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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 02:21 PM   #1
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Post New MacBook Air Review

By ehMac.ca contributing writer, Jason Whitehead

I was speaking with a colleague of mine about how I felt that there has been nothing released in the tech industry recently that really excited me the way the iPhone did when it was announced back in 2007 (this was about two months after the iPad was released). He pointed out that maybe if I didn’t read tech blogs all day (and follow news stories such as the tiny touch screen device that Apple sent to Foxconn) then when products like the new Apple iPod nano are announced I might, maybe, get excited. After our conversation, I thought I was doomed to never fall in love again with another tech gadget –then I held the new Macbook Air.



The Macbook Air comes in four models; two 11-inch 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo models with 2GB memory one with a 64GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) and the other with a 128GB SSD, and two 13-inch 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo models with the lower end one having 128GB SSD and the higher end one having a 256GB SSD. Each model has two USB slots, one on each side of the computer, and one Mini Displayport for connecting to an external monitor, projector, or television. The 13-inch model also has a SD card slot. The higher end 11-inch model can be upgraded to a 1.6GHz processor while the highest end 13-inch can be upgraded to a 2.13GHz processor, and all can be upgraded to 4GB of RAM.



The base cost of an 11-inch Macbook Air is $1049.00: the same price as a Macbook. Now, ignoring the SSD technology for a moment with a Macbook you get 250GB of storage instead of the 64GB as in the Macbook Air and a 2.4 Intel Core 2 Duo instead of a 1.4 Intel Core 2 Duo. Looking at its most powerful configuration; 2.13GHz 4GB RAM 256SSD NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics card the Macbook Air costs $1849.00 which is the same price as an entry level Macbook Pro 15” Intel Core i5 4GB RAM 320GB HD NVIDIA GeForce GT 330. All along the price range of the Macbook Air you can get more storage and graphic capabilities in another Apple laptop product; you are paying more for less for the Macbook Air.

However there are three new incredible features that you do get with the Macbook Air; its size, it’s Solid-State Drive, and what Apple calls “Instant-On”, you also get two other features that have been greatly improved; its battery life and its display.

At just 1.7 cm at its thickest point the Macbook Air is exceptionally thin compared to the 2.74 cm of the Macbook. And with this slimmer profile the Macbook Air weighs less as well; it weighs 2.3 pounds while the Macbook weighs 4.7 pounds –it’s more than 50% lighter.

The solid-state drive flash technology is blistering fast. There are no moving components in flash storage like in traditional hard drives that have to read and write to floating platters and this means that there are quicker access times. Also, because the SSDs do not move they are less susceptible to shock.

The Macbook Air also has what Apple calls “Instant-On”. Since all the information on the computer is stored in flash memory it has access to all this data at all times when the computer is turned on after being in sleep mode. This is a great feature when you have to quickly get something on your computer after being away from it for a while.

The battery life in the 11-inch Macbook Air is similar to that of the previous generation coming in at five hours, but in the 13-inch model it is at seven hours. The extra two hours is an enormous improvement for such a thin product. This allows most people to get almost a full-days work out of the computer without having to charge it. Also students can get through most of their classes without having to worry about if they will have access to a wall receptacle to charge their computer and focus on what counts.

The display on the Macbook Air is beautiful; images are sharp and vivid. The 11-inch model has a resolution of 1366x768 and an aspect ratio of 16:9. The downside of such a high-resolution screen that measures 11-inches diagonally is that the images are quite small –possibly too small for those of us that need to squint to read the newspaper to comfortably use. The 13-inch model however with a resolution of 1440x900 and shares the same aspect ratio is much easier to see because the images are larger but still as sharp.

The Core 2 Duo and the NVIDIA 320M graphics card, along with flash storage, is a strong combination. Using Geekbench data (Geekbench - Primate Labs) that compares the power of the processor/graphics combination in a computer and gives a number that allows for comparison (higher the number the more powerful the computer) illustrates that the high-end Macbook Air has similar power to an entry level Macbook Pro 13”. This is a considerable amount of processing and graphical power for such a thin product.



The Macbook Air, Macbook, and Macbook Pro 13” fall into a similar category with plenty of overlap, this category I’ll broadly define as computers that are good laptops but do not have high-end graphic processing capabilities. An owner of any of these products will probably regularly use them for general day-to-day operations such as email, Internet, iLife, Pages, Number, and Keynote as well as Microsoft Office 2011 and will probably not be heavily using Adobe Creative Suit 5 or AutoCAD. The Macbook Air is a precursor to all future laptops and I think that it will pass its technological genetic code to all future Apple laptops in the near future –namely its solid-state drive and its thin unibody design.

Some of the questions that are important to ask yourself before you purchase a Macbook Air are do you need more than 64GB/128GB/256GB of storage and do you need the processing power of a Quad-Core i5/i7 or a dedicated video card. If you do need the storage or the processing power then a Macbook or Macbook Pro is a better laptop for you to own. But if you are like me and use your computer to check your email, write documents, and peruse the internet then the Marilyn Monroe of laptops is for you –it is that gorgous and envy-inducing.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 04:05 PM   #2
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I don't have a real need for the new Air but after holding one I wants one....I needs one....its my precious
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 05:00 PM   #3
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I like the Air but I think Apple should get rid of the Air and get rid of the iPad and combine them. Make the screen flip over so you can use it as a touch device then when you want a keyboard flip it around. I know they can do it, just why not, just make a 10" model and be done with it and if you want a 13" touch screen there you have it.

Just because its a touch screen does not mean you have to touch it when its sitting a 90 degree angle but allow to flip the lid and lay it flat and use it like an iPad.

If the next Mac OS is going to have alot of the features that iOS has, then it just seems they should create one product instead of having both.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #4
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This seems great in theory but Toshiba (and perhaps IBM/Lenovo) did it with Windows-based notebooks and they never caught on. Windows has had tablet (keyboard-less) support for a long time as well.

Unlike many, I do not want a full-fledged notebook in my iPad. I am almost totally happy with it's capability as is. I have a MacBook Pro for everything I need it for.

I could certainly see myself with the 13" MBA as my next personal notebook, though. Combined with some external storage for iTunes/iPhoto, it'd be an excellent super-portable machine.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 08:44 PM   #5
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The new Air is a marvelous machine... except for the glaring omission of the Blacklit keyboard. :S

I also agree about the 1366x768 on the 11" being a bit small - UI elements, and the like are very tiny.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 08:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fyrefly View Post
The new Air is a marvelous machine... except for the glaring omission of the Blacklit keyboard. :S

I also agree about the 1366x768 on the 11" being a bit small - UI elements, and the like are very tiny.
What happened to resolution-independence in Mac OS? Shouldn't these problems (too much user interface for the screen res) be non-existent now? I'm pretty sure Windows has this capability.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 09:24 PM   #7
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In the article I said “The Macbook Air is a precursor to all future laptops and I think that it will pass its technological genetic code to all future Apple laptops in the near future –namely its solid-state drive and its thin unibody design.” I’m curious what the views of the community are on this. Will we have Macbook Pro Airs and iMac Airs in the near future? (I’m sure their marketing department would probably never use those names, but it works).
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 09:49 PM   #8
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I will soon be able to give first hand info on the 13" 1.86 with 128 SSD.
Comes as a replacement for the original 1.8 for my daughter.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 10:02 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Pratt View Post
I don't have a real need for the new Air but after holding one I wants one....I needs one....its my precious


Yeah, my shoulders cry out for one every time I lug my Macbook Pro a great distance. Even with a 13" I still just have too much stuff in my bag and could use something a little lighter.

I think the 11" is just gorgeous. But I'm not going to be able to afford one any time soon, and I'd only want one if I still had a Pro to use for certain situations.
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Old Dec 6th, 2010, 10:06 PM   #10
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Good review.

I simply love my 11" Macbook Air. Ehmax, you said it: few things tech have excited me since the introduction of the iPhone. When I saw the 11" Macbook Air I had to have it.

I'd been scoping out the iPad for a few months because I was looking for a light, quick and "fun" solution for simple tasks like web surfing, email, iTunes and iPhoto, but with the capability to run applications I need for work (scientific applications). But I just couldn't get over the fact that you can't install applications other than iTunes apps on the iPad. I like consolidation--I don't want an iPad for that stuff, plus a computer to do "real computing". When I saw the Macbook Air, it was my perfect solution. It is light, fast, sexy and fun for everyday tasks but also a real laptop that I can run anything on. When I discovered how fast the flash memory is, that was a bonus.

Sure, it doesn't have a powerhouse processor but for everyday stuff I never notice. It's faster than my Core 2 Duo 2 GHz Macbook. So I gave my 13" Macbook, which was an amazing computer and I loved it, to a sibling and never looked back.

The 128 GB was a big shift from the 500 GB hard drive I had on my Macbook, yet I realized I can easily survive within the confines of this much storage. I realized I was hardly ever watching the movies that were taking up most of the 500 GB. In this era of cheap external HDs, I just moved my movies to a 1.5 TB external drive. With all my music, photos, documents and applications, I still have 12 GB to spare on my MBA.

It was also fun finding an minimalist everyday shoulder bag that doubles as an occasional laptop bag--for anyone interested, this MEC bag fits the 11" MBA perfectly. I hope to get a sleeve once they become available to prevent scratches. I barely feel the weight of the MBA in the bag and my shoulders are thanking me!

I have to say though that I didn't last long without an optical drive. I picked up the external Superdrive for those times I need to access stuff on DVD's. I anticipate eventually I will be totally optical disc free and I'll probably move all my stuff on DVD's to my 1.5 TB external drive.
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