WWDC 2012: MacBook Pro vs. other ultrabooks

June 12, 2012

On Monday, Apple showed off its fresh top-of-the-line model, a new generation of the MacBook Pro with a retina display, 0.71-inch-thick form factor and a $2,199 price tag.

And that’s the starting price.

Macs have always been expensive, but Apple’s latest stands out even from that crowd, and is certainly in a class by itself when it comes to ultra-thin laptops.

Apple is far from the only company that has showcased a new laptop this month. Ultrabook announcements came in last week in time for parents looking for good graduation gifts.

Sony unveiled a full summer line of laptops, including its first-ever VAIO ultrabook. The T Series ultrabook is just as thin as the new MacBook Pro and has a wide array of ports: USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA and an SD card slot. This 13-inch laptop doesn’t have Apple’s super high-resolution display or backlit keyboard; nor does it have its 2.3Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor.

It also doesn’t have the cost that Apple’s MacBook Pro carries, starting $769.99.

Sony also refreshed its Z,S and E series, all of which carry the sleek VAIO design DNA, and multi-gesture control, rapid wake technology for fast boot-up, and the Vegas video studio. They also let you charge your other devices from your computer battery — a plus for travelers.

Toshiba contributed to the ultrabook line with an update to its Portege, a 13.3-inch notebook with an Ivy Bridge processor, and also announced two more. The Satellite U845, the company’s everyday model, is a 14-inch, 4-pound laptop that’s under an inch thin. This, too, doesn’t have a crisp display that measures up to, say, what you get on a new iPad, but Toshiba has offered a compelling portable laptop for $699.

The company also announced a somewhat crazy form factor for the U845W, which is made just for widescreen video viewing. In the demo I saw from Toshiba, the widescreen preview looked great, and the wide screen was good for multitasking, thanks to a custom version of Windows Aero Snap. The screen itself is fairly short, which is good for tight work spaces, though it could be hard on folks with weak eyes. It starts at $999, with the option to upgrade to faster hard drives and processors for $1,500.

Does Apple’s newest laptop outclass all of these? Yes, especially for those who want the full package of speed, beauty, display clarity and portability. But if you want a cool new laptop and can’t quite stomach the $2,200 expense, there are others out there to consider.

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WWDC 2012: Apple announces new MacBook Pro, starting at $2199

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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