138 of 142 people found the following review helpful
Thrilled with my 11" 2012 Macbook Air!,
This review is from: Apple MacBook Air MD224LL/A 11.6-Inch Laptop (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
UPDATE June 28, 2013: I continue to love my 2012 11" Air. It's my main computer, super speedy, almost unbelievably thin and light, no problems of any kind.
You probably know that Apple has updated the Airs with much better battery life; the 2013 model of the 11" Air is rated at 9 hours, compared to 5 for the 2010-2012 models. This is huge. If you can afford it, get the 2013 model.
But if you do most of your work plugged in, or have a tight budget, you can now get the 2012 model at a discount. It is still a great computer, and, other than the battery life improvement, the 2013 model is little changed from the 2012 model.
UPDATE Oct 26, 2012: For about four months, my 11" Air has been my main computer. I am just as happy with it now as the day I got it. Battery life has consistently been close to the 5 hours Apple claims, sometimes more. Performance is consistently blazingly fast, and traveling with the Air is a dream (2.4 pounds and super thin instead of 4-6 pounds for a regular laptop). No scratches on the aluminum body or display. No problems of any kind. If my Air was lost or stolen, I would buy the same one again without thinking about it. Here's my original review:
The 11" 2012 Air is a winner in my opinion. It offers absolutely excellent performance and it is amazingly portable despite having a comfortable full-sized keyboard and an excellent display. The design is beautiful and build quality is exceptional.
I ordered my 2012 11" Macbook Air the day it was introduced, received it a few days later, and have used it intensively since. I also own a 13" late 2010 model MB Air, which was my main computer until getting this one.
The 2012 Air's SSD is literally more than twice as fast as the SSDs in the 2010 and 2011 model Airs. The new ivy bridge processors are more than twice as fast as the core 2 duo's in the 2010 Airs and about 20% faster than the sandy bridge processors in the 2011 Air. Compared to my 2010 Air, the 2012 Air flies and makes the 2010 Air seem very sluggish.
The new ivy bridge processors are faster yet less power-hungry than the processors in the 2010 and 2011 Airs, which makes for a small but appreciated improvement in battery life according to independent published benchmarks. I've had my Air for 4 months now, and I'm getting pretty close to the 5-hour battery life that Apple promises, sometimes more. I usually have the screen brightness at 50% and the keyboard backlight down to the lowest setting (but not off).
This is my first computer with USB 3.0 ports. I have been blown away by transfer speeds to my USB 3.0 flash drive and a 2TB external hard drive. (My other USB peripherals are USB 2.0, so I don't notice any difference with them.)
I used bootcamp to install Windows 7 and some Windows-only software I need for work. Booting into Windows and running Windows natively is a noticeably better experience on this new Air than on the Lenovo Windows laptop that I used to have at my job.
For people who don't have an Apple TV and want to play their Air through a home theater system, it's very helpful that the 2012 Air now has HDMI audio pass-through. This means that a single HDMI cable can transmit video and audio from your Air to your home theater system or television set. (Though, you still need the HDMI adapter because the Air still doesn't have its own HDMI port. But the adapter is pretty inexpensive.) The 2010 Air (and maybe the 2011 Air?) could only pass video through the HDMI cable, so you'd need separate audio cables for sound. I have run my new Air through my home theater and watched a few SD and HD programs I downloaded with iTunes, and it worked really great - setup was very easy and sound and picture were very good. I really appreciate this because I recently ditched cable and now depend on iTunes, Hulu+, and similar internet services for my TV needs.
If you have a 2010 Air and can afford it, upgrading to a 2012 Air is a no-brainer. The performance is vastly better, plus there are many small but meaningful improvements (backlit keyboard, HDMI audio pass-through, USB 3.0, better Facetime webcam).
If you have a 2011 Air, the case for upgrading is weaker. Compared to the 2011 Airs, the 2012 Airs have fewer improvements and the performance gain is much less dramatic (the main exception being the much faster SSD).
If you're trying to decide between an Air and a 13" Macbook Pro: The Air is way thinner and lighter than the Pro, so it's much nicer to travel with. The Air's display has higher resolution than the Pro's. The Air's SSD blows away the Pro's sluggish 5400 rpm hard drive. On the other hand, the Pro's display has richer colors and wider viewing angles. The Pro has a built-in optical drive; this is important to some people, but many of us rarely use them anymore and cheap external drives work very well with the Air. The Pro's processor is more powerful (though most people will find the 2012 Air's processor to have more than adequate power and speed). A couple months ago, my employer replaced the Lenovo Thinkpad in my office with a new 13" Macbook Pro. My 11" Air is much faster than the Pro. I usually bring my Air to work every day and often don't even turn on the Pro. If you're trying to decide between an Air and a Pro, visit your local retailer and compare them in person. It's really a tradeoff between the Pro's built-in optical drive and rich (but low-res) display and the Air's incredibly thin and light form factor and blazing SSD.
If you're trying to decide between an 11" and 13" Air, the main tradeoff in my opinion is battery life vs. portability. Battery life is rated at 5 hours in the 11" Air, 7 hours in the 13" Air. This is a big difference for people who regularly do a lot of computing away from a power outlet. The difference won't be as important for people who mostly do their computing near a power outlet (I'm in that category). On the three trips I've taken since getting my 11" Air, I've found the 5-hour battery life to be enough for me to get a ton of work done on the flight plus have juice left to watch a pre-downloaded movie or TV episode. And I can't overstate how wonderful it is to travel with such an incredibly thin and light yet powerful computer. Plus, TSA doesn't require you to remove the 11" Air from your laptop bag at airport security (though you ARE required to remove a 13" Air, go figure). But some people really need those extra couple hours of battery life; if you're one of them, get a 13" Air, it's still amazingly thin and light (just not quite as much as the 11" Air).
Another difference between the 11" and 13" Airs is the display, of course. The 13" is not just bigger, it also has higher resolution. For me, this wasn't a factor in my decision because when I'm not traveling, most of the time I plug my Air into an external 22" or 24" monitor, so the built-in display is less important to me than it might be to you. When it's not plugged in to an external monitor, I am perfectly happy with the 11" display (even though I was used to a 13" display on my previous Air). But you might be happier with the 13" display's higher resolution--to be sure, see both models side by side at your local retailer.
Differences between the speed and performance of the 11" and 13" Airs are small enough that most people won't notice them. Even the cheapest 11" Air feels as fast as the 13" Air for most tasks. And both models can be upgraded with more ram, a faster processor, and bigger SSDs at time of purchase.
In fact, if you want any of these upgrades, you should get them at the time of purchase, since most of them cannot be upgraded post-purchase. Here are some recommendations:
There are three things that can be upgraded: SSD, RAM, and processor. SSD in my opinion is most urgent. The processor and RAM in the cheapest model will be adequate for most users, but the 64GB SSD will not. Paying $100 extra to increase the SSD from 64GB to 128GB should be a no-brainer for all but the most liquidity-constrained purchasers. If you can afford it, get the 256GB SSD. If you can afford the 256GB SSD and still have money left, then upgrade to 8GB of RAM.
In the comments, someone noted that the RAM is not user-upgradable post-purchase but the SSD is. This is true. However, upgrading the SSD post-purchase is very expensive, the Air is not designed to be user-serviceable, and opening up your Air may void your warranty. So, for most people, it will be better to buy the Air with the biggest SSD you can afford at the time of purchase.
One thing I don't recommend is AppleCare. Some of you will disagree and I respect your opinions, but here's mine in case it might help you decide:
It's certainly true that AppleCare will save a few people a lot of money. But the average person won't get their 250 dollars worth from AppleCare--otherwise Apple wouldn't make money off it. When I bought my 2010 Air, I let the Apple salesperson talk me into AppleCare, and I haven't used it once. The only good thing about it in my case is that AppleCare transfers to the next owner, and there's over 1 year left on it, so I can use it as a selling point when I put my 2010 Air up for sale.
But I didn't buy AppleCare with my 2012 Air. If there's a defective part, it'll most likely fail during the standard warranty period. If something fails after the standard 1-year warranty, the repair cost would have to be over $250 to make the AppleCare worthwhile. For me, the decision comes down to this: do I want to part with $250 for sure right now, or am I willing to accept a very small risk of losing even more after a year from now?
Of course, some people are particularly risk averse and will appreciate having the peace of mind. And there are some people who really will get their money's worth, and for them, AppleCare is a life-saver. But for most of us, it will end up being a money-loser.
Whether you get AppleCare or not, I strongly recommend the 2012 Macbook Air, and for many of you, the amazing portability of the 11" model will be the better choice.
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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 24, 2012 7:30:46 PM PDT
Good review, thanks for taking the time to write one. I have a quick comment about purchasing the upgraded SSD vs the upgraded RAM. What people need to remember is that the SSD module is replaceable and can be upgraded down the line if necessary, but the RAM in MBAs is soldered to the motherboard. This makes future RAM upgrades impossible. Make sure the amount of RAM you choose suits your needs since there's no way to upgrade after-the-fact. May not be a big deal to most people, just something to keep in mind.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2012 9:00:41 PM PDT
Thanks, this is very valuable information. Yes, the RAM absolutely can't be upgraded post-purchase.
Question: can we get an SSD upgrade post-purchase from Apple, or are you talking about a 3rd party solution that might void the Macbook's warranty? Also, is it more expensive to upgrade the SSD post-purchase than to order the Air with that size SSD at the time of purchase?
Posted on Jun 24, 2012 9:34:25 PM PDT
I did some further research and I'm starting to think that the post-purchase SSD upgrade will be a bad idea for most people.
Here's a site that offers SSD upgrades for the Macbook Air:
This company sells a 240GB SSD with upgrade kit for $377. That's more expensive than buying the Air with a factory-installed 256GB SSD, plus you're just getting the part, you have to install it yourself. The Air is not designed to be user-serviceable; it is possible, but it's harder than servicing other laptops. There's also the risk that you void your warranty by opening up your Air.
This internet site also sells a 480GB SSD with upgrade kit for $815. Now, getting the Air with a factory-installed 512GB SSD is pretty darn expensive, but this 3rd-party 480GB SSD is even more expensive (and of course you have to install it yourself).
So, technically, you are correct, the SSD can be upgraded post-purchase. But doing so is very expensive, plus you have to install the part yourself and possibly risk voiding Apple's warranty. And if you bought AppleCare for $250 and void it by opening up your Air, then the cost of your 3rd-party SSD upgrade just went up another $250.
Based on this, I'm inclined to think that the post-purchase SSD upgrade will be too expensive and too risky to be seen as a viable option for most people.
So I still recommend purchasing the Air with a larger SSD over purchasing the Air with the RAM upgrade, especially since even the cheapest Air now comes with 4GB of RAM instead of just 2GB like before.
But the information is out there, each person can decide for him/herself. Thanks for raising the issue. And please reply if you have other information about this issue or other issues that might be helpful to people thinking about buying an Air.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2012 9:21:10 AM PDT
My research on this topic is about as extensive as what you've just done and you make some very good points about the actual cost of upgrading the SSD after-the-fact in addition to a possible voided warranty. The options are out there but most people should probably purchase the MacBook Air with the intent of never upgrading the SSD.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2012 3:14:48 PM PDT
Thanks a million for the most informative and helpful review. One question I have is "have you experienced any WiFi connectivity problems with the new MacBook Air at all?". On the former version I noticed some concerns about that issue, and wondered if it is now resolved. Thanks again!
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2012 4:50:11 PM PDT
Dear M. Smith,
My 2012 Air's wifi works perfectly. I've used it at least 2 hours a day since I received the Air. I've used it in 4 different places (home, work, starbucks & panera), and I've also used wifi when I boot into Windows 7. In all scenarios, it works perfectly for me.
The wifi on my 2010 Air also worked perfect for me in all circumstances.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2012 5:32:15 PM PDT
Thanks a million for your prompt and very helpful reply. I just have to get one-all I keep seeing are great reviews for this new version MacBook Air.I appreciate all your help and postings!
Posted on Jun 25, 2012 5:45:02 PM PDT
CNET finally posted their review of the 11" Air. In case anyone's interested, here it is:
Posted on Jun 27, 2012 12:41:09 PM PDT
In case anyone's considering ordering a customized "built to order" Air, PC World did some benchmarks on a custom Air that has the upgraded processor, 8gb ram, and 256gb SSD and found that performance was generally 20% faster than the stock Airs that you'd order from Amazon or could pick up at your local Apple store or Best Buy.
If you're interested in reading more:
But please keep in mind: the stock (base) models of the Air offer really great performance, so if you can't afford to customize your Air with more costly options, don't fret, you'll still be getting a computer that you will love.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 29, 2012 1:45:33 AM PDT
Thanks for posting that link. I was not aware of the performance enhancements. I am glad I did not do that, though, because it cost them nearly $1700. That is 700 more than the base model to get 20% more performance. Yikes!