In March, Apple announced its new MacBook, a sleek 2-pound marvel with a retina display and a single USB‑C port for both charging and peripherals. There’s already been a lot of debate about whether a laptop with one port and a disappointing processor is ready for prime time, but one thing nearly every review agrees on is that the device is “a wonder of engineering.” So it seems kind of important that Lenovo just casually released a competitor that is lighter, has tons of standard ports, and has a bigger screen (that can also be a touchscreen).
Lenovo first announced the LaVie Z laptop in January and promised that it would be 1.72 pounds. The company missed the mark on that a little bit, since the device is debuting at 1.87, but given that the new MacBook weighs 2.03 pounds, it’s still impressive. Lenovo says that the laptop is so light because of its magnesium-lithium alloy body. (The material is about half as dense as aluminum.) The LaVie Z has two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI-out port, and an SD card reader.
To pack it all in, the Lenovo laptop is thicker than the MacBook. Apple’s offering is 0.52 inches at its thickest, whereas the LaVie Z is 0.67 inches at its thickest point. But still. An extra tenth of an inch for normal ports seems like a trade-off most people would be willing to make. The LaVie Z also has a 2.40GHz Intel Core i7 processor, a much more standard processor than the Intel Core M in the MacBook, which is designed for ultra-portability and is generally viewed as a negative aspect of the MacBook.
The LaVie Z also comes in two models, the more expensive of which has a touchscreen and a versatile hinge so the laptop can fold backward in half to create a tabletlike device. Apple wins on pixel density (226 pixels per inch compared with 220), but both Lenovo models have a 13.3-inch screen compared with the MacBook’s 12-inches. The LaVie Z is currently shipping for $1,500 or $1,700 depending on which model you get, compared with the MacBook, which is priced at $1,300 or $1,600. (The higher-end model has a faster processor and more hard drive storage.)
Lenovo only estimates six hours of battery life for the LaVie Z (the convertible model with the touch screen may get up to nine hours), and since laptop batteries tend to perform slightly worse than what companies say, it doesn’t sound like the LaVie Z’s strong point is battery life. Apple estimates nine hours for its new MacBooks.
Apple’s whole approach has also always been about ease-of-use and aesthetic more than hard specs, but the fact that a big Windows manufacturer is on pace with so many of the things that were supposed to make the MacBook special is significant. I also haven’t tested the LaVie Z in person, so it could be a crappy computer, who knows. But one thing is clear: Even if the MacBook is a superior product, it’s not way out in front like the MacBook Air was. The Lenovo LaVie Z shows that it will quickly be dogged by lightweight competitors. Apple can’t bank on the MacBook the way it is.