Apple MacBook Air 13-inch Review

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Apple MacBook Air 13-inch Laptop Specifications

Brand: Apple
Model: MacBoook Air 13.-inch
Operating system: Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard
Processor / Graphics: Intel Core 2 Duo running at 1.86MHz (also available at 2.13GHz)/NVIDIA GeForce 320M w/256MB Shared Video Memory
Memory: 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM (also available with 2GB)
Hard drive: 128GB SSD (also available with 256GB SSD)
Display / Resolution: 13.3-inch LED backlit glossy display with 1440×900 resolution
Removable Storage: none, optional Apple SuperDrive for DVD/CD burning
Wireless Support: Wireless-A+B+G+N and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Input Devices: Full-size keyboard, Multitouch trackpad with gesture support
Power: 50-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery ( cheap laptop battery ) for up to 7 hours, 30 hours in sleep
Memory card reader: SD Card Reader
Ports: Headphone, MagSafe power connector, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort
Audio: Stereo speakers and omnidirectional microphone
Weight: 2.9 lbs.
Dimensions: 12.8 in x .11 (front)/.68 (back) in x 8.94 in
Webcam: FaceTime Camera

The 2010 MacBook Air from Apple is now available in two different sizes, with 11-inch and 13-inch displays, and four standard configurations. With the latest MacBook Airs, Apple has lowered prices while providing new features and capabilities that road warriors, who are the target audience for the MacBook Air, will enjoy.

New to the MacBook Air is flash memory (SSD) in place of a standard hard drive. Storage ranges from 64 GB to 256 GB, and provides some interesting improvements, including almost instant-on and vastly superior data access speeds. It’s also incredibly rugged compared to hard-drive-based storage.

The 13.3-inch Apple MacBook Air is an excellent mixture of beautiful design and function. The larger of the two new MacBook Air notebook computers from Apple is thin, light, and capable. It gives new meaning to the term ultra portable. Even though it is small and light, the MacBook Air is also fast and can handle most day-to-day tasks it’s owner will throw it’s way. With long battery life, people on the go will get a lot of use out of Apple’s new wonder.

Design

While the 13-inch MacBook Air is as tall and wide as the 13-inch Pro, it weighs just 2.9 pounds and tapers from an astonishingly thin .11 inches to .68 inches. The last-generation 13-inch Air measured .76 inches at its thickest point and weighed 3 pounds, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 4.5 pounds and has a profile of .95 inches. Only the 13-inch Sony VAIO Z (3 pounds, 1.3 inches) and Toshiba Portege R700 (3.2 pounds, .6 to 1 inches) come close to the 13-inch MacBook Air in terms of portability, though both of those machines include an optical drive.

Apple achieved this weight loss by eschewing the traditional hard drive enclosure and putting the flash memory chips right on the logic board, resulting in a storage design that’s 90 percent thinner and lighter. In addition, the lid now employs Apple’s unibody design, which results in 80 fewer parts.

The all-aluminum design is certainly beautiful, sturdy, and a cinch to tote. However, frequent fliers (and others who work in tight quarters) might find that the 13-inch Air’s height and depth make it a tight fit on an airline tray, especially when the person in front of you reclines. For example, while the Air has a 12.8 x 8.9-inch footprint, the VAIO Z measures 12.4 x 8.3 inches and the Toshiba Portege R700 is 12.4 x 8.9.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Given its fairly large footprint, it’s not much of a surprise that the 13-inch Air features a full-size keyboard. Although the keys don’t offer a ton of travel, we found the chiclet-style layout to be comfortable and typed this review quickly. We also continue to appreciate the dedicated keys for adjusting volume, brightness, and activating Expose and Dashboard. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to give up the MacBook Pro’s backlit keyboard to have a notebook this portable.

At 4.3 x 3 inches, the glass touchpad on the 13-inch MacBook Air is absolutely huge, yet it never got in our way when typing. It was highly accurate and offered smooth scrolling with two fingers. Pinch to zoom works better on this laptop than any Windows system. Other welcome multitouch gestures include a four-finger swipe downwards to minimize all apps and swiping sideways with four fingers to switch between open apps.

Display

The MacBook Air display has a beautiful 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with a really high resolution of 1440×900. At that level you would think that text would be hard to read. While I recognize that people with sight problems might struggle – with healthy eyes, everything looks crisp and sharp. For others using Mac OS X’s tweaking tools text can be enlarged and it will be quite readable on the sharp display.

The viewing angle is insanely wide. I could position myself almost 90 degrees to the right or left and still read the contents of the screen. Video looks rich and while I didn’t really play any games on it, because that is not what this is for, I am sure simple games able to run on integrated graphics cards would look good.

Battery Life

Apple promised that the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro should get up to seven hours of battery life. I was reading reviewers saying that number was either accurate or even low. So when I did my first KODAK klic-7001 battery test the night I got the machine, the battery lasted on about three and a half hours. I was really disappointed. I did another test with the screen’s brightness way down, Bluetooth off, and Wi-Fi off except for when I needed it to get online. Again I was only getting around four hours. There was a real problem.

After some research, I found that Apple recommends a battery calibration every so often. So I followed their steps which include charging the battery until the indicater light on the MacSafe adapter turns green. Then run the computer plugged in for two hours. After two hours, unplug it and drain the battery. After the computer shuts itself off due to a dead battery, let it sit for five hours before plugging it back in and charging it again.

Since running the calibration procedure, the battery life is much better. i still have not achieved seven hours, but I keep my display turned up to at least 80 percent most of the time.

The battery life is excellent and this means that with my lifestyle I can carry a fully charged computer out of the house in the morning and not have to bring the power adapter. Some might complain because the battery is not user replaceable, but I seldom every changed the battery on my previous PC laptops.

Video

Watching a DVD is impossible unless you add an external optical drive. Apple makes one for the MacBook Air, but most of the software I install is downloaded. And most of the videos I watch are online. The MacBook Air handled hulu without any problems. I watched an episode of The Good Guys on hulu and some podcasts from Twit downloaded via iTunes. I also viewed some YouTube videos and some that I created and edited on the machine. All of them look good. The blacks are dark and the contrast is good. There was no stuttering at all. It looked like I was watching TV, even better at times since my DirecTV receiver is not working right lately.

Audio

Since the MacBook Air doesn’t have noticable speakers, I expected sound to be muffled. Instead it is strong and loud. Sure it could be better if Apple put some expensive speakers in the thing and made openeings for the sound to escape the case. But despite the speakers being behind the aluminum case, they sound pretty good. Plugging in headphones produces good quality audio as well.

Verdict

Apple has made the MacBook Air line relevant again with its new 11-inch and 13-inch models. And between those two systems, we think the 13-inch model is a better buy. Although it costs $300 more, this $1,299 ultraportable is faster, includes an SD Card slot, packs in more flash storage, has a higher resolution display, and lasts 1.5 hours longer on a charge. For us, that’s the difference between an excellent and a superior ultraportable. We’d also rather carry this notebook than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, despite the Air’s somewhat slower performance.

If you’re comparing Windows and TOSHIBA satellite 2430 battery Mac laptops, the Toshiba Portege R705 ($799) is a compelling choice. It’s almost as thin and light as the 13-inch Air and sports a faster Core i5 CPU and a DVD drive. The Core i5 version we reviewed costs $1,299, the same as this MacBook. However, that notebook doesn’t offer Nvidia graphics, has a lower-res screen, and doesn’t have the best ergonomics. The Editors’ Choice-winning Sony VAIO Z is even better, thanks to its 1600 x 900 display, dual SSDs, backlit keyboard, and Core i5 CPU, but that ultraportable starts at $1,799.

Overall, the 13-inch MacBook Air represents a remarkable achievement. It’s light enough to take anywhere yet delivers an unbeatable combination of comfort, responsiveness, and endurance for a system in this size and price range.

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