The 11

While both models are extremely light, the 11-inch MacBook Air is portable perfection. It’s the closest thing to an iPad with a keyboard (short of an iPad with an actual keyboard). I’m afraid that’s where the comparison ends. Despite what Apple would have you feel, the new MacBook Air is no more an iPad than its predecessor. The size and form factor is really nice however.

Apple won’t call it a netbook, but that’s exactly what the 11.6 inch MacBook Air is: a netbook with much better hardware. You get a full sized keyboard, an old but faster-than-Atom processor and a great screen. If you’re a writer, the 11-inch MacBook Air is the perfect tool just at an imperfect price.

While $999 is much more affordable than the previous generation MacBook Air, it’s at least $400 more than you would expect to pay for a notebook with these hardware specs. We’re talking about 2GB of memory, a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo CPU with 3MB L2 cache and an NVIDIA GeForce 320M integrated graphics chipset.

Using the 11-inch MacBook Air is great. Closed it’s small enough to painlessly carry around and open it’s functional enough to get real work done on. The keyboard is mostly unchanged from the rest of Apple’s lineup.

You do make three sacrifices with the 11-inch’s keyboard: thinner function keys across the top, a not-as-tall trackpad and not as much wrist-rest area. Overall they are worthy tradeoffs as none of them impact typing speed. Despite the smaller than normal trackpad, it’s still much larger than what you get on most similarly sized notebooks from other vendors.

Build quality is of course excellent. The MacBook Air employs Apple’s unibody construction. There’s a removable plate at the bottom of the machine that covers the internals, but the typing/mousing surface is carved out of a single piece of aluminum and is solid.

The weakest link in the design is the hinge, which I feel is actually a bit looser than the hinges in other Apple notebooks. While the display is far from floppy, the hinge isn’t strong enough to keep the display from opening/closing more when faced with sudden movements of the notebook. Picking it up from a desk without closing the lid would sometimes cause the lid to tilt back . I didn’t have the problem of the lid auto closing due to gravity when I used the 11-inch Air while laying down, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if that developed over time. In the quest for weight savings sacrifices have to be made. While the rest of the construction is flawless, the hinge isn’t.

The screen is an odd (for Apple) 16:9 ratio 1366 x 768 panel glossy, LED backlit panel. You don’t get the glass bezel from the standard MacBook Pro and as a result the display doesn’t seem quite as glossy. Reflections indoors were minimal at worst, but it’s not a matte screen.

There Once Was One, Now There's Two The 13
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  • tipoo - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    I'm wondering if the larger SSD options would be faster due to more chips/parallelism? And if you could throw the SSD results from the Adamo into the test results? Reply
  • philipdygeus - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I am looking for a new laptop and the choice is between the forthcoming 13" MBP and the new 13" MBA.

    The "heaviest" work I do is Photoshop CS5. I also "multitask" in the sense that I have Word, Chrome and Bridge open simultaneously, though I would only use one at the time.

    What battery life can I expect from the 13" MBA when using CS5?

    Thanks for any real-world insight!
    Philip
    info [at] philipus.com
    Reply
  • bailwill - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    Hi when you reviewed the 2008 Air you helpfully stated that trying to watch 2 dvd's back to back failed after about 3 3/4 hours. Sadly I could not find this test for the 2010 air - and as I fly a lot it would be useful to know how long the battery will last in DVD watching mode.
    Thanks
    Martyn
    Reply
  • redslap - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    I have to say that I have never been as satisfied with a computer purchase as when I bought my Acer Timeline with SSD back in August 2009. Granted, I bought it on a trip to the states so I really got a sweet deal for 800 dollars instead of euros. However, the netbook has performed well over expectation. I have been using it everyday. The Macbook Pro 2008 Im currently writing on had a hard drive failure in early June and I only got around fixing it yesterday (with SSD ;-), mainly because I was doing fine with my timeline. It has no where near the processing power but I used it a ton for surfing the web, taking notes in class and the SSD must have really made a difference because it felt as snappy as my macbook pro in these instances. Furthermore I had no problem using Traktor and Virtual DJ as well as sound recording and editing with Adobe Audition. Coupled with a good screen, half the weigh of my macbook, the ability to fire up a strategy game like civ 4 or medieval 2 in class or on the road has been awesome and with a battery life of 7 hours; it will surely be missed now that the screen broke during my holiday travel. Alas, I will not give up on my Timeline... Reply
  • NYCPHOTO - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    I own a MacBook Air 13" and the battery life just wasn't good enough for me. I got only a few hours per charge and that is if I was lucky. My eventual solution was to get an external laptop battery from Novuscell Batteries. So far, no regrets because I'm now getting an extra 12+ hours of battery runtime per charge on my Air. Reply

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