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Rivals aiming to take bite of Apple market

The famous MacBook is not the only laptop that's lighter than Air, writes Adrian Weckler

Apple last week updated what is arguably the world's most lusted-after laptop, the MacBook Air. But Apple's machine is no longer the only super-slim portable PC around.

Apple's updated MacBook Air adds Intel's latest Haswell processor, which gives better battery life (nine hours for the 11-inch version and 12 hours for the 13-inch machine) and is a bit faster than the last model's chip (although it retains the same 4GB of memory). Happily, the new machine is also £80 cheaper than the previous model.

I'm a pretty devoted fan of the (11-inch) MacBook Air: it's beautifully styled, incredibly portable and surprisingly tough.

The MacBook Air still has a best-in-class keyboard and its overall design is generally considered to set the pace for all others. It also starts up quick as a flash and comes with lots of excellent software.

For business people, it may once have been exotic to switch from Windows to Apple's operating system, but it is not so any more.

Here's how three rival lightweight laptops compare:


Sony Vaio Pro 11

From £800

Want a light, light laptop? Sony's Vaio Pro 11 weighs just 0.87kg, which is even lighter than Apple's feted 11-inch MacBook Air (at 1.06kg).

While power isn't the key attribute here, you can beef this machine up to a core i7 chip, 8GB of Ram and a 512GB solid state drive.

You won't compromise too much on ports and connectors, with three USB docks, a (full) HDMI port and a memory card slot. The laptop's battery life is decent, while a backlit keyboard rounds off the laptop's nice design.

Sony's laptops are still priced at a slightly premium level, mainly because they're nicely designed. Is this worth buying instead of a MacBook Air? If Windows is still a pre-requisite for your business laptop, the answer is probably 'yes'.


Toshiba Chromebook


This is an unconventional choice as a business laptop. But if (a) most of your needs are in 'the cloud' and (b) you really don't want to spend that much, this is a great choice.

Its main drawback is that it's a web-based operating system. In other words, the laptop really needs to be connected to get the most out of it.

As such, it doesn't need much oomph under the hood (2GB of Ram, an Intel Celeron chip and 16GB of internal storage memory is what you get).

Being completely honest, Toshiba's Chromebook borrows heavily from the design of the MacBook Air. This, it must be said, can only be a good thing.

Typing on the device is easy. Printing is a challenge, but I can't remember the last time I needed to print something from a laptop. There are a couple of USB ports and an HDMI port in case you want to connect peripherals.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

£900 (64GB)

Although this looks a lot like a tablet, I regard Microsoft's 11-inch Surface Pro 2 as a laptop. Okay, it has a touchscreen interface, and its keyboard is actually an accessory.

But this machine's ability to switch from Windows 8.1 ('tiles') to a Windows 7 format makes it a surprisingly effective laptop replacement.

Unlike previously limited Surface 'RT' models, you can load any software you like on to it, via its various ports.

The Surface Pro 2 easily matches most laptops for power and speed, with 4GB (or 8GB) of Ram supporting an Intel i5 processor and an SSD drive configurable up to a huge 512GB.

It's also very light and, with its accessory keyboard is more compact than most of its rivals.

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