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Review of MacBook Air 11 Laptop

In the box:

  • Laptop;
  • Power adapter;
  • Power adapter extension cable;
  • System recovery USB drive;
  • User guide.

Having had ample experience with thin laptops, varying in the processor and amount of RAM used, I didn't expect anything good from the new MacBook Air. I didn't expect anything really new in the new Air. Just like the older models, I expected it to be slow, to overheat, and to turn even the simplest operations into an everlasting nightmare. During the summer, when Moscow was dying of heat, my Air was hardly showing any signs of life in a poorly ventilated room and it wasn't a bad configuration at all. It was very slow and I felt like putting it out of its misery.

In a word, I didn't expect the updated Air to be quick at all but am very happy to have been mistaken. The company decided to breathe new life into the series and they turned out to be successful. And even more than that! Let me provide you with some quick facts about the latest edition:

  • The most recent subnotebook from Apple is Powerbook G4, which has a 12-inch display and is still quite popular both among collectors and regular users. I have used it for some time myself and consider it to be a decent typing machine even these days. With that in mind, the 11-inch MacBook Air can be considered as a successor to the legendary Powerbook.
  • By the way, there are a lot of articles about the MacBook Air on our website, including reviews, an essay and an in-use.

Review of Apple MacBook Air

iMix N1


Equips MacBook Air

  • According to the sales reports, the 11-inch model is a real hit with the public. It is very difficult to buy one in Hong Kong as all the stock gets snapped up immediately. The consumers appear to be hungry for the regular form factor coupled with some decent performance.
  • When speaking of the Air, Apple tends to mention the iPad, and iPad owners tend to compare the Air to their tablet. I can see an interesting pattern here: I keep telling everyone that the Air turns on very quickly (almost as quickly as the iPad) and all programs load in no time (almost as fast as on the iPad). It looks like we got ourselves another benchmark. A similar model based on Windows can have a better battery life or a faster processor but will never stand the wake-up time comparison. Or, to be precise, no compact Windows laptop can get even close to the Air in this respect.
  • Some may find it strange but in my opinion, the 11-inch model shouldn't be considered inferior. It is more of a thing-in-itself, much more suitable for carrying around.
  • Surprisingly, Apple has managed to reanimate the Air. Many gave up on the lineup and some even thought that it would degenerate into tablets. But the Air blossomed, becoming Sony's headache. The VAIO products constitute a significant share of the U.S. market for portable business laptops. The Air became a competitor to the Z and X series, etc. offering both interesting features and an appealing price tag. You can find some more about the latter in the following material.

Out of the blue, Sony announces an 11-inch VAIO Y model based on the Intel Core i3 platform, which is not as elegant and affordable but "it's a Sony." It will find its customers. What is interesting in this situation is the very fact of such announcement akin to the "hey, we can do it too!!" outcry. I guess, they are poking the Air with needles and pouring some rooster blood on it now in the main office hoping that it vanishes. It goes without say that Apple knows how to give a slap in the face.

Build and Design

The new Air has a number of improvements over the predecessor, the most significant one being a metal unibody, which is very technological, light and durable. As far as I can tell, it also offers some protection from scratches as I did have a few occasions when the case could get scratched but it didn't. The laptop measures 1.7 х 29.95 х 19.2 cm and weighs 1.06 kg. It is very compact, doesn't have any protruding parts and looks like a stiletto when closed and viewed from the side. The weight distribution is good, that is, the Air is somewhat heavier at the back, which makes it easier to open the lid with just one hand and improves the overall usability. As far as the exterior is concerned, it is a typical Apple device. Everything is well thought out and there are no frivolities or useless trifles there. You get tight hinges, thin rubber lining around the lid, webcam eyelet, wide round "legs," etc.

It all is very neat and functional, no complaints there. The weight may not be the best for an 11-inch model but how many of those do you know with hardware specifications and materials like this? Personally I can't think of any.


The display is 11 inches wide, has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels and although the viewing angles are not the best, it makes a decent choice for regular use in the end. For video playback, it is an okay screen but not more than that. In my opinion, the display in the new Air is not an issue and I like it even more than the one used in the MacBook. It is okay and I don't really feel like complaining about anything.


Unfortunately, the keyboard is not backlit and, being used to having this feature, I find it somewhat strange not to see the familiar lights under the keys in the dark. They had to use very thin keys in the upper row, which wouldn't be much of a problem if only F1-F12 were affected. But they also did it to Esc, which is not good at all, as I'm always hitting the key right below it. In addition, it took me some time to find the power button, which is no different from the rest of the keys now.

And those are all the complaints I have. The keyboard is good for typing and the sharp edges didn't chafe my palms at all, which is probably due to the fact that I had to virtually embrace the device while using it keeping my palms above the palm rests most of the time. The keyboard doesn't require any special getting used to and provides enough comfort even if you have a lot of typing to do. In a word, it is a regular keyboard with a short key travel, large Enter and not without the arrow keys.


The laptop comes with a buttonless, all-glass touchpad, which is very good. It supports multi-touch that enables you to do a lot of interesting tricks such as, e.g., minimizing all applications at once or rearranging their miniatures. The touchpad is smooth and handy. I like it very much and you will, too, and will never be able to use other touchpads again (and that's the gospel truth).

Peripheral Connections

The Air is now equipped with two USB ports, and the 13-inch model even has a memory card slot in addition to that. The laptop also has a headphone jack, which seems to double as an external microphone port, MiniDisplayPort, and MagSafe, the traditional power connector that is held in place magnetically. There is no Ethernet port or HDMI out (unless you have an adapter) there, which some may not like. And after all, it is strange that the 11-inch model doesn't have a memory card slot. Why did they take it away?


The speakers are fairly quiet and can't provide adequate volume for video or music playback. Hence you may want to use some headphones. The older Air was better in this respect.


As it says in the description on the official website, it's all flash storage. You can have either 64 GB or 128 GB and I don't think that it is user upgradeable. Neither do I think that that is enough these days, especially if you take into account the capabilities of the new Air. While the predecessor was more of a typing machine, the new model can do much better than that. Therefore I would recommend you to go for the 128 GB version or at least learn to live with an external hard drive.

As you may already know, the flash storage makes the device significantly more reliable so that you don't have to worry about it going through your everyday routine.


The Air comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4 or 1.6 GHz processor, 2 GB RAM (can be upgraded to 4 GB but apparently not by the user), and NVidia GeForce 320M graphics chip. My unit had the 1.4 GHz processor and it worked like a charm. Browsing the Web or creating new documents – no problems there. I only could notice some lags when exporting movies from iMovie but that is something to be expected. You can be watching a movie and browsing the Web at the same time and the only side effect will be some extra heat. In comparison to the older Air, the new model is blazing fast.

And that will be it.

And yes, the device supports Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi with 802.11N. The Ethernet adapter is sold separately (in my opinion, it is a must have accessory).

Battery Life

The power brick is compact but larger than that of the previous model. The plug seems to be the same, apparently to prevent the cable from jutting out from the side to help save some space for the regular coffee house visitors.

Having fully charged the battery, I started watching "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which is 1 hour and 58 minutes long. The device was sitting on a couch (it eventually got warm, but that didn't affect the performance), with the brightness level set to the maximum and active Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The audio was going through the built-in speakers. When the movie was over, the battery charge indicator showed the following figures: 31% or 47 minutes.

The producer claims five hours with active Wi-Fi or up to 30 days of standby. The second figure is quite intriguing, since most laptop batteries keep losing energy even when the device itself is off. The new Air can stay for a day in your bag and you can be sure to have the same amount of battery power when you turn it on next time. The feature helps make your life easier and I pretty much like it.

If you set the brightness to 50 per cent (the screen will grow dim but you will still be able to work with it), you can expect the device to last for five hours. For example, once I had 69 per cent of the battery charge left and decided to decrease the brightness, which resulted in the increase of the expected runtime to four and a half hours (all with active Wi-Fi). It was, however, re-estimated to some three hours after a while.

As a conclusion, the battery life is quite good.

Remote Control

The original remote control won't work with the new Air, at least with the 11-inch model, which is a pity. On the other hand, the wired headset from the iPhone is fully functional and can be used for Skype conversations.


In comparison to the predecessor, the new Air:

  • Works faster!
  • Looks better
  • Has a better touchpad
  • Has two USB ports
  • Hardly makes any noise
  • Is hardly affected by the temperature regime
  • Has no moving mechanical parts
  • Is not just a typing or browsing device but a fully fledged working machine
  • Has a miniature power brick
  • Has a long battery life, especially in the standby mode
  • Has a unibody design, probably with some scratch protection

The display is not bad but nothing to write home about. The working speed can be seen in the video. The device is ready to work as soon as you open the lid. Who is the target audience? In my opinion, it is an excellent tool for journalists. The iPad doesn't have a keyboard and is much weaker in terms of functionality in general. Apple has proven that it is possible to create a compact laptop without a flavor of bitterness in it, not like the Sony VAIO X that would have it all if it weren't slow and fragile. The American company has managed to miniaturize the MacBook Pro without any serious compromises. If only they could throw in a 3G modem, backlit keyboard and a better display, it would be a killer device.

Anyway, the Air story is not over yet.

P.S. The recovery USB drive from the standard bundle has already become a popular tidbit among Apple fans and offers new market opportunities for other manufacturers. Interestingly enough, the original drive seems to have some protection that prevents it from being erased. Anyway, the owners shouldn't worry as they can always use it to recover the system.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion to be known to the author and everybody else.

Sergei Kuzmin (skuzmin@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Olexandr Nikolaychuk (meiam@inbox.com)

Published — 02 December 2010

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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