"This Best Selling Apple MacBook Air MD232LL/A 13.3-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 ultimate everyday notebook is better than ever. The Apple MacBook Air now features the latest Intel processors and graphics, faster flash storage, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera. All packed into a notebook that's incredibly thin and light. With up to 60 percent faster graphics performance, it makes everything you do feel quicker and more fluid than ever. And the latest flash storage is up to 4x faster than a traditional hard drive, making MacBook Air remarkably responsive.
The MacBook Air with 13.3-inch screen (view larger).
Now with two USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt port, and an SD card slot (view larger).
The MacBook Air also now includes both a high-speed Thunderbolt port and two USB 3 ports, enabling you to easily connect to external displays and a wide variety of high performance peripherals.
This version of the MacBook Air (model MD232LL/A) sports a 13.3-inch high-resolution display, 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, 256 GB of flash memory storage, 4 GB of RAM, an SD card slot, and up to 7 hours of battery life (see full specifications below). It also comes with the iLife '11 software suite, which includes the latest versions of iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand.
Intel Core i5 Dual-Core Processing
The MacBook Air packs plenty of power thanks to the latest Intel Core i5 processor, which features a faster processor, more powerful graphics, and a memory controller integrated into a single chip. The third-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 has a 1.8 GHz speed, which can dynamically accelerate up to 2.8 GHz to match your workload thanks to updated Intel Turbo Boost Technology.
And with the Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor, you get up to 60 percent faster graphics. So the video you watch, the FaceTime calls you make, and pretty much everything else you do is smoother and more detailed.
The spacious, full-sized keyboard (see larger image).
High-speed Thunderbolt and USB 3 Ports
A high-speed Thunderbolt port allows the MacBook Air to transfer data at lightning-fast speeds and connect displays like the Apple Thunderbolt Display, enabling you to turn this highly portable notebook into a highly versatile workstation. And with two USB 3 ports, you'll be able to connect the latest USB 3 devices and access a pipeline that's up to 10 times faster than USB 2.
Because Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, you'll be able to connect to a high-resolution display from the same port. Any Mini DisplayPort display plugs right into the Thunderbolt port, and you can also connect displays that use DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, or VGA connections with an existing adapter. You'll also be able to include your display into a daisy-chained set of peripherals.
Flash Memory Storage
By replacing the standard spinning hard drive typically found in laptops (as well as desktop PCs) with flash memory, the MacBook Air delivers an almost instantaneous boot-up when you open the display, as well as faster application launches and snappier overall performance. Additionally, Apple has shed the enclosure that typically surrounds flash memory (usually about the same size as a standard hard drive), thus giving it a smaller footprint and helping to decrease the size of the MacBook Air.
The Multi-Touch gestures in OS X make everything you do on MacBook Air more intuitive, direct, and fun. You can pinch, swipe or rotate images on the display screen with the brush of two fingers, or add more digits for a four-fingered vertical swipe to open Expose and quickly glance at all of your open windows.
Integrated HD FaceTime Webcam
You'll be able to easily connect with friends, family, and business colleagues using the MacBook Air's HD 720p FaceTime camera, which is integrated into the thin bezel above the display and features three times the resolution of the previous FaceTime camera. And with Apple's FaceTime application, you're not limited to video chats with other Macs–you can now make video calls to iPhone and iPod touch users.
The MacBook Air manages to fit a full-size keyboard that makes typing as natural as it is comfortable. And the keyboard is backlit, so you can type with ease in even the dimmest light. A built-in ambient light sensor detects changes in lighting conditions and adjusts the display and keyboard brightness automatically.
See larger image. 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with a 1440 x 900-pixel resolution Up to 7 hours of wireless productivity plus up to 30 days of standby time 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor (2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost Technology; 3 MB L3 cache) 256 GB flash memory storage 4 GB installed RAM (1600 MHz DDR3; supports up to 8 GB) Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics processor Built-in HD 720p FaceTime camera for video chatting Wi-Fi wireless networking (based on 802.11n specification; 802.11a/b/g compatible) Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting with peripherals such as keyboards, mice and cell phones Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps) with native video output support for Mini DisplayPort plus DVI, VGA, dual-link DVI, and HDMI (requires adapters, sold separately) Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps; backwards compatibility with USB 2) Built-in stereo speakers along with omnidirectional microphone, headphone minijack Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.68 inches (WxDxH) Weight: 2.96 pounds
What's in the Box
13.3-inch MacBook Air, 45W MagSafe 2 power adapter, AC wall plug, and power cord, printed and electronic documentation
Limited Warranty And Service
The MacBook Air comes with 90 days of free telephone support and a 1-year limited warranty, which can be extended to 3 years with the AppleCare Protection Plan.
At the heart of every MacBook Air–and every Mac–is OS X Mountain Lion, the world's most advanced desktop operating system. Since the software built into every Mac is created by the same company that makes the Mac, you get a fully integrated system in which everything works together perfectly. OS X works with the processor in your Mac to deliver the best possible performance. Power Nap even takes advantage of the Mac hardware to keep the entire system up to date while it sleeps. OS X Mountain Lion (includes Mac App Store, Safari, Mail, Messages, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes, Time Machine, FaceTime, Photo Booth, Game Center, iTunes, and more)
iLife helps you do more with photos, movies, and music than you ever thought possible. In iPhoto, you can browse, edit, and share your photos in stunning new full-screen views. Create epic Hollywood-style movie trailers from your home video in iMovie. And GarageBand gives you everything you need to make a great-sounding song–including tools for keeping your song in perfect rhythm and guitar and piano lessons. iLife (includes iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand)
AppleCare Protection Plan
Because Apple makes the hardware, the operating system, and many applications, the Mac is a truly integrated system. And only the AppleCare Protection Plan gives you one-stop service and support from Apple experts, so most issues can be resolved in a single call. Extend the complimentary service and support on your Mac to 3 years from the original Mac purchase date with the AppleCare Protection Plan. You get direct telephone access to Apple experts for technical questions, and you get global repair coverage–including both parts and labor–for your Mac and select Apple peripherals.
Optional Accessories and Related Products
45W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter
Need an extra adapter for home or work? The MagSafe 2 Power Adapter is held in place magnetically, so if someone trips over it, the cord disconnects harmlessly while your MacBook Pro stays put on your desk.
Apple Thunderbolt Display
The world's first Thunderbolt display doesn't just give you more pixels. It gives you more possibilities. Built-in Thunderbolt technology lets you connect as many as six devices through a single port and transfer data up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0.
Apple USB SuperDrive
Compact and convenient, the Apple USB SuperDrive connects to your MacBook Air with a single USB cable and fits easily into a travel bag. It lets you install software and play and burn both CDs and DVDs, including double-layer DVDs.
Time Capsule is the revolutionary backup device that works wirelessly with Time Machine in OS X Leopard or later. It automatically backs up everything, so you never have to worry about losing important files. It also doubles as a full-featured 802.11n Wi-Fi base station. Choose from 2 TB and 3 TB models.
Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
The Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter lets you easily connect to a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet network. Small and compact, it connects to the Thunderbolt port on your Mac computer and provides an RJ-45 port that supports 10/100/1000BASE-T networks.
Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter
The Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter lets you connect an advanced digital monitor, such as the Apple Cinema Display, to your MacBook Air.
Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter
Use the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter to connect your MacBook Air to a 30-inch display that includes a DVI connector, such as the 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display.
Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter
The Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter lets you connect a standard analog monitor, projector, or LCD that uses a VGA connector or cable to a Mac with a Mini DisplayPort.
Speed and Performance: Advantage MacBook Air
Apart from the hard drives and port configurations, the technology inside the machines is virtually identical in both the newly refreshed MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Both Pros and Airs come with either i5 or i7 Intel “Ivy Bridge” processors, Intel HD Graphics 4000, USB 3.0, and lightning-fast Thunderbolt ports. While the MacBook Air models are at a disadvantage to the MacBook Pro models in terms of CPU clock speeds, any performance disadvantage from the processor speed is more than made up for by the lightning fast performance of the Air’s SSD hard drive, which Apple markets as “Flash” storage. In everyday tasks from gaming to web browsing to watching Flash movies and editing video, the MacBook Air is faster significantly faster in virtually every task. The Air boots up in less than 12 seconds while the Pro takes upwards of one minute.
Screen: Advantage MacBook Air
Once you get used to the super high resolution 1440 x 900 LED display on the MacBook Air, the 1280 x 800 back-lit LED display on the MacBook Pro looks downright grainy and primitive. Simply put, once you get used to a higher resolution display, the 1280 x 800 display on the 13″ MacBook Pro just isn’t acceptable. Even for simple tasks like email or word processing where you wouldn’t think the resolution would matter, the graphics look grainy and pixelated, which just isn’t acceptable for a pro-level laptop in 2012.
Upgradability: Advantage MacBook Pro
One major difference that’s important to consider between the Air and the Pro is that the Pro is more flexible and adaptable in terms of upgradability. With only a screw driver and about 10 minutes of your time, you can add more memory to the Pro, replace the hard drive, and even add a second hard drive in place of the optical disc drive. The Air, on the other hand, is stuck in the configuration you purchase it in except that you can opt to replace the SSD “Flash” hard drive with a higher capacity drive. However, both the Air and Pro have USB 3.0 (which is five times faster than USB 2.0 and backward compatible) and Thunderbolt (which is ten times faster than USB 2.0), I see no reason to replace the Air’s hard drive any time soon given how cheap external hard drives are and how fast the connection has become.
Design, Weight, Portability, Battery Life, and Form Factor: Advantage MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is the most beautiful computer ever produced by man. The aluminum case is impeccably designed, almost tailored to accommodate the necessary internal components, while maintaining practical ergonomics. It’s an incredibly thin, svelte, sexy little notebook. The aluminum case seems sturdy and durable, and its mechanics are very similar to the time-test unibody construction of the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is a bit of a dinosaur in its bulky circa 2006 unibody. The Pro is heavier than a half gallon of milk at 4.5 lbs, while the MacBook Air weighs in at less than 2.9 lbs. Battery life is roughly even on both machines at anywhere from 4 to 7 hours depending on workload and settings.
Summary Judgement: Buy the MacBook Air
Simply put, the guts of the two machines are basically the same, but the Air’s SSD hard drive gives it a tremendously significant boost in performance. Sadly, the MacBook Pro’s 5400-rpm hard drive leaves the machine unable to capitalize on the newest, most expensive Intel “Ivy Bridge” i5 and i7 processors that you’re paying a $300 premium for in the newly updated Pros. If you are going to buy a Pro, invest the extra money and get it upgraded with a SSD hard drive and get an extra external hard drive if you need additional cheap storage space for multimedia files. When you also consider the superior display, lighter weight, increased portability, and lower price of the MacBook Air, it’s hard to find a reason to justify purchasing the current 13″ MacBook Pro, which to me looks like a dinosaur rapidly headed for extinction.
Specs on the models compared:
13″ MacBook Air (mid 2012) factory upgraded to the 2.0 GHz dual core i7 processor and factory upgraded to 8 GB RAM (1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM) with standard 256 GB SSD (“Flash”) hard drive
13″ MacBook Pro (mid 2012) with 2.9 GHz dual core i7 processor, 8 GB RAM (1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM), and 750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
Both feature Intel HD 4000 Graphics, 3.0 USB, Thunderbolt, 802.11n, etc.
Processor: The one word response would be “sufficient.” Overall, the beauty of this laptop is that it gets out to the way and simply lets you do what you need to do. The processor isn’t the fastest on the market, but I have never been left waiting for any processing tasks to date. As an email access point, word processor, and internet browser there is more than enough processing power to have a boatload of applications and multiple tabs open without a stutter. Web pages scroll nicely, new programs open in a second or two and when it comes to productivity tasks this is night and day better than my iPad since I can actually use the keyboard, Microsoft Office etc. The processor doesn’t need to be all that powerful in large part due to the flash memory storage, upgraded in this generation to the faster 6 Gb/s connection so that read/write processes don’t drag the computer down at all. While I use my desktop for all of my heavy duty processing of images and HD video, I will occasionally need to process an image or two on the road. So far I have found that Photoshop CS5 runs very nicely on this model, with nearly instant effects utilizing simple layer/curves adjustments. Processor intensive tasks such a gaussian blur related filters have a slight lag, taking approximately 30% longer than they do on my i7 920 desktop processor that is a few years old. It all gets done though, is far faster than my previous laptop, and nothing I regularly do has taken more than 2-3 seconds of processing time for an image, totally acceptable. It’s the 30-40 second drags from my prior laptop that made me ready to throw it out the window. However, the few seconds of slowing is enough that I wouldn’t want to process thousands of photos on this laptop, but for the casual edit it is more than sufficient. Lightroom runs smoothly as well, in large part due to the cache being on SSD storage, so even my 5D MkIII raw files at 30MB each are rendered to a smaller jpeg preview that the lighter processor can handle and render quickly off the SSD. Imports/export rendering take longer on this machine to be sure, but by that time I’m off doing other errands so I don’t mind this lag. Video editing is functional as well and would likely work for most casual users, but massive projects simply wouldn’t be possible on this machine for a multitude of reasons ranging from storage space to video card, screen size, processor etc. Overall, it does handle all casual productivity tasks that I need faster than any laptop I’ve owned, and can handle more processor intensive image applications acceptably for a laptop, though not fast enough that I’d consider using this as a full time professional machine.
Screen: The 13 inch model seems to be the perfect blend of portability and functionality for me. This particular screen is vibrant, and has the capability to professionally render the images that I need with a few caveats. Firstly, the factory set color profile for the screen looked good enough for basic use, but to my sensitive eyes had a bluish hue to it. Apple laptops are notoriously inaccurate for color rendition (increased contrast, saturation in reds and blues) so I would highly recommend that users who do much imaging work create a custom color profile their monitor. Even casual users are likely to be disappointed when actually printing images that look great on this screen (i.e. pumped up colors and contrast with a flat and lifeless print in real life). Also, for all of us that send files over the internet to Facebook/email etc, I would think it would be nice to know what your photos would look like “on average” to most of the users out there without a similar Mac screen. The “profile” utility built into OS X is worthless, and I’d recommend a software solution such as ColorEyes Display Pro, combined with a sensor such as the Spyder 4. I wish I could have assessed the default profile to find out how much it was off at baseline, but my software can only analyze custom profiles that it creates. Needless to say, things look a lot different after the profiling, and at 75% brightness I was able to get the monitor down to an average dE of 0.51 with a max dE of 2.99 in the greys (less than 1 is great accuracy, less than 5 is sort of standard to start professional work for me). I also notice that the edges of the screen on all sides have a very slight dark tinge/wave that extends for about half an inch. It is only faintly noticeable, shows up most against white backgrounds, and decreases with increased screen brightness. This isn’t a defect unique to my unit, as it seems to affect all of the models at the Apple store that I went to see, as well as a few friends with Airs from years past. It would be nice if this screen were perfect, but it works and the minor screen variation doesn’t effect the center working space of the image…so I think of it sort of like a built in vignette. This is a well documented complaint you can find on many forums with a quick internet search. If it’s persisted into the 3rd generation of modern Air I don’t see it going away soon. The resolution is also acceptable and a noted improvement over the 13″ standard Macbook pro. Not retina, but the graphics on this model couldn’t handle that resolution anyways. Retina display on the Macbook air will be a welcome addition in the years to come when the technology to scale everything down at a reasonable cost becomes feasible. Till then, this does the trick.
Battery life: one of my most important considerations for a laptop. This computer consistently achieves 7hrs of battery life as advertised. Screen brightness can be set to a custom level for increased battery life but I have yet to beat 7.5hrs. Surprisingly, Wifi intensive tasks such as downloading large files seem to have the biggest impact on battery life. I’d love to have a 10hr laptop at some point, but this model can get me through a busy work day every time so long as I start with a fully charged battery before.
Value/Upgrades: I am happy with the 128GB base model with 4GB ram, and made that decision mainly based on the value offered by the Apple upgrades. First off, with the base processor, all of my tasks seem to fly along with the exception of major processing such as photo or video exporting after edits. The i7 2.0 GHz upgrade would only be of marginal help, with the advantage of the “turbo boost” performance at 3.2 GHz versus 2.8 or a 11-14% increase for $100 (but requiring the $300 memory upgrade as well). I seriously considered the 8GB of ram as well, as the $100 upgrade would help to future proof the computer’s performance. The problem with this, or any other upgrade over the stock base model is that you need to purchase the custom Air models directly from Apple, without the Amazon discount, with the added sales tax and recycling fee. That’s an additional $150 or so in immediate outlay for privilege of even beginning to customize the computer at an additional price (or about $250 extra for 8GB of ram rather than the initially apparent $100 which would have been worth it). I have found that most Mac laptops depreciate at about 10-15% per year from the base price (any additional cost to tax etc is thrown out immediately), so selling this computer in a year or two to stay current with technology is by far the better value for me.
Regarding space, I have all of my programs (Lightroom, Office, Photoshop and a few others) on the 128GB drive with 95GB to spare. That’s a lot of extra space for working files so long as they aren’t media based. For that, you would need an external drive either way, as a day of photography can produce 60-70GB, and video can get into the hundreds of GB quickly, nothing that the minor 128GB upgrade would cover. The USB3 connection and a 7200RPM external drive does a great job, and ensuring that Photoshop etc are using the onboard flash storage as a scratch disk makes for great performance without compromise. Also, for storage in a pinch, the SD card slot provides an opportunity for a cheap upgrade. A 64GB SD card just barely sticks out of the side and can be had for $50 or so, while a 128GB SD card costs ~$150 with prices dropping fast. These won’t have anywhere near the same read write speeds as built in memory, but would be more than sufficient for music, document, image storage etc when needed.
Overall, I’m thrilled with this machine and would recommend it without hesitation. I thought briefly about the new Retina Macbook Pro, since I could find many uses for the extra resolution and processing power. However, I ultimately decided to use this machine for its exceptional value and extra portability. The rMBP is a beautiful machine, but even with its performance it isn’t close to a modern desktop machine of similar pricing equipped an i7 3770 processor, SSD boot and scratch drive, GTX 670 or similar, 16GB ram and a nice 24″ dual monitor setup all for the same 2k price tag. So I’ll take this with me on the road or the coffee shop, and save the serious work for my desktop with multiple monitors etc. No computer can be everything for everybody, but this Air is surprisingly versatile and ranges between best in class and acceptable for everything I’ve thrown at it. I’m a big fan.
Things I like:
It’s fast! I plan on using this when I travel for Office, Adobe Lightroom and other photography applications. I’m able to move quickly, even when shuffling around hundreds of photos in Lightroom. This is remarkably different from my old Macbook.
The SSD. Absolutely fast. Bootup/shutdown/restart times are in seconds. Yes, it’s pricy, but I love it.
Solid build. It feels much like other Macbook Pros, despite the thinness. Yes, it feels like it’ll be a magnet for scratches, so I’m off to find a case/skin.
Opposite side USB ports! The most annoying thing about my Macbook (old White, new MBP as my office computer) is that there’s not enough spacing between the USB ports, so a chunkier flashdrive and another USB device won’t fit. Now I don’t feel like I have to choose what gets plugged in.
USB 3.0. I’ve got enough USB 3.0 flash drives and the speed increase will be noticeable. Thunderbolt technology is supposed to be a lot faster, but a lot more expensive and quite frankly, cost-prohibitive.
Weight: I’ve gotten used to heavier laptops so this feels downright thin. Thin enough that I don’t notice it in my bag.
Screen resolution: 1440×900 gives me more real estate than the 1280×800 of the 13″ Macbook Pro. The screen was bright and vivid.
Things I don’t like:
Non-upgradeable: So much for adding more RAM down the road.
New Magsafe power connector: This might cause an issue with places that have older Macbooks as well and determining which is which. That’s what labels are for.
Aluminum case: It’s beautiful but I’m feeling worried that I’m going to scratch it.
Software update: 350MB worth of fixes out of the box. Ugh.
Sound. It’s decent enough – it seems like any other laptop’s audio that I’ve ever used. If you’re serious about audio, you’ll have external speakers (or even pair it up with Airplay speakers.)
Battery: I got about 6 hours in a torture test of watching video while surfing the web on WiFi. It’s pretty decent and within the 5-7 range that Apple stated.
DVD drive: I don’t miss it. I thought I would, but I don’t. It just adds weight and bulk to the computer.
The webcam is also a higher resolution 720p camera. It’s quite nice, but now the downside is that during Facetime, my friends and family can see my ugly self more clearly. Also, early adopters won’t have the computer come with the newest version of OS X – Mountain Lion. That will come in mid/late July. It’s nice that this will come gratis to those who bought early.
The big question is Macbook Air or Macbook Pro? It comes down town a number of issues. If this will be your primary computer, then Macbook Pro is the way to go. The MBP is a faster computer with more storage and an optical drive. If you plan on doing any high-end computing, you’ll notice the difference. If this is going to be a secondary computer or if weight is the deciding factor, then the Macbook Air is for you. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Preface: I own a computer I built myself and have been continuously tinkering with and upgrading since 2007. This is my “primary” computer, and I virtually never use my Macbook while at home as a result. Prior to this purchase, the only Apple product I’ve owned is an iPod Touch from 2010. This is the perspective of a long-time Windows user with access to a computer of considerable horsepower. If you want to hear from someone who spends >90% of their computer time on this Macbook, I’m not your guy. However, I can still talk about the properties that make it strong for my demands of a portable, secondary computer for use whenever I’m not at home. I’ll be breaking this review down into the criteria I needed my next laptop to satisfy, and where the Macbook Air fell in relation to the competitors.
One-Sentence Review: The 2012 Macbook Air is not head-and-shoulders above the competition (it’s not even the best in any one category) but it’s so great at everything that it’s hard to say no to.
1. Portability: Both the 11″ and 13″ model have set the standard for the portable “ultrabook”, and competition from Asus, Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and anyone else has used these laptops’ dimensions as the benchmark. This 13″ model weighs in at a svelte 2.9lbs., but in 2012 that’s not really saying much. Look up the ultrabook offerings from the above companies and you’ll see they’re all within +/-0.1lbs. It’s no doubt a lightweight and portable design, but I can’t hand this one to Apple given how close everyone else is.
Verdict: Draw for the Macbook, since everyone has the same dimensions and weight.
2. Design & Build Quality: This used to be Apple’s home court. The unibody aluminum shell of the Macbook Air was a league apart from the plastics of certain competitors. However, Samsung’s Series 9 and Asus’ Zenbook Prime give the Macbook Air a serious run for its money. To its credit, Apple is one of the few manufacturers who grace their ultrabooks with a super-large trackpad (which is superior to any PC laptop trackpad I’ve ever used) and backlit keyboard. The frame is sturdy, the lid doesn’t creak or sway, and there’s very little flex in the body.
Verdict: Other guys look nice, but I have to give this to Apple on the back of the keyboard and oversized trackpad.
3. Battery Life: I have yet to run my Macbook from full to empty, but I have used it for long stretches and (assuming the battery meter is accurate) can make a reasonable assessment of battery life. While browsing the web, writing a Word document, and listening to music, with screen at half-brightness, I was going for about 3.5hrs when I hit the 50% mark. A reasonable estimate places total battery life at 6.5-7hrs., which is right in Apple’s factory estimate of 7. I bet you could squeeze an easy 9hrs. out of this by turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off and dimming the screen some. Regardless, I’m usually not away from an outlet for more than a few hours anyway, so this is a nice cushion to have. Also worth noting that the Sleep function seems to be extremely battery-efficient. 24hrs. of sleep resulted in only a 1% loss of battery life, and the Macbook instantly took me to the login screen when I hit the spacebar.
Verdict: Extremely respectable battery life and fantastic sleep efficiency.
4. Screen Quality: This is in my opinion the laptop’s weakest category. The Macbook Airs use TN panels, with resolutions of 1366×768 for the 11″ and 1440×900 for the 13″. For the unacquainted, TN panels are the bottom shelf of LCD panels in terms of color quality. The aforementioned Zenbook Prime absolutely kills the competition with a 1080p (1920×1080) IPS panel (IPS is the top-shelf panel), and even the Series 9 has a respectable 1600×900 PLS (mid-range panel) display. This fall Apple introduced a Retina 13″ Macbook Pro with an insane 2560×1600 display, but did not similarly update the Macbook Air. It may happen next year, but for now you’re stuck with a low-end display. This is not to say it is objectively bad (it’s not), but the competition does leave this laptop feeling somewhat inadequate.
Verdict: The Macbook Air’s TN panel just cannot compare to the IPS and PLS panels on other ultrabooks.
5. Software: I had a passing familiarity with Mac OS X, and thought it to be a generally snappy, good-looking, but not well-supported OS. That last point is mostly untrue, as I have virtually everything I use on my desktop (MS Office, Spotify, Chrome, VLC Player, Steam(!), Dropbox) running natively on OS X without any issues. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but I found it a genuine joy to acquaint myself with Mountain Lion’s “Mission Control” feature. This allows you to create multiple desktops with independent docks and applications, effectively allowing you to segregate your computer for work and play. Many of Mountain Lion’s features, as well as Safari, are well-integrated with multi-touch gestures on the trackpad, so executing commands through the trackpad is wonderfully simple. I miss the comfort of Windows only slightly, to be honest.
Verdict: OS X is a very well-designed OS for anyone who isn’t strictly tied to Windows.
6. Value: Value is awkward and highly subjective. You have to make your own goals before any purchase, and evaluate which alternative offers the best chance of fulfilling that goal. As a first-year medical student with a very competent primary computer, my goals were to have a reliable, portable, and decently powerful laptop for bringing around with me to class, the library, lab, and anywhere else that wasn’t my apartment. Ideally this would be a 4-year computer, lasting me the entirety of medical school. $1100 is a lot of money to spend on a laptop, so I had to be sure of what I picked. In the end I went with this because of the literally dozens of classmates and friends who have had the same Macbook (Pro/Air/whatever) for years without a hiccup or slowdown. I feel this is due in part to Apple’s willingness to make its OS as backwards-compatible as possible, which means you get a non-bloated OS that’s designed to work as well on yesteryear’s technology as tomorrow’s.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you found this useful. I would add a final caveat about potential improvements to the 2013 Macbook Air, but honestly don’t give it much thought. There’s always one more thing coming around the corner, and if you need a laptop now just get this one. Like I said, it’s not the best at anything (except the trackpad maybe) but it’s great at everything and should last you for years.
Here are some my observations after owning it for about a month:
- The multitouch trackpad is one of my favorite features. It is intuitive and much better than a mouse/scrollwheel. Going back to a Windows computer actually felt a little weird because I didn’t have the multitouch gesture controls (e.g. swiping to go back in the web browser or two finger zoom). The keyboard has a nice feel to it and is quite quiet.
- The computer boots up in 10 – 15 seconds, which is around 3 to 4 times faster than my friend’s 2009 MacBook Pro. And the Air usually shuts down in 3 seconds. Waking up from sleep is almost instantaneous. All of this is possible because the Air has a SSD whereas most laptops today have traditional hard drives.
- Wi-fi connects really fast. I can visit a website right after boot up/wakeup.
- The Air is relatively quiet. The only time I usually hear the fan is after I have been streaming a video for a while. Even then, you don’t hear the fan for long.
- FaceTime looks much better with the 720p camera in the Air compared to the new iPad.
- The speakers are solid. If I have computer playing music downstairs, I can still hear it upstairs. And turning up the volume doesn’t distort the sound. Of course, the computer speakers pale in comparison to my Logitech Z-2300′s.
- GeekBench score of around 6150.
- The appstore makes installing software much easier.
- It’s easy to plug in a monitor and use my computer with the lid closed (clamshell mode). You’ll need to plug in a keyboard and mouse.
- The Air is beautiful and light. It was almost too nice to use at first.
- The battery charges pretty fast – it’s at 22% right now and OS X estimates that it’ll take an hour and 16 minutes to charge the rest of the battery.
- Some reviewers and users have complained about the MagSafe 2 power connector (they like the first one more). As a first time Mac owner who haven’t experienced the MagSafe 1, all I can say is that it hasn’t been a problem for me, though my Air pretty much stays on my desk all day long.
But it’s not perfect:
- I like my screen to be bright but based on my estimations, the battery won’t last 7 hours if the screen is set to the brightest setting.
- The bottom left corner of the trackpad is much lower than the other three corners of the trackpad. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal, but it’d be nice if it was perfectly aligned, especially considering how much Macs cost.
- Two USB ports aren’t enough, especially if you plan on using clamshell mode a lot. Since I don’t have a USB hub, I have to exit clamshell mode whenever I wanted to plug in my external hard drive or print something.
- Minecraft froze on me twice.
Not Apple’s fault:
- Chrome is my favorite browser but I can’t use it right now because of some bug that causes Lion to freeze up when Chrome is used. (See update below.)
I’m still figuring out some things in Lion but overall, I’d give it 4 and a 1/2 stars! Recommended.
Update (7/4): I downloaded Chrome after Google came out with an update for it. I haven’t had any issues so far.
Update (7/21): I’ve stuck with Safari because it feels snappier than Chrome.
Update (7/29): I downloaded and installed Mountain Lion. Dictation is my favorite new feature (Safari’s unified URL/search bar is my second favorite). Even with speakers playing music less than a foot away from my Air, the mic picks up what I’m saying quite accurately. I’d give accuracy a B+/A-. See my example below. And I recently had issues with videos buffering really slowly, though I don’t know if it’s the modem/router’s fault. The problem seems to be fixed after the Mountain Lion update.
Update (9/1): I have Avast Free Antivirus installed and it’s been causing some issues. When I shut down the computer, it automatically restarts it and I get a report saying there was some sort of kernel panic. This usually happens once or twice a week. I don’t think this is Apple’s fault though. On another note: Using an external monitor along with your Air’s monitor doesn’t require you to have the power adapter plugged in but using the Air in clamshell mode does require the adapter to be plugged in. Kind of dumb if you think about it. You’d think that clamshell mode uses less power than supporting two monitors.
Update (9/12): I updated Avast and haven’t had the restart issue since. it’s also interesting to note that when I use FaceTime while blasting music from an external speaker ~2 feet away, the other person can’t hear the music but can hear me.
Update (10/28): I had to bring my Air into the Apple store because of an issue with my screen – if you looked at it from an angle, there was a white/bluish spot that wouldn’t go away. Scheduling an appointment at the Genius Bar (my first ever) was easy and it started right on time, even at 6:30pm on a Friday evening. The Apple Genius took a quick look at it and determined it was an issue with the interior of the screen. And instead of fixing it, which they said would’ve taken at least 10 days, they replaced my machine with a top-of-the-line 13″ Air with a 2.0 GHz processor and 512GB SSD (my old machine had a 1.8GHz processor and the standard 128GB SSD) at no charge. Since they gave me a brand new computer, I got a new MagSafe 2 charger too. The retail difference between the two machines is over $700. On top of that, they “refunded” my AppleCare and restarted it from the day I took it in. To say the least, I’m an extremely satisfied customer.
Update (11/17): My new MBA (see the update on 10/28) seems to be quieter than my original MBA. I don’t hear the fan as often, even after streaming videos for a while.
Dictation example [Nothing after the colon will be edited except for punctuation/capitalization. Things in brackets are not dictated]: This is an example of the dictation feature in Mountain Lion. I am speaking about one and a half feet away from the mike in a room that is relatively quiet. The only background noise is coming from a different room. I am talking relatively slowly right now so let’s see how well the dictation feature works when I talk little faster and with the music in the background.
[Turned music on, speakers are about 2 1/2 to 3 feet away. The volume is set at 25% on the speakers and 50% in OS X]
Okay, no music playing in the background and I’m talking a little faster. I would say it is still pretty accurate. I think the dictation feature is pretty useful. However, I think it would be pretty awkward to use in public or at work. The best place to use it would still be at home in private. Next I’m going to read awesome tests on the right side column in a normal speaking rates with the music still playing in the background.
[Begin reading random text]
What makes a good review?
Be detailed and specific but when you wanted to know before you purchase the product? Not too short and not too long in for between 75 and 300 works
For video reviews
make it fun is that he can’t informative and entertaining? How about a little action the next those cuts and product reviews as you describe your experience with it.
awesome in the reviews are subject to the license terms set forth in our conditions of use. Your reviews will be posted within 48 hours.
[End of reading the random text]
Okay, that wasn’t as great as I would have liked it but I still think it is a pretty accurate example of the dictation feature in Mountain Lion. I hope you found this helpful.
[End of dictation]
Next, I tried an iPad. While it was super easy to carry around and beautiful to use, it wasn’t as functional as I’d have liked due to the restrictive software (iOS) and lack of ability to help me with programming in my computer science degree plan.
I took a chance and bought the Macbook Air and was instantly relieved of these problems. It is incredibly light, thus enabling me to carry it around in my backpack and hardly know it is there at all. You can hold it between your thumb and finger with no problem, it is so light. It is VERY quiet. I rarely hear the fan come on. The screen has a great resolution, and the newer features brought from the Macbook Pro (back-lit keyboard, for example) are a great addition. I have a Corsair Voyager GT USB 3.0 flash drive and transferring files is insanely quick thanks to the two USB 3.0 ports. Having one on each side helps a lot. I have been getting comments about how nice the laptop is. Please note, I don’t use this for gaming so I can’t say how powerful it really is.
I have not encountered any Wifi issues as some have said. I did have a little bit of a problem getting Bootcamp to install Windows 7 because it didn’t like my USB drive for that. I had to borrow someone else’s drive but it worked a charm then. I enjoy flipping to Windows to do my programming at school, then switching back to OSX to browse the web and watch movies. This is the best laptop I have ever bought.
The Air is still running great. I wanted to add that I have played Portal 2 and a couple of other older games on the laptop and they actually run very well. The only thing is, the fans come on and it can be a little loud once the graphics start churning out.
- VERY thin and light and small
- Looks nice and original, design-wise
- AMAZING trackpad. Seriously… no other laptop has this good of a trackpad. The multitouch gestures are phenomenal and making using the MBA a breeze.
- Chiclet backlit keyboard
- Not that much bloatware compared to the UX31A
- Very fast SSD – great write speeds
- (Related to SSD) Fast bootup and sleep resume times (faster than the UX31A)
- Great Apple warranty support
- Enough hard drive space by stock – I had around 108GB available by stock which is pretty good compared to some other ultrabooks
- Very loud and clear speakers
- Display is not overly saturated
- USB 3.0 ports
- Get the satisfaction of having a Mac
- Ability to dualboot/use Parallels to get Windows 7
- The resolution could be higher. The UX31A has a 1080p display, which absolutely murders this. Still, 1440×900 isn’t bad.
- Battery life is okay. I get ~6 or 6.5 hours, which is fine, but it really should be higher.
- You own an Apple product, which requires you to either be ignorant or constantly defend yourself. You choose.
Okay well that is my unbiased (I think) review on the Macbook Air. So far I love my choice of returning the UX31A to get the Air. If anyone has any other questions about the Air or comparisons between this and the Zenbook, please comment.
I run a Windows virtual machine on my iMac but I didn’t want to adulterate this machine with it. So, I do as much coding as I can using Sublime Text, Coda, and Espresso and only use my Windows machine when I absolutely have to open a project in Visual Studio. I’m waiting for Adobe CS7 to come out before switching that over to Mac also. I really like the Mountain Lion OS and am committed to becoming a true Mac user all the time. The switch from Windows to Mac presents some paradigm shifts for long-time Windows users, and there are quite a few things to get used to especially when using ported programs such as Office for Mac, but otherwise the overall experience is very good and generally well thought-out. One thing that amazed me was that, out of the box, I literally had this new machine up and running and connected to Dropbox and my mail, contacts and calendar from my iPhone in less than 10 minutes. I’ve wrestled with new PCs for over an hour getting up and running so as you can imagine, this was a really refreshing difference.
I ordered my Air directly from Apple in order to get an education discount and a back to school gift card that was a better deal than Amazon’s. I upgraded the RAM to 8GB because I knew I was eventually going to be running CS, among other things, and I didn’t want to tax the life of the SSD by constantly using the swap space. Now I really wish I had gone ahead and upgraded the SSD also since the factory software, Office, and a few other programs I’ve added as well as my music library has me down to around 20GB of free space, yikes.
So here goes. First, the good stuff:
1) The battery life. I am clocking 6-8 hours per charge and that includes running the screen on at least half brightness or higher, having the backlit keyboard on it’s lowest light setting, and running several programs including numerous browser tabs. I’ve never gotten more than about 3 hours tops off a PC laptop battery, ever, and that’s being extremely miserly with consumption.
2) The size and weight. It is almost unbelievably thin and light, especially compared to my old PC laptop which wasn’t necessarily huge, but still a big difference.
3) The screen. It is so bright and clear and possesses normal, natural color quality – an absolute must for web designers/developers. Also the native resolution, at 1440×900, is more pixels in less space (13″ vs. 15.4″) than my Vaio’s 1366×768.
4) The trackpad. Hands down the best trackpad any laptop has ever seen. Your fingers glide over it so smoothly. When I do have to use my old laptop now, the trackpad feels like someone has left tape on it too long and removed it, leaving behind the sticky stuff. The multi-touch gesturing is amazing, convenient, and super intuitive.
5) The keyboard. I have achieved my fastest typing speeds yet on this keyboard. I really liked the keyboard on my Vaio as it was my first PC laptop with the chicklet style keys. This one is even better in every way possible.
6) The speed. On/off in seconds as opposed to minutes for HDDs.
7) The quiet. Noticeably missing is the sound of any processor/fan/etc. It’s soooo nice. My Vaio’s fan runs nearly constantly. The only sound I hear right now is the clicking of my fingernails against the keys, pure bliss.
8) The App Store. If you like the App Store for iPhone, you’ll very quickly come to love it for the Mac. I was able to quickly connect to some of my favorite apps on my phone and share the data between them.
9) Network connections and backups. Connecting to new networks and running backups couldn’t be faster or easier. Mac has definitely got PC beat in this area by a landslide. Bluetooth and Wifi are flawless. Bluetooth on my PCs has always been super spotty.
10) Adding peripherals. No need to install/download anything to connect to your printer and many other peripherals. I’ve connected to printers in places I’ve never been before in a matter of seconds – impossible on a PC.
Finally, the not-so-good stuff:
1) Most programs, especially those with more mature PC counterparts, don’t quite act the same as what I’m accustomed to, specifically in the area of keyboard shortcuts. Some of them are simply missing, others require more key presses than usual. We’re talking default configuration here though there are a lot of options which can be configured in the preferences. In this same vein, I am also having a difficult time getting used to clicking the Command key instead of the CTRL key for keyboard shortcuts, especially since my muscle memory wants to press the key that’s in the control key position on the Mac which actually happens to be the control key on the Mac, it just doesn’t do what a long-time PC user expects it to.
2) No dedicated delete, pg up, pg down, etc. buttons. Traditional PC-like deletion requires a press of the function key in addition to the “delete” key which is actually what we PC users know as the BACKSPACE key, ugh.
3) As much as I love the trackpad, there is room for improvement particularly in the area of the multi-touch gestures. It seems like it would be super easy to allow for some customization or even offer some pre-programmed convenience features like three-finger tap to cut/copy/paste, etc. There are several apps that make this possible, which serves to indicate Apple’s oversight here.
4) File system organization and management takes a little getting used to coming from the Windows environment. Also, I’m entirely out of my element with the Mac command line, and I suspect most long-time Windows users would be as well.
5) Safari pretty much sucks. I immediately installed Chrome and Firefox for testing purposes anyway but Chrome is my browser of choice. One really frustrating thing though is that Chrome for Mac doesn’t yet allow the option to open tabs from the browser bar when pressing enter like it does on the PC.
6) The Mac OS runs an Apple-ized version of Java which hasn’t necessarily given me any problems yet, but I am constantly getting warnings that I need to update Java when using programs like LogMeIn, GoToMeeting, and WebCT. If I try to update Java, I get a warning that says it will overwrite Apple’s Java (something I haven’t had time to research yet to know whether it’s good, bad, or neither).
7) The aluminum casing is beautiful but is very easy to scratch and dent. You’ll want/need a cover/case/sleeve/etc. I highly recommend the Incase Neoprene Sleeve For Macbook Air 13-Inch – Black (CL57802).
I was initially concerned that my work and school development workflow might be interrupted by going all Mac, but in reality, if anything, it’s been bolstered because I absolutely am in love with this machine and since it’s so portable, I take it everywhere! If you’re like me and you’re torn over the decision because of the Windows development issue, you won’t be sorry if you make this purchase. Plus, Mac computers hold their value better than any other on the market so if you absolutely hate it (you won’t), you can always take a (very) small loss by selling it back on Amazon or eBay.
Over the next week, I came to realize I should probably return the SSD, RAM, and MBP for a BTO MacBook Air with 8 GB of RAM. This was based on the following:
1) Lighter Weight: I carry my laptop everywhere I go, often making 3 or more trips with the laptop in my bag. The extra 1.5 lb. from the MacBook Pro makes a difference to me, and I’m not a small guy at all.
2) Better resolution: The MBP 13″ resolution maxes out at 1280×800. The 1440×900 on the MBA is more functional and allows better detail useful for work. Buyers should be aware that the MacBook Pro 13″ has a better color gamut though – intensive Photoshop work requiring color accuracy might be better on the MBP.
3) Sufficient RAM: Running a memory clearing app (Clear Memory) showed me that I hover right at 4GB of RAM usage in my daily tasks, mostly involving Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook on Windows Office 2011 for Mac on top of 5-15 open Chrome browser tabs. Getting 8GB of RAM would put me in the clear, meaning I would never need or use the maximum of 16GB allowed by the MacBook Pro.
4) Comparable performance: The lower clockspeed and voltage of the i5 on the MBA had me concerned at first, but most benchmarks show the MBP i5 outperforming the MBA’s i5 by only about 5-10%. Since I did nothing that required that additional speed and the MBP i5 seemed plenty zippy to me, I decided that the MBA’s i5 wouldn’t be a noticeable downgrade in performance.
5) Sufficient disk space: 128GB is plenty for me. I access most of my work files from a shared server and store videos/photos/music on an external HDD to save space anyway.
Basically, I came to the conclusion that buying the MacBook Air upgraded to 8GB for $100 was a better bang for the buck, with sufficient future proofing, when compared to buying a stock 13″ MacBook Pro with user-upgraded SSD and RAM.
I got my MacBook Air in the mail last week and returned my MacBook Pro. I haven’t looked back – the performance feels identical to me, packed into a tighter and more portable shell.