I've been waiting for a new computer for my wife, something that she can use both as her desktop computer attached to a monitor, mouse and keyboard and still take along on business trips around the world. Ideally, something she could throw in her big purse and go. The previous edition of the MacBook Air was close, but too compromised in terms of processor speed. The Air is perfect for her.
At this writing, Amazon is selling two versions of the 11.6 inch MacBook Air, an i5 model with 2GB of RAM and 64 GB of SSD storage, and an i5 model with 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage. You can order elsewhere a third model with an i7 processor, 4GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage--the i7 is the low voltage 2 core version. This review aims at helping the consumer decide if a MacBook Air is the computer for them, and if so, which one. Short answer is the i5/4GB/128GB model is probably the sweet spot of the lineup, but some people can get along with the 64GB model as a second computer, while others will need the ultimate and expensive model.
This computer is fast. The combination of a Solid State Drive (SSD) hard drive and an i5 (or optionally an i7 processor make this the fastest computer I've ever used, and I have a 2011 13" MacBook Pro as my personal computer. The SSD gives it a qualitative responsiveness--application launching, task switching--which any spinning disk laptop will be unable to match. Quantitatively, it more than keeps up with its larger siblings in CPU intensive tasks. For example, my big laptop can compile a large, commercial application I maintain using Xcode 4 in 9 minutes 38 seconds, this tiny sub notebook can do the same in 9 minutes 5 seconds.
This computer is portable. I went to the local Apple Store and compared the 11.6 to the 13 inch MacBook Air, and while the 13 is extremely portable it is not a good fit for a woman's purse. This 11.6 can nearly get lost in a purse, I can imagine my wife hunting around for a few seconds trying to find it. It's ridiculously small. The 11.6 is half a pound lighter than the 13 and a pound heavier than an iPad 2.
Battery life when not under heavy load is good. I can web browse, and as long as I stay away from Flash websites, can do it for several hours. However, under load the 5 hours Apple promises for wireless web browsing becomes sub two hours. If the fan is on, the battery will not last, so it becomes time to figure out which page is running Flash, or which application is hogging all the CPU cycles. For example, I can drain the battery in about 2 hours 20 minutes watching full screen Netflix--which uses the Microsoft Silverlight plugin--over WiFi. I believe Apple no longer pre-installs Flash to pump up their claimed web browsing battery life claims. The larger Air has more room for a battery and thus has a longer battery life. The battery life of my MacBook Pro is certainly at least an hour or two longer under the same approximate load.
The screen is beautiful and crisp. Color balance and contrast seem superior to that of my MacBook Pro's (which isn't bad either). Viewing angles are good but not the spectacular IPS angles of an iPad. I had been wary of dropping down to the 11 inch screen from the 13 inch of my MacBook Pro, but I think I could work all day at this size especially if all I were doing was web browsing or video watching. I wouldn't want to edit videos or do long term software development at this size, but of course there is a Thunderbolt port and with the appropriate MiniDisplay adaptor I could attach it to any monitor. This will spend most of its life attached to a 21 inch LCD.
The keyboard is thankfully backlit. Typing is reasonably comfortable, although I'd prefer another milimeter or two of key travel. Again, this will spend most of its life attached to an external keyboard so it doesn't matter much but I much prefer the touch feel of my MacBook Pro.
The trackpad is large and Mountain Lion ready for all your taps, pinches, swipes (one, two, three and more fingers). Apple is renowned for its trackpads and this is no exceptions. Perfect finger feel, no stutters, accurate tracking. The one noticeable difference between this trackpad and the ones in its bigger cousins and the Magic Trackpad is lack of click travel distance, until you get used to it, you are likely to slam your thumb down in hopes of the expected and satisfying button click only to be dissapointed. The Air's button clicking is by necessity a more abstract gesture which usage should make more natural.
Build quality. This is not some shoddy plastic netbook. The unibody construction is amazingly rigid and could be used to bludgeon an attacker in a pinch (and still keep on downloading).
Storage size is cramped, especially at the lower price points. I think the 64GB model targets users looking to keep all of their documents, images, videos, music in "the cloud" and while I'm sure people will live in the cloud in the future, most of us live on Earth with our limited speed Internet connections. The larger capacities are fine for many people, including my wife, but not for me, I have too many videos, photos, and music files filling up my MacBook Pro to compress myself even down to the 256GB model.
There are not many ports on the box. Two USB ports, a headset port and a Thunderbolt port are limited. Apple sells the Thunderbolt version of its well regarded but expensive Cinema display which relieves most port complaints and replaces them with "I have to pay a thousand dollars for a monitor with a Firewire port?" complaints. I own this display and it is superb, but it is definitely not for the budget minded or at least those lacking in creative rationalizations. Alternatively, desk bound USB hubs are cheap, and Belkin has announced a Thunderbolt hub, although I have yet to see it for sale.
By the way, I bought the Apple USB to Ethernet adaptor and I do not recommend doing so unless your WiFi is horrible or nonexistent. Turns out WiFi is at least as fast as this adaptor and a whole lot less trouble when dealing with a virtual machine. If anything, make sure you've upgraded to an 802.11N router like a newer Airport Express.
Fan noise under load is a bit loud. Surprisingly, this computer which is dead silent until the fan kicks in can be noticeably loud due to the small space available for the fan vent. At the request of a commenter, I measured the decibel level by laying a decibel meter on the trackpad, and under load it measured 46 dB which is fairly quiet as these things go, my MacBook Pro under the same conditions gave 51 dB. Please take this with a grain of salt as I am not a sound engineer and measuring from the trackpad is not where your ears would be.
The FaceTime camera is weak compared to the cameras in the Air's larger cousins or in the Thunderbolt display. It's OK, but not the spectacular clear HD of the camera in my laptop.
This is not a gaming laptop. The one performance compromise is the lack of a proper discreet GPU. The integrated Intel HD 3000 is OK, probably as fast as the last generation NVidia 320M used in the previous Air, but not something you'll want to throw the most demanding game at. It will be fine for watching video on, and just about anything else but high end gaming.
The maximum memory capacity of the Air, despite being a 64-bit computer, is 4GB and is non-upgradeable. If you get a 2GB machine it will stay a 2GB machine. This is a shame as RAM is cheap these days; I have 8GB on my MacBook Pro. The SSD is upgradeable although online prices for the unusual SSD on a board used in the Air are amazing; maybe in a couple years it will make financial sense to upgrade. The lowest model has only 2GB of RAM and that may be too low for many combinations of applications, or when running a virtual machine.
The lack of an optical drive. I had a USB DVD drive already but many will not. Apple will sell you a pretty one, but in most cases any cheap USB drive will do. The only time my wife used her optical drive on her old computer was once a year to install TurboTax, so this will not be a big problem for her. I did have a problem installing Windows 7 using the Parallels Desktop virtual machine in that the virtual machine would not see my cheap optical drive to install Windows. I ended up using Disk Utility to make an ISO disk image of the Windows installer disk and use that as image for installation. The only other time I needed to use an optical drive in the last year is to get a Digital Download from the Captain America Blu-ray combo pack; iTunes insisted on seeing the registration disk, so I broke out the USB drive. My advice here is to not buy an optical drive but wait to see if you actually need one, and if you do need one, first try to use the included software to use another computer's optical drive.
The lack of an SD slot reader. I use the reader in my larger notebook frequently, although less often as I take more pictures with smartphones. The larger Air has a reader, and while USB SD card readers are cheap, they are also awkward, often slower and easily lost.
The expense. On a per pound basis, this is the second most expensive object I have ever purchased. My wife will mainly be using it to run Windows software, and I guess I could have gotten a netbook for traveling at a third (or less) the price. I felt it important to get a high performance computer that she could replace her desktop with too, one with a nice screen and a decent keyboard. The previous Air wasn't there yet, this is.
This laptop ships with Apple's new operating system OS X 10.7 (Lion) and should be upgraded to 10.8 Mountain Lion, which means new users will be getting used to the more gestural iOS like elements of OS X, as well as the infamous upside down scrolling. Users should know that 10.7 dropped support for PowerPC applications so longtime Mac users should check that all their needed applications are Intel or Universal. One synergy between Mountain Lion and this laptop's small screen is that many of the standard applications have full screen modes, allowing the user to maximize the space devoted to web browsing for instance.
I've installed Windows 7 under the Parallels Desktop VM on this box, and it works well. I gave the virtual machine its own core and 2GB of memory and it is zippy fast. This was the main reason for moving my wife to a new box, the 5 year old Core 2 Duo she had been using was starting to slog under the weight of dozens of Excel spread sheets and scores of browser tabs.
There are reports online that some units ship with Samsung SSD drives, and some ship with slower Toshiba SSD drives. There is no way to guarantee getting the faster drive, and you may not notice anyway. This review was based on a laptop with a Samsung drive.
Which to Buy:
There are 6 different configurations of MacBook Air. I chose the i7 4GB of RAM 256GB of SSD 11 inch model--a model available in Apple's brick and mortar stores or as a custom build. This is the more portable model and has an adequate RAM and fairly good hard drive capacity. I had been thinking of getting the 13 inch version, but on looking at them in the store, I realized the extra portability and the usability of the screen was enough to make the smaller version preferable. If you don't have a purse and will be putting the laptop in a case anyway, get the 13 inch version, everything will be a bit less cramped, the battery life will be longer and you'll have an SD reader built in. I actually only purchased the i7 because that's what came with the 256GB SSD, it probably isn't worth a premium over the i5 models for what the typical Air user would be using it for.
11-Inch i5 64 GB 2GB RAM -> People with no media who want a fast web browser, or as a second computer
11-Inch i5 128GB 4GB RAM -> People with little media who run applications occasionally on the go (Most People)
11-Inch i7 256GB 4GB RAM -> People with applications with high performance requirements such as running a VM
13-Inch i5 128GB 4GB ->People with little media who run applications occasionally on the go, like a larger screen over portability
13-Inch i5 256GB 4GB -> People needing a larger screen and high performance.
13-Inch i7 256GB 4GB -> People with applications with high performance requirements such as running a VM and a larger screen
Compared to Other Laptops:
I'll be keeping my 13" MacBook Pro with its much larger disk capacity. Replacing the 750GB laptop drive in my Pro with an SSD would be ridiculously expensive. Also, I like having an SD card reader, a high resolution camera, an Ethernet port and a Firewire port. In most other ways this Air is superior. The Air has a better screen, is much more portable, and with the SSD is noticeably more responsive.
Compared to the larger MacBook Pros. The larger models have real GPUs and bigger screens, and I think are only of interest to people with specialized needs: gamers or people who need to do video editing on the go. They won't be much faster at anything not requiring the GPU. I'm just not the kind of person who'd buy a 17" laptop. It wouldn't fit on my lap. I was at a neighbor's house today and the college bound daughter had just bought a monstrous HP desktop replacement portable, and it was ridiculous, just get a smaller laptop and an external monitor so you have the option of portability--or spend less money and get a desktop.
Compared to Windows laptops. Intel Corporation has started an initiative to encourage other PC hardware manufacturers to basically clone the MacBook Air design as a class of WinTel PCs dubbed "Ultrabooks" and these very familiar looking devices are starting to become available such as the Asus ZenBook UX21, or the Toshiba Portege Z835. I haven't had a chance to look at these, but in general terms UltraBooks will have the advantage of having Windows 7 pre-installed and not forcing the user to install Boot Camp and buy a system builder copy of Windows. The specs will be similar to the MacBook Air, and sometimes better--it seems as though the low end ZenBook has a larger SSD than the low-end MacBook Air. So Windows user now have a variety of computers to choose from, and can make a determination if the higher cost of the MacBook Air (due to purchasing Windows) is worth differences in build quality and parts quality--I would be particularly suspicious of the ZenBook's trackpad and screen. But again, I have yet to see one.
This is a great laptop. Apple's going to sell millions of them. If it fits your needs and you have the cash you will likely be happy with it. I know people with the previous generation Airs, and they love them, and this Air is all that and twice as fast. However, be sure it fits your needs, check to see what your disk space requirements are. Check to see if you have any PowerPC applications which need to be updated. Maybe you'll need the extra battery life of the larger models. Go to an Apple Store and try out the keyboard, maybe the short key travel will drive you nuts. Maybe the short wide screen of the 11 inch will make you feel like you are browsing the web through a mail slot. Maybe you could get a refurbished last years model for a smaller amount and make do with the lesser processor. In short, because this is a pricey little laptop, you have to be sure its the one for you.
I had considered buying the previous generation MacBook Air (pre July 2011) but just couldn't quite force myself to spend the money on machine that still used Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs (despite the fact that the older Airs were still actually quite speedy). Apple was using the then newer generation Core i5/i7 CPUs on their other computers.
So when Apple updated their Airs with Intel's significantly faster Sandy Bridge i5/i7 CPUs, I became interested again. But, which size would be best for me?
11" VERSUS 13"
I've been struggling over this decision on which size 2011 MBA would be better. It's the usual dilemma with the 13" boasting pretty much better specs and battery life than the 11". Then I thought, well, the 13" is ONLY 2" larger diagonally, and ONLY weighs a "little" more (and ONLY costs a "little" more).
But the reality (for me) is that for a truly mobile device, like an iPad, only the MBA 11" has a shot at being mobile. The MBA 13" is great and certainly more mobile than a conventional MacBook Pro 13", but the MBA 13" is still IMHO more of a portable, than a mobile laptop.
The MBA 11" is actually mobile.
Once I realized this, there really was no longer a comparison to be made. They are two different devices. One being mobile and the other very portable. I have a 2011 MBP 17" which is my ultimate portable, and now my 2011 MBA 11" is my mobile computer.
1. Extremely fast CPU - The MBA 11" comes with a Sandy Bridge 1.6 gHz dual-core Core i5 CPU (or a 1.8 gHz dual-core i7 directly from Apple). Despite rumors to the contrary, the Turbo Boost and hyper threading capabilities were NOT turned off in the Core i5 CPUs. Geekbench benchmarks show extraordinary speed increases. The previous generation MBA 11" 1.4 gHz Core 2 Duo produced 2024 on Geekbench, while the 2011 MBA 11" now produced 5040 for a 149% increase. This speed even rivals the 2010 MacBook Pro 17" which scored 5423! The 2011 MacBook Air 13" uses a slightly faster 1.7 gHz dual core i5 which scored 5860.)
2. Extraordinarily small! The MBA 11" measures 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches, while the MBA 13" is 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.68 inches. This means that the 11" is "only" 1 inch shorter and "only" 1.3 inches less deep, but in reality, when you hold up both machines, the MBA 11" feels like a completely different machine. My wife uses a 2011 MacBook Pro 13" which has a similar footprint to the MBA 13". The MacBook Air 13" still felt too much like a laptop, albeit an extraordinarily thin and light one.
3. Extraordinarily light! The MBA 11" weighs 2.38 pounds (while the MBA 13" weighs 2.96 pounds and an iPad 2 weighs 1.35 pounds I actually sometimes hold the MBA like an iPad while reading in bed because it's so light. If you are seeking just a light, portable laptop, then the weight of the MBA 11" or 13" would be great, but if you (like me) are seeking a truly mobile device, then even fractions of a pound matter. The MBA 11" weighs less and is consequently the better choice, but as amazingly light as it is, even lighter would be better. Its doubtful that a mobile device will ever exist that would be considered too light.
4. High-speed Thunderbolt (i.e. Lightpeak) port offering bidirectional 10 gigabits/s throughput - Thunderbolt technology is far more revolutionary than USB 3.0 or eSATA. Thunderbolt is NOT limited to the use of a storage device. An external LCD can be attached. Although I use the MBA 11" as my mobile device, it may be acceptable as a primary computer if one attaches an external LCD display and a high-speed Thunderbolt drive. Supposedly an external Thunderbolt hard drive would be nearly as fast as an internal hard drive.
5. Everything is solid state! This MBA feels more like a true "mobile" device since it is fully solid state with its solid state drive. I am far less worried about damaging this versus other laptops I've owned in the past.
6. Extremely fast cold starts and shutdowns thanks to the solid state drive and OS X.
7. Great, full-size keyboard AND keyboard backlighting is back again! While this may seem like a minor point, the previous generation Core 2 Duo Airs did not have the backlighting.
8. The battery life between the 11" and the 13" was only found to be 36 minutes shorter for the 11" (and NOT the 2 hours claimed by Apple) for light usage by Anandtech [...]. The battery life is Apple (conservatively) rated at 5 hours (compared to 7 hours for the MBA 13" and also 7 hours for my MBP 17"). Apple's battery life ratings have become much more stringent in the past few years are much closer to real world usage. I am indeed able to use my 11" for about 6 hours with light usage, which is much better than Apple's claimed 5 hours.
9. Tremendous, typical Apple build quality. The MBA feels like a piece of solid precision crafted machinery.
10. Same great glass trackpad with even more gestures in OS X Lion to be used.
11. Comes with the new Mac OS X Lion (which I won't discuss, but it will allow for apps to use a full-screen mode which is of benefit to MBA 11" owners)
12. Extraordinary aesthetics - I can't express adequately in words how beautiful this machine looks.
1. Although I have a Samsung LCD, the vertical and horizontal viewing angles are not nearly as good as on my 2011 MBP 17". It's still more than acceptable, but it's something that MacBook Pro owners will probably notice.
2. Some MBAs come with a Toshiba solid-state drive which is not necessarily a con, but this may bother some users. In real world usage, I have read that one cannot detect any speed differences, but if you like to run benchmarks, then the Toshiba drives in the 128 GB size seem to be slower than the Samsung 128 GB drives in certain benchmarks.
3. MBAs come with either a Samsung or LG LCD panel. It's not clear what the differences are between them. There is pure speculation and mostly fear that one panel is superior to the other, but I have seen comparison photos of both types of displays, and the only difference I can notice is an extremely slightly warmer look to the LG panel. BUT this was on computers that did not have the screens color calibrated. In any case, I can state clearly that my 2011 MacBook Pro 17" display is vastly superior in color and viewing angles, but they are completely different machines.
4. There is no SecureDigital memory card slot on the 11" MBA, although there is one in the larger 13" size. I can't believe I got another Mac laptop WITHOUT a SD slot! My 17" MBP doesn't have one either while the smaller MBPs do! And now, the smaller MBA doesn't have one while the larger one does! I wonder if I'll ever get a Mac with an SD card slot!)
1. Believe it or not (do a Google search) but if you use Adobe's Flash, your laptop battery life will most likely be significantly shorter. Some reports show that having Adobe flash turned off allows for 2 hours of additional battery life.
2. I purchased the MBA 11" with standard 1.6 gHz Core i5 and am happy with this. If you get the built to order ones from Apple, you can upgrade your 11" to include the same 1.8 gHz Core i7 that's also available as an upgrade on the MBA 13". Anandtech has found that the 1.8 gHz Core i7 upgrade produces significantly faster benchmarks >20% speed difference without a shorter battery life. The i7 upgrade did produce significantly more heat, however.
3. If you do not need a truly mobile laptop, then the MBA 13" is probably better for most people's needs as a standard conventional laptop (albeit very light, thin, and also beautiful).
4. If you absolutely must have USB 3.0, and you can wait, then you should know that Intel's next future CPU/chipset for Ivy Bridge will allow for native USB 3.0 support.
There is no such thing as the perfect computer for everybody just as there is no single tool for every task for every person. I needed a truly mobile laptop to fit with my lifestyle and work needs, which for me included a smartphone, tablet, mobile laptop, and a large laptop/desktop replacement. For the right person, this MBA 11" is truly in a class of its own.
on July 26, 2011
i am not going to go into a deep review, as there are already a lot of reviews out there covering the same things. but I will talk about special things that other reviews may not have covered. I personally have owned the 2010 11" and 13" airs, and I currently own the 2011 macbook pro 15" and 2011 11" air. the 15" is about 2x the processing power as the air (according to geekbench), but it lacks an SSD for faster daily tasks.
-- on Engadget, they recently covered that the 11" air has a faster SSD than the 13" ones. not a difference you'll notice but still a nice excuse to purchase a smaller one :) (it was something like 240mbps vs 180mbps estimated)
-- the battery life on the 11" is actually down from the previous generation by about 30 minutes on battery saving settings. Last gen can get about 7 hours, this one is just over 6 (about 25% brightness, web browsing only). Also, air's battery life plummets if it does moderate to heavy processing (flash, photo/movie editing, gaming), the pro's battery life goes down, but by much less.
UPDATE: I am getting around 4.5 hours of ~4 tabs in safari (no flash), Skype IM chat, and mail client running. about 40% brightness, no backlit keyboard, no sounds. kind of subpar for me. similar to the alienware m11x where the 1st gen had super battery life, 2nd gen increase power but decrease battery life, and 3rd gen has both. hopefully apple follows suit.
-- online benchmarks show that the 2011 11" air is about 2.5x faster in processor speed than the 2010 model. however, if you never used an i5 or i7 processor before, know that you will also be able to multitask a lot better than the old core2duos. for example, you can edit in iMovies and photoshop at the same time (something that will lag the crap out of the old generation).
-- DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE SCREEN SIZE. with Lion, applications can take advantage of its fullscreen function. For example, for many native applications like Safari, Mail, Calendar, etc, you can fullscreen them and they'll take up the entire screen, however, they dont actually take up the main desktop screen, but a whole new screen on its own. if you have multiple fullscreen apps, you can use 4 fingers to flick between them, fast and efficient. I owned the last gen air 11" with 10.6 SL, and it was a bit frustrating having multiple windows open, i usually have to minimize most of them. Now, you can browse in full 11" screen, and use 4 fingers to flick to check your mail.
-- keyboard and trackpad have more of an "umfph" feeling to them. a bit more resistance than the older models. the 2010 air was my first mac, and i was disappointed a bit by the light and cheap feeling keyboard, but the 2011 made it right.
-- FYI, if you never owned a macbook, the "instant on" feature is actually in all the unibody MacBooks and Pros, but they are just a bit slower than the air's. so don't think of it as a feature only the air has, it's just a bit faster.
-- you can't change anything in the air once bought, unlike the pro.
-- screen quality is actually worse than the Pro line up. Yes the air has more pixel density, but the vertical viewing angle is pretty bad. it is NOT made of the same screen as the Pro and iPad (IPS), however, it is a matte screen so a much better screen in the sun. i owned both the 11" and 13", the viewing angle problem was much more noticeable on the 13" just because the screen is bigger. I always found myself adjusting the 13" screen every time i move a bit.
-- 2gb ram is enough to run lion just fine.
-- sound seems to be slightly louder on the 13" vs 11". 11" sound is TINY. i always turn it to max whenever i'm watching videos. headphones are a must.
-- if you are deciding between a pro vs air, in general, i would say go with the pro if you do professional work with photo/movie editing, hardcore gaming (at least 15in), or if you plan on buying or already have a tablet. go with the air if you are a light user, want a tablet replacement. Owning an air and a tablet is a huge waste of money.
-- I would personally recommend the 1.6ghz, 4gb, 128ssd 11" macbook air. I believe that is the most useful and "bang for the buck" you can get vs the rest of the lineup. but everyone's preferences are different.
UPDATE: there has been 2 instances where the air would have its fan turned on full speed as if I was doing intensive work when i am only doing light web browsing. very rare though. fixed by shutting the system down and restarting.
All in all, my only complaint about this air is the price. the $1200 macbook pro 13" vs the $1200 11" macbook air, the air has a better hard drive, but thats it. it's using less material to make, a slower processor, smaller battery, small and worse screen, less ports, i would think Apple can price it less than the macbook pro. basically, less everything, but paying the same price because it has a good design. thats my 2 cents at least. $899 for the entry model would shut me up :)
Hope this will help you decide.
on August 21, 2011
Many have commented on how great a laptop this is. I wanted to specifically address a question I had before purchase and have answered for myself.
I was concerned that the 2GB RAM would not be sufficient for my needs. I run productivity software, i.e. iWork, Office etc. I also stream netflix, amazon video, MLB, etc. A friend of mine had the 2010 Macbook air with 2GB RAM and reported no issues normally associated with insufficient RAM. I took the plunge, opting for the base model.
I can report that 2GB runs excellently. I have had up to 4 video streams going at the same time, MLB, Netflix, and two youtube videos, all running fine. No freezes, no spinning beach balls, etc. Now, I don't do video editing or resource intensive applications of that nature. In those cases, you may or may not have a problem.
As far as 64GB storage. I have all my applications, work and personal file folders, etc on this air with 20GB to spare. Could I have my entire photo and iTunes library on 64 GB? No, and it wouldn't fit on 128GB or 256GB for that matter. I use a portable external hard drive for those when necessary.
If money is no object, then by all means go with the next version up....128GB Storage and 4 GB RAM. But if you want to save a a few bucks, buy some additional accessories, or not feel bad when you sell this beauty to upgrade to the next great thing a year or two down the road, you won't be disappointed with the entry level Macbook Air.
on August 3, 2011
I bought the base model Macbook air(999), as my budget didn't allow me to get the upgraded model. I also wanted a portable mac to carry around college.
I am blown away by the performance of this little fellow; it handles all the basic computing stuff with ease, and also iPhoto, iMovie very good. I have an iMac at home for heavy stuff, so if you plan on doing extensive video editing, this laptop is not a good choice. Laptop does get hot, even while doing basic stuff, but its bearable, and most importantly there is no fan sound (after playing around for 5 hours).
Update after 30 hours,
I was only able to get 3-3.5 hours of battery doing basic stuff, I mean only safari and mail, and also flash plugin switched off. I am very disappointed, as the laptop's performance was excellent except the battery.
on September 6, 2011
I've been a long time PC owner and have always vowed to never own a Mac. I considered them overpriced niche machines with subpar hardware for people that had more money than sense. I'm ready to admit that I was very wrong. I was looking for an ultraportable for school and I just couldn't find one that I liked. Finally, I gave in to reviews and bought the MBA 11. I figured I'd try it out and return it if it sucked. Well, I'm definitely not returning it. I love this computer. It's sleek, super light, and performs perfectly. I have the base model, because for someone who only uses a computer to type papers and browse the internet, you really don't need much more. This beats every windows machine I've owned, even those with more RAM and bigger harddrives.
on December 9, 2011
I usually only write reviews when a product is either really really good, or really really bad. The Macbook Air is certainly the former. I picked this up on Amazon over Black Friday weekend for $849, and I consider it possibly the best money I've ever spent on a piece of electronic equipment. I'm not an "Apple" guy, and I don't buy simply for brand cache. I bought this because I think the iPad is overpriced for what you get, and was looking for something that was functional and portable. I was not disappointed. With the lid closed it's virtually the same footprint as the iPad, and about a pound heavier. I would imagine it would fit easily in a woman's purse. It is also blazingly fast. By far and away the fastest computer I have ever used. I was a little concerned about only having 2GB of RAM, but it seems to have no impact at all. Startup and shutdown are virtually instantaneous. Apps load immediately. Completely unlike your typical computing experience. Outside of the speed and portability, they keyboard, touchpad, and build quality are spot on. Again, probably the best I've ever used on a laptop.
There's really not a lot to dislike, but here are the things I've found. First, there's a shortage of ports. On many of the competing Ultrabooks that have been recently, you simply get more options to connect. Secondly, the battery life isn't great. It's OK, and will get you a few hours of extensive use, but I haven't gotten close to the 6+ hours Apple quotes. Finally, the memory and storage could be an issue for some users. I don't run many programs at once, and most of my documents are stored in a cloud, so these two items aren't a huge deal for me, but it's something to consider if you are a more intensive user.
In short, I think I got a steal. A 64GB iPad and keyboard will run you about $800, and will not give you nearly the capability that the Air has. The competing Ultrabooks aren't much cheaper, and won't give you the build quality and friendly ergonomics that the Air offers. I'm not a fan of all Apple products, but think they hit a home run here. It's honestly a little astonishing to me that the Air has not become more popular than it is.
on August 23, 2015
Nice sized, good condition, light weight, back lit keyboard, good lap top over all
[Re: complaints about wireless sensitivity. Initially, I did have trouble making the machine see networks in the order I had placed them. I then inserted the model number of my Airport at Apple Store and discovered it was 2nd generation. It certainly performed acceptably but, if only because Airport is now 5th generation, I ordered the new router. (Apple is extremely secretive about Airport upgrades, generations, changes--almost as though the company prefers that consumers see the item as a one-time-only purchase.) Since swapping my 2nd gen. Airport for a 5th gen., I've had no difficulty with getting the new Air to see the new router, whether I'm upstairs or out in the backyard. Frankly, I'm mystified by complaints, some insisting that the new Air is barely capable of performing wirelessly. Simply not true--unless you have a lemon (in which case, call Amazon for a return or Apple for a fix.)]
[I've recently discovered an unexpected improvement of the recent Air vs. the one released 9 months previous to it: Apple made the right decision in dropping the Flash Drive for reinstalling the OS. While reinstalling the OS on the earlier machine, I "nudged" the flash drive, not hard, but enough to abort the installation process and call up a quick warning: "Installation is halted. Save as much as you can!" To be fair, Apple's literature warned against so much as touching the flash drive during such an operation, but the odds against doing so are not unthinkable. Any device that is that delicate and fragile is inviting trouble. Now the late '10 Air is giving me the blinking question mark, indicating it can't find the OS. If you must do a reinstall and don't have discs, a remote install from a paired computer or an app download makes more sense than the cute flash drive Apple provided with the earlier 11" model. Like the external "buttonless" Superdrive, it's an instance where style comes at the expense of practicality.]
[Lion-averse customers: go ahead and give it a try. You soon get used to it, and being able to "grab" any part of the screen becomes an advantage--except when it isn't. There are times when too much or too little perspiration on the fingers, too little patience or too much pressure, makes the old margin indicators easier to grab onto for moving a page up or down. Just be assured that Apple allows the user to adjust the settings to his preferences, so it you prefer to use the cursor as you did with Snow Leopard, no problem.]
Original review (thank goodness, my son is one of those Apple-haters, so I can enjoy my addiction to the company's products all to myself):
The MacBook Air--in conventional hard drive and pricey solid state versions--remained untouched (and largely bad-mouthed by non-owners) for several years. Then Apple surprised the nay-sayers who had predicted the computer's demise by upgrading the computer in late 2010, going exclusively to a solid state Air and complementing the 13" model with an 11" version, which proved the more popular of the two.
But now, less than 9 months after the release of the first 11" version, comes the "new and improved" 2nd edition, an exceptionally quick make-over by Apple, and in spite of glowing reviews for the previous model from America's most popular and trusted consumer magazine. No doubt the announcement of the 3rd generation Air (2nd generation 11") caught many owners of the first version by surprise, making some of us feel compelled to go with the upgrade even though we were perfectly happy with the previous edition.
The new version comes with Apple's new OS (released 7/20/11), a back-lit keyboard (previously available only on the 13" Air), and with measured speeds that are over double those of the previous model. In fact, some owners of the first 11" Air, who may have been considering extending its warranty another two years, are likely to conclude it may be as cost-effective to order this newest Air instead.
The first Air 11" is still available from Amazon, for approximately one hundred fifty less than the price of the latest one, which would make it the least expensive new "computer" (not tablet) ever released by Apple. (And as usual, even Apple Store's "Educator" rates can't match the total cost of purchasing the same machine from Amazon.) The first Air 11" was an attractive, practical machine (not all of us are completely sold on iPads and apps), so it represents an undeniable value. But the 2nd Air 11" is even more irresistible. I wasn't prepared for its appearance and, as is the case with so many consumer "devices," felt no desire for, or need of, one. But then came this unexpected, fat hanging curve ball from Apple, and I swung at it.
It's too early to reach a decisive conclusion about how superior this model is to the previous one, which had served me well every day since its release. But as a heavy media user and fast typist, I frequently find my fingers getting ahead of just about any computer, leaving me watching spinning wheels while waiting patiently for a program like Microsoft Word to open. So any hints of greater speed and efficiency, combined with the world's smallest, lightest, thinnest yet most practical computer, were too tempting to resist. Moreover, I've tended to miss a digit in the top row now and then while typing in the dark, a misdirected action less likely to occur with the newest 11" Air's backlit keyboard. Finally, the memory is likely to strike some prospective customers as too little and, exclusive of the added expense, I'll admit I'd have preferred 128 to 64GBs. On the other hand, not only are "clouds" becoming more common than ever (I understand that soon my Mobile Me iDisk will be phased out and the same storage space made available to Mac owners without charge), but huge external drives (1 to 2 TB) frequently show on Amazon for what a 1GB pocket flash drive was going for a year ago (e.g. sixty for a 1&1/2 TB WD Elements drive). Or put it this way: whereas my first iPod was 160GB, my 2nd, which is an 8GB Touch, doesn't feel limiting in the least.
Finally, should you be on the fence between the 11" Air and the 13" model, which admittedly offers more real estate and slightly better operating specs, I can offer that I started on a 13" Air and found it as close to a perfect laptop computer as any I'd tried. Then I went to the 11" Air. Now the 13" model feels like hot and heavy dead weight--so much so that I simply have no interest in using it. The 11" model is definitely a "spoiler," guaranteed to make you totally disregard any reputed short-comings of the Air in general (e.g., the absence of a DVD drive) and the smaller 11" Air in particular (it's plenty fast, its screen razor sharp and the keyboard fast and accurate, even to these tired eyes and less facile fingers).
The "Air" (along with computers in general) did not represent a significant portion of Apple profits during the enormous business of the iPhone and current tablet and app craze. Many observers, in fact, were betting on its elimination from the Apple line-up. Instead, the company is hedging its bets by proceeding with development of the once-controversial machine. Should the public tire of touch screens and decide to return to the "old fashioned" computer as reinvented by Apple, the company has you covered. (Now I'm hoping this trusted yet cutting-edge and sometimes unpredictable company doesn't issue yet another 11" machine within the next 9 months--at least not before allowing sufficient time to learn the ways of the newest feline that's running its machines.)
As for extended warrantees, they soon take on a "gotcha" aspect that a consumer becomes inclined to ignore. I rarely bother with them any more. But the exception is practically any laptop machine, including an e-Reader, such as the Kindle (not the iPod, however). They're far more vulnerable than most owners seem to realize, and given the abuse they take, it's a wonder the machines last for more than a year. The warrantied 3 months go by quickly, and it's highly likely that you'll have "issues" thereafter. In my instance, the extended warranty would practically pay for itself with a single repair or tutorial, given the time, distance and mileage required to bring the machine to qualified technicians in my area. The most problematic Air was the original 13" model, thanks to a hinge design that proved a non-fixable Achilles heel. Subsequent Airs have been sturdier, though software installation is not as smooth, at least in my experience, as was formerly the case with Mac desktop and laptop machines. As for electronic readers, e-ink technology is inarguably delicate and prone to complete failure. One ill-considered movement, and you could find yourself with a blown screen. Even if it's half the price of a new Kindle, a warranty such as that offered by Square Deal is well worth consideration.
on October 8, 2011
Worth every penny. The display is gorgeous. Sound quality is impressive. The multi-gesture touch pad is very easy to use, and makes me long for the wireless touchpad to accompany my iMac. The battery life is not as impressive as is listed. I suppose it might last longer if I were to give in to the Power Saver settings, but I love a bright display. The 11 inch screen seems larger than it actually is. The full-screen options combined with the ease of zooming and navigating through windows make it feel like a full-size screen. I was hesitant to go the Air route, but I'm so pleased that I did. The portability didn't compromise the power, and once you see how light and slim this thing is in person, you'll understand!
This is the ideal laptop for students and commuters!
I've been using this laptop for a few months now, and I am still as in love with it as the day we met. There are a few merits that I failed to appreciate by the time I wrote the first review. I am a law student, so I have to do a great deal of typing on this computer. There is something about the keyboard on the Macbook air that makes it extremely comfortable. I guess the best way to put it is that it's as if this keyboard requires just the right amount of pressure. (I felt as weird typing that as you felt reading it.) The keys are not overly-sensitive, but you barely have to push them. It's just right. I've had pain in the past from typing, but I don't get it at all with the keyboard on my Air.
Another thing I had failed to appreciate is how quickly the computer boots up. It goes like this: Press power button. Take one drink of coffee. There's your desktop. Ready to go.
Lastly, though it's been around for a while on Mac laptops, this is my first experience with the magnetic power cord. I've had no problems with it (I've heard they don't last long...I'll keep you posted.). That being said, I have experienced, first hand, the benefits of it. My 7 year-old nephew was running around like 7 year-old boys do, and he caught the cord with his foot. The cord detached just like it's supposed to, and neither my nephew nor the computer fell. It was beautiful! :).