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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  • bozilla - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    Would someone be kind enough (Anand preferably) and tell me why Apple notebooks, considering they are using same chips, processors etc... are not compared performance wise to the comparable ultraportables and notebooks?

    Why this mac-to-mac only comparison? It just seems disingenuous to compare a PC based laptops (which Macs are) to only their previous versions.. It's always going to be faster.. so the comparison is kind of moot.

    What's more relevant to someone who is considering purchasing an ultraportable is comparing to other PCs and comparing performance, outputs and all the things you get, along with the price.

    For example.. Acer TimelineX series is an ultraportable that's not even comparable to Mac Book Air specs wise and it costs around $750 ($899) retail with i7 processor.

    I'm just curious as to why you have not compared performance in same applications on different PC ultraportables as well?

    I just find this separation of Macs vs everyone else a bit troubling.. It keeps people in the Apple bubble never showing them what the reality really is and to be frank, that''s kind of, one your jobs right? I mean you test and compare stuff to help consumers? Am I wrong?
    Reply
  • rgslater - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    Agree 100%. Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - link

    I agree with this. I look for a category that matches my needs and then choose from within that category. Reply
  • khimera2000 - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    I agree with him. there is no differance in hardware compatibility any more, there OS is based on a PC operating system, and they moved over to intel. there is no custom hardware other then the chips that they use to restrict softwear. there is no longer a reason to seperate them.

    place them against similarly priced PC systems. it cost 1000 for the base and 1300 after upgrades then there should be other systems that cost that much. Not including them looks... Off, like somthing is being hidden.
    Reply
  • billy_kane - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    Backlit keyboard is indeed very useful, I also strongly agree with the author

    However, a thin and light ultra-portable notebooks are like to MBA11 this realm, how much more Mars techs within can you ask for it? Desire is endless, but it depends on what era, those requirements may lead to a breakthrough on behalf of the future direction but not now, In today's 11-inch netbook market, MBA11 has became the newest pinnacle in this area, prior to this, who had predicted such a unparalleled epoch-making masterpiece was build in such a light and thin case as the MBA11? we should not take too much desire pinned on it, which greatly exceeded it's their own position, the avant-garde is a luxury as expensive as its price , compared to the cost of 399 dollars is not expensive, If the value of spending $ 399 to be measured like this, even totally to measure the pros and cons of MBA11 are stupid, it everyone sure a true that is every 12 to 18 months there will be new listing refresh its performance level, thus providing better value for money, But everyone should realize a fact what you bought bring you the avant-garde enjoyment, in other words what you bought is the future, nothing more fair than this trade. the real imbalance is the consume mentality!
    Reply
  • khimera2000 - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    I agree on the back lit keyboard. but how thin this thing is and how much performance it has... I only see it for buisness users, or people with a Beefcake of a desktop already. truth is that its a really thin notebook that uses last generations hardware. where as other companies are striving for a technical edge, it looks like this time around apple just went for form over function.

    You can keep the MBA11 after seeing how much these pritty apples warp when they drop im really hesitant to nab one of these systems. the one good thing is it does not have an optical drive so we dont have to worry about the slot warping and rendering it uselss like the other macbooks.
    Reply
  • DrMorbius - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    "As I write this final paragraph in the dark cabin of a plane, I do still miss the back-lit keyboard. Apple really should bring that back."
    It should indeed.
    Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    Agree. In very low light levels the key need illuminating. But only a little. No need for "light the room" keys... just micro-glow so that you can orient your fingers on the appropriate keys. Reply
  • kenzo - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    what about trim support? Reply
  • khimera2000 - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    No osx does not support trim, but the SSD is to slow for you to notice the differance. its based on a samsung desing from 08 at a lower bandwith. its not ment for a significant performance, its more for the power saving then anything. Reply

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