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back to article Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013: Netbook with next-gen tech

“Can’t innovate any more, my ass,” said Apple veep Phil Schiller as he unveiled the redesigned Mac Pro at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June. The smooth, black cylindrical design of the Mac Pro and the visual revamp of the forthcoming iOS 7 were clearly intended as a riposte to the critics who had argued that …

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3rd review of an Air???

So yesterday we had 2 reviews of the 13" model and today we have a review of the 11" model. Seriously, are they that different that we need a separate review for each screen size?? Jeez.....

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WTF?

Re: 3rd review of an Air???

Different reviews, by different reviewers, from different perspectives = different opinions.

Also, remember you are NOT obliged to read everything posted on the internet.

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Happy

Re: 3rd review of an Air???

"Also, remember you are NOT obliged to read everything posted on the internet."

What? Awesome! Have you any idea how much time you've just saved me?

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Re: 3rd review of an Air???

Just what I thought... 3 reviews on two products in two days... and not a major release... just a CPU refresh...

I wonder if dell will have a similar amount of column space? or Lenovo?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: 3rd review of an Air???

Lenovo review, since you mention 'em, in the queue as we speak.

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Re: 3rd review of an Air???

Review, not reviews? I think that's the point being made here...

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FAIL

NOT

NOT a netbook, not at that price. (f'r goodness sake!! tcha!)

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Re: NOT

I agree entrely - "netbooks" were notable by their 10" size of less, and their low cost, which this does neither.

There's nothing wrong with 11" high end ultra-portables, but these have been around for years, long before we had netbooks or Apple Airs come to that. And there are still plenty to choose from today - and all of them get the same benefits that Haswell gives the Airs.

(Though perhaps the headline meant it as an insult - if I'm buying the latest product, it should be the latest technology as standard, and if I'm paying that much, I ought to get more than a netbook!)

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JDX
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Gorilla Glass is starting to replace boring old metal in many of the latest Windows laptop

Is that a good thing? For bits you don't need to see though, isn't metal lighter and stronger?

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Re: Gorilla Glass is starting to replace boring old metal in many of the latest Windows laptop

I agree with the author, the aluminium bezel around the screen looks awkward. Edge to edge glass is much sleeker (cf. Dell XPS).

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Loving the Reg's continuing prissiness about Apple ("Where's the innovation!?! they yell, 3 paragraphs before mentioning the PCI-Express SSD and the 12 hour battery life...)

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Anonymous Coward

Neither of which are really innovations, at least not Apple's anyway. The bulk of the longer battery life improvement comes from Intel's Haswell technology, and using a lower clock rate.

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Anonymous Coward

It's still leading the pack. Same price as last year but double the storage, faster, even longer battery life - if you are in the market for this sort of machine it's near perfect.

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Leading the pack

It depends what stick you measure with to quote from one of the other two macbook air reviews:

imaginarynumber wrote :

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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Stop

Re: Leading the pack

You copied most of that message from another thread, and ignored the replies.

The VAIO is a £500 more expensive device, and the battery doesn't last longer in real life usage (turning the WiFi off, turning the screen brightness down and doing very little on it gets you 15 hours of runtime on the Sony, but try to watch video and it drops to near 6).

With any consumer electronic device you look at the design and compromises before you make a decision if you're prepared to pay the price. With the Sony you have to ask "is it £500 better?"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Leading the pack

Considering the Sony is £500 more expensive than the (some would say already quite expensive) Apple and it's real world battery life is no better it's not much of an argument. Considering the size, performance and price of the latest Macbook Air there is not much to touch it.

Basically it's a machine you can genuinely use all day, is very light, is probably the only laptop with PCIe flash - certainly at this price point. You can gripe about it's lack of connectivity - but it is an ultra notebook. It's got an 11" screen and at it's current resolution it really is fine.

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Re: Leading the pack

I love it that when people point out cheaper devices, Apple fans will say "But I don't care if it's expensive, I can afford it, not my fault you're poor". But when it's a device that's better but more expensive, suddenly you say it's unfair to compare to something that costs more, and that we should take the price into account when comparing!

The point is that there is no one objectively best device, but there are lots of devices, with advantages and disadvantages, and different people have different needs. Personally I look at a range of devices, and pick the best one for me, rather than locking myself into one manufacturer.

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Stop

Re: Leading the pack

Wrong. Apple haters keep claiming that Apple devices are expensive. Point out that, for an equivalent specification alternative, you are paying at least comparable money and they go deaf. Ask them to show you a better device for less money and its either more expensive or compromised in one way or another.

You can't have it all ways. Either the Apple is expensive and the Sony is wildly overpriced or that high definition screen is really worth £500, in which case the Retina MacBooks aren't overpriced either.

All PCs are a set of compromises between looks, performance, expandability and price. It's up to each individual consumer to decide which set of compromises suit them. If they've decided that an ultrabook meets their needs then the Air is very competitive on specification and price, and (arguably to some) looks pretty good too.

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Re: Leading the pack (@Mark Broadhurst)

I think this may be what is happening:

When the MaBook has better battery life, people who want better battery life buy it. They say they like it because it has better battery life.

When the MacBook is lighter, people who want a lighter laptop buy it. They say it is better because it is lighter.

When people imagine there's some sort of pro-Apple cheer leading squad conspiracy, their mind just assumes that any pro-Apple comment must have an ulterior motive.

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Re: Leading the pack

i7, 8gb RAM, 512GB SSD- prices direct from manufacturers

MBA 13"= £1,579.00

Duo 13"= £ 1,868.99

Difference= £290 and not the £500 being quoted

And those that are risk adverse, if you want 3 years of cover

£1,777.99

£ 1,943.99

The difference drops down to £166.

And what doe the extra cost get you that the Air doesn't have?

NFC

GPS

WiDi

Ethernet support/WiFI hotspot

A higher resolution touch screen with a digitizer pen.

(optional 4G)

Re: batter life "The Duo 13 lasted just shy of 9 hours (8 hours 55 minutes) on our battery rundown test," (source PC Mag).

BTW the Vaio Pro 13 uses the same PCIe flash and costs less than the Air 13. The duo 13 also uses the same and I expect that as more manufacturers release haswell devices the adoption of PCIe will increase.

I guess that if Sony want to entice the typical Air owner they need to ditch the gorgeous screen and opt for a dimmer, lower resolution one which will give battery life an even bigger boost.

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Re: Leading the pack

"Apple haters keep claiming that Apple devices are expensive. Point out that, for an equivalent specification alternative, you are paying at least comparable money and they go deaf. Ask them to show you a better device for less money and its either more expensive or compromised in one way or another."

i7, 8Gb RAM, 512BG PCIe SSD

Air 13" = £1,579.00

Vaio Pro 13" = £ 1,398.98 (with superior screen and NFC, WIDI etc)

Opps, silly me the Pro has an inferior battery life, lets add the sheet battery so that we can out do the Air

Vaio Pro 13" plus battery = £ 1,478.99.

Still weighs the same as the Air and is £100 cheaper but we have added a few mm to the thickness. Can I hear someone screaming compromise?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Leading the pack

The Vaio Duo also comes with a tiny keyboard which is an annoyance to type on, has no trackpad (don't start me on that feckless optical tracknub, which is feckless for any kind of accurate work), the digitizer is not all that in the real world and the stylus isn't stowable and has no clip - only a lanyard hole; and further, there is no storage for the lid of the stylus. Which is perfectly cylindrical and rolls away quickly.

It also runs hot and loud - very loud when it's doing anything other than idling.

Trust me, I've spent a couple of days with one - it's far from a compelling device. I'd take an MBA any day, and I'm not all that fussed about Apple stuff - it's just a better day to day device.

Anon. Not because I'm shillin', but because it's for a customer and going 'meh' over it with a publicly traceable name ain't too clever.

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Re: Leading the pack

"You can gripe about it's lack of connectivity"

Until the day you learn what Thunderbolt is and what it lets you do. In an ultraportable, technology like Thunderbolt is extremely valuable.

I for one, would argue that the MacBook Air has way better connectivity than any other notebook on the market that doesn't have Thunderbolt. Count me biased, if you will.

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Re: if Sony want to entice the typical Air owner

Besides everything else they do, they need to at least add Thunderbolt.

Unfortunately, Windows support for Thunderbolt is poor and so most of the Windows based notebook manufacturers see no reason to include it, as that would only make it clear to everyone that Apple had done it right and increased the frustration level.

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Re: Leading the pack

You are criticizing the older Duo 11 and not the Duo 13. Sony seem to have addressed your concerns.

Regardless, the pro and duo have been used as examples to discount the Devotees' claim that Apple are the only people capable of producing decent units. Other examples will be released by others in due course.

the fact remains that apple have not done anything magical. They took upper end components and pit them together. Indeed they also decided to sacrifice screen quality for battery life, in most quarters that would be seem as a compromise. Pah, who needs a high resolution on an ultraportable when you can tether it to a bigger screen? It does leave one wondering why the smaller iPad needs a high def screen though, or why the same sized MBP needs retina.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Leading the pack

If they've sorted out stupid things like the the stylus docking, the tracknub and the noise, then I'll admit, if you're happy with Win8 on touch then it'd be a not bad wee machine.

It's quite possible it's the older version I got a hold of!

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Re: Leading the pack

The Duo 13 was released round about the same time as the Pro 13 an Air 13.

Personally I found the tracking nipple-thingy to be horrendous. They have also revised the hinge mechanism but I haven't had a chance to play with one yet.

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Connectivity is a deal-breaker

The biggest problem with these machines is the lack of connectivity. We've been buying a few for the office as they're an attractive alternative to the full MacBook Pro for those who don't want the weight, but the connectivity is abysmal. You need a second display as the screen is too small and too low-res to work from for the entire day, but you can't have that plugged in at the same time as a Gigabit Ethernet link as they both need the Thunderbolt port.

The only alternatives are keeping them on 100MBit (too slow for our needs), a £300+ third-party dock (with all the attendant compatibility concerns that brings), or Apple's own Thunderbolt Display which has a network port on the back.

I had a stand-up argument in the Apple store when I was told that third option was my only option as to have to spend another £900 to make an already very expensive laptop usable is unforgivable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

Do you actually need gigabit ethernet with 802.11ac?

Sure they have one Thunderbolt port so if you HAVE to plug two devices in you need either an Apple Thunderbolt display or a Thunderbolt dock.

A guy in the office here needed two external displays - so the solution was a Macbook Pro instead.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

They have USB3 ports, what's wrong with connecting to Ethernet via that?

http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-Gigabit-Ethernet-Network-Adapter/dp/B0095EFXMC for example.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

"Do you actually need gigabit ethernet with 802.11ac?"

Not the original poster, but the simple answer is "Yes" in an office setting. 802.11 has to share its bandwidth between each client; on Ethernet, if your server's up to it, each client can get their OWN 1Gbit/sec pipe.

Funnily enough, there's a high crossover between people whose job regularly involves shunting enormous files through production workflows, and people who have traditionally bought Apple kit. Apple have other markets on their mind these days, it seems...

The other reason not to use Wifi is security, of course, and many workplaces simply forbid wireless networks for this reason.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

802.11ac isn't an option here. The wireless spectrum is alarmingly congested meaning that we never see the speeds advertised on the box. Gigabit Ethernet is the only viable option.

The reviews of the USB3 Gigabit adapter mentioned elsewhere indicate a throughout of 110MBit/s and massive problems with getting the Mac to reliably reconnect to it if disconnected. Not a solution either.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

Not available yet but 10.9 allows you to use a £99 AppleTV (and generic Monitor orTV) as a second or mirrored monitor, and finally with menubars on each display.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

Thought one of the points of 802.11ac was that it uses 5ghz which is typically far less congested and can also use 2.4ghz. It's rated as a data rate of up to 1.3gbps - might be worth trying.

You are ruling out USB 3 (there are probably fast / reliable gigabit ethernet adapters you could find) and wifi to make your point that it's only got a single Thunderbolt port - but this is not 'hidden' - you knew it when you bought it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

Of course there will be some users who need full gigabit connectivity - but how many of these people who need full speed actually find out their switch only connects into their server at 1gbps.

People who need to shift around these huge data files - just get them a Macbook Pro instead, or a Thunderbolt dock or a Thunderbolt display or a decent USB 3 gigabit ethernet adapter.

However, in most offices the vast majority of users are accessing web sites, sending / receiving emails and editing Word / Excel files - so it's unlikely they would really have an issue with only 100mbps ethernet or sharing a 802.11ac (up to 1.3gbps) wifi point.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

"Connectivity is a deal-breaker"

... for you perhaps. But that's like saying a 2 seater car is crap when I have 3 kids or buying a low slung sports car if I lived up a hill accessed via a rough track. You buy the right tool for the job.

Basically if you need more ports / larger screen / higher resolution etc. you can buy a Macbook Pro - if you are willing to accept the compromise you inevitably face by having an ultraportable the Macbook Air is a great machine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

One review mentioned 110mbps - anecdotal - you don't know much about the methodology etc.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2415501,00.asp

In that review the on board gigabit adapter got 762mbps - the USB 3 one got 667mbps - sure it's not as fast but it's probably fast enough and a pretty easy / cheap solution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

'Funnily enough, there's a high crossover between people whose job regularly involves shunting enormous files through production workflows,;

If you're doing that, the macbook air really isn't the computer for you, regardless of how you're connecting to the LAN.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

"If you're doing that, the macbook air really isn't the computer for you, regardless of how you're connecting to the LAN."

How about grabbing a few different cuts of your commercial before you fly out to the client? The Airs are great computers if you do a lot of presentations in your job. In fairness, 1Gbit Ethernet is a luxury on something like this (although Toshiba manage to put it on their Ultrabooks, and undercut Apple by 100g too)

In any case, no other new Apple laptop offers Ethernet either. The Pros dropped it earlier in the year. I'm willing to forgive the Air dropping this, but to lose it on the Pro is the worst kind of style over substance. People will say "Oh, when Apple dropped serial, and adopted USB it was the same whining", but it isn't. Firstly, Thunderbolt isn't getting anything like the industry traction that USB did (A year on the market, and still nobody but Apple is shipping devices with it; even Firewire had better adoption!), and serial interfaces on Macs were both non-standard (RS-422) and not heavily used.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

"You need a second display as the screen is too small and too low-res to work from for the entire day"

Me thinks you bought the wrong device. If you buy a laptop with an 11" screen you are buying it for its portability not its screen real estate. I'd have trouble working for a day on a 15" screen irrespective of its resolution and so would consider a separate screen a necessity in any office setting so budget accordingly. If you're that bothered then buy something cheaper.

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WTF?

Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

"How about grabbing a few different cuts of your commercial before you fly out to the client? "

If this is your use case, then you are already set. Just use the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

You do not need large external monitor to copy files, do you?

On the other hand, if you absolutely require large external monitor(s), Gigabit Ethernet + other peripherals off your MacBook Air at all time -- Apple sells the solution for this, the Thunderbolt Display. It is available ever since Apple started shipping Thunderbolt! By the way, you can connect two such monitors to the MacBook Air.

If you absolutely don't like the Thunderbolt Display for some reason, you can connect other external monitors via an USB 3 DisplayLink adapter. The MacBook Air has two such ports, you could use a hub etc. Poor man's stuff.

But, you could argue in sake of the argument.

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Re: Connectivity is a deal-breaker

You do realise the Air is not meant for that kind of work, right? I mean, how much data could you possibly shift with a 128 Gb SSD? It's meant to be light and portable, and within those parameters it is a highly successful device. Your complaint is like someone saying "my Porsche 911 won't seat eight people and it's shite for cross-country driving".

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Anonymous Coward

PCIe flash which is significantly faster than high end SSDs when most other laptops are not even fitted with SSDs. People say it's not a big deal because the previous version was already so good - but when carry a laptop around the light weight, extra performance and battery life (!!) is a huge deal.

Yes I suppose some more pixels would be nice but the onboard video can probably not handle it and it's only an 11" screen so it's actually a pretty good resolution.

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Higher resolutions...

I agree that the screen should be larger and then come with more pixels. But I doubt very much that a majority of users would be happy with more pixels at the same screen size: Things would be smaller then and they're already small enough to begin with. And yes, I think the huge bezel looks ugly.

I'm waiting for an Air that has a (nearly) 13" screen in the case of the 11" Air. To be honest I was expecting this with this version since with the 11" Air the screen size compared to the case size looks very much like a badly concealed compromise between a case that is large enough to have a full-size keyboard and decently sized trackpad on one hand and a screen that is small enough to not suck the battery dry too quickly on the other hand.

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Facepalm

Re: Higher resolutions...

"since with the 11" Air the screen size compared to the case size looks very much like a badly concealed compromise between a case that is large enough to have a full-size keyboard and decently sized trackpad on one hand and a screen that is small enough to not suck the battery dry too quickly on the other hand."

I am not sure why you think it is "badly concealed". It is completely in the open, and you may be exactly right about the compromise. But so what? There were 27 other compromises that were made to achieve what Apple considers to be the optimum package for the target market - keyboard size v. screen size is just one of then.

The MBA is wildly popular, but if you need more than it offers, don't bitch about it, buy an MB or MBP or whatever else floats your boat. The MBA like all very small devices is a compromise to get the "most" out of the format.

I have the original 2010 11" MBA and it is the best piece of computer kit I have ever owned. YMMV

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Re: Higher resolutions...

"I'm waiting for an Air that has a (nearly) 13" screen in the case of the 11" Air. "

But the same application to the 13" would give it a near 15" screen which may harm the sales of pro machines. They could probably stick a quad core in one of these as build to order but Apple don't generally try to cannibalise their product line - witness how you can't get a 13" quad core pro (retina or otherwise).

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Re: Higher resolutions...

"Apple don't generally try to cannibalise their product line - witness how you can't get a 13" quad core pro (retina or otherwise)"

Did you ever consider that the reasons might be different?

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