The ultralight MacBook Air is no longer the only option for travelers who want a real computer that fits in an airplane seat pocket. In the past six months, several major PC rivals have released an ultra-slim notebook—a class of laptops that are generally less than 0.8 inches thick, use quick-start solid-state drives (which means they boot up in almost no time), and have full-size, physical keyboards that are comfortable to use. Are these new models MacBook Air wannabes—or killers?
The Asus UX21 11.6-inch-screen Ultrabook (from $999) has a sexy aluminum alloy body and keyboard. It’s expected to power up in less than 30 seconds, and entry-level models are projected to sell for the same as a starter MacBook Air. Like its Mac rival, the Asus is available with a state-of-the-art, speedy i7 processor.
Looking to really minimize the bulk in your carry-on? At a mere 0.59 inches thick, Lenovo IdeaPad U300s (from $1,195) is the world’s slimmest laptop (a whole 0.09 inches thinner than the MacBook Air). It, too, can be outfitted with a speedy i7 processor.
At the top end, the carbon-fiber, 13.1-inch-screen Sony VAIO Z Series (from $2,000) lasts up to eight hours on a single charge, making it ideal for long flights and café work sessions. It also turns into an instant desktop powerhouse when inserted into the optional Power Media Dock, which comes with a Blu-ray drive, three USB ports, and an HDMI port for connecting to a high-definition television. With an i7 processor, it’s the best, no-compromise option—whether you’re at home or on the road.