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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  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    When someone resorts to name-calling they lose respect from me. Putting down people with a medical or educational diagnosis in the process causes me to think even less of them.

    Put a reasonable argument out there, back it up with some numbers, then let it go if the other party doesn't get it; it's all you can do. If you resort to name-calling that is about you, not him (or her) and your state of mind. If you feel tempted to bash someone by calling them " [expletives deleted]" then take a moment - go punch a pillow and scream at it or whatever you need to - and get clear before you post.

    If your intent is to just make people mad and isn't to actually have a discussion - well, there's nothing I can say about that except, have a nice life, and enjoy your stiff neck, back aches, and ulcers.

    ;)
    Reply
  • huai - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    MBA currently has space on its board for 2 chips:
    C2D CPU
    Nvidia Chipset w/ integrated GPU and USB2.0 controllers

    You propose a 5 chip solution:
    Core i CPU
    Intel Chipset (which doesn't support USB3.0)
    3rd party USB 3.0 controller
    Dedicated GPU
    Optimus

    Where's the space going to come for this? Are you willing to cut battery life by a third to make room?
    Reply
  • freefallgrue - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    No FireWire? Get real. Reply
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    No, the MacBook 13 needs to become cheaper. If the "elite" MBA11 is $999, the MB13 should be $899.

    Four screen sizes is a non issue, any more than it is for Dell, Lenovo, or HP.

    1) 11.6" is great as an entry point as it allows for a full sized keyboard
    2) 13.3" is great as a portable as it allows for speakers and a full sized keyboard
    3) 15" allows for greater performance without loss in portability
    4) 17" maximizes performance for a tradeoff in portability

    The pro terminology is perfect as it indicates more performance. The problem is that the 13" MBP shouldn't be a Pro since it lacks a Core i3; if we get rid of any, it should be the 13" MBP.

    If you want a logical and maximal pricing structure:
    MB 11: $899
    MBA 11: $999
    MB 13: $999 (no optical but only 4 pounds)
    MBA 13: $1299
    MBP 13: $1299 (no optical but core i3)
    MBP 15: $1599
    MBP 17: $1799
    Reply
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Macs make fancy looking products, but as you notice you compare apples to apples because at a lower price range these products would be getting smashed against $1000 price-point laptop PCs.

    I just don't get the appeal for paying for less, but I do know there's a lot of less-than-brilliant people out there that can't tell when they are being owned by advertising and no matter what anyone does there's always going to be those less-than-brilliant (yes, that's sarcasm) roaming the planet, so by all means dump your money into a cult like company.

    I just find it funny that Anandtech got all Apple over the past 3-4 years, I don't remember seeing that many Mac reviews prior to that. You getting a kick back now?
    Reply
  • hmurchison - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Yes but the problem is we Mac users don't want to run Windows or Linux for the sake of hardware that looks better on paper. As Anand said in his review...the tight integration of the OS and the hardware means that Apple extracts more performance out their computers than what is typical of the industry.

    It's not about Advertising it's about design and aesthetics that extend from the hardware to the software. To some it's appealing much as a BMW is more appealing than say a Ford to car lovers.

    With 50 million Mac users and 3-4x times that amount of iPod/iphone/iPad users Apple left Cult status a LONG time ago. $300 a share isn't a cult ..that's good biz.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Have you heard Steve Jobs talk? That's cult like.

    And everything you just said proves my point, you got owned by advertising (design and aesthetics? lol, c'mon).

    You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)

    Macs are for people who can't customize their own computers (both design, aesthetically, and software) themselves and like to pay out the bum to feel part of the cult.
    Reply
  • AMDJunkie - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    "You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)"

    Very good. Make a laptop from the ground up with the exact same dimensions, fit, finish, as the MacBook Air; while also surpassing it in benchmark prowess, appearance of speed, and battery life. And since you can program too, might as well make your own OS while you're at it. I suppose you could appropriate another and make your own modifications to it, as long as it works as well as what Apple has.

    Go on...

    Riiiiight. Just because they're designed to appeal to aesthetes does not mean there is not quite a bit of engineering that goes into these. When you go through the iFixIt, or take it apart for yourself and reassemble it, you'll have a greater appreciation for Apple's "toys."

    Also, keep on trollin'.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Tell me what the value is on a $1000 plastic Macbook with an outdated processor, ram capacity and everything else.

    Sorry, OSX isn't worth the extra $500 premium.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Point is, if I wanted to, it could be done. Why would I have to write my own OS when it's possible to modify and customize one of the better ones out there? (If you noticed, I haven't bashed OS X at all, simply their price point on their hardware).

    Mac users are just used to paying more for less, which is the point in all my trolling points.

    Sounds like a bunch of idiots to me.
    Reply

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