
Processor Upgrade $300 n/a
Total (incl. est. tax) $1840 $1083

So what do you get with the Mac for the extra $750? Not much: a higher res display, a slighty lighter / thinner Machine, Bluetooth preinstalled, and some cool commercials. But you also give up some battery life, a good deal of processing speed, an extra usb port, and an optical drive.

In conclusion… I set out to find a good alternative to a Macbook Air. What I found was something better, for a much lower price. I’ll use the extra money to buy some accessories, and still have enough leftover to buy an iPad if I want. Let me know what you think.

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