Apple’s new 11-inch MacBook Air is simply incredible. Of course you probably already knew this puppy was light, and gorgeous, but the power that this tiny machine packs is truly breathtaking. Optimized for speed and portability, the new MacBook Air improves on its predecessor to prove that it’s the best notebook computer Apple’s ever made.
When first laying eyes on the MacBook Air, undoubtedly you’ll assume that such a small machine couldn’t possibly replace a beefier MacBook Pro. You’ll probably tell yourself, “Sure, it’s light and thin so it’ll be good for taking on a trip where I don’t need to do any heavy lifting, but it can’t replace my MacBook Pro.” Yet, the most shocking thing about the new 11-inch MacBook Air is that it’s not some wimpy netbook with stylish looks. Apple’s been hard at work ensuring that the MacBook Air is a machine you can actually use in all of your real world scenarios. The spec sheet looks underwhelming (1.6 GHz Intel Core i5, and 4GBs of RAM), but coupled with a Flash Memory Storage that takes advantage of OS X Lion’s Trim support, these new machines are blazing fast.
As soon as I powered up my machine the first thing I did was launch iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, Spotify, Word, 15 tabs in Chrome, 15 tabs in Safari, download a few files, and copied over some new stuff from an external hard drive all at once. Loading that many tasks on my old 13-inch MacBook Pro would have crippled it, but there sat the new MacBook Air, chugging along without a single spinning beach ball.
According to benchmark tests performed by Wired, the new 11-inch MacBook Airs increased their speed performance by 149% over last year’s model. Their tests put the 11-inch MacBook Air on par with last year’s 17-inch MacBook Pros. The power behind this beautiful machine is incredible, especially when you consider that it’s 2.38lbs is nearly half that of my old 13-inch MacBook Pro (4.22lbs lighter than the 17-inch MacBook Pro it equaled in benchmark tests).
The elegant design of the anorexic MacBook Airs hasn’t changed all that much since the last iteration. It’s skinny and light as ever, with a full-size keyboard, glass multi-touch trackpad, FaceTime Camera, and the same 1366 x 768 screen size. There are a few key differences between the new and old models though. First of all, the new MacBook Airs are rocking a new Thunderbolt port that can be used for lightning fast data transfer, or as a Display Port for an external monitor.
Another key difference is in the keyboard. The new MacBook Airs finally have the backlit keyboard that was missing from the previous model (which was one of the factors that kept me from purchasing one last year). Also, these new machines are the first Macs with hardware designed with OS X Lion in mind. Instead of an Exposé and Dashboard key, users will find new shortcut keys for Mission Control and Launchpad. A dedicated key for Launchpad has improved my Lion experience more than I would have thought. Before having a physical Launchpad key, I didn’t see much difference between clicking on a stacked Applications folder in the dock and clicking on Launchpad.
If it weren’t for the MacBook Airs all-metal, unibody frame, I would almost be scared of being able to break it in half. It’s so thin it’s frightening. Portability, with uncompromised speed, is where the MacBook Air excels. It’s hard to discern that the MacBook Air is heavier than an iPad 2. Weighing in at a minuscule 2.3lbs, you can drop the MacBook Air in your bag and never notice it’s there. As someone who’s constantly on the go, it’s shocking how big a difference the loss of 2.2lbs makes when carrying a shoulder bag all day.
To put it into perspective, I can now carry my MacBook Air and my iPad 2 in the same bag, and together they’re .79lbs lighter than if I were to just carry a 13-inch MacBook Pro, while only being .07 inches thicker. Another aspect of the MacBook Air that’s not talked about that much is how narrow it is. Remember those old Sony Vaio P ads with the lady carrying her Vaio in her back pocket? Well you can’t fit the Air in your back pocket, but it is nearly 2.5 inches more narrow than a 13-inch MacBook Pro which makes a big difference in its total volume.
Among all of Apple’s notebooks, the 11-inch MacBook Air actually has the shortest battery life. Apple claims that the battery will last five hours (compared to the seven hours all other MacBooks get). My experience has been on par to the five-hour battery life, while I’ve seen others claim they’re getting a little more juice than that. So far this is the only weakness I’ve seen with the MacBook Air. A longer battery life would be nice, but when you’re playing on a machine this light, it’s hard to complain.
Apple improved the internal storage by beefing the Flash Storage to 256GB. I purchased a unit with the 128GB SSD, which after copying over all my apps, photos and documents, I still have 86GB left. Utilizing cloud storage programs like Spotify and DropBox is key to maintaining enough disk space for maneuverability. Keeping my entire iTunes music library on a portable hard drive will also have to suffice. (Check out our article for tips on making the most of your MacBook Air’s limited diskspace)
The use of Flash Storage makes a huge difference in performance. Writing onto the MacBooks Air’s memory is super quick. Zipping files right along, the MacBook Air is a lot quieter when under a heavy load than other machines I’ve used in the past. Bouncing icons in the dock seem to be a thing of the past, as applications load up drastically faster than on my old MacBook Pro.
It’d be nice if the display bezel wasn’t metal and the MacBook Air display was corner to corner glass like on the MacBook Pros and iMacs. Not sure if this choice was made to provide more strength for the top piece or what.
There’s no SD slot on the 11-inch model where there is one on the 13-inch unit. It’s not something I necessarily need, but having one would make transferring photos from my camera a bit easier.
The FaceTime camera isn’t HD like on the MacBook Pros. In fact, when placing a FaceTime call the video quality coming from my camera seemed worse than when I FaceTime on my iPad.
Perhaps I’m the only one, but I really liked the LED Power Indicator on the side of my MacBook Pro. I’m going to miss having a quick way to check how much battery I have left without having to open up the MacBook and check in OS X.
A security lock is still missing from the MacBook Air line.
Upgrade-ability. Not that MacBooks have ever been the most upgradeable machines out there, but with the RAM soldered on to the motherboard, you’re stuck with what you initially purchased. Luckily, the Flash Storage isn’t soldered on too so there’s one thing users can upgrade.
Without a doubt, the MacBook Air is Apple’s best notebook computer. Its design has no equal in the world. Even people who couldn’t care less about technology will be in awe of its beauty, and with its improved innards, the MacBook Air can handle some serious computing action.
While it’s no revolution, the new MacBook Airs are a welcomed evolution that will push themselves into the consumer mainstream. Despite its small imperfections, it’s pretty clear that the MacBook Airs are quickly unseating the MacBook Pros as the most desirable notebook on the market.