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back to article MacBook Air 13-inch: If you squint hard enough, you'll see a lesser-spotted Apple Price Cut

I suppose this is one of those glass half-empty, half-full situations. For months, the interweb was aflutter with rumours of a new MacBook Air with a high-definition Retina display to match that of the MacBook Pro. Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (early 2014) Apple's MacBook Air 2014-style: use the price cut to get more RAM However …

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Seems Apple aren't willing to sacrifice the 12 hour battery life for a higher resolution display. Personally for this machine I feel it may be the right choice.

No double the next model will have it though.

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Anonymous Coward

Can you wipe the Apple rubbish and run Widows 8.1 natively on this? Then it might be of some interest.

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JLV
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Facepalm

So you'd...

Buy a fairly expensive piece of hardware with the justifiably disliked Apple tax.

Ditch its free-from-now-on, fairly Unixy, OSX underpinnings.

Pay the MS tax.

And then run the ever so appreciated Windows 8.1 on a machine that's not really built for it and does not have the RAM necessary for Redmond's glutton.

Clever chap, aintcha?

I mean, it's OK if people prefer Windows, to each her own. But your scheme just sounds dumb - get an Asus or even a Surface 3 if you're a Win fan.

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Anonymous Coward

All OS'es are rubbish.

I registered just so I be the sole up vote. I actually like Win 8 minus the stupid tiles. I just start typing want I want and the smart filter shows me that App I need to launch. I find it generally quicker than Win 7 to get where I need to be.

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You could install WIndows on this. But if Windows is your preference you'd be far better off getting the new Surface 3 Pro, in my opinion. I think the price reduction is probably partly a response to that and other OEM devices. As it was, it was priced equivalent to the Surface 3 Pro but with lower resolution, heavier, no touch screen, no pen and integrated note-taking software (OneNote + active digitizer is fantastic) and slightly less powerful.

Those are all still true but it is now cheaper. However, if you're going to buy Windows for it, you lose that benefit. Definitely better off with its competitor the Surface Pro 3 until Apple produce the next iteration of this.

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@JLV

Sorry JLV, but Windows 8 on my Atom tablet with 2GB RAM boots faster and feels faster than the iMac Core i7 with 16GB RAM running OS X Mavericks.

When I bought my first iMac OS X Tiger was fast, that iMac, with Lion and 2GB RAM, takes over 5 minutes to boot to a "responsive" desktop and Firefox takes nearly a minute to load and YouTube stutters if you try and view Mail.app at the same time! Windows 8 in 2GB RAM is a whole different ball game, it is fast and fluid.

I think your predjudice is locked back in the Windows XP and Vista days. Windows 8 is much slimmer and more efficient than the last few versions and is specifically designed to run on low end processors with limited RAM.

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JLV
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Happy

Re: @JLV

Hey, don't entirely disagree. But, as you said... "my Atom tablet".

Bet it was cheaper than a Mac Air and the Win8 came with it and it will be supported.

The OP "thumbs his nose" at big bad Apple by buying their product first, then making sure they don't have to support him thus saving them $. Then he wants to install Win8 , after paying for it full price (OEM license at least). While it would be free on your Atom.

Now BootCamp's setup would probably get him all the proprietary drivers for any specialized Apple hardware, but, oh, no Bootcamp in his clever scenario, so....

As I said, fail.

But happy to hear Win8 is quick on 2GB (mind you, responsiveness is also a function of how much services and programs get launched at boot). Win8 is, from I heard, the first Win to _lose_ Line of Code count compared to its predecessors. Losing LoC is not a guaranteed improvement if you change lots of fast C to fewer slower C#, but trimming the codebase down still implies reviewing and rationalizing it. Too bad they Metroed it.

I recently got an Asus gaming laptop to do Windows & VM development (screaming fast, mucho RAM, 1920x1080) and look forward to using it. Gaming laptops with Windows Pro upgrade are the way to go for independents, much better bang for the $ than high end business laptops. I might even look forward to taking Win8 for a spin, if it wasn't for the new interface, but hopefully Classic Shell and the other mod will fix that partially.

Again, no problem if you prefer Windows. It's a big world. But the OP's idea made about as much sense as studying for a bartender license in Saudi Arabia. And he was about as polite as shouting "bacon" at a bar mitzvah.

Have an upvote on me.

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Re: All OS'es are rubbish.

"I just start typing what I want" - only joined the Apple crew in 2010, if you press cmd-space and start typing, guess what happens? But nice to see they've finally caught up.

There were a lot of apps you could add to windows that would do this, of course.

I will use Win 8 on a surface or touch enabled machine, it looks OK and will do the job. But most of my tools and apps I prefer are on my old Macbook.

In the period since we bought the Macbook we've been through 3 wintel machines. 2 HP's overheated and destroyed the motheboard and relatively cheap midrange Lenovo just decided it couldn't be arsed booting after just over a year (surprise!). So we have 3 machines that together cost more than my Macbook all being paperweights.

Apple tax, my arse. If my business partner didn't need Windows because she's a trainer and most of her clients use it we wouldn't bother. Windows is expensive because the machines are designed with an 18 month shelf life and upgrading office (from list) costs 10 X what upgrading the Apple equivalents do.

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WTF?

Slightly schizophrenic review

Its shit - crappy display - lots of ultrabooks do it better.

Its great battery life is amazing.

Its outdated but as an all round package its still as good as anything else out there. Especially if you have to remove Win 8 first.

Dislaimer - unashamed MBA 11 convert form 2 months and havent looked back even though I missed the price cut and would have liked a retina version. Although I find the mutiple desktops paradigm in MacOS and Unix a pretty good substitute for a bigger screen when compared with Win.

Biggest downside that pesky @ and " being substituted and Cmd being too close to the space bar for Copy/Paste etc. yes I know you can remap them easily enough - but Im refusing to be beaten by my own muscle memory.

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jai
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Re: Slightly schizophrenic review

that pesky @ and "

it's funny - i have exactly the same problem when i'm here at work using a PC keyboard.

it makes NO sense having the single quote and the double quote keys on completely opposite sides of the keyboard.

you'll notice the colon and semi-colon are on the same key. so why not quote and double-quote?!?!?

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Re: Slightly schizophrenic review

It's just the UK PC keyboard that rearranges the single and double quotes like that — standard US PC layout has the @ over the 2 and the ' and " sharing a key. Apple's UK layout is closer to what the US people consider the international layout, though it's not identical.

The main thing I've always found a bit odd on a Mac UK keyboard is having the hash symbol require the option modifier rather than shift. But I guess that really doesn't affect most non-C-style-language programmers all that much. Oh, and we get a section (§) key for some reason. Does that come up all that often for anybody? Nowadays it's rarely used even in publishing.

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Re: Slightly schizophrenic review

It also makes no sense having your keyboard layout in the qwerty style, the dvorak is a much better layout for a keyboard. Thing is once you're used to typing on a qwerty keyboard everything else is a nightmare, same goes for all the modified keys.

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Re: Slightly schizophrenic review (@Fuzz)

I think the QWERTY debate is still up for grabs. Even if the probably apocryphal story were true and the layout was invented so that English speakers were more likely to follow a key press somewhere on the left with one somewhere on the right (i.e. to avoid typewriter jamming) that just makes it well designed for two handed typing.

Recent academic literature, such as that cited at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1069950, has tended to conclude — as that does in its abstract — that:

"... we find virtually no evidence to support a view that QWERTY is inferior to DVORAK. Instead, using records of typing experiments, studies by ergonomicists, and examining the historical record of competition among different keyboard designs back when QWERTY first became dominant, we conclude that QWERTY is about as good a design as any alternative."

That article makes reference to contrary modern claims by Paul David and Brian Arthur but their article takes it as given that QWERTY is inferior so as to argue economic principles about the value of popularity. The link I've given is also to a citation for an economic piece, essentially making the point that the David/Arthur conclusion isn't justified by the evidence given because the basic assumption is false.

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Re: Slightly schizophrenic review

Try the German layout, the Y and Z are swapped.

§ is shift + 3, @ is AltGr + Q. And don't even get me started on things like ~!

{[]} are accessed with AltGr + numbers 7, 8, 9 and 0.

That is on Windows. On the Mac the @ is alt+L and the {[]} aren't even shown on the keyboard! They are accessible through Alt + numbers, but 6, 7, 8 and 9!

As to the § symbol, it is used in all references to legal documents here. As I have to write about food preparation law and how it affects IT, I use the symbol very regularly.

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I don't see the Air ever getting a Retina display. Side by side, my 15 inch retina MacBook Pro is as thick as the thickest part of the Air.

If they put a retina display on the Air the thin edge will have to become thicker to accommodate batteries at which point you are left with an underpowered MacBook Pro.

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The ipad air already has a retina display and that's pretty thin. And with advances in display technology, it's bound to happen sooner or later.

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I have this laptop, and the screen is outstanding already.

I'd take the battery life any day.

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Anonymous Coward

Sigh

Just give the people what they want - a Macbook Air with Retina display. I don't care if they have to put an ARM processor in there to keep the battery life as it is, but with the design and the advancements they've made in the iPad Air it is clearly not beyond them to make a retina one of these without sacrificing too much size and weight to the design...

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Re: Sigh

Wouldn't a 'MBA Retina ARM' be an iPad with a keyboard, more or less?

No doubt Apple have created ARM versions of OSX to assess their future options (just as the always did with OSX on x86), but a release candidate would be a lot of effort for one model.

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Fact checking need

Needless to say, those prices are still relatively high compared to Windows laptops with a similar specification, but at least it’s better than the price rises that we normally get with new Apple products.

Windows Ultrabooks with roughly the same specs cost about the same. Manufacturers of Windows machines can shave the specs and cut costs, but then they're no longer directly comparable.

The other point I find strange is El Reg's insistence on benchmarking under Windows. One of the reasons for the extra battery life on the Air is OS X, have they not got anything comparable cross-platform?

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Re: Fact checking need

I thought he was referring more to the prices for up-speccing to more memory, SSD, processor etc. The prices are very high for those additions and with most non-Apple devices you can buy the base memory and disk configuration and upgrade it yourself later for much less money.

We are paying under 60€ for 128GB SSD for single units from our wholesaler, so no volume discount. Good, the PCI-E is differently packaged, but I can't see it being 2 to 3 times the price of a normal SSD, once you take volume discounts into account.

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Re: Fact checking need

They're not wildly different to what ultrabook makers charge either. Look at what Microsoft charge to upgrade the Surface Pro 3 for example, you can spend more than $1000 on disk and CPU upgrades.

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Bah!

I was all excited, then I saw the price was in poundquids.

So, about twice the cost of a windows lappy with equivalent spec then.

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Re: Bah!

Stevie, could you post a link of such a laptop here please? I'm not saying one does't exist, but I've never seen one. The same specs at half the price would be an exceptional machine.

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Re: Bah!

And Stevie, if you could link to a current Windows laptop with a 16:10 or 4:3 screen, I'd appreciate it. I just can't find any. Ta!

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Re: Bah!

I'm not holding my breath for that...

However, you can get similar laptops, just a bit bigger, a bit slower, a good whack less battery, for a lot less - and in the real world, if it lives in a backpack, you don't need OS X and you aren't away from the mains for more than four hours at a time (IE roving IT engineer etc), don't need/aren't fussed by the build quality etc then you can argue it's 'sort of the same', in the same way that a Mondeo is sort of the same as a Merc E-Class.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, either - these classes of light, decent battery, decent performing machines are really rather nice and certianly better than even a mid-range portable from five years ago in almost every respect.

Steven R

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Re: Bah!

Out of curiosity, I thought I'd spec a machine up at pcspecialist and see.

A fairly similar hardware spec, in terms of the computing bits, comes out at a smidge over £600 - 14" 1600x900 screen so not quite 16:10, 120GB SSD, marginally faster processor - pretty close. "Certified" Ultrabook. Size and weight the Air wins - 5mm thinner, 650g lighter. No idea what the battery life will be like, but I'd guess 4-6 hours normal use. In other words, pretty much what Stephen said above - broadly similar hardware, with a bit more thickness and weight to it, and probably significantly lower battery life.

So the question then becomes, are those advantages worth £245? And for me the answer is definitely a no. It's just not worth the premium. For other people it will be, and that's fine, but not for me.

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Re: Bah!

Additional to what GregC cooked up, I have to say, I think the build quality of the Air would tip it for me.

I'm typing this on a shonky old 2008 macbook and it's taken so much abuse, including having a wheel spider dropped on it (it was the footwell, spider in passenger seat following a roadside wheel change, decided to brake test the spare tyre - sliiiide-bang; not the tyre, which was acceptable, but the spider landing smack bang on the clamshell) which left just a small cosmetic dent.

If that had been a typical, plastic-clamshelled laptop, that'd have been £60+ on a new screen and bezel, I'd wager. Seen lesser smacks break cheap laptop screen surrounds.

There is something to be said for the peace of mind that comes from a piece of kit that isn't just well built, but arguably, over-engineered.

Steven R

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Re: Bah!

You'll have to forgive me, I just shelled out the down payment on a small car for an iPad for my daughter.

If it hadn't been for the assumption of a bottomless money bucket I would have found it amusing that every feature we asked about adding cost approximately 100 dollars (including the extended warranty and the tax on it all).

Classic moment: when the missus asked "well if it's only 100 dollars why don't we max out the memory" to which I replied "because I have a hard ceiling of one thousand dollars for this toy. One dollar more and we're off to Hyundai/Toyota to buy a subcompact", after which the salesdrone stopped playing to her and started to get real.

As for the MacBook Air:

I don't value thinness so for me that is not a feature.

The difference in weight is a positive, as is the battery life, but not worth the asking price for me.

I do value an optical drive. I use mine quite often. I do not have a persistent internet connection while I commute, which is when I use my machine the most. Besides, I have a luddite resentment of being forced into a "net connected or nothing" situation.

As for build quality, I've opened and repaired an Apple computer. Please don't make me laugh. I'll burst my stitches. I think it's nothing short of genius to shoehorn the innards into that tiny package. I just think the innards cost too much for what they are and don't see the need for the thinness in the first place.

I don't begrudge your owning one though. That wasn't where I was coming from. I read the price in dollars is all, and that price got me excited.

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Re: Bah!

Surface Pro 3 - even better - 3:2...

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FAIL

Re: Bah!

You did, of course, add in the OS and the equivalent apps that come with the MBA didn't you?

No, how......shockingly predictable.

So you spend roughly the same and end up with something running Windows 8 and viruses.

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Re: You did, of course blitherblahdrool

First, I'm not running windows 8

Second I do not see great value in any of the "included aps" in either system.

Third: I haven't been virused with my laptop. Guess what: If you are a little knowledgeable and appropriately careful you don't get them. But I am aware of the threat and take precautions. Do you?

Basically, the issue comes down to what I get for my money and what it can become. All the software I'm interested in running plays nicely with windows or *nix, but requires all sorts of messing around to get working on OSX and even then is not guaranteed to be a pleasant experience.

I'm currently using my laptop to drive Oracle around the block and to take the engine to bits to see how it works. Nothing the Mac offers makes it in any way better suited for this task, and the forum questions would suggest that some are finding the experience significantly more painful than I have.

If you use you laptop as a typewriter and a paintbox you can pretty much get by with any machine.

I eagerly await your telling me that I can always run windows in a virtual machine, neatly sidestepping (as so many do) the fact that should I do that and should I buy the license needed I will simply have added the cost of a MacBook to what I can already do.

One thing I didn't mention was that I increased the memory in mine to 8 gig when the prices fell by simply opening the bottom and replacing two boards, and that I installed a 3/4 terabyte disk by sliding out the old one and sliding in the new. I also installed a bigger battery. All without having to give my machine to anyone else or talk to "Expert Baristas". Didn't cost an arm and a leg either. I considered going platterless then, but the cost/byte ratio was lousy.

So my machine has twice the memory of a MacBook air and three times the disc space. True, the disc is a spinner (and the reason my battery drains faster than yours), but I need capacity, not the dubious benefits of high speed random access backing store.

But I'll give you one in the win column for getting Garage Band with your wafer-thin mint.

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Re: Bah!

On the offchance that Snapper was referring to my quick 600-odd quid comparison - yes, it included the OS and whatever you get bundled with Win8. I don't know in detail what other software you get with a Mac, and neither do I particularly care.

The fact remains that the MBA, as reviewed, is about £245 (~40%) more than a more-or-less equal spec Windows machine, and the question a potential purchaser should be asking is whether the advantages the Air brings* are worth that money. For some the answer will be yes, for others (me included) it's no.

* software included. I have no use for Garageband, for example, therefore it's worthless to me. Someone else may think that alone makes the Mac worth the extra.

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Re: Bah!

And again, to GregC, I'm of the opinion that to me, the portability and build are of very high importance; roving engineer, innit.

If you're mostly pissing about at home, it just doesn't matter that it can take a lot of abuse, simple as that.

Shock horror, buying hardware and software that suits your usage case usually makes for the best choice! ;-)

Steven R

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Re: Bah!

What are you talking about? The top of the line iPad (Retina WiFi+Cellular 128Gb) is £739, so can't be anywhere near $1000 even if you add in insurance (which is a rip-off for any consumer product).

As for the MacBook Air, you claimed in an earlier post that you could get the same spec computer for half the price - a very common claim in threads discussing the value of Apple machines - and almost never followed-up by posting a link to the claimed half price machine. Usually the poster then goes on to describe a machine that lacks half the features of the Apple machine but they don't need those features so can be scrubbed from the equation.

Sometimes I borrow my wife's ageing MacBook Air when I'm going on a long train commute; I usually copy anything onto the hard drive that I need before going - that's less hassle than carrying around fistfuls of DVDs and my bigger MacBook Pro.

Optical drives are becoming increasingly less useful. If I could drop the drive from my MacBook Pro and also lose a bit of size and weight then I would go for it. Thankfully I have the technical prowess to plug a USB optical drive into my machine so I'm not stuck with "net connected or nothing" as you are. Perhaps a friend or relative could walk you though plugging a USB drive in, if you find yourself in that position again.

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Just got one, very happy

I just picked up the base spec 13 inch model and it's very good. I gave up on trying to find a Windows Ultrabook at a decent price given I'd have to rip 8 off it and put something decent on right from the get go.

Too much is being made of the retina nonsense in my opinion. The 13 inch air has higher pixel density than my desktop monitor. The colours and contrast are excellent, far better than my Dell IPS desktop panel, and it's also plenty bright enough to cope with the sun streaming in the window on the train commute.

Battery life is insane, the GPU is remarkably capable, OS X is great (first time user here) and the trackpad is the best I've used on any portable ever. It doesn't hurt that it's still a stunning looking piece of engineering either.

I gave up on iOS and iPhone a while back, but you'd have to pry my Air from my cold, dead fingers.

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Re: Just got one, very happy

So happy you just had to sign up just to tell us. With a few more posts under your belt your glowing endorsement would carry a bit more weight.

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Re: Just got one, very happy

So all your first posts should just be blatantly disregarded and now you're a swell guy to be trusted?

If you want balance, fine. I did a lot of soul searching about whether some aspects of the Air were worth the asking price. They could at least give us an IPS panel. The SSD is very small in today's market, 4gb of RAM is not a lot of headroom, there is a (shrinking, but still there) set of software that won't run on it unless I give up precious room to Windows. I could also find very little information about whether hardware virtualisation was up to snuff, and I have concerns about Apple trying to build an iOS style walled garden around Mac OS.

There's a lot about the Air that could be significantly improved, I just don't agree that the screen is one of them. Not the resolution anyway, I'd still like IPS.

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Re: So all your first posts should just be blatantly disregarded.....

Sorry, did I touch a nerve?

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Re: Just got one, very happy

The greatest advantage of a retina display that I've found on my 15" MacBook is desktop space rather than graphical fidelity. I have the relevant slider set to 'more space' so it's giving me the same room as if I had a 1920 x 1200 monitor. The scaling of that shows no obvious artefacts — Apple achieves it by rendering the desktop at 3840 x 2400 and scaling down to the native size so every pixel has unique information; in any case that screen is starting to approach the sort of density where you don't have to worry about how source resolution and output resolution match, in the same way that magazines don't have to worry about it as any aliasing introduced is so physically small as to be imperceivable.

So, anyway, I get a really decent desktop worth of stuff onto my screen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So all your first posts should just be blatantly disregarded.....

No, you were being a troll. You know it. He knows it. We all know it. Stop pretending otherwise.

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Re: you were being a troll.

Hmm, maybe. Or maybe the original post was a bit of marketing. Whichever, If I'm the one trolling why are you hiding your posting history?

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Happy

But surely the most important question has to be...

...can I wipe it and put a PROPER linux on there?

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Anonymous Coward

Aaah, grasshopper ...

If you need to ask, you'll never know PROPER linux. If you know PROPER linux, you'd never need to ask ...

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Re: But surely the most important question has to be...

Personally, I'd wipe it and install Linux. Still, my brain can't quite get to grips with somebody looking at a Unix machine and asking if they can install 'proper Linux' on it...

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Happy

Re: my brain can't quite get to grips with...

I'm just taking the piss. "Can I wipe it and put a PROPER linux on there" is the tiresome freetard response to pretty much any hardware related story on here.

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Joke

That is...

...one hell of an expensive netbook! Oops, let's not forget the icon, forgot to wear my asbestos (I be old-skool) undies today.

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Bought a 1.7GHz i7 13" MBA last year.

I'm a Linux sysadmin. I haven't had the need to put a 'PROPER' Linux on here, except in a VM. Which runs rather nicely under virtualbox. Or VMWare Fusion if you want. Or Win 8. Or VMWare ESXi in a VM (which is possible, just don't expect to run VMs on it). Choose your weapon.

Cliffnotes:

1) OSX is simple, but that's cos of Apple targeting the lowest common denominator. I found it easy enough to manage my server estate without too many extra tools. So long as I can ssh to servers, run a local X server (for those annoying tools that don't have a web UI), and RDP, then all is good.

2) Battery life is still awesome. Even after a year of use. I tend to run off AC, but it's more than capable of playing HD content for an 8-hour flight even now.

3) Light, thin and feels like a solid build. Comparable Sony Vaio / HP ultrabooks felt tacky, too heavy.

4) Integrates well enough with my existing Linux/Windows infrastructure with a minimum of fuss.

I could go on, but tbh there are haters no matter which side of the fence you're on. Yes, it's not what I'd call cheap, but if that's an issue then go buy a cheap HP/Dell for under £500. And forget ultrabooks.

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I hope they've done something about the keyboard

My daily drive is a 2010 MBA13. I went for a build-to-order with 256GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo. It still feels pretty nippy, even in comparison to a recent MBP. But the keyboard is terrible. It's weak and flimsy and I think next time I buy a laptop I'm going to go for something a bit more rugged.

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IT Angle

Productivity is our benchmark

"1) OSX is simple, but that's cos of Apple targeting the lowest common denominator."

I think we can safely assume the lowest common denominator doesn't use ssh to servers or run their own local server. However there are two key demographics - the home user and the business user. Neither of these groups are interested in the technical gubbins of any computer, pc, mac or otherwise because they'd rather spend their time on online shopping, emails, writing letters and managing their accounts.

Personal computers have been around for long enough now that we really ought to be moving beyond looking after the configuration of an operating system.

Some people assume those with IT skills are "into computers". It's like asking a carpenter if they are "into chisels" ... developing IT skills should be focussed on creating better workers, not for nerdy knowledge of what's under the bonnet.

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