High-End 13" laptops comparo: Apple, Lenovo, Dell

Apple's 13" MacBook has been revamped and rebranded as part of the MacBook Pro family. Currently at $1,119 after rebate, it's not only the most affordable MacBook Pro, but also one of the most affordable professional 13" laptops we've seen. Still, we wondered how it compares to its 13" counterparts from Dell and Lenovo — the fast, high-end ones with fancy cases, not the slower, plastic bargain laptops under $500. We examined each company's offerings to find out.
Dell Adamo
Lenovo ThinkPad X301
Apple MacBook Pro 13"
(via $50 rebate*)
Operating System
Windows Vista Home Premium
Windows Vista Business
Mac OS X
4 lbs.
3.2 lbs.
4.5 lbs.
Width (at thickest)
13.4" 1366x768 widescreen LCD with LED backlight
13.3" 1440x900 widescreen LCD with LED backlight
13.3" 1280x800 widescreen LCD with LED backlight
Intel Core 2 Duo 1.2GHz dual-core processor with 800MHz front side bus
Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 800MHz front side bus
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz dual-core processor with 1066MHz front side bus
2GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
2GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
Hard Drive
128GB solid state drive
120GB 5400 rpm hard drive
160GB 5400 rpm hard drive
Video Card
Intel GS45 with DisplayPort
Intel GMA 4500MHD with DisplayPort/VGA
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB RAM, Mini DisplayPort
Optical Drive
DVD burner
dual layer DVD drive
Wireless Networking
3 USB ports
(1 shared eSATA), Ethernet
3 USB ports, Ethernet
2 USB ports, FireWire, Ethernet
Rated Battery Life
5 hours
6.5 hours
7 hours
1.3MP webcam, Bluetooth 2.1
1.3MP webcam, Bluetooth 2.1, fingerprint reader
1.3MP webcam, Bluetooth 2.1, SD card slot
*Rebate ends June 30.

Aesthetically, it's hard to declare a winner amongst this trio of notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad X301 is the lightest model coming in at 3.2 lbs., but despite its fragile appearance it can withstand a hard fall thanks to Lenovo's roll cage technology, which like a Formula One race car, is designed to protect inner components during impact. Still, Lenovo is known for its corporate products and the X301 sticks with tradition dressed in a business-like suit of black. Dell on the other hand breaks from tradition giving its Adamo (pictured) a brushed aluminum chassis and a slender 0.65" profile. Like the 13" MacBook Pro, it's hacked from a single block of aluminum. However, unlike Apple and Lenovo, Dell lets its users choose between an etched (Pearl) or brushed (Onyx) finish.

Apple, which is know for its svelte designs, doesn't disappoint with the 13" MacBook Pro either. It features a comfortable, over-sized trackpad, backlit keyboard, edge-to-edge glass display, and a built-in dual layer DVD burner. Unfortunately, the latter puts it 0.5 lbs over the ultraportable weight limit. Nevertheless, the MacBook Pro's classic design allows it to go from the boardroom to a dorm room with ease. But based on weight and profile alone, Lenovo and Dell have an edge over Apple.
Winner: Dell & Lenovo

Features & Connectivity
Connectivity-wise, all three laptops sport the basic essentials including multiple USB ports, Ethernet, 802.11n, and built-in webcams. However, Apple distinguishes itself from the pack with the addition of FireWire (at the cost of one USB port), an SD card slot, and a (rated) 7-hour battery. As we stated earlier, it's also the only notebook with a dual layer DVD drive, although Lenovo includes a DVD burner with its model.

If security is a concern, the ThinkPad X301 offers a built-in fingerprint reader adjacent to the touchpad. The bundled security suite also helps protect your system from prying eyes by locking down its I/O ports. The X301 also packs the sharpest screen of the bunch, with a native resolution of 1440x900. The Dell Adamo, unfortunately, lacks a strong feature set, although like the MacBook Pro, it features a backlit keyboard.
Winner: Apple & Lenovo

With regards to power, Apple once again trounces its competition sporting a robust 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with a 1066MHz front side bus and 2GB of DDR3 1066MHz RAM. By comparison, Lenovo and Dell only hit the 1.4GHz and 1.2GHz mark respectively and pack a slower 800MHz FSB. On the graphics front, all three laptops come with integrated video, but only the MacBook Pro features the more powerful NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset.
Winner: Apple

On the software front, both Dell and Lenovo disappoint. Dell includes 30-day antivirus trials and various freeware apps, whereas Lenovo (aside from its security suite) doesn't include any productivity apps at all. Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro includes iLife '09, which features iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb.
Winner: Apple

Battery Life
With its new battery, the 13" MacBook Pro claims it can last for up to 7 hours (30 minutes more than the X301). Unlike Lenovo, Apple's battery isn't user replaceable, which is a hindrance for some users. However, Apple claims it will last 5 years or 1,000 charge cycles. The Adamo's built-in battery is not user replaceable and is only rated at 5 hours.
Winner: Apple

Although most people would associate Dell with value-based notebooks, in this instance it's Apple who earns the title. At $1,144, it's several hundred dollars under the price of both the Adamo and ThinkPad X301. Sure, Dell features a SSD drive instead of a traditional hard drive, but the extra expense is wasted, with no edge gained in speed or battery life. The MacBook Pro also offers more features and better hardware than its two competitors. Of course, you can find well-crafted 13" laptops under the $1,000 mark (the MSI X-Slim 320 comes to mind), but for a system with these specs, the 13" MacBook Pro is unbeatable.
Winner: Apple

Apple's MacBook Pro line is known for its premium pricing, but the new 13" model makes a huge departure from its costlier cousins. In doing so, Apple has out-priced its competition and built one of the best 13" notebooks you can find with little to no compromises.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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