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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  • hmurchison - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Other than build your own computer (which is overrated IMO) there's little you can do with your PC that I can't do with my Mac.

    Yup ...I have style which means that I do get "owned" by the finer things in life. I don't have a tacky 3rd rate Alienware like box sitting on my desk. I could easily program by installing the free Xcode IDE that comes on my disk and create apps if I so choose. With Unix underpinnings I can do terminal commands and geek out if I want to.

    I'm not a lowest bidder guy nor to I spend an inordinate amount of time tinkering. My time is precious and time is the one thing money ..or cheap PC cannot deliver.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    See... Everyone is different, everyone has different tastes.

    To me Apples products don't look all that attractive to myself, from a hardware or an aesthetics perspective.

    I like my big flashy case full of UV Cathodes and LEDs which highlight my impressive looking water cooling loops running from my crossfire setup and Core i7 which can be admired through the side window.
    Nothing Apple has ever made has actually "Impressed" me from any angle, not the Aesthetics, the hardware, none of it, hence they aren't for me and a reason why I have never owned an Apple product.
    My neighbor even modded his Laptop so that it was all made from a clear plastic, and that to has a bunch of nice looking LED's inside of it which lights up really well and does look impressive.
    These... I dunno, the look just doesn't do it for me.

    As for the touchpad... I use a keyboard to scroll down a webpage, I guess it's a habit from the days of Ball-Mice giving me hell, so I used a keyboard as much as possible.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Please, just because Apple tells you you have style doesn't mean you do.

    Again, you got owned by advertising, and you probably look like a giant douche or a turd sandwich when you walk around, all the while thinking in your head you are the sh*t!
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    play games? *cough*

    no, bootcamping Windows does not count.
    Reply
  • captainBOB - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Its called Steam for the Mac

    Its also called TF2, HL2, HL2: Ep 1 and 2, Portal, Left for Dead 2, HL2: Deathmatch, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3 (when it arrives) WoW, City of Heroes: Going Rouge, Day of Defeat, CS: Source, EVE Online, Civilization IV.... they don't look like indie games.... should I keep going?

    Sure its not quite the library that Windows based PCs have, but the argument that Macs can't play games was dead in the water when Valve brought Steam to the Mac.

    Oh and no, It can't play Crysis.
    Reply
  • MikosNZ - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Most of those games are old and you will note they are only AAA titles. Yes you are right a handful of the most popular games come to OSX. But the vast majority do not.

    Apple and Apple OSX are a nice platform but they most certainly are not a serious gaming platform. Fine for the hobbyist gamer not anyone who spends a significant time gaming.
    Reply
  • captainBOB - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Yep, I mention the big AAA games because they aren't so quickly dismissed as say, "Torchlight" or the other nice indie games on Steam available for both platforms.

    Definitely a Mac a gaming machine does not make. Just wanted to clear up a misconception that Macs cannot play games. Better to jump into the Hundred Years flame war prepared.
    Reply
  • solgae1784 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Display is still one of Apple notebook/laptop strengths.....11 inch Air has the same res (1366x768) as most manufacturers use in 15 inch display and some of the 13 inch displays. 13 inch Air has the same res as the Macbook Pro 15 inch model (1400x900), which also puts most other manufacturer's 15 inch display notebooks/laptops to shame with its paltry 1366x768 res. When will those other manufacturers learn that 768p (or heaven forbid, 800p) on a 15 inch screen is just not large enough?

    I have also yet to saw a single touchpad that can at least match Apple notebook/laptop's implementation. Scrolling is just plain frustrating (especially horizontal scrolling) on those touchpads.
    Reply
  • Accord99 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    "When will those other manufacturers learn that 768p (or heaven forbid, 800p) on a 15 inch screen is just not large enough?"

    It's a good thing other manufacturers offer products that use higher resolutions like 1920x1080 or 1920x1200, something not available on a Mac except at 17".
    Reply
  • solgae1784 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I checked just now on Dell/HP/ASUS/Lenovo 15" notebook and apart from Alienware notebooks, none of them offered anything but a 768p res. Dell used to offer a 900p res on their XPS 15" line, but that option is gone as of now. I don't recall any notebook/laptops apart from Alienware that offered a 1080p or 1200p res on a 15" screen notebook. Reply

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