Apple’s MacBook Pros are among the best laptops on the market, but at the moment they’re pretty hard to find. At the time I’m writing this I can order an older 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 from 2020 and get it tomorrow, but if I want one of the new 2021 MacBook Pros — like the MacBook Pro 14-inch — I have to wait 4-12 weeks.
Call it manufacturing chain issues, call it too much demand and not enough supply, but however you slice it, you could be waiting a while when ordering a new 2021 MacBook Pro from Apple.
You shouldn’t expect any relief after the big Apple WWDC 2022 event next week (June 6-10) either; even if all the rumors we’ve heard about Apple finally unveiling the MacBook Air 2022 prove true, a new Air hitting the market likely won’t do much to improve MacBook Pro shipping times. A new Pro might help, but we're not expecting the long-rumored MacBook Pro 2022 until later this year.
So if you absolutely, positively must have a new MacBook Pro right now, you’ll just have to wait your turn. You won’t be disappointed, either; the 2021 MacBook Pro is perhaps the best MacBook you can buy right now, and few laptops deliver a better webcam or offer a more compelling balance of performance and battery efficiency. But if you need a laptop now and can’t afford (or don’t want) to wait, there are some great alternatives on the market that are nearly as good as a new MacBook Pro.
14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 alternatives
The 14-inch version of the 2021 MacBook Pro packs a lot of power into a svelte chassis, with a notched 14.2-inch (3024 x 1964) mini-LED display that looks great in person. The entry-level model costs $1,999 and comes with an M1 Max chip (10-core CPU/32-core GPU), 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage.
In our MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch) review we awarded it Editor's Choice for being "the long-lasting super-fast laptop many have waited for" and it looks like many are doing just that, because right now I can order one of these entry-level models and expect to get it shipped to me in California in 8-9 weeks.
If I pay a bit more for a tricked-out 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 with all the RAM and storage you can get (64GB RAM, 8TB SSD) it would cost me $5,899 and ship in 9-11 weeks, I’m writing this the first week of June, and according to Apple I’d get my maxed-out 14-inch Pro in mid-August.
That’s a long time to wait, but there are some alternatives if I’m willing to consider a Windows ultraportable. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of the best gaming laptops you can buy, and the decent battery life, compact chassis and comfortable keyboard make it a decent choice for getting video editing work done on the go.
You can get one at Best Buy that comes with a 14-inch (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) display, a speedy AMD Ryzen 9 CPU, an AMD Radeon RX 6700S GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for $1,649 (discounted down to $1,500 right now) and you can get it shipped to you tomorrow.
Also, the Dell XPS 15 OLED is one of the best 15-inch laptops on the market, and if you equip it with a beefy CPU/GPU combo and plenty of RAM and storage, it’s a pretty decent MacBook Pro replacement. While you don’t get as many ports and the webcam is worse, the base XPS 15 can be configured with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU and the aforementioned 3.5K OLED touchscreen, which looks gorgeous in person.
Right now you can order one from Dell with a 12th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, an Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and an OLED touchcreen for $3,399, and it ships in under two weeks.
16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 alternatives
Need something bigger? The 16-inch 2021 Pro is an excellent laptop that can be configured with the same internals as its 14-inch sibling, and its 16.2-inch (3,456 x 2,234 pixels) mini-LED display is a big, beautiful palette that makes it one of the best laptops for video editing on the market. As I’m writing this article I can get an entry-level model for $2,499 shipped to me in California in 8-9 weeks, or up to 9-11 weeks if I want a fully tricked-out model that costs upwards of $6,099.
Those are ridiculously long lead times, so hopefully you don’t need your new laptop in a hurry. If you do it’s hard to find a similarly-sized laptop with the same power that’s not a bulky, edgy gaming laptop, but you have some decent options.
The Dell XPS 17 is one of our favorites because it’s one of the slimmest and lightest 17-inch laptops you can buy, though it’s still a smidge larger and heavier than the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021. However, the ultra-thin bezels of Dell’s InfinityEdge design help the 17-inch LCD display in the XPS 17 shine, and you can pay extra to get one that’s a 4K touchscreen or OLED, both improvements over the MacBook Pro’s display.
The entry-level model costs just $1,849 and ships in two weeks, but with its 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and no discrete GPU it won’t have much power. If you want to do some serious video editing on the go, you might want to shell out for a maxed-out XPS 17 with a 12th Gen Core i9 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 laptop GPU, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. That would cost you $3,499 @ Dell, and ship in two weeks or less. Obviously you'd get much less storage than you would on a kitted-out MacBook Pro, but you can always spend a few hundred more to get yourself one of the best external hard drives.
To get a powerful big-screen laptop ASAP, you could also consider the Alienware m17 series. These 17-inch gaming laptops are thinner, lighter and more stylish than most, though a new Alienware m17 R5 is still a bit thicker, heavier and less attractive than a new 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Still, you can order one with a 17.3-inch 360Hz display, a beefy AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU, 64GB of RAM, a 4TB SSD and a mechanical keyboard (if you're into that) at Dell for $3,969, plus it ships within two weeks.
Finding the right laptop for your needs isn't easy in the best of times, and right now the ongoing supply chain issues roiling the industry are making it downright difficult.
If you want one of Apple's relatively new MacBook Pros, I truly hope you find the perfect one for you in a reasonable amount of time. They're the best MacBooks Apple has released in years, which could help account for why they're so hard to get right now. If you can afford to wait (or are lucky enough to find one in stock at a local retailer), they're well worth your money. But if you can't afford to wait, hopefully this article has helped you find a few alternatives that will serve you equally well.