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on June 13, 2012
I purchased the Apple MacBook Air MD224LL/A 11.6-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION) to replace my 2011 Macbook Pro 13". I am a lecturer / graduate student, and this is now my main computer.

BUILD QUALITY
It is surprisingly sturdy. Although I plan to purchase a clear case for it (probably from iPearl), I think you could probably get away with using nothing at all. This ruggedness is an amazing feat, considering its light weight. Owners of previous Macbook Airs will enjoy more of the same.

DISPLAY
The Macbook Air has a beautiful display that is quite bright, crisp, and clear. The automatic dimmer function adjusts the brightness level according to the ambient light, and I have found that this works really well. Personally, I think the colors on the Macbook Pro 13" display "popped" a little bit more, and I liked the bezel-less solid piece of glass on it better. However, there is no denying that the resolution on this machine is far superior. I have seen the resolutions on some of the other ultrabooks (Windows), and I think this looks better (the ppi is actually about the same). [EDIT:] The soon-to-be-released Zenbook and others are supposed to have better displays this year, though, so this may change in the future.

KEYBOARD
It is full-sized and typing on it feels good. The backlit keys are great. The keys don't travel enough for my taste, and it feels a little less solid than the Macbook Pro, but this is a minor complaint. I write for a living, and I am looking forward to writing on this!

TRACKPAD
The glass trackpad probably does not get much mention in most reviews, but it is one of the best features of a Macbook, and it sets Apple computers apart from competitors. I retired my mouse a long time ago because of it. If you take the time to master the gestures (see your preferences), and you give full-screen views on applications a try, you can enjoy an incredible experience on this machine. The slightest touch whisks you from screen to screen.

BATTERY
Far too short. Really, 5 hours is not very much, and it looks like I am only getting about that much with regular use on half brightness [EDITED: after testing a couple of times -- just short of five hours]. I wish they could have bumped this up an hour or two more, and I will miss the long life on my Macbook Pro. I guess battery life is one of the trade-offs for this form factor.

SPEED
It is lightning fast. To be honest, I cannot tell a difference yet between it and last year's model. They tell me it is faster, though, so I guess I will have to believe them. Perhaps a few months of usage will give me more perspective. At any rate, it is noticeably faster than the Macbook Pro.

ACCESSORIES / STUFF / PORTS
The cord is a good length, and the power brick is quite small. It is somewhere between the size of my iPad power brick and the Macbook Pro power brick. From what I can tell, it looks considerably smaller than the 13" Macbook Air one. I am thinking that I might not mind carrying it around in my man bag with the Macbook Air. The ports on the machine are very conveniently placed, with one USB port on each side. This is so much better than the Macbook Pro, which had all of the ports on the left, where they would inevitably cause problems. Fat thumb-drives sometimes took up so much space I couldn't get another USB cable into the slot next to it. There is no Ethernet port. No Firewire port either. Be forewarned. It doesn't matter to me, but it might to you.

COMPARISONS
- 64GB
I purchased the 128GB model. With judicious use of cloud services like Google Drive and Dropbox, and perhaps the purchase of a 32GB thumb drive to carry around files in case you are not connected, I think 64GB is also doable. One of the great things about this year's 64GB model is that you get the same 4GB of RAM. I consider that model to be the best value, and I would have gotten it if I didn't have a large number of files in one application that, because of the application's design, I cannot put on the cloud.

- 13" Macbook Air
The base model 13" Macbook air is a better buy if you want the extra battery life and screen size. I value portability over those things (I can carry this in a small man bag, but if I got the 13" I would have to move up to a mail bag or backback).

- 13" Macbook Pro
The Macbook Pro 13" was an OK computer last year, and before the Macbook Air's Sandy Bridge refresh, was definitely the best entry-level product. However, they did not update the resolution this year, it is rather pokey compared to the Macbook Air, and it is much heavier. Unless you just simply refuse to use the cloud and have an obscene amount of files to carry around every day, I see no point in getting it.

- Ultrabooks
As for Windows ultrabooks, I might actually consider them if there was a significant price difference, but most that I have seen are just about the same price as the Macbook Air. They also have inferior build quality (in my opinion) and no support (all of the good stuff you have heard about Apple's phenomenal support is true). I am excited about Windows 8 (sorry Apple fanboys!) and I like where ultrabooks are headed. [EDIT:] It looks like the soon-to-be-released Zenbook will likely be better in terms of specs and price, so if you are wavering between Apple and Windows, you may want to wait a bit longer.

- Upgrade from 2011 model
I don't think I would do it if I had the 128GB / 4GB RAM version. The form factor is pretty much the same, and so is the speed. There are some minor improvements like USB 3.0, but otherwise, it probably isn't worth it. If you have the 64GB /2GB RAM version from last year, you could probably benefit from the extra RAM.

SUMMARY
Because of the high resolution display, and the ability to view applications in full-screen mode, I think this computer is portability perfected. It could definitely serve as your main machine, and I think many people will find that it is a better experience than the Pro models from just a year before. If you are a student, this is probably one of the best computers available on the market, and I highly recommend it.
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on July 20, 2012
I am reviewing this item alongside my Retina Macbook Pro, so I will be doing some comparisons.

I bought this laptop to replace a family members aging Asus laptop. She was not a power user, and was convinced she wanted to buy an Apple. I helped her choose the Air, because she really just needs a general use laptop, not a powerful computer.

Qualifications: Senior At Clemson University in Computer Engineering, and would consider myself a power user, but I will be writing this review for the purposes of non-power users, as I do not believe this laptop to be the best option for people that need processing power, but for consumers that want a quality laptop for everyday tasks.

Build Quality: 9/10. The unbelievably thin of 2008 doesn't seem quite so thin anymore. How times change. That said, this laptop is extremely well built, and feels well built, yet very light and compact. I do feel as if you need to be careful with it, just because it is so thin, but that may me just being paranoid.

Power: 6/10. The Ivy Bridge processors give the Macbook Air a nice boost in graphical performance. However, this is not a processing workhorse. If you need a strong processor, go with the Macbook Pro 13". But for every day performance, its perfectly adequate. If you haven't used flash storage before (SSD's), this laptop will likely feel quicker on most everyday tasks than a Quadcore computer just because everything that isn't processor intensive is so zippy.

Battery Life: 8/10. At full brightness, you can get about 3 hours out of it, but can get 5 at low brightness levels. While I complained about this in my Retina Macbook pro, this is excellent for such a small lightweight machine. You can bump up the battery life by jumping to the 13" size, but for the 11" form factor, this is a reasonable amount in my eyes.

Screen: 8/10. The air is still using the TN display and has not yet switched to the IPS system. The advantage of IPS displays is that they have much wider viewing angles. If you tilt the screen all the way back, you will get a washed out screen. That said, as far as TN displays go, this is an excellent one, and is superior to the 13" Macbook Pro's screen. This screen is not a retina screen, and you can definitely tell a difference between the Air and the Ipad3/Retina macbook. However, the screen still is crisp and beautiful for a non-retina screen. I'd say it was somewhere between the ipad2 and iPad3 in screen quality.

Sound: 4/10. Very Tinny at max volume... but its a half inch thick 11" laptop... you don't buy this for sound quality. The Retina Macbook Pro has a much better sound system, but this laptop is less than half the price, and in a much smaller form factor. I gave it a 4/10 for sound, but really sound quality won't factor much into the overall review. The sound quality is fine at lower levels.

Expansion: 3/10. I gave the retina macbook pro a 1/10. However, today OWC released flash storage for the air. You will never be able to upgrade the RAM/Memory, but you will be able to upgrade the storage.

Sexiness Factor: 9/10. Not quite as amazingly sexy as it was in 2008, but still holds its own. Not many laptops are thinner than this one, and I'd argue none besides perhaps Samsung keeps its quality at this thinness.

Overall: 8/10. This is one of those situations where the final device is better than the sum of its parts. Yes the speakers don't handle high volumes, but did you expect them to? There is only so much you can do when you are working inside a case this thin. The power isn't stupendous, but its more than enough for the target users(people that don't want to run Final Cut Pro, but light to moderate photoshop and internet users). The screen isn't retina, but is beautiful none-the-less. This laptop is perfect for general computing users, and will likely last you for several years before you start thinking about another upgrade.
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on August 3, 2012
This blows my expectations for an 11 inch laptop away! I have this lil guy powering my 27 inch Cinema Display, with Safari, Mail, iTunes, and a movie playing and it doesn't even flinch. The performance is snappy and responsive, it boots in around 13 seconds, and the build quality is, well, it's Apple, so that means you're getting a very high quality piece of equipment. I have also played Portal 2, Half-Life 2, and a few other games, and surprisingly the Air does very well with them. I mean grant it, this isn't a gaming laptop by any means, but it's still a good indicator at just how powerful the new Ivy Bridge processors are.

I suppose the only drawback would be the lack of battery life, which is still great in the realm of laptops this size. However, 4-5 hours is definitely using it lightly I've mainly been seeing 3 hours. So all in all, not too bad, but definitely don't leave home without the charger - which isn't big at all considering you can add/remove an extension cable provided.

TLDR version : it's an amazing, fast, and very well-built laptop for those of us wanting ultra-portability. Definitely don't hesitate if you're wanting this, it doesn't disappoint.
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on November 24, 2014
Excellent light, portable machine.
-Lacks some connectivity options, such as ethernet and a monitor port, but you should expect that in a machine this thin. Be prepared to purchase aftermarket cables and adapters to attach a monitor or TV.
-USB 3.0 is lightning fast, which compensates for only have two ports.
-I use it to edit podcasts and travel videos, and while I love the SSD, 128GB is a bit small. Upgrading is easy but pricey.
--4GB RAM approaches its limit at about 4-5 minutes of heavily edited video on Final Cut Pro. RAM is NOT upgradable.

For the price, I got exactly what I was looking for. Portability with decent power. If I weren't traveling with it, I may invest in a MBP, but I'm happy.

If you want something insanely light and potent, do some research to be sure it has what you need. If so? Jump!
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on April 8, 2013
Others have mentioned this similarly, but the biggest issue with the 11 in Macbook Air is battery life. It's not horrible, but in an age where iPads last for hours and smartphones the entire day, and other computers are boasting longer and longer life, it is a bit of a surprise that you get at most maybe 200 minutes out of the battery. But I had to admit it charges faster than any of the previous devices I mentioned.

Other than that, it is simply an awesome machine. It is very sleek, very light, and so thin I usually keep it in the outside pouch of my laptop bag rather than the bag itself, for better security!

I purchased after my loyal iMac finally died after 7 years, so it was great to see such power coming from such a smaller source.
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on November 24, 2013
This baby is screaming, especially now that I upgraded to OSX Mavericks. I am happy. It is my everyday work and play computer, with its load slightly lessened because of my iPad and iPhone. It remains the center of my work universe though.

UPDATE on April 18, 2014
The only drawback to this machine is the size of the HDD. Well, I found the solution to that problem when I upgraded recently to the OWC 480GB HDD, which was so easy to install that I did it myself. Now my machine is so good because I no longer have to have my iTunes library on an external HDD. I can have it with me all the time without committing a USB port for it.

It is now even better!!!!
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on August 29, 2014
This is my 2nd macbook air. I exchanged my other for a 17 inch macbook pro. I love my powerful, large screen new laptop,and work at home, but realized I also needed one to take elsewhere to write. (I'm a published , pro author btw). I find the pro to be too large and heavy, sort of overkill. The air is plenty powerful and fast enough for me, but the pro is where I keep my whole life, so it seems they are both needed. I doubt that my situation is the same as many users, but just want to say both are what they are, and great.
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on April 15, 2014
I love Macs! My wife use to be a devoted Windows user but now I can hardly get this computer out of her hands. It is everything I expected and more. I highly recommend it. We purchased it rather than an iPad as it is not much larger but much more versatile.
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on July 31, 2015
I am a user of both PC and Macbook. This Macbook is pretty good. But I still think PC is much better in terms of functionality. For emails and web surfing, I guess they are both the same.
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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.

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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:

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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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