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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