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Comparison to the 2011 Macbook Pro 13",
This review is from: Apple MacBook Air MC965LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop (Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB Solid-State Hard Drive, Mac) (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
*2012 Pro and Air models are available but the designs remain the same meaning the physical aspects covered below are the same as well.
The primary features of the 2012 13" MacBook Air are:
- Ivy Bridge processor + HD 4000 graphics (60% better performance)
- USB 3.0
- 720p webcam
- 2x SSD read speeds. Write speeds didn't change.
- $100 price drop
I've owned the machine for 10 months now and have simplified the review for your convenience.
Things I like:
+ Light weight; 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg). You can easily hold it with one hand - the MBP 13" is noticeably heavier at 4.5 lbs.
+ Solid build quality like the MBPs. Chassis is rock solid, no keyboard flex, screen housing is rigid with minor flex in the middle.
+ Better ergonomics than the MBPs; the palm rest edges don't dig into your wrists like the edges on the MBPs do.
+ Same fluid multitouch trackpad and the backlit keyboard makes a return.
+ The screen is a pleasure to use with it's high resolution (1440 x 900) and semi-gloss finish.
There is no glass cover so there will be dramatically less reflections compared to the screen of the MBPs
I personally chose the Air over the Pro because of reduced glare.
+ 18 second boot ups and 3 second shut downs. Resumes from sleep within 3 seconds.
+ The two USB 2.0 ports are on opposite sides of the laptop (less clutter than MBP)
+ Speakers are surprisingly loud; they can fill up a small room.
+ Runs extremely cool and it's so quiet that you'll wonder if the fan is running at all.
I can definitely feel heat ~ 87 degrees F on the MPB 13's underside after 6 hours of use
where as the MBA 13's underside stayed relatively cooler.
+ Runs Windows 7 just as cool and quietly. (I installed Windows 7 via flash drive)
+ Performance is almost identical to the MBP 13" 2011 on everyday tasks because the Core i5
CPU can turbo boost to 2.7 GHz and the SSD allows for instant application launching.
+ Gaming: it has the same Intel HD Graphics 3000 as the MBP 13" 2011. I was able to run
Starcraft II smoothly at low settings on native resolution. Medium settings also ran nicely but
you get less FPS during large battles. League of Legends ran smoothly at medium settings
30 FPS flat) on native resolution.
Things I don't like:
- *IMPORTANT* Wifi drops - have been less frequent in the wake of more updates from Apple.
- The keyboard is shallower and has less travel than the MBP keyboards (you'll get used to it
within a few days)
- The screen has less color gamut than the MBP 13's screen. This screen covers only 46% of
sRGB color spectrum where as the MBP 13's screen covers 77%. For image editing,
I would use an external monitor.
- The vertical viewing angles aren't so great. One minute tilt of the screen causes colors to shift
dramatically (for example: a purple color can change from lavender to light blue as you tilt
the screen backward or forward). Again, I would use an external monitor for tasks in
which accurate colors are mission critical. For everyday use it's not noticeable and is
actually easier on the eyes than the glare-prone screens of the MBPs.
- Not all models come with the same SSD. There are 2 variations; a Samsung SSD and a
Toshiba SSD. The Samsung SSD significantly outperforms the Toshiba SSD in
benchmarks (check the AnandTech review)
To check what SSD you have, click on the Apple logo -> About this Mac ->
more info/system report -> then look on the left hand side and click on "Serial- ATA".
If your SSD's serial number starts with "SM" it's a Samsung and a "TS" means it's a
- I personally get 5 hours of battery life max on a single charge while surfing with 10+ tabs open on safari; I got
~7 hours doing the same tasks on the MPB 13 2011. My activities included watching
YouTube videos, viewing flash content on tech and news sites, reading/writing email,
and using AIM.
- No FaceTime HD Camera (720p) as on the MPBs. The quality difference is, unfortunately,
- The integrated microphone is located on the side of the laptop instead of on top of the keyboard
as on the MBP. During Skype calls, my buddies told me that my voice sounded muffled
when using the Air. Using a headset with a mic, I was able to improve the sound quality.
- The base of the machine developed a creaking noise within the first week of use. I suspect this to be
caused by uneven tension in the screws.
- after 5 months of, a white cluster of stuck pixels developed in the bottom left corner of the screen.
The machine has been handled with care so it's not accidental damage.
Conclusion: Which one should you get?
As a college student, I would recommend the Macbook Pro 13". The Air is more than capable of being a primary machine because
of it's superb performance and overall very good screen. For everyday tasks, it should be snappy and an ease to use.
However, students will get a $100 discount on the Pro while the Air only provides a $50 discount. This means that there is a price
difference of $150 for students. The storage space on the Air is imited to 128GB or 256GB while the Pro comes standard with 500GB.
Plus, you can always add a SSD to the Pro later on. The Pro will be the better choice for creative students because it's screen has more color
gamut than the Air's. Lastly, you are getting a full voltage processor which can make a differencein video encoding or other CPU intensive tasks.
If you are not a student:
If you value the extra ports (Ethernet, Firewire, optical drive), a high gamut screen (although more reflective), a 720p webcam
(it's a lot better), and the ability to upgradelater down the line - go for the Pro.
If you prioritize portability (light weight), higher screen resolution, fast boot ups/shut downs, and less reflections - go for the Air.
In everyday performance the Air feels faster when booting up and launching applications because of its SSD. In CPU intensive tasks,
the Pro will have a slight edge but not much. (the two CPUs are actually pretty neck to neck on GeekBench benchmarks). They both
have the same graphics chip but note that the Pro will get better battery life (1-2 hours more) than the Air because the Pro has a bigger
capacity battery (63.5 watt-hours vs. 50 watt-hours)
Unfortunately, my unit is affected with a wifi drop problem. I don't know if you will encounter the same issue but if you buy an Air from
an Apple Store, make sure to test the wifi out by using it on multiple networks. If you encounter any erratic wifi drops within
the first 14 days - demand a refund or an exchange.
Update - December 27th, 2011
After installing the 10.7.2 and a firmware update, the wifi connections in my dorm room became more reliable.
However, after taking it home I experienced drops as before on the home network. I DOUBT it's a problem with my
router because ALL other connected devices work fine. The 2011 MBP 13" I previously owned worked flawlessly on my network.
This is most likely a problem with the Air's drivers. 5 months after product launch, I don't believe Apple
has acknowledged the issue or either chose to IGNORE it as other users on the official forums continue to
have similar complaints even to this day.
Hardware wise, the casing held up well except for a scratch on the side. The lid is frighteningly thin and I've read
reports of the screen's fragile nature - cracking at the slightest bump by another object. I would handle with care.
Want to know something funny? With the machine off, I can see through the Apple logo on the lid if there's light
behind it - it's that thin.
Software wise, sometimes the machine would run hot with fans blazing full throttle when watching HD YouTube videos
and would remain that way even though I close everything. Very odd. A quick reboot solves the problem.
A creaking sound developed within a week of purchase. When I lift the machine up, press on the palm rest or type on it
there would be a creaking noise produced. I suspected the screws of the bottom to be loose so I decided to tighten them.
Note that you'll have to order a pentalobe screwdriver to do this - the screws aren't the typical type.
January 9th, 2011
A cluster of 4-5 stuck pixels developed so I went to get a screen replacement. The Apple genius confirmed it was
4-5 pixels which qualified me for a screen replacement. Service was prompt and I got the machine the next day.
However, the new screen had 2 clearly visible dead pixels in the center of the screen. I tried using it for a few days
but they were an absolute distraction.
Dissatisfied, I took it back to another genius only to be met with rude service. I stated that the dead pixels hindered
functionality as they were visual distractions. He snidely responded with, "Where? I don't even see them" and remained
adamant about not replacing it because I didn't qualify for the "minimum of 5 dead pixels for a replacement" policy.
It was an unpleasant experience to say the least and didn't help.
March 11th, 2011
I've learned to live with the two dead pixels on the screen and Apple has released an update (10.7.3) to address the
wireless card. I've noticed that with Bluetooth off, the connections are pretty stable around campus and at home.
I've not yet tested this with Bluetooth - it makes me curious because people on the official forums report wifi drops when
enabling Bluetooth. Anyway, After 7 months of ownership I would say most of the initial bugs have been remedied and
the Air is a pleasure to use. However, I speculate that the Pro and Air lineup will be updated to Ivy Bridge in the summer
(along with the rumored redesign of the Pros). Buy now if you need it but if you can - waiting might be better.
Tracked by 10 customers
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Showing 1-10 of 64 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 3, 2011 7:30:48 PM PDT
I've had my new MBA not automatically jump on a known network when I go back someplace (e.g. Starbucks) but it's not an 'always' occurrence. Hell, it happens at my house on my home router sometimes. Not a problem for me yet but definitely annoying. Thanks for bringing it up - I will be watching the clock to see if I need to return for another unit, etc. closer to 30 days.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2011 7:37:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 3, 2011 8:52:17 PM PDT
I'll take a visit to the Apple Store tomorrow and will keep an eye out for any possible solutions. Thanks for posting as I know I'm not the only one. I'll keep you posted. Also, it's a 14 days return policy, not 30 days :(
Posted on Aug 3, 2011 8:37:36 PM PDT
Jared Kane says:
"- The advertised instant resume feature is overblown. The MPB 13 2011 resumes from sleep just as fast."
That's referring to after being in a "deep sleep" which is over 1 hour of being in sleep, it resumes almost instantly after this. Normal macs do it as well, but not after hours.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2011 8:42:55 PM PDT
Thanks for the clarification, did you get an Air too?
Posted on Aug 5, 2011 8:20:47 AM PDT
I thought the air had a higher screen resolution ( 900 vs 800) for the Air over the pro?
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 5, 2011 8:47:30 AM PDT
yes that is correct, the Air has 1440x900 resolution.
Posted on Aug 16, 2011 2:03:07 PM PDT
1) Apple released an OS X update today that's supposed to address the Wi-Fi problem
2) The comment about SDXC cards not working is apparently incorrect. I've found a number of references to SDXC cards being compatible with the Air. It must have been an issue specific to your card or Air.
Posted on Aug 18, 2011 6:37:28 PM PDT
K. Benson says:
Good review. Just one note, the MacBook Air DOES support SDXC cards. It is listed on their support site as having one and I have used a 64GB Lexar SDXC card with no issues.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2011 9:48:47 PM PDT
Thanks Den and Mr. Benson. I have revised the review based on your info. That's a good thing to know.
Have you experienced any wifi instability?
Posted on Aug 22, 2011 1:00:29 AM PDT
The Air is the only device that works right on my network. It worlds better than for my iPad PS3 and PC. I have used it on several networks. You can have the same issues on both routers if it is a conflict with another device. Manually set your router frequency channel and check for updates many routers do a very poor job of dealing with crouded areas. You may need to set the IP address of the other devices manually also.
You really should delete the comment about flash readers it is inaccurate it is the same one as on the pro and very fast.