Macbook Air 11.6" Review

Macbook Air 11.6″ Review




Apple’s been touting the 2010 Macbook Air as the thinnest and lightest notebook ever. With the 11.6″ MBA out in stores and an entry-level unit coming in at Php52k, it’s actually one of the most affordable Macbook in Apple’s line-up. Check out our full review after the jump.

macbook air

The original Macbook Air almost got me, but the size and the prohibitive price was something I could not chew on. This is practically my first full review of any Macbook line so I don’t have any priors to compare it with. I have had short encounters with previous versions of Macbooks, Snow Leopard, and even applications like Aperture. They never really attracted me much to go and make the switch.

As such, I this that this purchase was prompted by the form-factor and system build rather than the Apple logo. That should put me in a safe position to objectively review the unit. Besides, I got it for a discounted price of Php45,000 at iStudio just to sweeten the deal.

Just like any other aluminum unibody Macbook, the new Macbook Air has a pretty solid build quality. The super-thin body might give it an impression that it’s fragile but on the contrary, it’s surprisingly sturdy and tough. I think it can handle some serious load or pressure with the aluminum body. I would not hazard a drop test but from the looks of it, the device can handle a good beating.

The Air is almost completely built out of aluminum — from the lid cover, to the bezel and keyboard panel and down to the bottom end. The display lid is lined with a thin strip of black rubber to serve as cushion when you close the lid while the bottom end has four large circular pieces of rubber padding on each corner. I was actually not expecting any screws in here (as the term unibody gives an impression it’s screw-less) but turns out around 10 small pieces of them are buried neatly around the back.

The full-sized keyboard features chiclet-type keys, a standard for all MacBooks, which are comfortable to use especially when you’re touch-typing (it’s the typical Macbook keyboard). The arrow keys at the bottom right corner are much smaller though and are cramped close to each other. The trackpad is large and easy to use; and also spacious enough for two-finger scrolling. One has to get used to the entire surface as the clicker though.

The Macbook Air addresses a specific need for a specific type of users. It’s not an end-all, be-all solution for an ultraportable computing device but it has great advantages as well as some shortcomings too.


 

The device is among the lightest we’ve used in the sub-notebook category. There’s the Core 2 Duo Acer Timeline that’s under 3lbs with the same 11.6″ form factor; and the Sony Vaio X which is ultra-thin but underpowered by an Atom Z processor and then the Vaio P which is the smallest and lightest but does not hold enough battery power to last 3 hours.

The 11.6″ Macbook Air fits somewhere in the middle — it’s very light at under 2lbs., good enough screen size and resolution at 1366×768, ultra-thin so you don’t need much extra space for it, enough processing power for HD video playback and other semi-intensive tasks and pretty good battery life which lasts between 4 to 5 hours on normal use (although one can easily extend that to 6 to 6.5 hours when not connected to the internet but I rarely do that on this machine).

It’s got its shortcomings as well, mostly due to the fact that Apple had to compromise some features over the form factor. For one, it doesn’t have a built-in LAN port so if you travel a lot, you might encounter the need to hook up to one when WiFi is not available. There’s not VGA or HDMI port either but all those extras can still be had if you get the appropriate accessories or adaptors for them (and that will cost you extra money too). It comes with the newer display port though.

As a long-time Windows-only user, I must admit there’s some learning-curve when shifting to a Mac. I realized it’s not that big of a deal although for those who missed the comforts of a Windows UI, one can always dual-boot using Bootcamp or run Parallels Desktop for Mac just to get to that familiar Windows environment.

The MBA’s internal specification isn’t that very impressive considering they used an old Intel chip (a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU 9400) instead of the faster and newer Coe i3 series. However, they’ve paired it with an NVidia GeForce 320M which is a decent graphics chip. That might seem like to good strike of balance between the CPU and GPU although I personally would have preferred a Core i3 380UM 1.4GHz with its built-in Intel HD Graphics. The latter combination might have helped extend the battery life a little longer too.

Storage is also another problem. The base configuration only comes with 64GB of SSD. That’s pretty small when netbooks these days come with 250Gb or 320GB storage. Upgrading to 128GB SSD is very expensive (~Php10,000) so the only work-around is to bring an external/portable USB HDD. The absence of a SD card reader is worth noting especially if you also own and use a camera a lot.

I have not clocked the boot time of other Mac laptops before but with this one, I’m pretty impressed with the 15 seconds of cold boot. Sleep mode to wake-up is like almost instant too (1 or 2 seconds tops). I haven’t encountered this kind of performance in any laptop before. I think it has got to do with the embedded SSD in the board. I’m really curious how it would perform in a Windows environment too (mostly the scores on Windows Experience Index). I’ll reserve that on another post and share my findings.

With a retail price of Php51,999, the Macbook Air 11.6″ is still on the expensive end of the price spectrum but I’d argue that it’s not the system build that you’re paying for but rather more on the design and engineering. The closest comparison I can think of is the Atom-powered Vaio X at Php65k. In my opinion, the 11.6″ Macbook Air is well worth the investment.



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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47 Responses

  1. Harley says:

    lovely and very well explained! i am still thinking of getting a mac very soon! My current lappy is taking so much energy!

  2. walang imik says:

    hay! ang sarap mag basa ng review,, gusto ko tuloy bumili nyan…

  3. Sylver says:

    cold boot for MBP is around 20-25 secs

  4. bench says:

    mas like ko padin ang HP DM1 ko…320GB…mahal kasi nito e…hu hu hu…

  5. Hehehe,still cant aff0rd to buy macbook air
    help me i want to buy cheaper netb0ok,its hard to ch0ose between e-machine or acer aspire one netb0ok that have price range of 13k to 20k only

  6. Gwapito says:

    My next laptop would a Mac, but not the Air.

  7. Paul says:

    > I personally would have preferred a Core i3 380UM 1.4GHz with its built-in
    > Intel HD Graphics. The latter combination might have helped extend the
    > battery life a little longer too.

    Actually the Intel Core 2 Duo + Nvidia graphics combination in the Air takes about equal or less power than if they put Core i3 + Intel graphics.

    Core i3 380UM – http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=50028
    Power consumption: 18 watts

    As compared to the Air,

    C2D SU9400 – http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=36697
    Power consumption for CPU: 10 watts

    Geforce 320M – successor of 9400M – http://www.notebookcheck.net/NVIDIA-GeForce-9400M-G.11949.0.html
    Apple MBP documentation notes that the 320M consumes “40 percent less power” than the previous generation – http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/performance.html
    Power consumption for GPU: 60% of 12 watts from 9400M = 7.2 watts

    Total power consumption for CPU + GPU in Air – 17.2 watts

    The Air does need longer battery life, but changing the CPU to low power Core i3 + Intel graphics isn’t the solution as low power C2D + Nvidia graphics yields about the same battery life but with much more performance.

    • yuga says:

      @paul – my source for 320M TDP is Wikipedia and puts two variants at 14watts and 20watts respectively (with dedicated RAM). Also the performance improvement of the Core i3 over Core 2 Duo could offset the difference between the Intel HD and the GeForce 320M.

  8. Jhay says:

    If I’m going to burn a hole through my wallet by getting a Mac, I’d make it more worth while with a MacBook or MBP. Gagastos ka rin naman, lubusin mo na. :P

  9. Thanks for the review…..the storage problem is a big letdown.

  10. GensanBoy says:

    Is it safe to say Welcome to the World of Macs? As usual your review is nicely done. Very concise and informative. Macs are indeed an awesome machine. Have fun exploring.

  11. nokia fanboy............. former says:

    for me it will be my second notebook for my travels,iPad for bathroom(joke joke) MBpro and iMac for home and office, looking to get a BTO 11.6″ 128gb soon :)

  12. LagaoLugaw says:

    for a gamer like me… this crappy… ^_^

  13. chacha says:

    …hay ang nipis nga ang nipis o angliit din ng HD space, parang pang porma lng yan. okay na ang macbook pro konti n lng ddadagdag mo. okay na din ung mac mini mas mura pa diyan…nice body though.

  14. manny says:

    the iMac boots up at 20secs, and shuts down instantly. and the transition to mac from pc wasnt difficult.

  15. Kyle says:

    deal breaker sakin ung processor na ginamit. As explained by sir yuga may i3 series na jan. I bet sa next release nila un ilalagay.

    Naisip ko na sa discount na un eh baka napabili na rin ako. Di na ako ngaun power user compared before, and If I am a power user i’ll invest to a more powerful desktop. Netbooks ang choice ko in terms of portability and it’s a big issue to me. Ganda pa ng form factor ng MAC, haven’t tasted a mac gear ever.

  16. PCWorld says:

    MacBook Air smokes high end netbooks on Windows 7

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone but PCWorld put the smaller, lighter MacBook Air up against the fastest PC Netbooks out there.

    Look here: http://www.9to5mac.com/36965/macbook-air-smokes-high-end-netbooks-on-windows-7

  17. PCWorld says:

    Nice review sir Yuga!

    MacBook Air smokes high end netbooks on Windows 7

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone but PCWorld put the smaller, lighter MacBook Air up against the fastest PC Netbooks out there.

    Look here: http://www.9to5mac.com/36965/macbook-air-smokes-high-end-netbooks-on-windows-7

  18. Paul says:

    @yuga

    The 320M Apple uses on their notebooks is an integrated card, and without dedicated memory.

    It is neither of the two 320M entries on Wikipedia: the first 320M is an integrated card but uses dedicated memory, and the second 320M is actually a GT 320M and a whole different video card altogether.

    The low power Core i3 is about 20% faster than the low power C2D in benchmarks, but overall performance in OS X would still favor the C2D + Nvidia graphics combination due to OpenCL, which enables Mac apps to tap the video card like a general purpose processor. It supports Nvidia graphics but not Intel graphics, and Intel does not plan to support it until their next generation of Sandy Bridge chips.

  19. Fleeb says:

    The faster boot has something to do with EFI. What I am afraid of is that it looks like it will break or something (because of the perceived thinness).

  20. Fleeb says:

    As for DisplayPort, I am with Apple on that one. VGA, DVI, and HDMI should be rid of in favor of DisplayPort and the upcoming HDBaseT. There are already adapters for VGA, DVI, and HDMI for DisplayPort.

  21. agvu says:

    nice review! i think in 2 -3 years SSDs will get cheaper. macbooks are great because of their engineering and their battery life. and as for me, macbooks provide a more productive and intuitive UI as compares to windows. I dual boot W7 and OS 10.6 so i would know. although there are some features that OS X still lacks that W7 has.

  22. Robin Lim says:

    Was thorn between the 11.6″ MBA with 128GB of storage or the 13.3″ MBA… I liked the size of the 11.6″ unit better, but in the end got the 13.3″ MBA because of the longer battery life.

  23. citroen says:

    Im a windows user DATI but when I got a Macbook pro 13.3 inches with intel core 2 duo 2.66 with 320 NVIDIA graphics, I will never go back to windows again.

  24. peeyaj says:

    I agree with Paul’s statement regarding Apple’s decision to stick with NVIDIA 320m. Intel and Nvidia have a licensing spat regarding the inclusion of Nvidia cards on Intel’s cpus . So, Apple decided to forego the i-series, in order to have a decent graphic cards which supports OpenCL, than Intel’s crappy graphic cards which have poor performance. (The increase of the board size would be a problem too if Apple would use the i-series and a separate gpu.)

    It’s a fair trade-off, with the SSD + 320m, offsetting any performance problem of the C2D.

    Here’s an interesting link about the performance of MBA done by Anandtech.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3991/apples-2010-macbook-air-11-13inch-reviewed/7

  25. Fernand says:

    Thanks to you Yuga, i got my MBA at iStudio Shangrila for 45k only..Never thought that they do give discounts for cas purchases before i read your first post about your MBA :)

  26. luckystrike says:

    Hi Fernand, Pwedeng malaman kung sino and kausap nyo sa iStudion Shang?
    Thanks.

  27. Fernand says:

    @luckystrike
    Secret..hehe ;)
    Just see it for yourself and you’ll be happy and suprised when you go there!!

  28. JaboSuba says:

    i wanna have sex with this laptop. heehee
    :)

  29. Wendal says:

    Will buy the next version with the i3 and integrated graphics

  30. Fernand says:

    Amzing, someone replied for me..
    @luckystrike: i forgot his name, but he was the only guy there. He first offered me 46k, then i mentioned about Yuga’s blog about the MBA purchased only for 45k. Eventually he said 45k is ok :) Hope that helps. Im happy with my MBA, also good for online games hehe..

  31. i guess the guy you mentioned in the store is yuga himself. he’s disguising as a salesboy then if you guessed he’s yuga then that’s it..LOL

  32. I just bought one of these on black friday! They are sooo light and convenient and at a great price too. I would definitely recommend this as a solid Christmas present.

  33. Norman says:

    Nice review, I love to switch from PC to Mac, problem is, its too expensive. Hopefully I can save my extra bucks for this. :)

    iPad,iPhone,iPod.

  34. Ferdinand Angeles says:

    wow! Ang nipis! Kasing nipis ng wallet ko

  35. NemOry says:

    anu kya ms mganda?Windows Os Or mac Os?hehe. . . .d pako nkatry mac. .hehe.

  36. rexor says:

    We all know that Apple(MAC)is one of the expensive brand on the hood. its noticeable that the design and specs of Mac is in a requisite quality. they insure that all of their model units are durable and well designed.

    More power and keep up the good work YUGA,… I’m your one of your reader. Thanks and more POWER!

    http://gadgetunlimited-zone.blogspot.com/

  37. mas like ko padin ang HP DM1 ko…320GB…mahal kasi nito e…hu hu hu…

  38. yehaa! got mine yesterday :).. Im pretty impressed however I dont quite feel that everything I need is being satisfied by this quite amazing little thing.. I miss bigger screen, some windows applications, sufficient number of usb ports and cd-rom. Btw, it doesnt have ethernet port for your rj45.. so there, you might wanna consider those things first.

  39. adam says:

    Nakita ko na actual unit nito sa Singapore. Short lang sa storage 128GB.

  40. diaslag says:

    I don’t mind the storage,I will only use it for paper works,hehehe but very cool laptop! I want to have one in the near future.

  41. Louie says:

    any of you guys experienced heating problems in new MBA 11″ and 13″

  42. Kilven says:

    Hi Sir Yuga,

    I’m planning on getting one at Istudio, ung discount ba na nakuha mo is for cash purchases? sa Shangrila istudio lng ba un? i’m planning sana sa High street the fort. eh.

    Thanks.

  43. Joe says:

    Wow! you are a great photo composer! (with a great macbook too!)

  44. Geraldo says:

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It
    truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I’m hoping to present
    something again and aid others like you aided me.

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