back to article Apple MacBook Air 11in Core i5 notebook

For years this particular Mac user preferred to carry around an X-Series ThinkPad, despite having a house full of Apple laptops. That's because Apple could offer nothing with comparable size and weight. It was worth putting up with Windows or Ubuntu to gain the convenience of a smaller lighter machine. Apple MacBook Air 11in …

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One of things you can use thunderbolt for is to attach monitors to it. In fact at the moment, it is about the only thing you can do. I'm not sure you can do that with USB 3.

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Because it will let you have any port you want. I'm sick of apple removing ports as they see fit. Thunderbolt implements PCIe, so you can stick any other port on the end of the cable - USB, FW, eSata.

"Secondly, it may be (theoretically) faster than USB3, but that's irrelevant as hard drives/ SSDs cannot keep up with the speed of either in the first place"

Drive arrays can keep up. Check it out - it's called RAID.

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Re: Thunderbolt

"Why is this even being touted as a feature/ plus point..?

Firstly, there are next to no devices that currently use thunderbolt.

Secondly, it may be (theoretically) faster than USB3, but that's irrelevant as hard drives/ SSDs cannot keep up with the speed of either in the first place. So for moving files/ data thunderbolt is no better than USB3."

USB3 will be a great consumer technology, but it's not by any means the same thing. Thunderbolt is backwards compatible with the DisplayPort, and throws in another 10Gbit channel to boot. That's pretty important if you're in an industry where you need extremely high throughput. And Thunderbolt devices certainly do exist - the Promise Pegasus that Apple's started to promote with all its Macs.

Secondly, USB3 can be CPU intensive and high-latency compared to Thunderbolt (and Firewire before it), making it unsuitable for higher end applications like low-latency SANs and hi-res, uncompressed video transmission. SSDs have already exceeded the available bandwidth of the 3Gb SATA2 bus, which is why we now have 6Gb SATA3. If you need high volume read/write performance, then a second SSD would exceed the bandwidth of the of USB3's 4.8Gb bus... and eat at least one of your CPU cores in the process. On a mobile device, that can mean a significant reduction in battery life.

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Anonymous Coward

Ok, so it's future proofing, but this is on a device that Apple clearly doesn't intend people to use for more than about 2 years, ie look at the battery...

Also, it may be good for RAID, but no Apple laptops have RAID.

Finally, it may be good for enterprise/ servers, but it seems obvious Apple has turned away from enterprise and servers.

Apple only appeals to the home market now, and for that market it's useless for the next 3 or more years.

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Au contraire

Battery replacement:

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing-MacBook-Air-Models-A1237-and-A1304-Battery/848/1

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing-MacBook-Air-13-Inch-Mid-2011-Battery/6359/1

And you can get the battery from the usual sources.

So in summation: you can (if even vaguely technically capable) replace your MacBook Air battery.

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Anonymous Coward

Or simply take it to the Apple store, takes them about 10 minutes to do it.

The battery is easily replaced people, its a non-issue

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I've had mine for a few days now, and it's bloody marvellous! It's nothing like a netbook apart from it's similar size, it's a proper laptop in a smaller form factor. It's lightning fast, much faster than my 15" unibody macbook pro and the screen is lovely, much better than any laptop i've used before.

Yes the battery will die eventually, but it is replaceable by apple for £99, or you could do it yourself if you are out of warranty and by the time that happens these batteries will be churning out of china anyway at a much cheaper price.

I'd recommend one to anyone, even if they did insist on installing (shudder) windows on it.

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Thunderbolt Gear

There is some new thunderbolt gear on the market. An expresscard34 adapter: http://www.sonnettech.com/product/echoexpresscard34thunderbolt.html .

This lets you add yet another adapter (the card) for whatever needs you might have. Might let some of us get rid of our 17" MBP, which is the only remaining laptop with the slot.

A hub, recently announced, but not yet for sale, which doesn't count - http://www.dailytech.com/IDF+2011+Belkin+Shows+Off+Thunderbolt+Express+Dock+/article22715.htm

There are also some 'pro' level RAID arrays out there you'll easily find on the Apple site.

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@Why do some insist on built-in 3G?

I insist on it, because it's a better solution in my experience.

I've been on call for the last six years. During that time I've used various Thinkpads with and without integrated 3G, Macbook air without, two variants of USB dongle, a mifi type device and an Android smartphone with wifi tethering.

Of these, the Thinkpads with integrated 3G worked far better than any dongle or tethering solution, for two reasons:

1. In a laptop form factor you can arrange the aerials around the screen to get much better reception than in a dongle or phone.

2. 3G sucks battery life, so it makes sense to have the 3G in the thing with the largest battery.

I like Apple devices - I have an iPad 1, a last-gen MBA and several iPhones. With integrated 3G the MBA would be near-perfect. Certainly the mobile usability of the MBA beats the Thinkpad in terms of form factor and standby/resume speed/reliability. It's also faster to perform many tasks than my Windows 7 machine with the same CPU, but the refusal to offer integrated 3G, even as an option, is bewildering, to me.

YMMV, obviously.

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Batteries sigh

Don't get all this stuff about batteries, if they fail you get them replaced. Yes there was a bad spell with the Santa Rosa based Macbook Pro, I had one, and are on my third battery. Each and everyone was a free replacement from the Apple Store, walk in with a 'failing' battery and walk out with a new one. With Dell and Sony previously they classed it as a consumable item.

Don't forget that Thunderbolt is great for an external display screen as well and it charges the Air through it as well. Really nice to get a multi-screen solution with USB hubs etc when you 'dock' with a single cable :)

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@JeanPaul

I've been told on various occasions by Apple that batteries are, in fact, consumable items, when querying failing MBP batteries after ~2 years. Which is fine on a machine where you can buy and replace the battery yourself, not so much on a machine where you can't...

(Yes, I know "can't" is relative - but if you've paid for and want to be able to rely on your AppleCare agreement you can't go fucking about with replacing the battery yourself, so back to the question of "what happens if you manage to get through the best part of 1000 charge cycles in less than 3 years and your battery goes to shit?")

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1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3MB shared L3 cache

Last I checked, dual core was not quad core.

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Paris Hilton

Damn I bought my Mum a MBP 6 months too early.....

Bugger, I should have seen this one coming, I got my dear old Ma an i5 13" MBP Sandybridge when it came out, now Apple just made a worthy replacement for the same price and half the weight. Mum wouldn't have noticed the performance hit and would have loved the weight loss....

How long do you reckon Dell will take to copy this baby?

Paris, cos the original airhead always leads the pack.

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Anonymous Coward

Quad core??

I don't think so. Even the link to Intel's page clearly says its a dual core processor (with hyperthreading)

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It's dual-core NOT quad-code

The cpu is not a quad-core i5, it's dual-core. Even the Intel web page that he's linked to says that it's got 2 cores. Apple don't make a quad-core MacBook Air. Even the i7 options are still only dual-core.

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Anonymous Coward

"Steve Jobs Shows No Love for Netbooks"

Right Steve..."Steve Jobs hates netbooks. That much is clear. The Apple CEO has long decried the space as "cheap," a comment he went to town with during yesterday's iPad launch event. "Netbooks aren't better than anything," he said to rousing laughter. "They're just cheap laptops.""

Or in the case of this thing...an EXPENSIVE laptop.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2358514,00.asp

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Is it just me or does El Reg appear to be reviewing every piece of Apple kit that comes out nowadays, including every single size available in the range?

Very much confused by this; does the self confessed 'Mac user' reviewer gets to keep the review models or something?

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Anonymous Coward

expensive service?

£99 for a new battery fitted

http://www.apple.com/uk/support/macbook/service/battery/

considering a typical replacement battery costs around this it's not bad at all with the only downside you can't do it yourself or at least you're not supposed to but it's easy enough to take apart if you look on www.ifixit.com

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3g?

i would get one today but for the lack of 3g

yes i read the coments on why would i want potentialy soon obselete tech built in, and why not just get a myfi.

but i want convenience, a myfi requires charging, which means me carrying 2 chargers with me, also a dongle means something sticking out the side which can get broken.

thats why i am in the process of getting a thinkpad x220t with built in 3g

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I'm in no way an Apple fan - quite the opposite, I dislike and distrust the company enormously, and I generally consider the hype associated with their products to be just that. However, that doesn't mean I reject all their products out of hand. I've always been fond of the Air, and the latest one takes it exactly where I would want it. Sure, I think the choice of ports is ridiculous, and the sealed battery and HDD are very negative points for me, but they're very much outweighed by the positives - this is a very good machine indeed, and If it wasn't for the price, I would certainly get one. The competition just isn't there right now - the Ultrabook may well compete in a few months, but right now, there's nothing this small with this amount of power - and yes, looks.

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Anonymous Coward

Just checked my 2010 13" MBA Ultimate Battery

I got mine on Black Friday last year so it's just about 10 months old. I've had 134 cycles and the battery is still showing 100% charge. If it can handle 1000 cycles then I think I'm in for a good 5-6 years worth of battery life out of this baby before it packs in. Considering that I'm unlikely to be able to resist buying an updated model in the next year or two, I'm not losing sleep over the battery life or the possibility of having to pay Apple to replace it.

Slightly jealous of the i5/7 CPUs in the new model but, to be honest, mine is plenty fast enough for web, email and the occasional bit of software development on the road. I envisage that this will prove to have been a great purchase for the original cost versus the number of years use I, or someone else, will get out of it. It'll be a fantastic 2nd hand purchase too.

Having said all this, I'm looking forward to seeing some decent Windows Ultrabooks over the next year too and may well pick up one of those if they look like besting the MBA. See that, I have no operating system preference! I will choose the best tool for the job, if you'll pardon the expression. No os partisanship here, no, Siree Bob!

If you want a great laptop, get one of these now or wait until the better Ultrabooks come out. Or don't, if you're a miserable cheapskate.

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90%?

That review seemed a little negative to me, so why 90%?

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I must be missing something here.

2GB RAM, i5 CPU, 64 GBs of Storage for £849 = 90%. Can we flag down a cab and head for real street please?

And resources are something we 'invent', the most stupid thing I've read for months.

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It's not about the spec, the same spec can be had for a lot less from other manufacturers, it's about the overall package. The phrase 'The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts' springs to mind.

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The spec, too

From what I read about Intels "Ultrabook" initiative which is meant to enable others to build MBA like subnotebooks, they have a hard time to sell them cheaper than Apple does. They just settled on fibre reinforced plastic instead of aluminium for the case to get the price down.

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USB3 vs Thunderbolt

Any other greybeards here? Remember how people thought Apple was ridiculous going with USB on the first iMac? And no floppy drive? And how "there are no USB devices available" was a common cry?

Mine's the one with the 78 of "Everything Old Is New Again" in the pocket.

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Floppy drive omission *was* stupid

"Remember how people thought Apple was ridiculous going with USB on the first iMac? And no floppy drive?"

USB was a forward-thinking move that was fine in retrospect.

Leaving the floppy out, OTOH, smacked of Apple wanting to *appear* forward-thinking by ditching a "legacy" technology without any satisfactory alternative being available at the time. Yeah, everyone knew that the floppy was on borrowed time and would be replaced eventually, but that was still in the near-future. The fact that virtually everyone who owned an iMac bought an external floppy drive proves that the omission was a mistake.

In 1998, USB pen drives- if they existed at all- were at least five years from being affordable alternatives to floppies. Even CD writers were at least a year or two from commodity affordability, which would explain why Apple only built-in a CD *reader*.

The only way to share files was over the net via the iMac's modem, which IIRC *was* what Apple expected people to do. Might not seem so bad nowadays, but bear in mind this was back in the 56K dial-up days (i.e. slow connection that wasn't always on line- on both ends) and not everyone was on the net back then anyway- certainly far from all computers.

Useful way to send small files worldwide? Sure. Realistic alternative to the floppy? No.

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Meh

2GB !!!

Regardless of the other pros and cons only including 2GB of RAM is unforgiveable in the modern world. Every other high end machine has at least 4 if not 6 or 8. No Ethernet is a big omission too, especially when Mac are so big in the AV world, I wouldn't fancy moving multiple gigabytes of audio and video files around over WiFi on a regular basis.

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So speaks someone whose never used os x. It's much more efficient on memory usage than windows - more on a par with linux.

It runs very nicely on my netbook with and atom and 2gb.

Have you ever looked at your memory usage the average user doesnt need all 4gb even on windows.

You only need 4gig plus if you are doing big photo editing or similar and afaik 4gb is an option.

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FAIL

Apple should not

presume how you will use your computer. Dual boot Windows and Linux on an Apple machine is perfectly legitimate.

So yes 2GB is too low.

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FAIL

Duh its not rocket science.

So you spec 4GB on order which you can do. Anyone who has plans to run a dual boot - which is not an average consumer thing - will already do it.

The same has been happening on windows machines for years. You spec what memory you need over a base config or get the next model up.

Would you prefer the current windows situation where 4Gb is being wasted on dozens of windows laptops running 32bit windows that can only use 2.96 Gb?

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Considering the only competition in the style stakes is the Vaio Z - starting at £1500 - I think this pricing is pretty reasonable. Might even consider giving Apple a go with this...

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Holmes

@Will 10

Totally agree with you regarding Sony VAIO Z. I've bought my MBA 1.5 years ago because it was considerably cheaper than Z but similar in other aspects,.. but there's still some tech like switching between discrete (nVidia) and on-board video in real-time which simply isn't in Apple products (yet).

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Resources = Flawed Logic

So the Lithium in the battery did someone invent that out of thin air or did some poor fool have to dig it out of the ground ?

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