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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  • khimera2000 - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    the only portable i would try it on is a M11x (core2) it can overclocked out of the box, and was disinged to stan higher thermals then the core2 for future upgrading (hello i7 ).

    Looking at the 11 inch mac book there is not much for heat disipation when you get down that thin. according to intel's web sight the 1.4 and 1.6 variant have the same TDP so overclocking the 1.4 might make more heat then the 1.6.

    then again it might make an intresting test to see if that is in fact true.
    Reply
  • tehjord - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Has it really? Because I mean, it must be the same piece of silicon by now, perhaps in the past with bad yields, but today, these are very old cpu. Reply
  • khimera2000 - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    this is true that is probably a more refined fab, but the issue i have is that the mac book is uber thin, I have no idea if they took this into account in the desing, and i have no idea how it will effect the heat issues. I overclocked one notebook and found that it got so hot my SD card in the memory slot melted.

    Over clocking a notebook is not worth it to me. it will void a warenty and if something goes horrably wrong you still have to spend the full cost to replace the system, where as a DeskTop you can test components and salvage some of the components.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    Can you overclock a Macbook air? If so, then that would be the way to go. Googling found this:

    http://www.coolbook.se/CoolBook.html
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Sunday, November 07, 2010 - link

    I don't understand how you can call such a glossy display "good". I would never, ever consider buying laptop with a mirror in place of a screen. Apple should at least offer a mate screen as an option. Reply
  • sa7078 - Sunday, November 07, 2010 - link

    I just upgraded from a late 2008 1.86 Air to a 2010 11" 1.6 ghz/4GB Air. While the new model may not match the old one it terms of raw CPU power, what most reviews, including Anandtech, are leaving out is that the old Airs got very hot, slowed down to cool down and vented constantly out of the bottom of the unit. This made them impossible to use on a bed and they frequently throttled back the CPU to cool down. They also struggled to play video. The 2010 model has no vents, runs very cool, and plays any video I've thrown at it, including Sling HD, which halted on my old Air. So the new Airs may not be the best choice for people who run processor intensive apps like Photoshop, but neither were the old Airs. And the new ones are simply a million times better at common tasks like Web video, word processing, email, etc. Simply put, the new 11" Air is the best laptop I've ever owned -- it just works. The old one was cool and light but it got too hot and couldn't run some of the most simple tasks like video, because of an old video subsystem and a constant need to cool down. Reply
  • johnspierce - Sunday, November 07, 2010 - link

    I would love to see performance comparisons between a Macbook Pro 13" 2.4ghz with an SSD in it.

    - Compare it to the two MBA's
    - Compare it to the MBP 13" stock
    - Compare it to the MBP 15" with i5 and i7

    I'm betting it will perform at least as well as the 15" i5 and more likely will be *almost* as good in overall performance mix as the i7.

    This could be the "sleeper" best deal for your money in a Mac notebook. Considering you can buy 128gb SSD's for under $200 now and Microcenter in Denver sells new MBP 13" for $999.

    You guys at Anandtech should do this!

    thanks for the articles, your stuff is my favorite!

    John
    Reply
  • Jon03021 - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    I second this! Reply
  • rgslater - Sunday, November 07, 2010 - link

    Way overpriced for me. The hardware is on par with the Acer Timeline 1810t (11", C2D, 4GB) that I bought over a year ago....for about $550. Where is the Timeline now?.......
    Core i7 ULV (1.46 GHz, turbo to 2.53 GHz)
    4 GB ram
    500 GB HDD
    more connectors (3 usb, HDMI, VGA, card reader)
    8 hrs battery life (claimed)

    Its a bit pricey at $849 (Newegg) but still far less than even the base model Mac. And the prices only go down from there, because you can choose from i5 and i3 processors as well.

    Sure it has some limitations, like the graphics. It's roughly the same dimensions, but half and inch thicker and about 12 ounces heavier. I guess that's why it isn't "portable perfection".

    As much as I don't get their products...actually I get the products, but not the pricing...I have to admire the company. They somehow make otherwise objective tech writers get misty-eyed over old tech at inflated prices.

    And the transmeta analogy is a non starter. Why does that even matter? Everything in tech has gotten cheaper. The fact that I paid $3000 for my first desktop (486) does not make me think that anything less than that today is a good deal.
    Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    If it had a matte screen and battery life equal to the Vaio X, I would switch over. As it is, I'll stick with my Vaio X. Though honestly, if you're just writing and browsing the web like me, an Asus netbook these days is a fraction of the cost of either computer, has a matte screen, and its battery life is not quite up to the Vaio X but it's getting up there. The keyboard and screen are a little smaller than the MBA 11" and it's a tiny bit heavier, but really overall it's a great way to go. Reply

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