Customer Review

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2011 Macbook Air - (Nov 2011) - 1.8 ghz i7 4GB 256GB SSD, November 20, 2011
This review is from: Apple MacBook Air MC966LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
Well, i have had the Macbook Air 13.3", 4GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 1.8 Ghz Core i7 for about 2 days now.

Not a PC Hater....nor an Apple Fanboy. Just need something that is a BEST FIT at the time i am buying the laptop.
>> Well, this happens to be thanksgiving now, so hoping Apple will price match my laptop as its still within the 14 days before it hits Thanksgiving.

This review would like to address questions you have over:
1) Macbook Air (or) Macbook Pro
2) How well Macbook Air will Fit your daily usage & stacks up as a Casual Laptop
3) How well the Macbook Air stacks up as a Travel Laptop
4) How well the Macbook Air stacks up as a Work/Business Laptop

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My profile:
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1) PC & IT Techie
2) Looking to Buy the Macbook Air as my personal Laptop when i am in between IT Consulting Jobs.
(Had a work Laptop since the past 5 years and had to hand it over once i changed jobs)
3) Previous Macbook Air owner
(2010 Macbook Air; 1.8ghz core2duo, 4GB, 128 GB;); (My FIRST Mac; Bought it for my Dad..used it for a bit..and loved it.)
4) Travel a lot (Work & Pleasure);
5) Budget of $1500-$1600

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B. My Buying considerations/requirements for a new Laptop:
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1) Need a Laptop that MUST/MAY have the Latest & greatest in CPU/Memory/HDD/USB specs
2) Need a Laptop that MUST/MAY definitely have a gorgeous screen & High Resolution (1920xwhatever; 1080p)
3) Need a Laptop that MUST be Vibrant, easy on eyes; For a 7-8 hr workday on the laptop, i need a Display that is vibrant and less strenuous on eyes;
4) Need a Laptop that MUST run Windows 7 also to provide for Corporate VPN connectivity.
5) Need a Laptop that MUST be very Light. Preferably 13" screen(with HiRes)....but 15" is OK, provided it has the higher resolution.
6) Need a Laptop that MUST/MAY have good build Quality and Decent in Looking.
7) Need a Laptop that MUST be good to use for Color Editing/Accuracy of colors for Light Home use Photography.
8) Need a Laptop that MUST have about 250 GB of space.
>> My Documents excluding PICTURES amount to ~100GB.; A 256 GB SSD is the perfect size for me the next 3 yrs.
9) Need a Laptop that MUST have about 5 hrs of battery at least (I usually am on 3-3.5 hrs flights in travel)
10)Need a Laptop that MUST have a HDMI port to connect and watch movies in TV.

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C. The competition (read Non-Mac and My choices of Laptops)
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1) Not really much into Dell, Toshiba, HP, Lenovo
>> Had a Thinkpad before last year and that went just shy of over a year
>> The Dell XPS Laptop in my interest was too bulky and looked horrible. Size of screen; 15" for the desired 1920 resolution.
>> The HP Laptop (dv6t - Quad/Select) edition laptop was good on Technical Specs, but again, build was too bulky and Plasticky. Size of screen; 15" for the desired 1920 resolution
2) The Samsung Series 9 Laptop
>> When configuring the Samsung Series 9 to have 1.8Ghz Core i7, 8 GB RAM 256 GB SSD, it was coming upto $2100 all incl(give or take another $100); This was too expensive for me..even though the laptop looked good. Besides, i wanted to use MacOS also occassionally as i liked the Interface.
3) All the laptops here were about 6 lbs atleast...excluding the Samsung series 9.

-------------------------------------------------------------
D. Why i bought the Air
-------------------------------------------------------------
1) ** MacOS

2) ** 256 GB SSD was perfect storage vs Speed Size for me.
>> I did not need the slower and extra space in the 700 GB 7200 rpm.
>> Besides, i wanted to take a laptop and buy an SSD later. I did not want to pay premium for 700 GB drive.

3) ** Battery Life (Minimum 5 hrs met my requirement)
>> My earlier 2010 Macbook Air core2Duo used to last me >6 hrs between charges

4) ** Processor Speed
>> I wanted an i7 processor and the updated Macbook Air specs allowed for it.

5) ** Screen/Resolution:
>> Higher resolution on the 13" Macbook Air which i believe was greater than the 15" regular MBP definitely looked good
>> A visit to the apple store showed how excellent the screen is
>> A Bootcamp installation of Win 7 and the screen really compares with the 15" 1920x resolution models
>> The screen on the macbook air 13" is phenomenal!...and very easy on the eyes.

6) ** RAM:
>> While it was tempting to opt for the HP dv6t, which could take upto 16GB RAM, i decided that 4 GB should be enough for my usage in the Macbook Air.

7) USB 2.0:
>> Would have liked USB 3.0, but decided i would wait the additional time out during data transfers.

8) Minidisplay Port to HDMI:
>> I used to connect my older 2010 Macbook Air to my HDTV with Video/Audio out. No issues. This was definitely not an issue here.

9) Dual Booting into Windows 7 using Bootcamp:
>> I actually tried this out last night and it was quite painless.
>> Currently typing this review from Win7 on my 13" Macbook Air.
>> Split my 256 GB SSD drive into 85 GB for MacOS and 150 GB for Win7.
>> The Windows 7 partition stores my work outlook and regular windows files.

To summate my reasoning:
Though the Processor in the Macbook Air was not the full quad core i7, my reasoning was the SSD should more than make up for routine tasks.
>> For the additional, occassional, slightly heavier processing like editing RAW DSLR images,i hope that the i7 processor i selected as upgrade should more than provide the additional punch.
>> Yes. There is a drawback of slightly higher Fan Noise...but this is temporary.
>> There was nothing in the market to beat the Value/Lightweight offering of the Macbook Air, when you factor in the SSD.
>> The resolution and Screen and battery were all fabulous!

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E. Buying the Macbook Air
-------------------------------------------------------------
Finally Bought the 13" Macbook Air 1.8Ghz Core i7, 256 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM
>> Total cost with Sales Tax: $1739.00

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F. Usage/Experience with MacOS
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>> MacOS Lion is quite nice actually.
>> The interface and the Macbook Air screen really pop out for a 13" screen.
>> The OS does not feel heavy/bog down on the available resources
>> So far, i have just done general browsing and causal fiddling with the specs.
** Will update once i work more.
To summate: Love the MacOS Experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

------------------------------------------------------------------
G. Bootcamp Installation and Dual Booting into Windows 7 x64 Edition
-------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Used MacOS Lion Bootcamp Assistant 4.0.
>> End-End time to Partition/download/install Windows 7: (< 2.0 hrs) - (depending on your Internet connection)

*** Some of the Links/Installation Guides for the Bootcamp Process:
>> Installation Manual# [...]
>> Main note#
[...] - FAQ Note
[...] - Win 7 Display Drivers Note prior to installation Start - READ...IMP
[...]
>> Supporting Notes:
[...]
[...]
[...]

*** Process to Partition/dual Boot:
AS ALWAYS, TAKE A BACKUP OF YOUR CURRENT IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS.
1) Download an ISO of Windows 7 edition you want to install from Microsoft Website (or) google it.
>> Even if you do have an ISO ripped from your Windows 7 DVD, please download it from Microsoft website.
>> I had issues with Bootcamp not recognizing my ISO from Win 7 DVD
2) Keep your Windows 7 Product key ready separately
3) Keep ready before starting, a USB drive of size > 4 GB.
4) Copy the ISO of Windows 7 to any location in MacOS.
5) Plug in the Power Adapter
5a) Ensure you have a working internet connection.
6) Plug in the USB Device > 4 GB
(Note: use an empty USB device as the data will be overwritten)
7) Start Bootcamp Assistant
Dock > LaunchPad > Utilities > BootcampAssistant
8) Click on the following options:
a) Create win 7 installation disc
b) Download win 7 drivers
c) Partition & install win 7
9) Click next
10) Provide location of the Win 7 ISO to Bootcamp
11) Provide/Select the USB Drive > 4 GB for Bootcamp to copy the ISO over.
12) Bootcamp now, Formats the USB drive and then copies all Windows 7 ISO files there.
13) Bootcamp next, downloads the Windows 7 Support Files.
14) Once downloaded, you Proceed into selecting the size of MacOS and Win7Partitions
15) Drag the slider left/right depending on what size u want your Mac and Windows partitions
16) Click Next
17) BootCamp begins installing Windows 7
18) System Restarts
19) windows 7 screen appears for installation
20) Select the custom option
21) In the screen where Windows asks you where to install Windows 7, select the partition named "BOOTCAMP"
22) Next, FORMAT the partition to NTFS
23) Click Next and Proceed with installing Windows in the BOOTCAMP NTFS partition.
24) Windows Installation Completes
25) Once logged into windows, open the USB drive from "My Computer:
26) In the folder, "WindowsSupport", double click on Setup
27) Now, this basically starts the installation of all the drivers for Macbook Air for Windows (Chipset/display/Graphics/wifi e.t.c)
28) Restart computer
29) Do a Clean/Final logon into Windows
30) Right click is to keep two fingers on touchpad and Press; Ctrl+C and the usual options apply; Fn+Del is to delete a file.
31) Windows installs the Updates
32) Sometimes after the Updates installs, the Light/Sound/Keyboard Function Keys do not work. To fix this, reinstall all the drivers from the USB drive used during bootcamp.
33) To dual Boot into MacOS again, at next startup, hold the Alt/option key and keep it pressed while system reboots.
>> You can now choose which OS to boot into.
>> Lets say you want to boot into Windows 7 most of the time, there is an option in Windows 7 Control Panel > Select "BootCamp control Panel" and select the Windows 7 as default bootup.
34) ENJOY!!!!!!!

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H. Experience with Windows 7 x64
------------------------------------------------------------------
1) Very sharp display
2) Win7 bootup, regular tasks are very fast due to the SSD
3) The Macbook Air fan kicks into a higher gear during the installation of Heavy windows updates; Heavy Antivirus scanning; Pretty much when the usage of the CPU grosses above 50%
4) Normal usage for browsing e.t.c, the CPU usage is @ 10%, Memory usage is @ 30%
5) Very responsive for regular application Startup/Shutdown.
6) Outlook and working with big data files >5 GB is quite good.
7) I haven't tested the HDMI/MiniDisplay Port, but i believe that works.
** will update on how this works.
8) Am able to watch Youtube videos without kicking the Fan into high gear
9) Am able to watch bluray movies from external Bluray Drive connected via USB without kicking the Fan into high gear.
>> The Screen resolution and DVD experience is fantastic!!!
10) Battery Life with Youtube, Disk Defragmentation, Videos, USB Drives connected, Iphone connected for Charging was about 5 hrs this morning.
>> I did reduce the screen intensity to a more normal..and rather easy view level, ...but hey!..this is perfect for flights and other low light scenarios.

To Sum it: All drivers work good; Display is gorgeous and i am one happy Windows 7 user on a Mac!!

********************** NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTIONS ******************************************

13" MACBOOK AIR (or) 13" MACBOOK PRO (or) 15" MACBOOK PRO
>> well, my Choice:
13" MACBOOK AIR

>> The reason:
*** Between the 13" MACBOOK PRO and 13" MACBOOK AIR:
>> Macbook Air is Faster due to SSD
>> Macbook Air is lighter and more portable
>> Macbook Air has better screen resolution
>> For about 95% of your Tasks, Macbook air would more than suffice.
>> Though the Air does not have USB ports, DVD drive, you can purchase them externally
>> For all data transfer, i do not use DVD. I rather used SD Card readers, or USB Flash drives, so DVD is not essential
>> Buying a USB Hub should solve your Port Shortage in Macbook Air.

What would make u think twice over taking 13" Macbook Air vs 13" Macbook pro:
>> Price??
Really. If you're buying a mac..i think thats not the main concern here!

*** Between the 15" MACBOOK PRO and 13" MACBOOK AIR:
>> 15" MACBOOK PRO for those who are looking for a more powerful laptop
>> 15" MACBOOK PRO for those who dont mind lugging around a slightly heavier laptop
>> 15" MACBOOK PRO for those who dont mind spending an additional $400-$500 to get the 15" MACBOOK PRO for the HiRes and AntiGlare Display
>> 13" MACBOOK AIR for the rest of us...who understand the compromise that comes with portability and actual usage.

NEXT QUESTION:2)How well Macbook Air will Fit your daily usage & stacks up as a Casual Laptop
>> Its fantastic; Will more than suffice

NEXT QUESTION: 3) How well the Macbook Air stacks up as a Travel Laptop
>> Fantastic
>> The Power Adapter is very small and portable
>> The Battery Life is good (>5 hrs on 13" and i7)
>> The screen i believe has less glare and very bright. This should make up if its extremely sunny out.
>> Very Lightweight implies you can carry it around in your backpack during those longer DSLR in-the-field trips
>> Very Lightweight and Portable implies its awesome to carry around
>> Great looks!

NEXT QUESTION: 4) How well the Macbook Air stacks up as a Work/Business Laptop
>> Fantastic
>> dual boot to Windows 7 for corporate VPN e.t.c flexibility is great
>> I have not tried Parallels, VMware, but with 4 GB of RAM, i think i would better enjoy the experience with the Dual Boot.
>> Very Fast for routine Business Tasks/workings

WELL, NOW FOR THE ONLY FEW CONS/ADDITIONAL EXPENSES I HAD SO FAR:

1) External DVD drive
Still have to buy an External DVD Drive ($35-$90)
>> Apple SuperDrive is $80...and not acceptable as it does not work with PC
>> Most external DVD drives wont power up with 1 USB port.
>> The 13" 2011 Macbook air has the 2 USB ports on different sides....so its not possible to plug/use 2 ports for DVD drive
>> I would use the following DVD drive which works good with 1 USB port:
This is a Samsung and is only $35 on amazon.
[...]

2) HDMI Port:
>> Still have to buy a MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapter ($20-$30)

3) LAN USB Accessory:
>> Still have to buy this. ($25)
>> I use wireless mostly, but i bought this to provide flexibility.

4) USB Hub:
>> 4 Port USB port is a must if you want to connect iphone, LAN port, DVD, 2 external drives e.t.c...
>> This will set you back another 10 bucks.

5) USB Ports are on Different sides
>> As stated above, this can be an issue for DVD external drives.
>> Not an issue if you buy the Samsung drive above

============================================================================================================================

There you go guys! I am absolutely loving the laptop and the Keyboard is a reeeeeal pleasure to type.
Hope this helps you in your decision.

Seriously...if you have $1500 to burn....and need a stylish, lightweigh, brilliant screen laptop...this is it!
>> This will more than suffice for next 3 yrs usage.

=============================================================================================================================

Additionally, if you're interested in Case for the Macbook Air or any laptop, check out the following site i bought the case from:
WATERFIELD BAGS:
[...]

Regards,
Raghav

Good luck!

PS:
One last thing....Samsung SSD...or Toshiba SSD....it doesn't really matter too much.
Looks like all the latest SSD are all Toshiba's. I think Apple is reducing their exposure to Samsung in Hardware supply.

I will update if anything changes here...or i find any quirks.
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 29 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2011 3:07:16 PM PST
S. Patel says:
Very nice review. I was skeptical about buying one but I think after reading your review/comparison I will definitely buy one as my travel/business laptop. I have an xps but needed something light and powerful.

Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2011 7:45:21 PM PST
@ S. Patel:
Thanks. Do let me know if you need any help over (or) any questions.

Regards,
Raghav

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 8:35:14 PM PST
J. Barnett says:
Holy mother of reviews. This is by far the longest and most complete review I have ever seen on Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 12:29:20 AM PST
Thanks J. Barnett. Hope it helped you out. Do let me know if any questions.

Regards,
Raghav

Posted on Nov 21, 2011 9:35:12 AM PST
So how is the heat and fan noise with i7? if you don't mind .. thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 10:31:41 AM PST
Dont mind at all.

*** Let me explain this first from a $ perspective.
The difference b/w the core i5 vs the core i7 is about $100-$120
>> I've seen the reviews suggesting to go with i5 and save yourself from the issue of heat and Fan Noise.
>> I've also read the reviews suggesting that the i5 and i7 have about 10% difference and also over the i5 having the same feature as the i7 over the "virtualization" which allows in plain terms to make use of handling more tasks and making use of the OS.
>> The i7 in the Macbook Air is not a Quad Core, but rather a Dual Core.

Now, if it were me, shelling down $1500 for the i5/4GB/256 GB ssd vs shelling out $1600 for the i7/4GB/256 GB ssd, i definitely would go with the higher processor as $100 is not a big deal over 2-3 yrs.
>> Sure..if the difference was around 200-250...maybe i would think twice and not mind paying more for a slower processor(read a premium for the Macbook Air with i5)
>> The Macbook Air with a i7 does give me a reassuring feel.

******** Now that we have the aesthetic feel out of the way, down to the practical observation:

Back to your questions, i did the following just now:
1) Started up a 7 GB Movie in VLC player
2) Started up Youtube Videos
3) Have about 10 browser sessions open
4) Running in Windows 7 now. (MacOS performance should be obviously better for the above)
5) CPU usage is 8% and Memory is 23%.

FAN NOISE:
1) I can't hear the FAN cranking up and getting too loud at all.
2) Things are just as normal and responsive ....and FAST.
3) Laptop is silent and an absolute pleasure.

HEAT:
1) I can feel the laptop on my lap a bit warm.
Its like any normal heat, which you will probably find in the i5 too.
>> The laptop surface is barely hot...slightly warm.
* Although, i would like to mention that my Macbook Air has been running for the past 5 hrs and I had placed the laptop on a mattress for sometime, which is not a smart thing to do with any laptop.
>> I always, be it the Macbook air (or) my previous laptop, used to leave space or place the laptop such that its vents can dissipate heat.

Having said these, for all my tasks now, i cannot feel the heat...nor hear the Fan Noise with the above activity.

Additionally, i tried connecting the Movie i am playing now..via HDMI/MiniDisplay port to HDTV.
>> No Heat. No Fan Noise

Now, i have seen some forum posts where users complain the Fan Noise and Heat goes up very high.
>> These apply to both the i5 and i7.

The fix was suggested as an SMC reset for the Macbook air where the fan controller is confused and does not know when to kick in.
>> I would suggest reviewing the following website over this.
http://maccrazy.com/macbook-air-heat-fan-noise
This can be pulled up by googling Maccrazy and Macbook air Fan Noise.
>> There are couple of fixes as they have mentioned, which i have extracted below.
** This is taken from the Maccrazy website.

SMC reset instructions for a MacBook Air are:
Shutdown your MacBook Air (go to the Apple menu and choose "Shut Down...").
Make sure your MacBook Air has external power. Connect the power adaptor, if it isn't already.
Using the Air's built-in keyboard (not a plug in keyboard or bluetooth keyboard), of the left hand side of the keyboard press Control-Shift-Option and on the top right of the keyboard, the power key at the same time.
Release all the keys at the same time.
Press the power key to start the computer.

Now, i will detail my experience with the FAN/HEAT when i DID hear it:
1) I was installing Windows Updates (about 100 of them)
2) Installing Parallel softwares (Office/Misc)
3) Running Firefox with about 5-6 sessions open
4) Running a scan of laptop with Microsoft Security essentials.
5) Initiated an Adobe Flash installer..which btw had hung because there were other parallel installations going on.

During this time, the CPU use was around 75% and the memory use was about 70%.

I would assume the Fan would kick into high speed when the CPU usage increases, which is normal.
>> The use of the CPU to 70%, i think you're going to only notice it during installations/intensive CPU activities
>> Normal Activities should be fine.

One additional aspect, since i am using Windows 7 more than MacOS, i cannot speak for MacOS Fan Noise.
>> From my 2010 Macbook air which i bought/gave my dad....i did not hear the fan noise
>> Battery life in Macbook air is more efficient.
>> Battery life in Windows is alright...about > 5 hrs but depends on what you're doing.

Do let me know if any other questions.

Regards,
Raghav

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 11:16:30 AM PST
Thank you very much for the long thorough post. Sure I would love the i7 + 256SSD combination, but after tax here in CA it would be nearly 1800 bucks and BB currently have the base 13 with I5 4GB ram 128GB SSD for 1099 + tax which would be 1196 dollars. That's about 600 bucks difference for slightly faster CPU and additional 128GB storage. As much as I love the i7, I might go with the 1099 one and spend 100 bucks to get a 1TB portable HD for 99 bucks..... just saw the ad.. but really do appreciate your response!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 11:47:04 AM PST
Sure Howard.
I Totally understand it the sales Tax part. I am from CA too (Santa Clara) and checked that deal out on slickdeals yesterday.

From what i understand...if your Hard drive needs are sufficient with 128 GB, its a good option.
>> For me, i needed 256 GB for dual booting and working with the OS.

fyi....the SSD on the Macbook Air can be replaced now. So its easier to upgrade to higher SSD later.

Regards,
Raghav

Not a problem at all. Thanks for your follow up.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 12:47:48 PM PST
Thanks again. I will only be running OSX and will not be dual booting to windows. I have no need for windows other than game which I don't have much interest in anymore. Been there done that, same game, just better graphics now... Just head out and got a 1.5 TB portable external HD for 129, I'm good to go!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2011 7:06:44 PM PST
Sure. Fair enough. Its a laptop well worth and i think you will enjoy it too! Happy Holidays!
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