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The success of Apple's MacBook Pro line continues to be the envy of many laptop makers. Now, Samsung has come to market with a Galaxy Book 3 Ultra that not only attempts to surpass the power and versatility of a MacBook Pro, but also offers many of the same ecosystem-wide benefits that have locked many users into Apple's walled garden.
It's much easier when your devices not only work well together out of the box, but also offer exclusive features when used together.
Samsung realized this and included benefits like the options to use a Galaxy Tab-branded tablet as a wireless second display, to use your Galaxy smartphone as a wirelessly syncing camera, and to control all three devices, at once, from the keyboard and touchpad of the laptop itself.
If you've already got a Galaxy smartphone or tablet, there are definitely practical benefits to functionality that you'll receive by opting for this model.
2. You expect to do any gaming
Macs have never matched their Windows-based counterparts when it comes to gaming. Despite the massive boost in power provided by Apple's M2 Pro and Max chips, this remains true. Of course there's the issue that a handful of gaming titles are available for MacOS, almost none of which are new or AAA games. But an equally big problem is MacBooks' lack of discrete GPUs. The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra, on the other hand, has options for an Nvidia RTX 4050 or 4070 GPU, either of which should offer frame rates that are playable to exceptional for almost any title.
3. You want maximum software compatibility
Two factors make Samsung's Galaxy Book 3 Ultra more widely compatible: its operating system and its CPU. First, the device runs Windows, which remains the OS with the widest range of supported software across most categories. MacOS is in a much better place than it once was, but there remain software titles that are still available only for Windows.
The other factor is Apple's switch to its own silicon. When Apple was using Intel chips, it was a piece of cake for developers to port their software to MacOS due to the similar CPU. However, now that Apple relies on its own ARM-based chips, the porting process is far more difficult. Even companies like Adobe, maker of vital tools like Photoshop and Premiere, took months before all of their major titles fully supported Apple's chips. Smaller devs and less resourceful software makers might still lack support for quite some time.
You should buy Apple's 16-inch M2-gen MacBook Pro if...
1. You, or your family, are committed to Apple's ecosystem
This is the other side of the coin. Apple was among the first, and might still be the best, at giving you reasons to stay locked into its ecosystem. On an individual level, this includes things like the ability to share screens and inputs across devices and tricks like Continuity Camera, which lets you use your iPhone as an advanced webcam, or Apple's excellent cross-device messaging.
However, this last point raises the issue of friends and family, and which ecosystem they're aligned with. Apple's walled-garden approach to messaging means its Message platform requires an Apple device.
While Samsung's devices can make use of open protocols like RCS, which Apple refuses to adopt, to communicate across smartphones, tablets, and PCs, Apple device owners are limited to messaging with other Apple device owners if they want full functionality.
It's an issue that can chafe at times, but it's also one that has led many, myself included, to opt for Apple's devices in order to best stay connected with friends and family.
2. You're a content creator looking for a mobile desktop replacement
Apple's M1 generation of chips was already more than enough power for most photo editors, and even a large chunk of video editors, including those working in 4K+ formats. Now, with the advent of M2 Pro and M2 Max options, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is like an entire production studio unto itself, especially when combined with the ample variety of RAM and storage configurations now available for both chips and a full-fledged HDMI port, as well as three DisplayPort-capable Thunderbolt ports.
3. You need a ton of RAM or storage
The maximum amount of memory and storage you can configure a Galaxy Book 3 Ultra with are 32GB and 1TB, respectively. While these are plenty for the average user, a content creator might fill that storage quickly with 8K video, while the RAM limitation might strain processing times within their workflow. The MacBook Pro, however, can be configured with as much as 96GB of RAM and 8TB of storage. That's triple the memory and eight times the storage of its competitor. Of course, such a maxed-out beast would be expensive, but the option remains for the most demanding laptop users who actually need all of that memory and space.
If you're more concerned with premium build quality, sleek design, and top-end performance than you are with maximum screen real estate, Dell's XPS 13 Plus ticks all the boxes, in a smaller overall package.
If you want a taste of the M2 generation's power, but aren't ready to drop over two grand on it, the M2-powered MacBook Air provides a middle ground between the still-on-sale M1 Air and the higher-end M2 Pro and M2 Max MacBook Pro models. It also just so happens to be ZDNET's product of the year.
Absolutely must have a 16-inch laptop? Lenovo's ThinkPad Z16 is among the most premium models we've tested here at ZDNET in recent memory, standing up well to just about any task. Just don't expect an excellent built-in webcam.