Final Words

The 11-inch MacBook Air may be portable perfection, but by default it’s not the perfect notebook. It’s slow, the battery doesn’t last all that long under actual use and the screen resolution, although appreciably high, makes things a little difficult to read.

The 1.6GHz/4GB upgrade comes at a steep cost but it directly attacks one of those complaints. There’s a tangible difference in regular use between the base and upgraded models. While I wouldn’t consider either fast, I’d say that extra 10 - 20% performance increase you get from the upgraded CPU and memory makes a very big difference. If all you’re doing is writing and web browsing I’m not sure it’s necessary, but anything beyond that could probably make use of the upgraded specs.

At $1399 there's almost no way to rationally justify the price and rest assured that within 12 - 18 months Apple will have a much faster version available, likely at an even cheaper price point. The upgrade obviously does nothing to address that part of the equation. You do get a pretty good display, great form factor and of course the ability to run OS X, but any way you look at it $1399 is a lot for a lightweight notebook. Then again, I did pay a lot more than that for my first Transmeta notebook about a decade ago.

The impact to battery life is minimal, although it is measurable. Having used the 11-inch MacBook Air exclusively on my last business trip I can say that the battery life experience lines up with what our benchmarks show. Even for simple tasks the 11-inch MacBook Air doesn’t last anywhere near as long as the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Heavy use throughout the day will require the aid of a charger.

Traveling with the system is great however. You don’t need to take it out of your bag when going through airport security and it’s light enough that I hardly noticed I was carrying it. As I write this final paragraph in the dark cabin of a plane, I do still miss the backlit keyboard. Apple really should bring that back.

Battery Life
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  • sprockkets - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Yes, and I'm sure you have 3 different web sites open with 1-4 flash animations all the time?

    HTML5 animations are a power hog too. No such thing as a free lunch.
    Reply
  • DanielATMD - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Very good review.

    $1400 is a lot for many. But if one is going to use their computer to generate income, each model and is well worth serious consideration and should be spec'd accordingly.

    Anand, I would be interested in how the MacBook Airs functions connected to a Apple Cinema Display or any other 27-30 monitor.

    Right now, I have my MacBook Pro 15" connected to a 24 and a 28.5 inch LCD's, and am very interested in the MBA 11 for traveling.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • pixelhaus - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Ars Technica covered the part about using the new MBA with Apple's current 27-inch Cinema Display, it works just fine. The only weird bit is having to stretch the 3-way split cable for mini-DisplayPort, USB and MagSafe power connector; the power connector and mini-DisplayPort are on opposing sides of the MBA. Reply
  • Ronin48 - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Can you please add a 1.4GHz 11" MacBook Air 4GB machine to this comparison?

    And the 1,6GHz with only 2GB RAM as well?

    It would be really interesting to see how these middle-spec CTO units compare to the 1.4GHz 2GB base unit and the 1.6GHz 4GB ultimate unit that you compared here.

    It's likely that one of the middle-spec units is the best performance/price/battery combination don't you think?
    Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    First I agree that this upgrade makes significant improvement compared to factory configurations, Anand gives us convincing results. It is a good deal compared to an MBA 11-inch by default, but what if compared to an MBA 13-inch which ships with a much faster CPU but $200 cheaper? Does 300 grams of weight really makes any difference in portability? Perhaps Anand is too focused on specific data, but not actual using experience. I currently use an MBA 13-inch and a SONY VAIO EA, 1.3kg and 2.3kg are exactly two different things, the MBA allows me to pack more learning material into my backpack when going to classes everyday so I just use the VAIO with i7 and discrete GPU as workstation. 1.0kg and 1.3kg, however, isn't that different, that's what I feel when I borrowed an MBA 11-inch from my friend and try to compare it to mine. Reply
  • blandead - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    you also have to remember this is for people who use macs. they are used to paying up the ass for upgrade or anything so they would know better if this is a good upgrade or not when you stay within the mac world.

    if you use a PC and not Mac as a majority don't even try to think what makes more sense, they don't care about $400 extra when they buy $600 ipad

    hate macs....
    Reply
  • solipsism - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    It’s funny that you imply the iPad expensive when all the other vendors had to go back to the drawing board and are trying desperately to match the iPad’s price point with a clearly cheaper device. Reply
  • khimera2000 - Sunday, November 07, 2010 - link

    It takes years to divelop a product. apple just had a bigger splash with less horse power and a bigger price tag. if we wanted to match apples price point then all we have to do is put it up against a cheap android tablet. IPad and IPhone are vary simmilar in performance.

    it actualy looks like a step backwords in my eyes since ive seen tablet like devices in the past theres is nothing impressive about this divice. If they found a way to use a colored digital ink display in the divice then that would be intresting since it can be seen in direct sun light... near any direct sunlight.

    If other companies wanted to match ipad's performance they would most certainly have to downgrade all there hardware across the board (at least for the windwos based ones)

    if i where to get a tablet then it would probably be the new dell system that has a flip screen, at least then i can do work.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    "At $1399 there's almost no way to rationally justify the price and rest assured that within 12 - 18 months Apple will have a thinner version available, likely at the same price point."

    T,FTFY
    Reply
  • tehjord - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Can't you overclock the 1.4ghz cpu to 1.6ghz or even more if it's safe. I mean, isn't the 1.4ghz cpu the same as the 1.6ghz cpu?

    So if you actually do need that extra 200mhz, just oc for the time of your workload?
    Reply

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