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back to article Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013: Windows struggles in Boot Camp

For years now, Apple’s MacBook Air has held its own as the ultimate in portability, inspiring the PC market to follow suit with the Ultrabook marque. While not all Ultrabooks attempt to ape the Air’s slimline form factor, they draw from the same line of Intel CPUs and often beat the iconic Apple on cost. Yet Apple has one trick …

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But why?

What's the point? You'll end up paying horrible Apple prices and get locked up proprietary hardware that's practically non upgradeable for the pleasures of Windows 7 which is about as likeable as CP/M on a CPC6128.

You can get a windows machine without all the bootcamp palaver and put OSX on it for cheaper so other that shoeing lil Timmy Cook what do you gain? Not that that in itself isn't a intent worthy of praise to be sure, but this must be the most expensive possible way to do it...

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Stop

Re: But why?

The point that seems to have skipped your notice is that Ultrabooks AREN'T significantly cheaper (indeed many are more expensive). If you want the combination of small, light, reasonable performance, long battery life and fast SSD then there's very little in the Windows world that can match it.

You can certainly find cheaper PCs, but their spec will be compromised in one way or another.

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Re: But why?

And lest we forget, you're not just limited to Windows 7 (which isn't half bad BTW) and putting a copy of OS X on a non-Apple machine is certainly breaking its licence terms.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But why?

Apple prices aren't really horrible. If you look on Newegg, the cheaper "ultrabooks" start at around $600 and are heavy, bulky, plasticy affairs with inferior i3 processors and they all get bad reviews due to poor trackpad/keyboard/screen/etc. quality. I would happily pay a few hundred extra dollars to get a laptop where all of its aspects are, if not ideal, at least pretty good.

On top of that, the market for used Apple products is very active and you can usually sell a MacBook after 3-4 years of use for more than half of what you paid for it. In my experience, the market for used PC laptops is pretty terrible and you'd be lucky to sell one for any money at all.

So if you buy Apple, it will be better and ultimately cheaper to own than a PC laptop, assuming you don't break it and it doesn't get stolen...

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Re: But why?

Whilst there are no "cheap" high spec'd ultrabooks, there are ones that cost marginally less, offer similar under-the-hood performance, are lighter and have vastly superior (touch) screens.

The problem regarding compromise is that some people take the Air as the yard stick by which to measure others. Unless another device has identical characteristics at a lower price the devotees scream "compromise".

For years the devotees bragged about the weight of the Air, citing superior Apple design and the use of aluminium. Then the likes of sony start to use the lighter/stronger carbon fibre, eventually getting to the point where you have the Vaio Duo 13: In part lighter because of the carbon fibre and a smaller battery. The smaller capacity battery offers less time between charges than the Air. Now the devotees cite battery life as being the most important metric, who cares about screen resolution (until a retina version is released).

Ok lets find another machine to compare to the Air, lets take the Vaio Duo 13. It has a larger battery which lasts longer than the Air's. The downside being that the unit weighs the same amount as the Air, but it still has the better screen. "No, no, no" (they cry) "it's not as good, it costs more than the Air".

In the event that someone apes the Air' design but making it cheaper, same specs otherwise though, the devotees will accuse them of being a cheap knock off (and then point out that it doesn't run OSX but some variation on W98).

The Air is a decent machine but for the majority of people it is not the "best".

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Re: But why?

The VAIO 13 is of course £500 more expensive than the 13 inch MBA, and the battery life numbers are a bit suspect - Sony quote 10 hours useage, playing video it's more like 6, only with the wireless off, screen turned down and doing almost nothing can it hit 15 hours.

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Re: But why?

Steve, you know that facts won't have any effect. Why bother at all.

The "Apple is expensive" mantra of the anti-Apple brigade seems to be disproved by the number of people quite willing to pay for them.

I always liked the VAIO range. I had a magnesium (?) bodied one back in the 400Mhz (forget CPU moniker) era and it was a terrific piece of kit, battery life could've been better (but back then nothing had decent battery life), but nothing touched it for ruggedness and portability. But, they were expensive and nothing seems to have changed - Sony charge top dollar for their top specced ulta-portable machines, they always have.

These days I have a 2010 MBA 11". Best piece of kit I ever owned and worth every cent I paid for it. I did get a student discount (kids, useful sometimes), but I don't think for 1 second it was overpriced.

Beer: Not just for breakfast any more.

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Pint

Re: But why?

"Apple is expensive"

Maybe that wasn't made clear enough.

"But I like it anyway".

That part is usually forgotten.

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Re: But why?

all manufacturer's quoted battery lives assume battery saving jiggery pokery.

I guess that you are referring to the Duo 13.

The Pro13 with the sheet battery is still cheaper than the MBA, results in an equal weight and longer life but does make the unit slightly thicker than the MBA.

Personally I don't need that extra capacity every day and like the option of sacrificing weight for battery life as and when it suits me. Although I would prefer the option of just having an extra removable battery.

If the Air had a comparable screen, it's battery life would be far, far less impressive. Again we have devotees defending the use of a lower resolution screen- "Apple understand that battery life is the most important thing, no one cares about weight and resolution quite as much. They can plug in a gazillion screens via Thunderbolt,.. blah, blah, blah". I guess resolution is no longer important since Apple lost that pissing contest to the pixel. (btw that was not aimed at you, I have seen that defence used a lot recently).

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Re: Then the likes of sony start to use the lighter

_Then_? Are you sure on that point? I have Sony X505ZP (approx.900g) and UX280P (about 500g), they both came out long before Macbook Air brand was even born.

"bragged about the weight of the Air" - what weight are you talking about? I have 2nd generation of Air (the one after the original Air), and it weighs about 1.36kg! It is definitely bulky and at the same time LCD/hinges feel flimsy and yes they are -- one of the hinges broke after 3yrs and Apple refused to fix it -- I did it myself. No such issues with any of my Sonys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Then the likes of sony start to use the lighter

"one of the hinges broke after 3yrs and Apple refused to fix it"

The wheel fell of my car after 7 years and Toyota refused to fix it.

You see what I did there?

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FAIL

Re: But why?

""Apple understand that battery life is the most important thing, no one cares about weight and resolution quite as much"

Yep, that's the size of it. I couldn't care less about the resolution - honestly, as long as it is enough to get my work done without eye strain. My MBA is a carry everywhere device for work and I am happy to give up resolution (pointless pissing competition for geeks) for battery life (something that makes a difference when a long way from a power supply. It makes absolutely no difference to me whether the resolution is higher or not - not a jot.

Judging by the runaway success of the MBA line, Apple seem to have judged correctly the optimum engineering trade off set for the target market. Geeks and nerds bragging about pixels are not the target market, nor are people doing high resolution image manipulation.

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Re: But why?

The Vaio 13 is £500 more expensive. Not it ain't.

the Pro13 is cheaper than the Air 13.

the top of the range Duo 13 is £290 more expensive but includes the better touchscreen, NFC, GPS etc.

btw Sony charge £40 for 4gb of extra RAM, apple charge £80, both use the same LPDDR3...

no idea where you got the battery life figures from, appleinsider?

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Re: Then the likes of sony start to use the lighter

"The wheel fell of my car after 7 years and Toyota refused to fix it.

You see what I did there?"

UK customers have the legal right to expect products to last up to 6 years, apple try to convince them that they only have one year so that they can sell them a limited insurance policy.

You see what I did there?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Then the likes of sony start to use the lighter

I somehow doubt that, or that it is relevant here. And as MAD magazin so rightly pointed out in an edition sometime in the 70s, "up to x times" clearly includes zero.

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Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

It doesn't have a touch screen making Windows 8 worthless.

If you want to run Windows 8 on something that looks like a Macbook and works properly with Windows 8 get an Asus Vivobook.

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Re: Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

umm. Windows 8 + worthless = a given

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Re: Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

Have you actually used it with a touch screen or are you just jumping on the Windows 8 hate bandwagon?

Also if it is so worthless why has the author of this article gone to the hassle of installing in on a Macbook?

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Re: Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

"Also if it is so worthless why has the author of this article gone to the hassle of installing in on a Macbook?"

Hello, you must be new here!

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Re: Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

Also if it is so worthless why has the author of this article gone to the hassle of installing in on a Macbook?

You'll notice that the author installed Windows 7. The 8.1 preview was mostly to test if it could be installed as well, but the main test was on Windows 7.

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Re: Why would you want to use Windows 8 on a Macbook Air?

I thought that W8 didn't work properly on boot camp and that the touchpad drivers hadn't been added yet

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I'm intrigued by the scope of this article, Nearly two thirds of it seem to be about the difficulty of getting Windows installed, and then most of the remainder seems to be a review of the microphone...

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Re: Nightfox

Perhaps part one of this two-part review series is more up your street?

Apple Macbook Air 13-inch 2013 review.

C.

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Re: Nightfox

@DioDesign

Thanks, saw that already though - I was just expecting this article to be more about running Windows in Boot Camp on the Air. I thought the bit about installation was, whilst relevant, going to serve merely as a prelude to a review of the user experience once it was up and running. Maybe there's a Part III on the way...

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Mic and Windows

I remember my old 486, I installed a cheap soundcard.

It had Windows for Workgroups 3.11 installed, and I could plug an old set of headphones into the microphone socket to use as a make-do mic and play about with effects in Sound Recorder (echo, speed etc.)

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Trollface

What was it like to ride dinosaurs?

Still using optical media, eh, Grandad? If you'd dragged yourself kicking and screaming into the early noughties, you'd have saved yourself a lot of trouble by using an ISO.

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Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

"Apple has one trick up its sleeve that can be a clincher for some: Boot Camp - the ability to run Windows software on Mac hardware without resorting to a resource-sharing virtual machine."

This statement would only be true if you define "some" as "gamers" because the only reason to dual boot, which for anybody who does it regularly is extremely annoying, is to get the full 3D treatment that can't be delivered in a VM. For every other purpose a VM is a vastly superior, far less annoying solution for the problem of needing to run a Windows app in a Mac world. You even have reasonably seamless integration with the Mac Desktop using both VMWare WS and Parallels. Probably VirtualBox too, I've never tried it.

Oh, but hold on, Steam supports Mac OSX well enough for casual gamers, leaving only the proud but few hardcore PC gamers who need Windows to run their games.

The trouble is that a hardcore gamer wont use a Macbook Air because the Intel graphics adapter is far from adequete for their needs (aka: wants).

That really leaves a few shiny-shiny chasers who for some strange reason need/want Windows instead of OSX but just have to have that apple logo to display at the local cafe.

I may be wrong, but this would seem to be a pretty tiny minority.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

I have a client who mistreats his laptops something rotten. A MacBook Pro is the only one that has survived (so far), and even then, he's had to take it to the Apple Store a couple of times for TLC.

But he spends his life in Outlook (and at the time, Outlook:mac was a pale imitation), so it was set up with Boot Camp and Windows, and he _never_ sees OSX.

He's thinking about a new laptop at the moment, and I'm pretty sure it will be another MBP.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Look, I'm not going to deny that the MBP (which is not an MBA but that is hair splitting) is a well constructed piece of kit, but if you raise your budget above the bargain basement end of the PC market there are options available that don't require messing around with bootcamp while still providing quality construction. Although I would suggest a better solution for your client is to be less of a ham-fisted idiot however I accept that this is not always the easiest result to attain when it comes to idiot clients.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

This would be the vanishingly tiny minority who prefer to pay 60% less for better equipment... what's the point of buying a Ferrari to do the school run again?

it seems that's not the only vanishingly tiny thing round here; your brain is so minute that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open there wouldn't be enough to cover an SDHC card..

Apologies to Blackadder, Capt. E.

It seems that the idevice fanaticism has spread to the previously mostly sensible Mac owners. a bright new world where value is halved and rights non existent ... "and the Jobs moved across the face of the waters and called out "let there be gullibility" and the final angel tipped his bowl into the waters intoning "I am proprietary SSD's, the destroyer of resale.."

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

I dunno. I use a lot of software on Windows on my Mac that benefits massively from running on a bootcamp install of Windows rather than a VM. No games though. That's not to say I don't think VMs are a good thing. I do, and when I don't need to use software that really needs a lot of processing horsepower, I do use Windows in a VM.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Or my case: boss got me a shiny-shiny end of last year and after eight months, I hate the dogs-dinner that Mac O/S has become and yearn to be back on Windows. Fortunately: moving departments soon, and will almost certainly go down this route. <sigh> And I was such a Mac lover up until a few years ago. Ne'er mind.

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Boffin

Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Virtual Machines impose significant I/O latency, bandwidth and compute overheads. This translates into reduced throughput and/or reduced battery life. This can be a big deal if you are trying to get something working ASAP - particularly if you are beyond the reach of a power socket. Time is money and electricity is rarely free.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

just to back up.

There are far more Windows users that are iDevice users than there are Mac users that are iDevice users, in pure numbers.

The mac market share growth has been partly due to these users also getting a mac, and contributing to the the loss of market by normal win PC.

This quarter seems thought to be a trend break, where mac market growth actually plummeted and did so by far higher numbers than Win PC's.

But yeah, most mac users today are former windows users. And we old mac users know how they use to act in the pre iDevice era. Nothing has changed, all fanatics just as the rest of the MS worshipers. And they call us religious fanboys. Ah all that irony.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Just because you can install Steam on a MacBook Air doesn't mean that all games will run on it. I just sold my MacBook Air because it could "only" play Portal and Left for Dead 2 and many other games wouldn't work (Dirt, Crysis...).

And can we stop going on about screen resolution? It is what it is and my eyes can't make out these new high-resolutions anyway, so I'm not interested.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

>This statement would only be true if you define "some" as "gamers" because the only reason to dual boot, which for anybody who does it regularly is extremely annoying, is to get the full 3D treatment

3D CAD, modelling and simulation software is better represented on Windows than OSX.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

"This quarter seems thought to be a trend break, where mac market growth actually plummeted and did so by far higher numbers than Win PC's."

[citation needed]

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Virtual Machines impose significant I/O latency, bandwidth and compute overheads.

Not in my experience. The overhead is generally about 10% as long as you aren't trying to do a lot of intensive stuff in the native OS at the same time. While you are not actively using the VM it will sit in the background using few resources aprt from RAM.

This translates into reduced throughput and/or reduced battery life. This can be a big deal if you are trying to get something working ASAP - particularly if you are beyond the reach of a power socket. Time is money and electricity is rarely free.

Oh, come on. If your battery is on its last legs then the last thing you want to be doing is kicking off a 90 second shutdown/boot cycle with all the commensurate disk thrashing just so you can run a Windows app.

The power hit would be far less if you just ran it in the VM that you probably already have running in the background.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

3D CAD, modelling and simulation software is better represented on Windows than OSX.

There are two logical responses to that.

1) CAD and modelling is a niche market.

2) If you work in that industry, you will use a workstation grade PC* To suggest that any sort of laptop could be used to do serious CAD work is ludicrous in the extreme.

* A workstation grade PC is not a laptop, nor some generic Acer/Dell/Lenovo/HP PC. If you don't know what a workstation grade PC is then you are not a heavy CAD user. That is all.

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Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

Just because you can install Steam on a MacBook Air doesn't mean that all games will run on it.

Duh, hence my reference to casual gamers.

I just sold my MacBook Air because it could "only" play Portal and Left for Dead 2 and many other games wouldn't work (Dirt, Crysis...).

I can't help it that you are an idiot. If you want to run those games get a PC (or a console.if you must).

Buying a Mac to play PC games is just dumb.

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Boffin

Re: Oh, not this hoary old chestnut again.

I call 10% overhead significant, and that is admirably low compared to the hit I have seen which is typically 20-30%. Clearly your mileage varies. :)

I'll take an extra 10-20% battery life every time, you can continue as you were. I am not going to stop you accomplishing your tasks more slowly and consuming more resources in the process.

Your speculation that running a task in a VM would consume less power than an idling background task made me laugh, thank you.

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I do wish Apple fanboys would look around at what other hardware manufacturers are doing, so they can avoid nonsense such as "inspiring the PC market to follow suit". Laptops have been getting thinner since they were first introduced, but on this occasion the Apple copybots were clearly inspired by Sony (who in turn were inspired by Apple's pricing model).

http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=1970

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I did.

I checked the possibilities to build a hackintosh. As I was going to run OSX and nothing else I wanted to build a setup as close to Apples own setup. So I went googling for part, and compare it to Apples MacPro.

When summing the parts up, I would have got a similar computer, with just a little better graphics card than the MacPro, for 100€ more than the MacPro.

Needles is it to say, that I went for a pre built nicely designed computer ready to be used out of box instead. So i bought my MacPro in september 2006. I ended up paying less than 100€ compare to build it myself. I was ready to pay 200€ more for that luxury.

When it comes to the MacBook Air, the first model, there was no standard components to be used. Hence the price tag. Some months later Intel came out with a design study that heavily built on Apples and Intels cooperation for the first MacBook Air. Only after that we saw PC makers go this route too.

So there is no doubt that Apple did just this: "inspiring the PC market to follow suit".

That's what Apple has always done. The Apple II who made e.g. IBM understand the need for PC's. Apple pioneered this field with the Apple II. Technically not the first PC, but the first to actually be targeted to non technical people as a PC.

Then they made the Apple Lisa and Macintosh, pioneering GUI for PC's. Then they built the ECO system that runs the whole iDevice world, then the iPhone and then the iPad.

All of this apple inspired the PC market to follow suit in. Just pure facts.

That doesn't say that an Apple device i best, or only one. In some fields using an Apple device is not even possible. But the market has followed suit after Apple's leadership in how computers will be used and made. Though that might actually translate to one person, Steve Jobs. Apple was not taking the next steps while he was absent. They didn't ship any game changers for over a decade.

Except from the flopped Pipin, here MS took the concept and made the xBox. With one difference Pippin was an open platform, not so for the xBox. No wonder pippin flopped.

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Dates

The Sony laptop I linked to was from 2004, the Intel design study you mention was actually 2007 (I'm outside the reality distortion field, so don't try that technique). Apple released the Air in 2008.

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2007-05-24/the-worlds-thinnest-notebookbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

The Xbox was inspired by the Pipin? Only that? Not the Playstation, N64, Dreamcast etc? In the fanboy world only Apple inspires, and they can even do so after the fact. Props to their marketing guys again.

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Paris Hilton

@Craigness Thanks for the link, I bought one of those (or very similar) for the Mrs. when in Singapore. She loved it and it went everywhere with her, inc. meetings where she took her minutes - it must have been years before anyone else came in with anything as portable.

Paris - to remind me of the Mrs.

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FAIL

Attention grabbing title ?!?

Would it not be more accurate to say "Bootcamps struggles with windows 8" ?

If MS's primary market was to support the Mac the title would make sense unfortunately Windows is primarily for a PC and OSX for a Mac, fortunately the fruity company has made it compatible to run windows on OSX. However it sounds like they need to do some more work to get it to work with Windows 8 (something probally which isn't too much in demand for now).

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Re: Attention grabbing title ?!?

Running Mountain Lion and Windows 8 on Bootcamp on a Mac Book Pro (8 GB RAM / i5 2.5 GHz / 250 GB SSD). Windows 8 runs like a rocket on this admittedly silly money kit - imagine the Air in this review might be a bit underpowered.

Install (via USB NOT DVD) flawless and perfect hardware support. Do not be an berk like me and try to partition the Windows disc from inside Windows.. (I totally bricked both OS.. needed to reinstall from scratch) .. otherwise totally recommended.

I do Windows based development but need Mac for testing cross-platform stuff. I would buy a top of range Windows laptop anyway and would otherwise need a separate Mac. So stll quids in.. just.

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Re: Attention grabbing title ?!?

Or perhaps: "El Reg Writer Struggles With Bootcamp on New MacBook Air"

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Maybe you have tried a native EFI install instead of going via bootcamp BIOS emulation of EFI. Works flawlessly on my mini and should work fine natively on a Haswell laptop too.

Win8 should install perfectly, after that just install the bootcamp drivers for any remaining items after the EFI install. Win8 has a stupid gui that can made almost Win7ish so what's the point of even trying Win7, Win8 like it not not is better under the hood compared to Win7 (and that includes built better hardware support for newer hardware).

Regarding booting dodgyness in the Air make a usb flash drive Win8 installer instead of trying to use a cd (I'd be willing to bet that external optical drive Apple one eh?). Cheap usb3-to-whatever bridge chips don't like booting on a usb3 mac much either without much prayer to 'insert god of choice'.

btw. The main benefit of going native efi instead of bootcamp is much, much better power management, you'll get much more battery life under a native EFI install.

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Poor review, full of holes where it matters!

So this review is ostensibly about running windows by way of boot camp, and all you did was cover installation and a couple of benchmarks?

You should have included the following:

- Battery life differences under windows

- fan noise differences under windows

- USB latency checker

- possible SSD upgrade issues (since you mention 128GB will be annoyingly cramped)

Further, you show your fanboi colors by claiming windows machines could only beat the macbook air on a single measure: price. This hasn't been true for a while now.

But Apple did land one coup with the 2013 refresh: an IRIS GPU toting haswell processor with immediate availability. Intel must have given Apple special treatment so as to avoid rushing Apple into the inevitable switch to their own silicon.

Asus, Samsung and Acer are still waiting for Haswell supply, while Sony and Apple are cleaning up the first wave of eager Haswell buyers.

Personally, I use CAD, so I'm waiting till Intel puts CrystalWell on an Ultrabook chip, which would improve performance much more than the 100Mhz clock speed increase between the HD-5000 and HD-5100 and without denting the TDP.

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