The Screen: Very Good

Many netbooks and notebooks have shipped with 11.6 inch screens. They deliver a good balance between screen size and portability. But the 11.6-inch displays we’ve encountered in the past have been crap. It’s not rocket science, but rather a matter of cost. The majority of users will pick a cheap, bright, glossy display over something with better viewing angles, higher resolution or more accurate colors. And when you’re competing mostly based on price, it’s tough to make a decision that won’t increase sales (I’d argue that it makes the most important part of your customers happier but then again, I don’t run Acer/ASUS/Dell/Gateway).

Apple opts out of low margin competition. The cheapest MacBook Air starts at $999. You pay a premium, and part of that premium goes towards the best 11.6-inch display we’ve ever tested.

Notebook LCD Quality - Contrast

Notebook LCD Quality - White

Most 11-inch screens don’t get very bright and have sub-par contrast ratios. The 11-inch MacBook Air has neither of these characteristics. It’s 127% brighter than the Alienware M11x R2 and has twice the contrast ratio of anything in its class. It’s not the most amazing display we’ve ever seen, but it’s way better than the majority of what’s out there. In actual use it does look good. The contrast ratio in particular sells the display.

Notebook LCD Quality - Black

The 13-inch panel is pretty close in performance. The max brightness is a bit higher and black level a bit lower. The resulting increase in contrast ratio is appreciable. For the most part you don’t make any quality tradeoffs when going with one MBA over another. It just boils down to screen size and resolution.

Both the 11 and 13-inch MBAs use TN panels, but they are better than your standard TN panel. Viewed above center the display washes out, viewed below center the display gets very dark.

The dark underside of TN panels

Color reproduction is above average, but not quite as good as the 15-inch MacBook Pro we reviewed earlier in the year.

Notebook LCD Quality - Color Accuracy

Color gamut isn’t very impressive at all. It’s in line with what you’d expect from a panels of these sizes though.

Notebook LCD Quality - Color Gamut

The SSD: Not Half Bad The 11-inch MacBook Air: Faster than the old 13-inch MacBook Air
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  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Get it through your thick skull, an Apple is not a Ferrari. It's just another pc. An overpriced pc. As soon as you come to that realization you'll sleep better at night and save your $$.
  • MeesterNid - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link sure seems like your skull is much thicker there buddy as he just gave you solid, logical reasoning and all you did was post incoherent blabbering about how Apple is not a Ferrari. You should try searching Google for the meaning of a "metaphor" there.

    But alas, I fear logic and reason do not fit into your "reality" filtered through, what's probably baseless, anti-Apple bias.

    Good day.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I know what a metaphor is. Do you really think I thought that an Apple PC is a car with four wheels that you can transport you from point A to point B using an internal combustion engine? Really?

    So, since you need clarifying... *sing along with me*... an Apple Computer is just another PC... an overpriced PC. A pretty PC with no cutting edge technology, but still more expensive nonetheless. No anti-Apple bias on my part because I point out the obvious. And no, Apple is not a BMW either (another metaphor in case you think I am mistaking a PC for an automobile).
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Apple is more like a Lexus.

    A more expensive and shinier rebranded Toyota--err, PC.

  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    A Lexus is nothing like a base Toyota. They use separate unibodies, engines, etc. and only share little things like cabling and mirrors - as do all car brands and their platform strategies. Let's not forget the extra engineering that goes into quality or a quiet ride.

    You obviously have not owned a Lexus or are intimately familiar with - and judging from your witt, never will.
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    A Mac is nothing like a base PC. They use separate cases, batteries, motherboards, etc. and share only little things like connectors and ports - as do all PC brands and their platform strategies. Let's not forget the extra engineering that goes into quality or superior battery life.

    You obviously have not owned a Mac or are intimately familiar with - and judging from your wit, never will.
  • UltimateTruth - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    "A Lexus is nothing like a base Toyota. They use separate unibodies, engines, etc. and only share little things like cabling and mirrors "

    I'm sure he's not talking about base Toyotas. And yes, models do share MANY common components from little things like hose clamps, electrical connectors up to engines and transmissions in their platforms.

    The DI V8 in the bloated 350 IF-S is the same as used in the home market Toyota Crown. Variants are used in Tundras and Sequoias.

    Toyota and it's subsidiaries makes the components. Lexus is just an upscale brand of Toyota Motor Co..
  • MeesterNid - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Brother, your ability to carry on a coherent, rational debate with adults needs practice. Allow me to illustrate:

    1. While my assertion that you do not understand the meaning of the word metaphor was clearly sarcastic you proceed to define it in your response making it look like you either really didn't know what it meant or felt insecure enough to have to prove your knowledge.

    2. You, once again, spout unsubstantiated nonsense about Apple being "just another PC" while in fact Apple does a good bit of original design in their products unlike other PC OEMs (i.e. you should put forward, or at least attempt to, some reasoning that lead you to your conclusion).

    3. Your statement that Apple is not a BMW is redundant to your previous one of it not being a Ferrari, but beyond that you bring that comparison up for no reason. That just makes your previously illogical ranting sound childish.

    I'm not even going to attempt to debate your statement about your not being biased "because [you] point out the obvious" as I'm afraid reason may be lost on you.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    So, if I feel that Apple's products are underwhelming and overpriced then I must be biased. I see... :eyeroll:

    Use all the metaphors you want. Misinterpret my post for your selfish reasons that only you know.
    It's still just a PC. I don't care what OS it uses. If you actually want to compare technical specs and features then we have a discussion. But that's not really what you want. You're off on some mission defending the honor of your beloved Apple. <i>It's Sir MeesterNid and his knights of the stupid table here to save your honor Miss! At your service.</i>

    You know it's the same Intel cpu or did Apple do some design work there? It is thin like a cracker. Did you plan to use it as a frisbee? Make sure you buy the insurance.
  • tim851 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    And Ferrari is just another car. If you think there's $200k of engineering in there, your skull is thicker than mine. The main reason for the high price is that Ferrari positions themselves in a certain market segment. Price elasticity is given though, they would move more cars if they were cheaper. They just don't want to. Producing more cars creates new hassles and puts them in a different market position.

    Also, the primary benefit of a Ferrari - that is as a means of transportation - is rather bad, as they often seat only two people, have little luggage space, low MPG, frequent service intervals, high cost of operation.
    The technical superiority - i.e. the performance - doesn't matter on public roads. A Ferrari won't get you anywhere quicker than a Ford.

    People buy them because they are fun, they are pretty and they are representative. Buying a Ferrari is a more emotional act than buying an Apple.
    And I, for one, don't own an Apple. I don't care about those secondary and tertiary values and prefer a cheaper PC. That doesn't mean that Apple's market strategy is wrong - it's just wrong for me. Their overwhelming success shows that it's right in general.

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