Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

Mac OS X Lion

I’m fairly certain that Mac OS X Lion was meant to ship with the MacBook Air. Okay so it actually did, but that’s not really what I meant. I think that Apple designed the new features in Mac OS X Lion for Apple’s line of notebook computers, but especially for smaller SSD based notebooks like the MacBook Air. I’m sure that the rumored slim and probably just as sexy 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros will take advantage of Mac OS X Lion too.

Mac OS X Lion introduces new multi-touch gestures, application resume, 30-day hibernation (existing hardware feature), and the Mac App Store are all perfect for a notebook computer like the MacBook Air. After all it doesn’t have an optical drive so installing and downloading applications from the Mac App Store makes sense and the oversized trackpad makes gestures come alive. The combination of new gestures in Lion and the oversized trackpad on the MacBook Air have really improved my work flow.

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

Mac OS X Lion - Mission Control

Additional improvements that Mac OS X Lion brings that are worth mentioning are full-screen applications and Mission Control. Both of these rely on gestures and greatly improve work flow on the MacBook Air and for that matter on any Mac.

Apple has also made the Mac OS X experience a bit more iOS-like by adding elements to Mac OS X Lion with the introduction of natural scrolling, scroll bars that appear only when needed, User Interface elements reminiscent of iOS, and Launchpad.

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

Mac OS X Lion - Launchpad

I didn’t particularly care for Launchpad and I was a bit surprised to see Dashboards key on the keyboard replaced with one that brings up Launchpad instead. I’ve heard a few people complain about that, but there are workarounds for it, but clearly Apple is pushing Mac users onto a collision course with iOS. I’m sure at some point in the future we won’t know the difference between the Mac OS X and iOS.

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

Migration Assistant has been plagued with updates lately and I’m sure that Apple probably isn’t done with those  yet. I wasn’t able to use it over Wi-Fi or a combination of Wi-Fi and ethernet. It continuously failed to stay connected in order to migrate my data between my old and new MacBook Air. Eventually I had to complete the migration using an external bootable image of the old MacBook Air. It was unfortunate that something that usually works just wouldn’t this time. I hope Apple will fix it soon, because other people have reported problems even on PCs.

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

The MacBook Air coupled with Mac OS X Lion also introduced a new way to acquire the iLife application suite. GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie all had to be accepted and then downloaded from the Mac App Store. Once you did this you could then install these applications on any of your Macs that use the same Apple ID in the Mac App Store.

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

Mac OS X Lion - Recovery Tools

Finally, Mac OS X coupled with the release of the new 2011 MacBook Airs (and the Mac Mini) led to the introduction of a new Lion Recovery feature. The MacBook Air now has a recovery feature that you can access to restore your computer from the Internet. This feature is only available on Macs that were released in July 2011 and there is a lot of confusion about it – let me state that per Apple this Internet Recovery feature is not available on any Mac released prior to last month.

Older Macs will only have a subset of the Recovery features that Mac OS X Lion introduced. I tested this feature on my 13-inch MacBook Air and while I have to say that it worked I wasn’t exactly happy about the fact that my computer did not ship with a USB recovery stick like last years model. I think Apple should have included one in the box and although one will be available for $70 later  this month I still feel like one should have been included in the box.

Overall all the combination of MacBook Air and Mac OS X Lion is a hard combination to beat. It really does feel like they were made for each other. I suspect the months ahead for me, OS X Lion and my MacBook Air will be more productive than they would have been with Snow Leopard.

If you’d like to see in-depth reviews of Mac OS X Lion you can take a look at mine and another really good one by my colleagues at Cult of Mac.

Conclusion

Last year the new 13-inch MacBook Air wasn’t anything like the old one before it. People complained a lot about the first and second generation models. It was clear that the MacBook Air filled a niche or it did. That’s all changed again since the 2011 MacBook Air beats not only the first and second generation models, but the third generation model introduced last year.

The new 2011 13-inch MacBook Air for the vast majority of consumers and business persons is powerful enough. So what if it doesn’t have FireWire or Ethernet. It doesn’t have a DVD drive either. However, optical drives are becoming irrelevant in a world that is getting more dependent on streaming media these days. Plus we already know Apple is looking to assassinate media, because this years MacBook Airs don’t ship with a USB stick for system restores.

The new 2011 13-inch MacBook Air is just as ready for prime time as last years model. Just about anyone will find it useful. I’ll definitely be using it for my writing projects, OS virtualization and more. This years 13-inch MacBook Air continues the tradition of blending incredible portability with surprising power. Power that is orders of magnitude better than last years model. Starting at $1,299 for the 13-inch model I think it will continue to be a best seller.  This is the future of Apple notebooks and things can only get better.

Gallery

Two Weeks With Apple’s Powerful & Ultra-portable 13-Inch MacBook Air [Review]

13-inch MacBook Air closed.

Related

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  • ctt1wbw

    Hmmm, I remember initial reports of the first MacBook Air.  It was worthless because it didn’t have an optical drive.  Remember those reports?

  • cliqsquad

    Hold up that was 2008, this is 2011. The world is very different, it is more about the cloud and more about digital content. Those complaints have been proven invalid most likely.

  • Elliot George

    I believe he was basically saying ‘Look how wrong the haters were back then. The MBA is kicking ass and will most likely become Apple’s only laptop in a few years, and the best laptop in the world’. Suck it hater :)

  • cliqsquad

    Opps, sorry about that… It is the best laptop man, my 11″ was backordered with MacMall just came in today… Loving it

  • atticusrex

    Seeing how I am clueless, how does one go about connecting 400 or 800 firewire external HDs?

    Interesting that it also only relies on wi-fi.  At times I like connecting w/ethernet for a FASTER web experience.

    I still use a non-uni-body MBpro.  w/ lion now.  However with only 2 gigs ram.. it does process slow.  But I could keep it as my ‘desktop’ and perhaps the Air as my portable… Oh, so without an ethernet connection how would I connect/sync the two laptops?

    See I told you all I’m clueless.  lol  and thanks in advance for any replies.

  • TechTeich

    As long as you have Wi-Fi in your house and those 2 machines are connected to the same network you can “sync” them through file sharing/air drop. As far as I know, there are no firewire to USB or thunderbolt cables (correct me if I’m wrong). So if your firewire HD doesn’t have any other type of connector, I don’t think that it can be connected.

  • Starman_Andromeda

    Three questions.

    1.  How does the *size* of the 13″ screen compare to that of the 15″ MacBook Pro?
    I have one of the MBPs and am leery about switching to a smaller sized screen.

    At one point when we shopped for iBooks, we definitely felt that the 12″ was too small and so picked the 14″.  I’ve been spoiled by the 15″‘s screen, but really dislike the hard drive noise.

    2.  How hot does the bottom of the MBA get?

    The MBP can get hot–and is certainly not compatible with shorts!  The legs get red.  Has anyone given the MBA a shorts test yet? 

    3.  Is it really quiet?  That is, under most operating conditions– say, just some web surfin’ or word processing?

  • Sam Parmenter

    Well then he is wrong, they were perfectly valid in their criticisms when it was launched. It wasnt powerful enough and most software still came on physical media. Just because times have changed doesn’t magically render a past judgement incorrect.

    Eventually we may not need any local processing power as it is all processed elsewhere and streamed. A device released today would still be crap regardless of the future adoption of that method of computing.

    I would never have bought a macbook air when it was launched but it will probably be my MBP replacement when I need to update.

  • ChristianNewman

  • lsls67
  • lsls67
  • Terrance Joseph

    I just paid $21.87 for an iPaad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://to.ly/aT8h

  • Apple_News

    Check out this great apple blog!

    http://applefanboynews.com/

  • lsls67
  • lsls67
  • otheronetruegod

    I have to disagree. I bought a first-gen Air, and I think I’ve used the remote optical drive function once. If you had a need for an optical drive, it wouldn’t have suited you, but for the (sizable) target market, they never even noticed it was gone.

  • newser-52007115

    Wonderful, real-world, tell-it-like-it-T-I-S review, but I have to correct you on one point: the Air handles virtualizations incredibly WELL not incredibly GOOD.

  • AnupR

    Ans 1: Due to Hi Res, you will not feel it is 13″. It is really good ! 15 ” macbook pro std resolution is worse that hi res 13″ macbook air

    Ans 2: Not much at all. However, I have noticed that while installing (like Lion), it did get warm !

    Ans 3: Yes. Under normal circumstances, you won’t hear a thing. Again heard some fan noise only when doing a huge install like LION.

  • GDal

    How about proof-reading… Grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors should be unacceptable.

    And redundant words are silly…
    “The largest internal space inside …” – Internal IS inside. It’s not outside.

    “It was clear that the MacBook Air filled a niche or it did.” – Huh???

  • GDal

    You have broadband that’s faster than 50Mbs?

  • GDal

    The DVD drive in my MacBook hasn’t been used more than 3 times in the past two years. I could have done with an extra hard drive instead.

  • GDal

    I’ve been without optical disc software for years now. Since at least 2001 (around the time 250GB IDEs became available). I have all my software on hard drives. If it came on disc, it was copied and the discs were lost. Only those stupid Windows discs remained.

  • HerbalEd

    NO … it wasn’t powerful enough for you. Don’t speak for the millions of people who bought and were happy with what you were not.

  • lsla38
  • wakao71
  • SpongebobUK

    Hi,

    A search on Amazon shows a number of adapters for Firewire to USB if you need one. My Lacie D2Quadra was made redundant when I got a Time Capsule last year. I didn’t miss the FW800 – the Time Capsule was so easy to set up for every aspect including Time Machine and everything connects through it. And it’s almost silent.

    I got the USB Ethernet adapter for those times when you feel like you need a direct connection but it’s only a 100 megabits/sec rather than the gigabit on the MBP. Nonetheless, I use the wireless most of the time – I love the no wires operation.

    My disappointment was finding the Airdrop isn’t available for my iMac because it’s too old (pre 2009) but I’m expecting that iCloud will keep everything in sync. Connecting is straightforward using Bonjour especially if the two are on the same network AND if you’ve set up Sharing (through Preferences). I had problems with Migration Assistant (because I messed up – again!) but with Bonjour I dragged over everything I needed.

  • Starman_Andromeda

    Appreciate your taking the time to respond–and on point!  That doesn’t always happen in the Internet world. :-)

    I’ll have to go look at a 13″ in the real world.  My worry sometimes about higher resolution screens is that the text ends up so small.  I have to do all sorts of tweaking in Safari, Word, and other programs to increase font size or zoom factor (in the program itself) to make things readable.  So, I’m hoping it will work.

    Cool and quiet are really appealing!

  • shucai96

    vipforshopper.com 

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  • Jenniffer

    yes i agree

  • ravi@tablet

    It’s really good explanation man. The most people like the long life battery and advance logo design so you detail,13-inch MacBook, 7 hours, really very useful.

About the author

David W. MartinDavid W. Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant. David has written for CNET's iPhoneatlas.com, MacLife.com, CultofMac.com, BYTE.com and recently for aNewDoman.net. He comes to Cult of Mac's website with deep knowledge and passion for the all things Apple. Follow David on Twitter @david_w_martin or see what he's up to now at davidwmartin.com.

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