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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  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Good case. Another example is Porsche, who has the widest profit margins of any car company. A 911 doesn't cost anything near what people will pay for them, and adding a $8,000 turbo doesn't equate to the $40,000 premium they can charge for it. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Did you even bother reading the entire comment? I thought it was logical enough.

    A business is in the business of making money, not selling things. If a business can make more money by selling fewer things, they will do it.
    Reply
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I should have been clear:

    It will never happen because it makes to much sense to US. I'm not talking about the general unwashed masses that have an orgasm over an Apple Logo.

    I'm talking about sensible people that would rather spend half as much for an ASUS Eee PC 1215N, or people that want luxury would get the HP Envy 14 or 17.
    Reply
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    Wow. Sorry to kick up a dead thread, and I really hope I don't restart it. I just was really surprised by that comment. If you're kidding, maybe you're one of those griefers that says this stuff for kicks, then I guess that's your bag and you carry it, but seems silly to me. If you're serious, then you really have quite the glut of self esteem.

    My advice. Try it out. Want to keep your nose up? That's fine, don't buy one, just hackintosh a rig you've got. Don't game on it. Work on it. Read all the griefer blogs you want. Write on it. Produce something with it. I'm not an owner, yet, I'm a hackintosher. And having used XP, Win 7, Ubuntu and OS X on my netbook, laptop and desktop, OS X is my favorite platform to get work done, and the only one I would want to use on something with a screen smaller than 17".

    If you give it a try and you still think Apple b10ws and you r001, fine. Us unwashed masses will just keep getting things done and loving every minute of it.
    Reply
  • robco - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    There's a few technical reasons why some of these things don't exist in the MBA. Apple can't use the iSeries chips in their low-end products because Intel has blocked third-party integrated graphics. The MBA doesn't have space for a discrete GPU. Intel's integrated graphics don't support OpenCL, something Apple intends to make use of going forward. USB 3.0 is a nice idea, but at the moment, requires a separate controller chip, something else there isn't room for. Hopefully either Intel will make decent graphics (I'm not holding my breath) or AMD will come out with a decent mobile CPU with better integrated graphics. I would imagine the microphone got moved because it wouldn't fit into the new, thinner display. Including an adapter isn't something that can be done at the factory - which would they include? Some folks will want VGA, some DVI, others might spring for the Cinema Display and not need it. As for the ExpressCard slot, I do with they remove the optical drive from the MB and MBP and add that, plus an extra USB port or two. I can count on one hand the number of times I've used an optical drive in the past four years.

    No offense, but I imagine Apple's engineers considered all these things and more. I looked at Windows laptops before getting my 15" MBP and good quality laptops are expensive no matter who makes them. I had a hard time finding anyone who could offer a fully featured notebook in a case less than an inch thin, with a high quality display, excellent battery life and rated EPEAT Gold. Apple just doesn't compete at the low end. By the time you take that $699 Windows laptops and start adding options, the price difference shrinks considerably.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    that's a very "can't do" kind of attitude.
    i really like apple's designs, but i really don't like the outdated processors they are using.
    i refuse to believe that there is NOTHING that apple could do to bring better tech to it's fans.
    it's very disappointing. :(
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Well Apple wants to support a certain feature set, and they can't do so if they go Intel and their lackluster integrated Graphics. They want nVidia graphics.

    If they tried to add Intel's Westmere based products with Integrated Graphics it would become a 3 chip solution. They have done this for the 15/17 markets where the chasis can hold everything and the larger battery required.

    On the 11/13 where space is premium it's integrated nVidia graphics, once Sandy Bridge rolls around, we may see that change....as Intel graphics is on the CPU itself.
    Reply
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    This is exactly it. While Dell/Asus/Gateway churn out laptops designed to be able to fit whatever will be required of them from the next CPU/GPU/chipset, Apple chooses a set of function requirements and build their design out of that. The 11/13 size laptops are all about portability, so big batteries and thin designs at the expense of the newest, fastest processor. It's pertinent that when Dell decided to build an MBA competitor (the Adamo) they went with a rather similar specification, and ended up with worse battery life.

    So, could Apple sell a laptop for $600? Yep. It'd have a plastic chassis, carry whatever the cheapest processor they can squeeze out of Intel, the same crappy Clickpad everyone's slapping on their laptops, have a craptastic LCD, mediocre battery life and run Windows 7. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll go get a Mac.
    Reply
  • OrionAntares - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Something about the MacBook Air and the processors. If they moved away from the Core 2 I'm pretty sure given the size constraints they'd need to stick with the Pentium and/or i3 ULVs. Making the Air thicker would be contrary to the whole point of the Air line. If you want a stronger processor (and more thickness) you'd go up to the regular Macbook line that is already thicker. Reply
  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I concur, this guy is a tard that doesn't know anything about systems engineering or manufacturing or "productizing". Reply

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