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First look: Apple's new 11 and 13 inch MacBook Air

post #1 of 186
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Apple's newly revised MacBook Air borrows design cues from iPad to deliver an even lighter and smaller design, with higher resolution displays and long battery life. The new Airs also have more ports that are easier to access and hit price points that make it difficult for buyers to choose between the new models and the existing entry level MacBook, and the faster and more expandable MacBook Pros.

The 11 and 13 inch MacBook Air models themselves are difficult to choose between, with the lighter, smaller model offering a few weaker aspects than its larger 13 inch sibling: a slightly slower CPU and system bus, smaller SSD options, and a lower resolution screen. However, the 11 inch model packs a resolution that is roughly the same as the existing 13 inch MacBook and MacBook Pro: 1366x768 vs their conventional "13 inch resolution" of 1280x800.

On the other hand, the 13 inch model has a "15 inch resolution" of 1440x900, the same as the 15 inch MacBook Pro, packed into the 13.3 inch display (although the latest 15 inch MacBook Pro now offers a higher resolution, 1680x1050 option.

This makes the 13 inch MacBook Air very competitive with the entry level MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro and a good general purpose notebook machine, although it lacks fast Ethernet (it's intended primarily for use on wireless networks, and uses the same, separately sold 10/100 Ethernet dongle as the previous MacBook Air).

The Airs also have no FireWire, no optical drive, supply less disk storage (due to exclusively using a fast SSD) and RAM (many Air models ship with a paltry 2GB, and they can only be upgraded as a build to order option for a max of 4GB; you can't add RAM after your initial purchase, as the memory chips are soldered into the logic board. Most other MacBook models can now accommodate a max of 8GB.)

For a very portable notebook, which is the intended role of the Air, the 11 inch model shaves off a little weight and significant size while retaining a full sized keyboard and trackpad. It does give up some display area, and the subtraction is most obvious in the vertical axis. So much so that you may want to reposition the Dock on the side or configure it to hide in order to have enough vertical room to work on your documents.

In the Apple Store, I spent some time agonizing over which model I wanted to get, and eventually decided on the 11 inch after discussing the pros and cons with a fellow shopper who also picked the smaller model. The store employee who sold me the notebook also noted that most customers were opting for the smaller version. It's small, particularly so for an Apple product. Note the difference in screen real-estate you get when you move or hide the Dock!





On page 2 of 3: Unboxing the Air.

Unboxing the Air

The smaller palm rests on the 11 inch model seem plenty big enough to type comfortably. Both models are feather light. They feel about as light as the iPad, although the 11 inch model is actually slightly heavier: 2.3 lbs compared to the iPad's 1.5 lbs. The 13 inch Air is just 2.9 lbs.

The Air models give up some of their weight by not including an optical drive, which Apple is working to make increasingly less important, both by pushing movies toward digital downloads and rentals, and the new effort to push digital downloads of software through the upcoming Mac App Store.

Rather than encouraging users to also buy an external optical drive or use Disc Sharing, Apple now makes it easy to reinstall system software via a supplied solid state flash RAM dongle (see below).




Inside the box there's a normal Apple MagSafe power supply (your existing ones will work as well), and the normal papers. However, rather than including a DVD, it has a solid state USB dongle that contains a Mac OS X installer and iLife 11.





On page 3 of 2: 11 inch Air vs 13 inch Air vs iPad.

If you lug around a 17 inch MacBook Pro, the 11 inch Air will offer you a far more portable alternative similar to the iPad, but running the full Mac OS X. The display of the iPad, in landscape mode, is slightly taller than the 11 inch Air not quite as wide. The resolution is a little lower, too: 1024x768 on the iPad compared to the Air's full desktop within 1366x768.

This injects some competition between the task oriented, entertainment-centric iPad and the desktop oriented, work-centric MacBook. Which you prefer should depend a lot upon what you want to do with it.

After launching the iPad to fit the niche between the notebook and the smartphone, Apple is now floating a new definition of notebook that overlaps in many respects with the iPad, while still fitting below the tier of full sized, fully expandable, and top performing MacBook Pros.





Where to Buy

Several Apple Authorized Resellers are offering discounts on the new MacBook Airs that go above and beyond Apple's educational discounts. For example, MacMall is currently offering AppleInsider readers an additional 3% off their already reduced pricing when ordering online using the links in the chart below, or through AppleInsider's full-fledged Mac Price Guide. The additional 3% discount offer expires November 15th. Currently, MacMall has about half the product line in stock. It's also offering $102 savings off a high-end, non-standard 13.3-inch configuration that includes a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

post #2 of 186
Is the USB dongle tied to the machine with which it shipped?
post #3 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

Is the USB dongle tied to the machine with which it shipped?

Yes. It's non rewritable too.
post #4 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

Is the USB dongle tied to the machine with which it shipped?

It will be tied to the model of computer not the actual device.
post #5 of 186
They sure are pretty... 'my precious'.

So, I could not quite tell, is the 11 in model screen size about the same size(height) as an ipad, just a bit longer?
Guess I need to visit a store. IMO its a shame there is no backlight keyboard, they are handy.
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post #6 of 186
Hehe, I like the photo of the 11in sitting inside the 17.
post #7 of 186
I have to admit the Air is the one Apple product that I don't quite "get". Personally I don't find the Macbook Pro's so heavy or large as to be a problem, and would rather have the additional computing power they offer.

That said, the Air is another stunning piece of industrial design.
post #8 of 186
Apple just made the metal connector on the dongle slightly bigger than normal USB and leave it bare. That's why it look different and cool too.

Somebody is bound copy it onto a off-the-shelf USB flash drive and abandon the normal distribution disc for good. Easier to store IMO compare to disc which although thin, still need the case etc.
post #9 of 186
Beautiful machine and I'd take one over an iPad anyday, but my next PC will be a desktop of some flavour. I just need Apple to make an iMac with USB 3 and Blu-Ray and I'll click 'add to cart'.
post #10 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulMJohnson View Post

I have to admit the Air is the one Apple product that I don't quite "get". Personally I don't find the Macbook Pro's so heavy or large as to be a problem, and would rather have the additional computing power they offer.

That said, the Air is another stunning piece of industrial design.

Battery life is still very underwhelming. The release of the iPad confuses the entire which do I really need.

The small one is calling my name but has half the battery life as my 13" MBP.
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post #11 of 186
So what happens when 10.7 is released? Will Apple give MacBook Air owners new dongles? Don't get me wrong; I love the concept of a lighter MacBook. I'm just looking down the road and I don't want to be stuck having to do a 2+ gig dowload.
post #12 of 186
I find it funny I started a thread when the original Air came out saying 'I redesigned the MacBook Air' - with a crude mockup of the side of the machine without that trap-door, and instead a flat side with the ports in it. People here called me all sorts of names, and said I was crazy and didn't have a clue.

Then, behold; the new Air is actually like that. It feels good to be right, knowing pretty much everyone said I was dead wrong about that door. Thank you, Apple!
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #13 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by prrbill View Post

So what happens when 10.7 is released? Will Apple give MacBook Air owners new dongles? Don't get me wrong; I love the concept of a lighter MacBook. I'm just looking down the road and I don't want to be stuck having to do a 2+ gig dowload.

Probably sell the dongle or use the MacApp store.
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post #14 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by prrbill View Post

So what happens when 10.7 is released? Will Apple give MacBook Air owners new dongles?

It's obvious: Lion will be sold on USB sticks, only.

It will not be sold on the Mac App Store by the way guys, because you need the physical medium for an OS install.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #15 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

It's obvious: Lion will be sold on USB sticks, only.

It will not be sold on the Mac App Store by the way guys, because you need the physical medium for an OS install.

Technically not true - they could allow you to download an install "image" and repartitioning software that could create a drive image on your hard drive / SSD and then install from there.

But I seriously doubt that. Very fiddly for no reason. I fully expect USB stick OS installs from here on in.
post #16 of 186
as an apple fan, i want to like them more but i just don't get them

4 gb of ram seems way too little...i wanted a replacement for my macbook pro, but i'll keep waiting until they're refreshed
post #17 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by doyourownthing View Post

as an apple fan, i want to like them more but i just don't get them

4 gb of ram seems way too little

The Air is not intended for you.
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #18 of 186
I don't like that power button so close to the delete key. I hit the eject key by accident all the time; if that was a power button that would be very annoying.
post #19 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

The Air is not intended for you.

thanks, i'm sure you have your reasons to say that
post #20 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by doyourownthing View Post

thanks, i'm sure you have your reasons to say that

If you're complaining about 4GB of RAM not being enough, I can guarantee you the Air is not intended for you.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #21 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

The Air is not intended for you.

The Air isn't intended for a lot of people then.

The problem I have with the air is that despite the fact that it's thin and light, an iPad could cover 99.9% of your needs and the Air is so underwhelming for the other 0.01% than I'd almost rather buy an MBP or nothing at all.

Ever since I got my iMac and my iPad, I've barely touched my old 2006 MacBook Pro. I'm bound to sell it, but I constantly wonder if it's worth buying a replacement laptop when using a service like LogMeIn gets me access to my desktop PC where most of my heavy lifting happens.
post #22 of 186
I don't get it. Why would I buy an Air 11" but for the same price, I get a much better machine buying the MacBook 13"? Makes no sense to me.
post #23 of 186
Boy if you are HP, Dell, Microsoft and all the other guys. You have to be wondering, Is this ever gonna stop. NOOOO Way Man.

Apple actually just seems to be getting Started, (or Re-Started for some). Microsoft did get a Little good news though. Their best selling OS and all. They should feel all gushy about that for at least a month. Then Apple will smack them back to the cruel reality of the times.
Those aluminum machines are sure looking pretty. What was it that S. Jobs said about them, "This will change the way we think about notebooks".

Just thinking about some off the things they have rethought about lately, new AppleTV, Mac App Store, FaceTime, etc. All these things seem to be destined to do as the 3 Musketeers used to say, One for All, and All for One.

How are all those PC's supposed to compete? Be it Desktop or Laptop.

Apple is hitting them from all sides. They LOOK great. They are also at a GOOD PRICE. And then they will all WORK together as one.
And that Data Center is not being built for no reason.
You can almost hear that dastardly Jonny Ive in his Lab, playing around with that Liquid Metal stuff. Yelling, "Its mine all mine". Can't wait to see the stuff he comes up with. I am sure those PC guys can say the same too.
Also. Pretty soon Apple will start making Money (or start feeling generous). So what if they decide to bring prices down just a little bit. How many more defectors can the PC guys handle?

Apple is probably adjusting their mirror constantly, because that object they see behind them seems to keep getting smaller and smaller every day.
post #24 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by kkerst View Post

I don't get it. Why would I buy an Air 11" but for the same price, I get a much better machine buying the MacBook 13"? Makes no sense to me.

Air is about ultimate mobility. You want something that won't do much more then web and office then air is perfect for you. Intended Audience would be journalists, bloggers, and frequent travalers (though bettery life needs to improve a bit for this category).

If you want video editing, music editing, auto cad, programming, and other CPU intensive tasks you would just buy a pro. I think air will replace MacBook when SSd prices drop.
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post #25 of 186
Very, very tempting. They're gorgeous machines, and it's OS X. I'm sold.
post #26 of 186
Don't see myself wanting one...

I think right now buyers of the Air will be impulse buyers that want latest and greatest. It just doesn't make sense otherwise.

For the same price, you get a full computer that has better life, and it's still super portable. (MB or even MBP)

For cheaper price (about half), you get the same portability as the Air, plus better battery. (iPad)

The only market i see Air filling is someone who absolutely needs a netbook sized computer with a keyboard and is willing to spend 3x as much.

As for boot times being instant... i leave my MBP 13" always on, i just shut the screen whenever i dont need it anymore. When i come back, it resumes almost instantly.

Edit: I just thought about the way the Air would sell. Going into the store and seeing their laptops. You want something portable. You see the Air 11" and think it's perfect. You look at the prices and see that it's right on par with the MB. You think you're just paying a lil extra because it's small. MB Air sold!
Could sell to people looking for just form factor instead of looking at specs.
post #27 of 186
What about the speakers volume?
post #28 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I find it funny I started a thread when the original Air came out saying 'I redesigned the MacBook Air' - with a crude mockup of the side of the machine without that trap-door, and instead a flat side with the ports in it. People here called me all sorts of names, and said I was crazy and didn't have a clue.

While I didn't supply graphics I was not reserved at all about calling the old AIRs a win of design over function. In a nut shell I thought tbey where terrible from the standpoint of usability. These new machines go a long way to correcting that thought. Atleast now if somebody is considering AIR i can consider them as rational.
Quote:
Then, behold; the new Air is actually like that. It feels good to be right, knowing pretty much everyone said I was dead wrong about that door. Thank you, Apple!

They look like they will be a huge success. Even with the limited info we have on them at the moment I can see a long future for this line.
post #29 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

Air is about ultimate mobility. You want something that won't do much more then web and office then air is perfect for you. Intended Audience would be journalists, bloggers, and frequent travalers (though bettery life needs to improve a bit for this category).

If you want video editing, music editing, auto cad, programming, and other CPU intensive tasks you would just buy a pro. I think air will replace MacBook when SSd prices drop.

I'm a programmer. I want to checkout my code on an 11" MBA and go to a cafe or work where I please. I have a 15" MBP and I'm really looking forward to my MBA being delivered in a week. In the store they seem responsive but I didn't have a chance to test Xcode. Maybe I'm a fool for rushing to it, but that little 11" is really moving. I just wish they didn't have the nasty silver bezel around the screen.
post #30 of 186
I thought this intro was pretty good except for the part that said 2GB of RAM is paltry. As a guy that owned a Mac Plus 2GB was undreamed of for years. Yeah I know technology marches on but really 2GB is very usable for the applications likely to run on the machines.

As to the machines themselves the 13" machine is pretty much what I thought it would be. I did have this desire to see it powered by Zacate from AMD with the idea of better battery life but obviously that did not happen.

********

For the 11" guy, it is at once nice but also a disappointment. I was reallly hoping this device would have focused on run time off the battery. That would have also meant a lower power chip and likely less performance. However because Apples numbers stressed WiFi time I'm very interested to see what run times are like with WiFi off.

I was really hoping for that SD slot! I consider that port to be very important these days. I was disappointed at the lack of ethernet, like it or not this is a big deal for many of us.

I'm most curiose to find out how these machines feel performance wise. Obviously the CPUs are slow but for some things the fast GPU and SSD ought to smooth out performance. Performance is important because I suspect people will be using these guys for a lot more than web access. Thus I have to wonder if beach balling will be a constant issue.

******

As to both machines I have to wonder about a few things.

First is the SSD module built on a interface and mechanical design that is public or licensing possible. Apple really needs to support third parties here with a suitable interface standard. Especially considering a whole new generation of Flash will soon be on the market. Frankly Apple needs to offer more storage in these devices even now. Considering recent Micron announcements it should be possible to double storage.

I have to agree with others a backlite keyboard is very handy. I was also hoping for more sound ports. However the properly mounted ports are absolutely wonderful. Two USB ports mean that a supplemental drive is never a problem. More so access with whatever type of USB plug you may have is a snap. These machines will be far more useful to the average user.

My only problem is not being in the market for a portable right now. Which is probably good because by the time I am they will likely have increased Flash storage sizes.
post #31 of 186
Seriously I'd like to know what XCode is like on the machine even the beta. If you run Eclipse that would be nice to know about too.

Currently I'm doing everything in my power to resist buying a new computer, iPhone or iPad this year. Still these new AIRs are a vast improvement over the old and represent far greater mobility so like you I wonder if they will pass for XCode development. Due to software buildings constant use of the disk I'm not sure how good or bad the machines will be for this usage. The SSD could make a significant difference.

So yeah report back!

Quote:
Originally Posted by urbansprawl View Post

I'm a programmer. I want to checkout my code on an 11" MBA and go to a cafe or work where I please. I have a 15" MBP and I'm really looking forward to my MBA being delivered in a week. In the store they seem responsive but I didn't have a chance to test Xcode. Maybe I'm a fool for rushing to it, but that little 11" is really moving. I just wish they didn't have the nasty silver bezel around the screen.

Well at least there is far less to complain about on these machines. The old AIRs had lots of problems. It willbe interesting to see how they sell once they get past early adopter stage. I think it will be pretty good as the machine is now appealing to a much wider audience. It will be interesting to see if processor performance becomes a long term sales issue.
post #32 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I find it funny I started a thread when the original Air came out saying 'I redesigned the MacBook Air' - with a crude mockup of the side of the machine without that trap-door, and instead a flat side with the ports in it. People here called me all sorts of names, and said I was crazy and didn't have a clue.

Then, behold; the new Air is actually like that. It feels good to be right, knowing pretty much everyone said I was dead wrong about that door. Thank you, Apple!

Love to see this thread. People may have disagreed with certain aspects of your design, but not the removal of the trapdoor.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

It's obvious: Lion will be sold on USB sticks, only.

Only? Ive been an advocate of putting Mac OS X on flash for years now, have done exactly that with an SD card, and even gone so far as to remove the optical drive from my MBP but I think its possible that Apple may still release Lion next summer optical media, too. Its not ODDs wont exist for the majority of users even if they have removed ODDs from their notebook line up by then and there is still Remote Disc Sharing. The cost of a DVD v. flash is high, its the cost of an ODD v. flash isnt, not to mention the space savings. I think its possible it could be on both.


Quote:
Originally Posted by astrosmash View Post

I don't like that power button so close to the delete key. I hit the eject key by accident all the time; if that was a power button that would be very annoying.

This shouldnt be an issue. You cant simply hit the Eject Button and have it respond. You have to be pressing the button for certain amount of time so accidental presses shouldnt affect it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by akf2000 View Post

What about the speakers volume?

Very good for such small machines.
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post #33 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Well at least there is far less to complain about on these machines. The old AIRs had lots of problems. It willbe interesting to see how they sell once they get past early adopter stage. I think it will be pretty good as the machine is now appealing to a much wider audience. It will be interesting to see if processor performance becomes a long term sales issue.

I think they will sell well. These are very cheap compared to the original. Apple first used a milled chassis with the original AIR, the CPU package cost about $100 according to Intels price list for non-SFF version. I think there will be plenty that want a simple computer thats highly portable will dig these and since the average APR is several hundred above the entry point instead of $1000 below (gross estimate) I think they will be a winner for Apple and users.


PS: I still cant find a vendor that even comes close to these machines. Even the Atom based Sony Vaio is $300 more. I look forward to comparison testing.
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post #34 of 186
The first picture comparing the two MBAs screen size using the Apple home page is not quite fair. The 11 inch MBA is showing tabs in Safari and the 13 inch is not making the screen look more vertically challenged than it really is. Plus, it looks like the dock icons are larger in the 11 inch model when compared to the 13 inch one.
post #35 of 186
Just got back from the San Francisco flagship store. Had to see the new Macbook Airs for myself. When I finally got to try one out, I actually had to look twice at it as I thought it was the prior MBA. It's nice to know they kept most of the design identical to my current MBA. I shut it down and restarted it, took about 15 seconds from power-off to desktop. The speed of the unit was very impressive and quiet due to the lack of hard drive and no need to kick the fans in.

Looks like it's time to retire my 1st gen MBA. It did its job well but I can't walk away from the increased speed, battery, faster graphics, and speed-demon flash drive.

With the top of the line 256GB drive and Nvidia, I can finally use both Windows XP and Windows 7 on my VMware setup in addition to OSX and still have plenty of mobile room to spare.
post #36 of 186
I am very tempted by this machine, especially the 11 inch but I can't get past the removal of the lighted keyboard. That is the one thing that holds me back. I'll be sticking with my current MBA and see what the future holds.
post #37 of 186
Perhaps it depends on your mode of commuting whether these appeal to you. If you drive to work and only carry your laptop from house to car and car to office, I can see why one wouldn't value the light weight of the MBA. Those of us who use public transportation and walk significant distances look for ways to shave pounds and ounces off our load wherever we can. I'm looking forward to going from my 3 pound first-gen MBA to the new 11" version.
post #38 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by halhiker View Post

I am very tempted by this machine, especially the 11 inch but I can't get past the removal of the lighted keyboard. That is the one thing that holds me back. I'll be sticking with my current MBA and see what the future holds.

One review stated the keyboard travel was less than the other Keyboards Apple offers. I have to think that it's a space issue that made it impossible to add this time around. While it's a nice feaupture to have I don't consider it a deal breaker as the backlit display should illuminate the keys well enough in a pinch. I think the worsened feel of the keyboard is of more concern.
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post #39 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by halhiker View Post

I am very tempted by this machine, especially the 11 inch but I can't get past the removal of the lighted keyboard. That is the one thing that holds me back. I'll be sticking with my current MBA and see what the future holds.

That's what I want someone to comment on: are the new MBA keys better in low light than the current back-lit version (when not backlit). That is, is the lettering a real white or transparent like on the backlit version?
post #40 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

One review stated the keyboard travel was less than the other Keyboards Apple offers. I have to think that it's a space issue that made it impossible to add this time around. While it's a nice feaupture to have I don't consider it a deal breaker as the backlit display should illuminate the keys well enough in a pinch. I think the worsened feel of the keyboard is of more concern.

In my previous post, I mentioned that for the first few moments, I thought I was using the "old" MBA. That also included the keyboard. I didn't find any noticeable difference with the keyboard compared to my 1st-gen MBA. That's how close they kept it. I myself was not bothered by the keyboard. Felt the same to me.
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