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Portables Portables (Apple) Upgrades Apple Hardware

Early Review of 11" Macbook Air 348

adeelarshad82 writes "Apple's latest entry into the ultraportable space is no netbook, even though it's the closest the company has come to making one. Its chassis is, amazingly, even thinner than the original MacBook Air, with a screen two sizes smaller. Moreover, the MacBook Air's 11.6-inch widescreen is not the only first for Apple; so is its 1,366-by-768 resolution. Although Apple found a way to squeeze in two USB ports and a speedy solid-state drive (SSD), the MacBook Air (11-inch) is not nearly as feature-packed or as fast as the rest of the MacBook family, primarily because its 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) processor is running on previous-generation Intel technology. Still, it will give the latest batch of Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) laptops a run for their money."
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Early Review of 11" Macbook Air

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  • I dunno man (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:19PM (#33974882) Homepage

    I like having a thin laptop, but I think this one might be a bit too thin. There comes a point where sturdiness plays a role. Even if it's as solid as a rock, I would constantly be worried about it being cracked due to it's crazy-thin profile.

    I like the fact that it comes with a USB stick instead of the standard "recovery disc"...good call on that one, Apple.

    • Re:I dunno man (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:33PM (#33975086) Journal
      I don't really see the attraction of thin laptops. Small, yes, but I don't think the thickness of a laptop has been the limiting factor in portability for me since my 386 laptop. A few centimetres is fine. I'd be really excited by something like the MacBook Air where the top and bottom halves both folded in half again so you got something the same thickness as a normal laptop but half the top area when it was completely folded, but the Air seems to have the same portability limitation as my current laptop: I could only take it somewhere where I'm taking a reasonable sized bag. Fold it in half, and I could fit it into a large coat pocket.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by symes ( 835608 )
        I was thinking the same - and what seems to be missing is that you still need to carry around a great big charger, possibly a spare battery, headphones, books, papers, umbrella, and other gubbins truly roaming office workers need all in one big bag. So a couple of mills here and there might look good, but is it that important? I've just got one of the new sony vaio z ultra portables (ssd, i7, hdmi, etc., etc.), with a docking station widescreen monitor and chunky external keyboard it works very well as a de
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Graff ( 532189 )

          was thinking the same - and what seems to be missing is that you still need to carry around a great big charger, possibly a spare battery, headphones, books, papers, umbrella, and other gubbins truly roaming office workers need all in one big bag. So a couple of mills here and there might look good, but is it that important?

          To be fair Apple has made some major strides in cutting down the size of chargers and if you are only going out for lunch or a few hours then you don't even need that since the Apple laptops have been getting up to 10 hours on a charge under moderate usage. You can't change out the battery so you don't carry around a spare. Books and papers are becoming scarcer since the use of e-books and the like have become popular.

          Believe it or not, even shaving off a small percentage of size and weight does make a diff

      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        folding the display is probably not going to happen so what you really want is a rolled up screen. _Then_ you can have the keyboard and planar board folding up and making it all much more portable. We're not there yet so it's a large thin bag for now.

      • I agree, thinness is probably overrated, but lightness isn't. Since we don't have flexible high-res screens, however, the "fold-in-half" laptop isn't going to show up any time soon.

        I have an original MacBook Air, and absolutely love having a full-size notebook in such a lightweight package. I really value the full-sized screen and keyboard, and I bought a very small bag that's easy to carry along with me. Now when I'm out and about, I'm carrying a laptop *and* case that is smaller and lighter than most la

    • I like the fact that it comes with a USB stick instead of the standard "recovery disc"...good call on that one, Apple.

      Don't go giving Apple credit for developing this novel installation method; us hackintosh users have been using this method for almost two years to install OS X onto our (non-Apple) netbooks!

    • by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:41PM (#33975218)
      Yes, good call. Including a recovery disk with a laptop that doesn't have a disk drive would certainly have been questionable.
      • Re:I dunno man (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rynor ( 1277690 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:45PM (#33975288)
        Toshiba does this, I got one with my NB-100 netbook without a cd/dvd drive.
      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:06PM (#33975590) Homepage

        Yes, good call. Including a recovery disk with a laptop that doesn't have a disk drive would certainly have been questionable.

        You laugh, but sometime in the late 90s, I took delivery of a new Sun workstation.

        It had no OS installed, didn't come with a CD-ROM, and had a CD to install Solaris shipped with it. So, it wasn't actually possible to install the OS.

        It took us six-months for the company to buy us a CD-ROM for it so we could install the OS. It got named "anchor" since it spent several months essentially being useful as just that.

        What you describe isn't unprecedented.

      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        My EEE came with a disc. My Revo nettop, which has no optical drive, only came with a utility which allows you to create your recovery discs. I had to install a virtual DVD drive to "burn" them; if I ever need them, then I'll have to buy or borrow an external drive.

      • Re:I dunno man (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @02:37PM (#33977376) Homepage Journal

        You may laugh, but it seems pretty common practice. I got myself an Acer Timeline 1810TZ (dinky 11" with the same duallie as the Air) for the small size and awesome battery life... it didn't come with a recovery disc, but software to allow you to burn your own recovery discs, on a machine without an optical drive. I was a little flabbergasted - you couldn't even say "just make an ISO or a backup file and I'll copy it somewhere on the network", it wouldn't even start the process without a DVD burner attached.

        Thankfully I never plan on using the default image, and I replaced the HDD with a 120GB SSD and installed from scratch (Acer provide all the drivers and utilities, but none of the bundled crapware, on their website), but it's an idiotic "recovery" measure for anyone who isn't a geek.

    • by eebra82 ( 907996 )
      On the other hand, I would love to break into the Apple storage facility and put recovery DVDs with every Macbook Air. Heck, I'd even throw in a coupon for an external DVD player.
    • I like the fact that it comes with a USB stick instead of the standard "recovery disc"...good call on that one, Apple.

      This could well be a step towards using hardware dongles as the primary method of distributing MacOS on all platforms, even those with optical drives. Every Mac comes with a "restore" dongle, major upgrades like 10.7 are sold as an "install" dongle. For now it's a standard read-only flash drive, but the option is there to lock it down further to Apple hardware if it seems like it's worth it, just to stick it to the hackintosh crowd. (They'll still find a way, of course -- lots of folks don't even bother wit

    • Actually when you receive yours by courier, the envelop (the term is 'carrying case') is specially marked DO NOT DISPOSE because the air bubbles are a feature, though external, to the Air, and which should eliminate the need for shopping for a clumsy looking backpack for such an elegant product.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      The top of the MBA is extremely susceptible to dents. Expect damage. I don't know how that effects warrenty. The side and top bottom half of the MBA, and I am sure this is the same, are thick and rigid and provide much of the structure.. They do not tend to show damage after a dent. The hinges, on the other hand, are unreliable. Let us hope the fixed these.

      As far as the other complaints, the MBA is not built for speed. It is slow. At times it just sits there and thinks. There is no such thing as a

  • Cool, an Ipad with a real keyboard.

  • Not a netbook? What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WilyCoder ( 736280 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:20PM (#33974904)

    And why exactly is the new 11" Air *not* a netbook? Sounds like we are mincing words here...

    Its a damn netbook, and not even a full year after Steve claimed at the iPad keynote that netbooks have no use...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

      small, lightweight, and inexpensive. two out of three doesn't cut it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So if Newegg decides to charge $1000 for an Eee, it's no longer a netbook. Got it.

        • Obviously. If you take "inexpensive" as part of the definition, which I clearly do. of course other people might a say >10" screen isn't a netbook as well.

          There is after all no authority declaring what the word means.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rotide ( 1015173 )
        Take any netbook on the market and charge $1000 for it. Is it now not a netbook?
        • by bonch ( 38532 )

          That's correct. A netbook is supposed to be an inexpensive little internet laptop. $1000 is no longer fitting the spirit of the definition.

    • And why exactly is the new 11" Air *not* a netbook? Sounds like we are mincing words here...

      The reason I think an £849 Apple 11" Air is not a netbook is the same reason I think a £1,089 Sony 11" X-Series is not a netbook.

      (hint: You can pick up a Windows 7 netbook for about £250)

    • by bonch ( 38532 )

      This is being positioned by Apple as a normal laptop with a unique, ultra-mobile design that will form the basis of their future laptops. I think Steve Jobs was commenting more on the tiny machines that underwent compromises in capability and user experience to become affordable. Many netbooks are a bit of a chore to do the simple tasks they're designed for. Apple believes that the iPad is a better deal for that price range and demographic.

    • Intel's netbook definition [] would exclude the 11.6 Air on the basis of size and sufficient CPU power for multitasking and HD video. [] The flash storage is certainly netbookish, but 64 gigs used to be a big hard drive.

      I've had an 11.6-inch Acer for about a year now, running Ubuntu. I love it. Small enough to take, big enough to use. But I don't know what to call it except "perfect size." Nice for Apple that they are finally catching up. Too bad it costs two and a half times what I paid.

    • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:37PM (#33975152) Journal

      Its a damn netbook, and not even a full year after Steve claimed at the iPad keynote that netbooks have no use...

      It's twice as fast than an Atom-based netbook on the CPU alone, not counting the SSD, with (at least) 2 GB RAM...

      Netbooks are sluggish things often running XP because they can't even run Windows 7 well.

      It has one thing in common though: Screen size.

      But netbooks got their names because they can basically only surf the web, unlike this one.

      • by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:56PM (#33975438)

        But netbooks got their names because they can basically only surf the web, unlike this one.

        I've been using a netbook as my primary work computing device since last March. People tend to snub netbooks because they're "underpowered", without considering what they're underpowered to actually do.

        You're not going to play high end games on it, but I use autocad, do DVD transcoding, email, excel...everything I need to do for my job works just fine. This macbook has better specs in some areas, but my netbook blows the doors off of it in practicality, and the macbook isn't going to get my work done any more efficiently than the netbook that cost 1/3 as much.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by monopole ( 44023 )

          Quite true, I've been using a EEE 1000HAB ($179 off of woot) with the memory upped to 2GB hooked to a 23" monitor w/ a USB key as my sole "Windows Box" to write a 40 Page proposal which had to be in a ".doc" format. I ended up doing all the illustrations using Poser, DIA and GIMP. It worked fine for this role, perhaps a tad less snappy than a full out computer but perfectly fine for my purposes. It's thin enough and light enough to toss in my big bag or a netbook bag. In fact I prefer just tossing it in my

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          You run Autocad on a netbook?
          You must only do 2D and must only use it to look at floorplans!
          I used SoildWorks 2005 and had to upgrade my video card and RAM way past what a netbook can be expanded to do even light 3d work.
          That and the resolution and size of the screen would make me question your statement. If you are doing anything real with Autocad Yes going to C2D and an Nvidia gpu will make you a lot more productive. And unless you work for free it will pay for it's self in a short amount of time
          Frankly Y

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by indiechild ( 541156 )

          You use AutoCAD productively on a netbook? Surely you're not doing it professionally, i.e. to earn money. I would find that hard to believe, seeing as a netbook is damn slow. I bought an Eee PC 901 a few years ago and it was essentially a wasted purchase -- the machine is too sluggish even for casual web browsing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by MBGMorden ( 803437 )

      It's not a netbook because such comparisons would not reflect favorably on the unit's price.

      Now cue a zillion Apple supporters explaining just exactly WHY this unit is clearly what everyone should want, and that if you don't want this device you're obviously stuck in the past and just not doing things right. And of course, this is probably ACTUALLY cheaper than netbooks because it has some useless obscure feature that you have to pay twice as much for on a netbook (the fact that for the features that matte

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Well, it's using a C2D instead of an Atom, so that's one strike against it. It also has something resembling a real graphics chip instead of the normal integrated Intel crap, so that's two strikes. It's also $1000 or more, which is three strikes. Seems closer to a subcompact notebook than a netbook, even if that distinction is splitting hairs a bit. I could probably go either way, but since Netbook generally implies a <$500 price point I would be reluctant to lump this in with other netbooks.
    • I have an Acer One. It has a screen that is only 600 pixels tall which makes most browser use a pain in the ass. It comes with 1g memory and supports a maximum of two gig. It is tiny but its not thin. It is powered by an Atom processor, weak internal Intel Graphics, and has a 4200rpm drive (120 or 160, I forget - its fairly large). Comparing this to the MBA 11.6. The new MBA has better processor power, incredibly better graphics ability, and its damn small. It also appears more sturdy than netbooks w

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1) because it has a real laptop processor in it...netbooks are usually characterized by their anemic Atom processor.
      2) because it is too thin and high quality to be a netbook
      3) because it has a full sized keyboard and a large touch pad

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Locutus ( 9039 )
      because Microsoft and Intel have _defined_ what their manufacturers can call a Netbook and the press follow that. It used to be it could only have 1 CPU, less than 10.1" screen, and not more than 1GB of RAM. I think Microsoft and Intel allow 2 cores now but I think the screen size and RAM are still limited at their previous sizes.

      If any of you are old enough to recall when the laptop displays hit 12" it was the beginning of really usable portable computers because the keyboard could be full size. IBM had ev
    • The border between netbooks and subnotebooks has become kinda fluid. But at least this one doesn't come with a toy CPU.

  • Meh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:21PM (#33974906) Journal
    I'm typing this on a Mac Mini (running FreeBSD), but still the MB Air seems like a lot of money to me for a netbook running OS X. Especially when you see how nice Ubuntu is (for n00b types, anyway) on a netbook that costs half as much or less...
    • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:32PM (#33975076)

      I'm typing this on a Mac Mini (running FreeBSD), but still the MB Air seems like a lot of money to me for a netbook running OS X. Especially when you see how nice Ubuntu is (for n00b types, anyway) on a netbook that costs half as much or less...

      Of course it's a lot of money, we're talking about the top 5% of the laptop market. They really couldn't give a crap about us; the 0.1% of the market who build their own machines and recompile the kernel.

      • by Ryvar ( 122400 )

        Speaking as someone who builds his own machines and rolls his own BSD kernels... the Macbook Air is pretty awesome for certain uses. Specifically: it is, by far, the best subway commute laptop I've ever had. Perfect balance of screen/keyboard size, extremely low weight, and it runs Minecraft wonderfully smoothly (especially if you install a 3rd party SSD in lieu of Apple's traditionally slow ones). Even after two years of extremely heavy usage, it has more than enough battery life for max screen brightne

    • It competes with the Viao-Z and other CULV high-margin lightweight laptops.

      Netbooks, from my direct experience, have major issues with hardware quality (trackpad false clicks, keyboard crammed, screen too small, you name it). An Atom chipset does not compare to C2D+320M in capability.

      Even when running the nice Ubuntu Unity, the hardware quality really does the OS no favors. I don't see the use of having to plug in a mouse to avoid the false-click-fest. Let's just assume that Win7 (No) Starter is not a o

    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      And exactly when was the last time Apple built hardware for the cost-conscious consumer?

      Like all Apple hardware, it's aimed at people who appreciate the design and damn the price.

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:21PM (#33974920) Homepage Journal

    Just because someone says it isn't a netbook doesn't make it true.

    • by bonch ( 38532 )

      A $999 netbook? Part of the definition of netbooks is that they're inexpensive.

      • by rotide ( 1015173 )
        Apple says they don't see the point in netbooks. How can we release a netbook without being hypocrites? Ahh, we see netbooks, by definition aren't cheap. Throw a $1000 tag on there.. Done! not a netbook! It walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bonch ( 38532 )

          Did you ignore what I wrote? The MacBook Air is $999 and uses a Core 2 Duo instead of an Atom. The point Apple didn't see in netbooks is that they were cheaply made and underpowered for the tasks they're trying to accomplish with an affordable price. To them, the iPad is a better deal and a better experience. You're free to disagree, but the MacBook Air is still not a netbook.

          • by rotide ( 1015173 )

            No, I didn't ignore what you wrote.

            A $999 netbook? Part of the definition of netbooks is that they're inexpensive.

            So if Apple wants to release a netbook without it being a netbook, all they have to do is jack the price up. It's a netbook with a stupid high price tag. Putting a C2D in a netbook a couple years ago would have made it too expensive, today, those chips are cheap and can fit the bill the atom did before.

            It walks like a duck. It quacks like a duck. Apple says it's not a duck. It's not a duc

      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        ah yes, the good old days when the netbooks cost less than $300. Those were the good old days alright and they seem to be long gone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )
      But "netboook" is basically a meaningless marketing term anyway. If we didn't listen to marketers, we wouldn't call it a netbook.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rotide ( 1015173 )
        Pretty much agree, however, netbook more defines a class of laptop. One that generally has good battery life/low power, more portable than a normal laptop and cheap. If this new mac isn't a "netbook" then it's clearly an underpowered laptop. A $1000 underpowered, magical laptop.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nine-times ( 778537 )

          It's not that underpowered. It has fast internal storage and a decent amount of RAM. The processor is well below the top of the line, but probably still faster than the top of the line from a few years ago. It's going to be a hell of a lot faster and more capable than most netbooks on the market.

          "Netbook" is a very vague marketing term that's supposed to define a class of laptop, but it's kind of like talking about "cloud computing" or "Web 2.0"-- people disagree about what the term actually means. By

  • Why it has Core 2's (Score:5, Informative)

    by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:23PM (#33974948)
    In case you're interested, Ars has a good piece [] on why Apple chose the Core 2 instead of an i-series chip. Basically it boils down to

    a) Graphics performance. The integrated graphics on the i-series can't touch Nvidia's 320M, and Nvidia hasn't come out an equivalent for Arrandale yet.

    b) Arrandale needs a separate memory controller, and there's no room for it on the MBA's tiny motherboard.

    Good points, though I still want to see head-to-head performance numbers to see if the choice was a good one.
  • Netbook Pro (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:25PM (#33974992)
    No ethernet? No laptop.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by plalonde2 ( 527372 )
      Because you keep your laptop tethered?

      Wifi actually works.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ant P. ( 974313 )

        Except when you try to connect to a WPA station with the same SSID as a WEP station, and the network settings window hangs with a spinning beachball.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Or maybe in some places people will use a network cable because there is no wifi? Having options is good.

  • So, it's pretty much just like a Lenovo Thinkpad X series laptop from 2 or so years ago - screen size

    Biggest quantifiable differences appear to be:

    * price (after two years of market change, you'd think the same thing would be cheaper)
    * no repairable/replaceable parts (battery, etc.) as is easily done on a Thinkpad
    * Ergonomics of the device itself
    * White instead of black
    * negligible external interface ports
    * thin enough it can tentatively be used to cut veggies in the kitchen or sever one's penis in an accid

  • I heard rumours of this system and held off on a new laptop purchase until after the announcement in the hopes they'd release something at a reasonable price tag and with hardware I'd like.

    And they didn't.

    $999 for the 11" cheap version of a system with a CPU that is already outdated? No thanks.

    Instead, I bought an ASUS U30Jc: Core I3, 4G of RAM, 13.3" screen, aluminum, replaceable battery, relatively light, albeit not as thin as the macbook, and all for $200 less. Throw in an SSD and we're still at $100 le

  • by topham ( 32406 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @12:40PM (#33975198) Homepage

    Is that what constitutes a review today?

    It reads like an ad for Toshiba. The battery life wasn't compared, they performed a test, declared it awful while acknowledging the test was completely unfair and they didn't do the same on the other devices compared. Statements like that in an article are intended to put a bad taste in someones mouth, while its dismissal is intended to imply they are being fair by not using it in the comparison.

    Complete lack of professionalism.

  • by barole ( 35839 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:22PM (#33975860)
    The air is not and has never been a desktop replacement machine. I have an original model and it is a great laptop if you are on the go and money is not an option. My biggest complaint with the original Air is that battery life is abysmal. It sounds like they have focused most on improving that. The other problem with the original Air was the price. Now, you may complain about the price of the new version, but the fact is they have brought it down quite a bit.

    Machines like this don't need the latest and greatest CPU. There were very few things that I do on my original air that tax its CPU. That's because I'm not editing video, etc on it. You basically have grown-up machine that you can do actual work on and it's not much bigger than an iPad.

    Do I see a need to have both an ipad and an air? Probably not. If you have an ipad already, then chances are you would be better served with a larger laptop.

    As far as the ethernet port. On a machine like this, it's not that important. I have a USB ethernet dongle and I've used it 2-3 times.

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @01:34PM (#33976086)

    ...a few words.

    First, all who are saying that thickness is unimportant should try one. This thing is thin and small enough to slip into a bag all by itself and once in there it's light enough you hardly notice it at all anymore. What's not to like about that?

    The keyboard is the same size as all Mac keyboards and feels very much the same, the trackpad the same width as in the other MacBooks but not quite as high. Works perfectly well though and I did not miss a mouse. The screen is a bit smaller of course, but has the same resolution as the 13" MB and MBP.

    The machine felt surprisingly snappy, the SSD and rather fast GPU seem to compensate for the not so fast CPU just fine.

    There's no TRIM support in the (Apple-branded) SSD according to System Profiler.

    All in all it feels like a real laptop when you use it and almost like nothing when you carry it. I liked it very much and had my credit card nearly jumping out of my pocket.

  • 11" Air + 27" iMac (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dwightk ( 415372 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @04:34PM (#33979176) Homepage Journal

    Costs around $250 less than a Maxed 15" Mac Book Pro

      (including Apple Care)

    Food for thought.

    Although that is mostly due the cost of the 512GB SSD in the MBP.

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