Final Words

The 11-inch MacBook Air may be portable perfection, but by default it’s not the perfect notebook. It’s slow, the battery doesn’t last all that long under actual use and the screen resolution, although appreciably high, makes things a little difficult to read.

The 1.6GHz/4GB upgrade comes at a steep cost but it directly attacks one of those complaints. There’s a tangible difference in regular use between the base and upgraded models. While I wouldn’t consider either fast, I’d say that extra 10 - 20% performance increase you get from the upgraded CPU and memory makes a very big difference. If all you’re doing is writing and web browsing I’m not sure it’s necessary, but anything beyond that could probably make use of the upgraded specs.

At $1399 there's almost no way to rationally justify the price and rest assured that within 12 - 18 months Apple will have a much faster version available, likely at an even cheaper price point. The upgrade obviously does nothing to address that part of the equation. You do get a pretty good display, great form factor and of course the ability to run OS X, but any way you look at it $1399 is a lot for a lightweight notebook. Then again, I did pay a lot more than that for my first Transmeta notebook about a decade ago.

The impact to battery life is minimal, although it is measurable. Having used the 11-inch MacBook Air exclusively on my last business trip I can say that the battery life experience lines up with what our benchmarks show. Even for simple tasks the 11-inch MacBook Air doesn’t last anywhere near as long as the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Heavy use throughout the day will require the aid of a charger.

Traveling with the system is great however. You don’t need to take it out of your bag when going through airport security and it’s light enough that I hardly noticed I was carrying it. As I write this final paragraph in the dark cabin of a plane, I do still miss the backlit keyboard. Apple really should bring that back.

Battery Life


View All Comments

  • z4r0sp4c3 - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    Apparently during the battery tests, the hard drive is allowed to sleep if idle...? So... always? or never? Is it like dividing by zero?
    Or simply a copy-and-paste fail.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link


    That's simply what the setting is called under OS X, it doesn't change based on the type of storage in the system unfortunately :)

    Take care,
  • medi01 - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    May I ask who made photos used in this article? Reply
  • bobcpg - Friday, November 12, 2010 - link

    Good Question, where did the photo's come from? Seem almost too good... Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - link

    I made them :)

    Take care,
  • solipsism - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    Anand wrote, “...any way you look at it $1399 is a lot for a lightweight notebook.”

    Frankly, I don’t expect to pay less for an ultra-portabl than a regular notebook. Note that the original MBA started out higher than this upgraded machine, and the competitors that followed with the SFF LV C2Ds were just as expensive, if not more.

    Who else is using the ULV C2Ds from Intel? These new MBAs might be new, but these chips aren’t new.

    The closest competitor seems to be the Sony Vaio X that started at $1300 (and $1500 if you wanted gold colored plastic), but coincidentally dropped their prices by $200 this past Monday, yet still more than the 11” MBA with a processor and IGP that cost 7x(?) as much. How can Sony justify an Atom Z550 CPU + GM500 IGP for that price when the bulk of the cost has been reduced to a $30 CPU and IGP. If you use the extended battery that puts it inline with the 11” MBA in terms of weight and usage, but not in terms of performance.

    Anyway you can compare other ultra-portables?
  • bloodterfly - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    You forgot to include the Dell Adamo- thinner, with a similar price, and specs (larger SSD/no 320m)
    Somehow no longer for sale from for some reason, was a month ago though. Refresh?

    Or the Vostro V13- even cheaper.

    The Vaio X is stupid thin. I think it's the thinnest traditional form factor laptop (i.e. adamo xps doesn't count) That's how they can charge so much for it. People pay for extremes.
  • solipsism - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    In regards to the comparisons, I was looking for 11” ultra-portables with CULVs. I can’t find any, which makes me wonder how Anand can say the price is “a lot” when there is nothing to compare it to. If it’s just a personal thing, then there is a lot of history of ultra-portables that are vastly more expensive for performance making the 11” MBA the cheapest such machine he’s tested, that I can find.

    If you want to talk 13”, I like the styling of the Vostro but it isn’t close to the MBA. It starts with a single core Celeron and moves up to a 1.3GHz C2D. That is 1GHz less than the maxed out 13” MBA. Not to mention the size and weight. It’s an ultra-portable, I guess, but it’s not in the same class as the Adamo, MBA or now defunct Voodoo Envy.

    The first Adamo is a well engineered machine. I love the ports in the back. The 2nd design was very poor. There was no benefit to the user. They went thinner without adding functionality. » It does look like it even the first generation is gone. Hopefully they something else coming.

    Note, that Vaio X is thinner the new MBAs but with an Atom CPU+GM500 IGP and 3 hour battery. Could Sony put the same HW in the MBA in the Vaio X chassis? Is the Vaio X less total volume even though it’s thinner at its thickest point? I think many people underestimate the cost of quality engineering.
  • mino - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    And no light in the tunnel. From Intel anyway. For the sake of performance Sandy will not be much better than Clarkdale in the CULV space.
    Thank god Ontario is coming soon.
  • nitrousoxide - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    Ontario and Zactate are designated to compete with the "drive-you-crazy" Atom, not the CULV SNB. From preview on SNB destop we can expect 10% higher frequency and 10% higher performance vs. frequency with same power consumption, which means that the new CULV Core Series can provide up to 20% performance boost compared to current models. That is more than enough to overwhelm AMD's first-gen-Fusion APU. Reply

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