"This Best Selling Apple MacBook Air MD224LL/A 11.6-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION) Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
The Apple MD224LL/A 11.6" MacBook Air Notebook Computer is an extremely portable, stunningly designed laptop computer. Apple's engineers have leveraged the lessons they learned in designing the miniaturized iPad and applied them to the design of this 3-pound computer. To say that the Air is svelte is all at once stating the obvious and understating the truth. The system is defined by its sleek lines and stunning aluminum enclosure. At its thickest point the computer is only 0.68" – it tapers down to 0.11" at its thinnest.The system is loaded with 128GB of flash storage rather than an old-fashioned hard drive. Flash storage doesn't just give you a lighter, thinner computer. It also allows for impressive battery life – up to 5.5 hours of web browsing and an amazing 30 days of standby time.The MacBook Air is housed in an aluminum unibody enclosure, which is as strong as it is light. Because it is cut from a solid block of aluminum, the housing is stronger than those found on laptops built via traditional means. The computers high-resolution display makes working on the go a breeze. At 11.6" in size, the 1366 x 768 display feature a native resolution of 1366 x 768! It features a glossy finish and LED backlight technology for enhanced image quality and energy efficiency.Computers in the MacBook Air's weight class are most often classified in the "netbook" category. Netbooks typically feature less-than-full-size keyboards, cramped trackpads and low-po
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That qualm aside, I’ve installed Windows 8 on it via Bootcamp and it runs fantastically. I actually prefer running Windows 8 on it. Heresy, I know. But yeah, it’s FAST, portable, and an all-around exquisite machine. I will admit that I do drool over the new Macbook Air 13″ with Retina Display which will be released next week: talk about the ultimate in speed and portable computing!
Anyway, these are simply the best machines out there. I looked at every other option from Dell, Asus, HP, and so on. No one else offered anything as portable, powerful, or well-made, with the same fantastic specs. It’s really a shame because, frankly, if there were Windows-based laptops out there equally well-made, I would’ve preferred to purchase one of them. But, well, if Apple makes the best machine to run Windows on, then a Mac machine it is.
Oh, battery life has been totally sufficient for me. It’s not super long but it’s long enough for working away from outlets (in classrooms, in meetings, etc.). Anyway, for what it’s worth, I really recommend these machines. Apple really knows how to produce exceptional hardware. The operating system is the only aspect of the machine that I don’t like as much–but that’s why I installed Windows on it!
I sold the MBA 11.6″. After a while of using it I found the 11.6″ size to simply be too small for constant use programming and writing for school, and using Access and Excel for work. I was literally using it up to 8 hours a day intensively, and it was just…too small to be practical. That, and I found myself using Windows 8 most of the time because I just don’t like how the Mac OS X multitasks. For me OS X wasn’t even as efficient for multitasking as Windows 8 (which is a tad bit less multitasking efficient than Windows 7). But running Windows 8 on a Mac isn’t ideal because Apple doesn’t care to produce highly optimized drivers to support their users that do run Windows 8. They make it *possible* but not a great experience. Most of the Windows 8 gestures wouldn’t work with the Bootcamp 4.0 drivers, and a third-party driver (Trackpad++) was necessary to achieve a tolerable trackpad experience using Windows 8 on the MBA. However, even Trackpad++ wasn’t perfect. It had to be constantly updated (every week) which was annoying, and I felt like the trackpad experience was–while better than the Bootcamp drivers–still very much a subpar Windows trackpad experience. The trackpad seemed to be not as responsive as it was in OS X, and less responsive even than the average trackpad on a Windows laptop. There was literally a full second delay between typing and the trackpad accepting input. I’d constantly find myself swiping multiple times because the trackpad hadn’t activated yet after I’d been typing. Uber frustrating. In short: Windows 8 on Mac is possible, but less than ideal.
That reality coupled with the small size just not being workable for a full day of work on the MBA, I sold it. Lost a significant chunk of change in the process.
I HIGHLY recommend 1) that you only purchase a Mac if you KNOW you like OS X, 2) that you only purchase an 11.6″ MBA as a (much) better netbook/ultraportable experience, and 3) that if you plan to work more than an hour or two a day on your laptop (doing anything) opt for something with a bigger screen: at a minimum 13.3″ (either the MacBook Air 13.3″ or a Windows laptop with an equivalent screen size).
Bottom-line: It was too small for all-day work, but the screen, keyboard, and trackpad (in OS X) were excellent. If you like OS X, and need something ultra-ultra portable (like netbook size) get the 11.6″. If you like OS X and plan to work extensively on the laptop and need something portable, get the 13.3″ MacBook Air.
Keep in mind that you’re only getting dual-core processors in either MacBook Air… which can prove frustrating if you’re really crunching some data through Excel or Access. Two cores, even with hyperthreading, just isn’t as capable of dealing with large datasets and operations as a quad-core processor with hyperthreading. I underestimated the performance penalty and found myself frequently waiting for the MBA to finish Excel and Access tasks.
Oh, last note: if you’re using Windows 8 on this machine and plugging in an external monitor, expect the fan to run constantly, even loudly. It’s more than barely noticeable. In my office environment it was loud enough to find embarrassing–in part because it sounds like the MacBook is struggling so hard. It didn’t exhibit this same loud ramping up of the fan when an external monitor was plugged in and OS X was running.
I hope the above information proves useful to you in your buying decision.
The MBA is only slightly larger than an iPad and is all about portability while being a real notebook and not just a tablet. The keyboard is really easy to use. Because it is not my primary notebook, the MBA 11-64 GB hard drive is just fine as I only store the essentials on it and my iPhone has most of my iTunes music on it. The audio quality is just fine with the ear pods.
Are there some improvements that I would like to see? Sure, but it unfair to compare a $799 MBA 11 to a $2499 MBP 17, both with OS X Mountain Lion. The most obvious difference is the screen quality, resolution and I am still trying to adjust the MBA 11 screen to my preference. But remember, I am normally viewing the screen in imperfect environments usually on the road. When I get home, I use the 17. Given the iPad retina screen resolution, I cannot believe Apple cannot improve the screen quality of the MBA 11.
The battery life is about 4 hours with the screen brightness at 2/3 and the keyboard lighting on the lowest setting but I understand there is limited room for a larger battery.
The MBA 11 is much faster than my MBP 17 with a750 GB-7200 RPM hard drive.
My iPad3 used to have a data plan with the cell carrier for Internet access that worked well. How I solved this dilemma with the MBA 11 was through the use of my iPhone 5 and the “Personal Hotspot” function on the phone where I connect the MBA 11 to my iPhone for Internet access and see no difference in Internet speeds.
The MBA is a perfect size for the fold down trays on commercial airplanes, and it will play two movies using the full screen given the 16×9 aspect ratio vs. other MacBook notebooks that are 16×10.
I would think the MBA 11/64 GB SSD might be a bit small as your only notebook but with a 256 GB SSD and an external monitor, it just might due for some people for lighter use.
Overall I am very happy with what this notebook offers.
That having been said, the current iDevices and Air Books represent great value. Apple has completely transformed itself from a company that offered high design, mediocre performance, and high prices to a company that also includes high performance – and market-leading designs, not just “pretty” designs. They charge a premium price – but they also offer premium gear with a premium experience, and the ratio of “premium experience” to “premium cost” keeps getting better for us, the consumer. Look how they revolutionized the phone industry with the iPhone – before the iPhone, none of us dreamed how “smart” a “smartphone” could be.
Now, look at the Windows Ultrabooks – bald-faced MacBook Air “clones.” They came out priced HIGHER than Apple Air Books for comparable specs, while still offering sub-par experiences (touchpad problems anybody? not on Airs; how about viewing angles on screens and the video quality experience? Apple 10, opposition 1). Now that prices have dropped, they still have dismal market share, and advance press on Microsoft’s new “Metro” user interface for Windows 8 (coming soon) has been very negative.
Kudos to Tim Cook for the many, many years of hard work he spent turning Apple’s “supply side contracting” into the power house it is today. Apple has such a lock up on future production, that what’s left over for other manufacturers is priced relatively high. And margins are SO thin in the hardware world of Windows (caught between Intel’s aggressive chip pricing and Microsoft’s Windows licensing fees, actual hardware manufacturers are picking at bones) that the manufacturers have very limited design teams, nothing to compare to Apple, which is a design MACHINE as we all know. For that matter, Windows used to roll out the latest chips from Intel. Now its Apple.
In short, unless you absolutely, positively have to run Windows, or are still running Windows XP (you know the millions and millions of you out there!) and dread the learning curve in switching to Windows 7 (grateful that you skipped Vista altogether!), or need to buy a new netbook every few months to see if the _finally_ deliver on their early promise, just bite the bullet and buy a Mac.
And particularly if you are using this for real world stuff – hauling it to your favorite coffee shop or wifi hotspot. Using it on your lap at home.
My 11.6″ MacBook Air fits in a SLIP case that looks like it was designed for an iPad! Slipped into my daypack, it feels like it isn’t there! When I use it, the keyboard is FULL SIZED. If it’s dark, no problem, no headlamp required to see the keyboard – it’s backlighted. Wait, I don’t have a lapdesk. No problem – no air vents on the bottom that I will block by placing it on my lap, and it doesn’t run hot (what a concept – a laptop you can actually place ON YOUR LAP).
Here are the pluses and minuses:
+ Large enough screen for basic HD video (720p, but not 1080p; it can output 1080p to your external screen, but it can’t display it all in a single glance on the smaller built in screen).
+ Large enough screen so that websites display properly when your browser is “max size” (you can even easily “full screen” it). (I recommend setting your “dock” or “app bar” to hide itself until you bump the cursor on that edge of the screen – that way you get the most of your limited screen real estate.)
+ MagSafe Connector for safety – MagSafe breaks free before dragging laptop off table.
- New design of MagSafe has problems reported by Pogue – sometimes disconnects itself during normal laptop shifting. Mine seems very tight, so tight I worry that given the light weigh of the Air and the slick feet on its bottom surface, it will get dragged of the table if someone’s foot catches my power cord.
+ Slick feet on the bottom of the case let the unit slide smoothly into the snug slip case I got from Rickshaw Bags.
- Slick feet on the bottom of the case let the unit slide around on my desk, at the coffee shop on their table, at the library etc. Won’t even stay put on a rubber surfaced lapdesk.
+ Ultra light bottom (keyboard) section. (The screen is light too, of course.)
- The case bottom is so light, that Apple limited the “recline angle” of the screen so it wouldn’t tip the whole laptop backwards – this is a non-issue for normal height people at a desk, but if you set the laptop down on a kitchen counter you will probably want to recline the screen back further than you can, for a good review. Still very usable, but a minor niggle.
+ That solid aluminum, satin polished, machined case still impresses. One or two Ultrabooks try to duplicate it, but most throw in some plastic as well.
- That solid, satin polished case is something we all want to keep pristine, so a huge market in covers has emerged. Covers are terrible, though, they maee the Air fat, unwieldly, keep heat in, and get scratched themselves anyway. Net result: Apple will give us all OCD, or teach us to love wear marks!
- The Air case is slippery! Watch your grip! If you pick a slip case (like the looser fitting Tom Bihn) up and accidentally aim the opening down, your Air will eagerly slide out! Some have even complained about how slippery it is in the hands!
+ It now has a USB 3.0, which means an inexpensive Apple compatible USB 3.0 hard drive from Seagate, or a reformatted (not hard to do!) 3.0 hard drive from Western Digital, will produce desktop speeds when you use an external hard drive. Note that the internal SSD in the Air is EVEN FASTER, but who besides Apple runs much SSD in their units? USB 3.0 is about as good as an internal hard drive in most other makers laptops.
+ You can buy an accessory stand that turns the Air into a “docking” laptop, and if you have one of those USB 3.0 external hard drives, performance will be comparable to a Mac Mini.
- No native HDMI port or even Apple-made adapter. BUT a third party adapter is available.
+ HDMI carries sound now too, which makes the Air a potential “home theater” device.
- Type on the screen is small on an 11.6″ screen.
+ You DO know that Command + and Command – are like pinch zoom and shrink and will size the text temporarily to make it easier to read?
- Yes but I like touch gestures better and wish the Air had a touch screen!
+ Yes but using the keys keeps fingerprints off the screen. Besides you have an iPad already, right? And you know iPad users are buying external keyboards in droves, right?
+ And if you don’t know about it yet, Safari, Apple’s default web browser (but I use Google Chrome), has an e-reader function that converts web-laid out text to a nice single column of readable text.
- Flash seems to crash both Safari and Google Chrome more frequently than in Windows.
+ The world is moving away from Flash. And blame Adobe and it’s Flash complexity-nightmare, not Apple.
- Google Chrome doesn’t seem as stable in Apple as in Windows. Esp. when Mountain Lion came out, Chrome got glitchy.
+ Google releases more updates to its browser than Apple releases updates to its OS X. Besides isn’t Chrome still in Beta? (No, there IS a beta distribution line, but Chrome has been “stable” for a long time now).
- OS X isn’t Linux.
+ No, it isn’t, but it is tightly based on BSD that “other” free Unix distribution, which many uber geeks think is better. But I won’t touch THAT topic.
- You can’t run Linux on a Mac.
+ Actually you can, but probably not as easily as on Windows hardware. But isn’t the “challenge” of installing and running Linux part of the “fun”?d Besides, see “+” above, OS X is based on BSD, but with a REAL WORKING BEAUTIFUL desktop instead of Elf (Gnome?) whose current incarnation has been cursed by the very orginator of Linux, Linus Torvaldis himself.
So in short, allowing for a slight unnecessary excursion into computer humor, the current MacBook Air is an absolutely incredible machine whose design and technology make it worth every farthing paid for it. And unlike products like the Google Nexus 7 tablet (I jut got one! and I do like it very much) if you have a customer service issue or even a Dumb Question you don’t have to run an incredible Google search to find an incredibly small amount of help. You just make an online “Genius Bar” appointment at your nearest Apple store, show up, and get helped.
The Air is more expensive, and while it is extremely small, sleek, and cool-looking, it maybe doesn’t have *quite* the same the “wow! I’m in Star Trek!” feel as the iPad. So for anyone tempted to go for the prettiest toy at the fair, I’m going to suggest two reasons why — at least for the next couple of years — you should go for the ultraportable Air rather than the ultra-adorable iPad (IF you’re writing/calculating/making rather than just reading/watching).
The first reason to go with the Air is that it supports multi-tasking. I’m not a programmer, and don’t have the foggiest idea how this is handled technically, but on the Air you can open up a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet and a Kindle book and have them open side by side when you write something. You can’t do that on an iPad. I never realized how much I rely on having several sources of information open at once until I couldn’t do it anymore. On the iPad it’s also harder just to open the same document from a couple of different programs. The iPad doesn’t give you direct access to your file system, so you always have to open documents from within programs. That’s cumbersome, particularly since and each of them has a different interface for, say, opening and saving files to your Dropbox account.
The second reason to go with the Air (in my opinion) is software. On the Air you can run the same full-featured software that you use on any other computer. On the iPad you can (as of mid-October 2012) run smaller versions of these programs. There’s a lot of talk about how cool the apps are for the iPad, and yes, some of them are so cool that an uncool person like myself needs a waiver from the Census Bureau even to look at them. But to get work done, both cool people like you and uncool people like me need the unglamorous workhorses of the software world: word processing programs for just about everyone, and (for some) spreadsheets, heavy-duty image editors, and database programs. On the iPad you can, as I said, get *versions* of these programs (or lighter alternatives to them). And they certainly *look* sharp on that high-res iPad screen. But they are, in terms of the feature set, about five to seven years behind their full-featured older siblings. This can either have no impact on you at all (if you don’t use too many features of these programs anyway) or be a complete dealbreaker when some advanced feature you’ve come to rely on for your workflow is suddenly unavailable for any price.
Will this change in the future? Probably! But as things stand now, you can do a lot more with the Air, and do it more easily. If you’ve used another Apple (MacBook Pro, iMac, whatever) you know how to use this one. And with the Air you will make exactly zero sacrifices to do your computing on something that weighs two and half pounds, that causes other people to stare at you enviously, and that can, like the iPad, be entirely concealed when sat on by a reasonably-sized cat.
One final note: the iPad has the edge on battery life (ten hours to the Air’s five). On the other hand the Air’s battery life is, as other reviewers have noted, still very respectable, and it can be increased if you turn down the keyboard illumination (not just the screen brightness, though that helps too). My Air came with keyboard illumination set on maximum. You can turn yours down/off by hitting F5 repeatedly.
Answer: no. I bought my third Apple computer, the new MacBook Air 11 from Amazon about two weeks ago. It has a 64GB internal SSD and 4GB RAM (it’s the lowest end model). It uses the new Ivy Bridge chipset (core i5 instead of the old core 2 in the old MacBook) and new Intel graphics chip, and it shows with a noticeable performance improvement running all types of software. USB 3.0 is a plus for me right now, and thunderbolt will be in the future as soon as I buy the thunderbolt to gigabit ethernet dongle (I am using my old USB to 100 Mbit ethernet dongle for now). The display is virtually the same as the old model. The lighted keyboard is awesome, I wish I had that on the old one. The new magsafe 2 connector is a little disappointing since I needed to buy a $10 (Apple store) adapter to reuse my old power supplies. Also the 180 degree connector falls out much more easily than the 90 degree connector on my old MacBook. But I have gotten used to that.
The new USB 3.0 ports are very helpful. Copying lots of files from an ADATA Pro USB 3.0 flash drive to the MacBook’s internal SSD is still a bit slow: 1519 files (67 MB total) in 9.251 seconds. But a single 23.8 MB file takes 0.328 seconds. The same two operations on the old MacBook which has USB 2.0 take 28.456 seconds and 1.86 seconds respectively. So USB 3.0 is 3-5 times faster depending on what you are copying. In the other direction it took 1.342 seconds to copy 23.8MB from the internal SSD to the ADATA drive on the new MacBook and 2.891 on the old. So the new one is roughly twice as fast but keep in mind that writing USB flash is the bottleneck there, not the USB.
Next I’d like to talk about Windows. I realize this may be heresy here, but for work purposes I decided to dual boot my new MacBook with Windows 7. I use VMWare Fusion on the old one and that works very well, but mostly I don’t need to run both OS’s at the same time and need all the speed and RAM I can get for Windows development. As I said above, I purchased the lowest end 64 GB model and it is very important not to fill an SSD. I like to keep them less than half full and I aim at keeping them 1/3 full. That means essentially 10 GB for MacOS in a 30GB partition and 10GB for Windows 7 in a 30GB partition. For MacOS that meant getting rid of a bunch of brickabrack like Garage Band. But I can easily browse and even develop SW in 10GB. On my old MacBook which has a 128GB SSD, I use 30GB for MacOS including the iWork suite (word processor, etc) but that also includes 14GB for a Windows disk running in Fusion. Since I am only about 1/4 full I have room for another VM and more SW.
Windows 7 installed like a dream using Mac’s upgraded Boot Camp. Simply create a bootable USB flash drive from a Windows 7 ISO file. Then download the many drivers that Apple supplied for Windows to support their hardware. That’s a large download because it has all drivers for all hardware. Then install Windows and install the drivers in two easy steps. There is a caveat for running Windows on the Air 11, I get about 5 hours battery life doing virtually nothing (reading and minor editing). It drops to 4 hours going online with light browsing and some flash disk usage. I have read that the battery life under MacOS is much better, about 6 hours, but I have not tested that. The reason is that despite Apple’s efforts with their drivers, Microsoft does not optimize battery life as well as Apple. Apple simply does a much better job of turning off or turning down their hardware when it is not needed.
One other note, the trackpad is the best one I have ever tried. It works a little differently on Windows however, the gestures are much pronounced and you have to develop a very light touch otherwise your two finger scroll will be much too fast. Then you have to adapt when switching back to MacOS. With that in mind and considering battery life with raw Windows, I would probably recommend most people buy and use Fusion unless they need all the memory for Windows. One other note on that: the graphics drivers appear to capture a large amount of RAM for their use leaving 2.2GB out of 4 GB for Windows. I may be able to reduce that but have not tried yet.
The bottom line is this is great piece of hardware with some very nice software. Try to keep your SSD usage down because it helps with the wear leveling. So buy a couple of USB 3.0 thumb drives or a nice 3.0 external drive and keep your data files (documents, music, video, etc) off of the main drive. You can run Windows 7 on it but you will take a hit in battery life. Most of all, enjoy, because you can’t help but enjoy using this computer.