back to article Hands on with the new Apple MacBook Air

Let's get the hard part out of the way at the start. The new MacBook Air isn't a cheap computer, and was never going to be. If you're the sort to throw a fit because you can by a 15in octo-core über machine for half the 850 quid Apple wants for the even most basic, smallest Air, stop reading now. Let me assure you, your …


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  1. Ben Brandwood
    Thumb Up

    Didn't get a review machine I see

    I love the fact that the reviewer has clearly just wandered down to the Regent St apple store and had a play around with one of the desk models :)

    Shows an enterprising spirit!

    1. webster phreaky ate my iphone


      he managed to fight his way passed all the tourists using Facebook.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If ever...

        I'm in an apple store, I make sure I set a few iPads and iphones to some anti apple news stories.

  2. Seeker

    Like a bad eeepc 1215pn surely?

    The 1215pn is about the same size, same weight, has better performance and battery life and is half the price and happily runs OSX and absolutely murders this on graphics performance. So why, unless they were an Apple Cultist, would anyone buy this product?

    1. Funkstain

      Is that true?

      Genuinely curious - the 1215N does have a discrete GPU, but does the dual-core Atom compare well to the C2D?

      And does it really run OS X flawlessly, ie: WIFI, Sleep, BT, etc?

      If the answers are positive this could be a contender for next laptop, at just £400-odd.

    2. Bilgepipe
      Jobs Halo


      Because the EeePC, like the one I have, will be cheap nasty shite.

      -10 points for using the word "cultist." Childish.

    3. Sandeep Jandu

      RE:Like a bad eeepc 1215pn surely?

      Doesn't the Asus EEE 1215pn have the Atom processor. Comparing the Atom to a Core2Duo is like comparing a Skoda to a Ferrari.

      1. TechAddictive

        RE:Like a bad eeepc 1215pn surely?

        Why? What do you have against Skoda? :-)

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge

        e l t i t

        1. Ferrari are crap, need service every 6000km and light up like matches, thanks to the Fiat design team (Fiat Bravo/Brava's were dangerous as they tended to light up on motorways, now Ferari is recalling thousands of their latest models, as they light up for unexplained reasons - some owners were told it was their driving and did not get replacement!!!!!!!!!!!)

        2. Skoda's are better than any Italian, French, or American-designed/built car of its category ... Fuck, they are built with the same parts as Audi's.

        So, although you seem to know your way around computers, stop using cars for analogy, as you clearly have no clue ....

        Atom to c2d is like a Reliant Robin compared to a VW Golf ...

    4. That Awful Puppy

      Best be trolling, person of colour*

      "About the same size" is obviously newspeak for "nearly twice the thickness and nearly 50% heavier", then? As to performance, well, I'm quite sure a dual-core Atom will just wipe the floor with Core2Duo.

      * before the PC police shoot me in the face, it's a bloody meme, I just substituted the nasty word for a more acceptable phrase.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Didn't Author tell you to stop reading?

      "If you're the sort to throw a fit because you can by a 15in octo-core über machine for half the 850 quid Apple wants for the even most basic, smallest Air, stop reading now. Let me assure you, your prejudices will be reinforced."

      ...but had to come in and comment anyway.

      You should probably highlight the downsides of a Hackintosh before evangelising them too btw. You and I have built 'em and know the pitfalls, but Joe Public is probably nowhere near technical enough to build one himself.

      1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

        @ Didn't Author tell you to stop reading? #

        1. Troll icon.

        2. You posted, I posted. It worked :P

  3. semprance


    Seriously, how is anyone buying these things. Does Jobs look at the Apple-bois and just see cheque books with limbs and flaily arms?

    Honestly... I wouldn't pay half that asking price for what is essentially a netbook with a fancy case (that's not even very nice ffs).

    1. Scott Mckenzie


      Did you read the review at all???

      I was going to post how great and balanced a review it was, hopefully quashing the usual slatings, but no.... still they trudge in.

      I love the product, but have no requirement for one that i couldn't fix with my iPad or MBP, but i know of many folk who'd love one, my other half at uni for instance, to complement her iMac!

      1. jai

        re: Err...

        > Did you read the review at all???

        the commentard trolls on this site don't read the reviews, don't be silly! if they took the time to read the review, then someone else might be able to post a sensible and intelligent comment before them

    2. RichyS


      If the Air is just a netbook, then the iPad is just a large iPod Touch...

      This stuck record is getting really tedious.

      1. Seeker

        Uhm exactly?


    3. Michael C

      Repettitive much?

      Geeze. IT IS NOT A NETBOOK. Netbooks DO NOT HAVE REAL GPUS! Netbooks don't even have Core2Duos... This is an Ultra-compact machine, that is a (near) full performance business laptop with some ability to game and work with high rez video too. This also has a better-than 720p (by a lot, 900v lines actually) screen.

      If you want an over glorified 4lb typewriter with a low res screen under $400, go fucking by one. If you want a machine that is ultra portable (fits INSIDE a folio with the pad of paper!) that doesn't also require you to have a second computer somewhere else, then this is not only one of the few options, it's actually one of the cheapest and at the top of performance in it's class.

      Instant on it not a bad deal either.

      Note: the author tested return from "sleep" but he did NOT note suspend resume time. The MBA supports multiple modes of operation, including off, sleep, and STANDBY. In standby resume is less than 1 second (because it was never asleep, but in fact CONTINUALLY ON in a very low power state, still using wifi, for as long as 30 days!) That's a HUGE selling point to a business person who now could walk around with a notebook under their arm and still get notification alerts not just from e-mail, but inter-office chat applications or other applications as well.

  4. Captain Underpants

    In for a penny, in for over a grand...

    The £850 version is alright, but if you're going to bother with Apple kit at that level, you'd be mad not to bump the SSD to 128GB (not only more space but better performance to boot), the RAM, and the CPU - you can get the 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo in the 128GB model. Sure, it's £310 more, but if money's an issue what the hell are you doing buying Apple gear in the first place?

    (You should probably also drop the £200 that the AppleCare/3 year warranty will cost, but that has its own issues like Apple's refusal to offer on-site NBD service for its portable units...)

    1. Funkstain

      This annoys me

      Why can't I upgrade the processor in the 11" 64GB? I can understand that form factor / cooling MAY have something to do with not offering the 2.13GHz C2D, but at least offer the 1.6 or 1.86 without forcing me to order storage I don't need.

      I would like a small/light form laptop but 1.4GHz C2D doesn't do it for me. Checking out Atom benchmarks just makes me sad, and I don't want to fork out for a Vaio Z.

      1. Captain Underpants


        I agree entirely, and as far as I can tell it's just a case of Apple being dicks and forcing you to buy something expensive you don't need in order to get something else that you do want. In the same way as you can only bump up to the 1.6GHz C2D if you buy the model with the 128GB SSD, you can get the 2.13GHz C2D in the 13.3" version - but only if you go for the 256GB model.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Doesn't do it for you?

        So the 1.4GHz doesn't do it for you but the 1.6GHz does?

        It's 14% faster.

        You must be pretty important if those extra milliseconds are critical to you. LOL.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If your going to spend that much...

      Why not get a macbook proper and get the performance benefits as well as extra ports?

      They can't be that much heavier can they? And you'll still look good at that uber trendy coffee bar with your skinny frappucino latte mocha.

      1. Captain Underpants


        The starting weight on the 11.6" MBA is basically 1kg. The 13.3" MBA is ~1.3kg. The 13.3" MBP is 2kg.

        Doesn't sound like much, but from what I can tell anything past 1.5kg is generally perceived as being too heavy, or at least beyond the desirable weight.

        Don't forget you've also got to factor in the £280 you have to add to the 13" MBP's baseline price if you want to have a 128GB SSD rather than a 5400rpm HDD.

      2. No way macros undo

        You make a good point...

        but your knowledge of coffee is abysmal!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But you never buy Applecare from Apple

      You buy if from Amazon or CEX where it's much much cheaper.

  5. Lottie


    Is it just me or is this one of the more ugly Apple products of late?

    The biggest turn off for me aesthetically is the keyboard that looks like it came fromt he ZX81 designers manual. Might be nice to type on, but the whole computer just looks cheap.

    1. BingBong

      it's just you

      It is extremely nice and follows the MBP styling. The keyboard has been around for a couple of years on the MacBook pro and is great to use and not cheap looking at all. The only downside to the new air keyboard is the lack of backlighting which is a shame.

      The machine feels rock solid and the Airs and MBPs are clearly the finest physically engineered laptops around.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Like a bad eeepc 1215pn surely?

    Is the 1215pn even out yet? I haven't come across any published prices...

  7. flameresistant

    Nicely Balanced Article I Thought

    Looking forward to the in-depth test.


  8. Pantera


    without a form of 3g (or 4g) integrated into the system

    why would i buy a $1000 supermobile machine and be limited to wifi hotspots?

    1. flameresistant

      Why would you want that?

      When a MiFi is so cheap and more flexible so you could use it with multiple devices. The premium you would pay for on-board 3G would be far higher.

    2. Michael C


      because you still have a PHONE? It does tether ya know... Tethering with any smart phone (which you would already have if your the class of person to buy an ultra-compact like this!), is the more logical choice.

      but consider the business use case. This is an inter-office machine first, and a coffee-stop/airport/hotel ultra-light work on the go machine, not a i want to take a working lunch in the park machine. The always on (standby) mode is one of its strongest selling points. You're using this on the corporate or campus network already in most cases. People who spend $400-600 premiums cs a machine that weighs less than 2 lbs more do so for specific reasons.

      Oh, and not one mac, not ONE, has integrated 3G/4G. Its not an option. Must be done via USB.

      Also, are you seriously suggestion apple actually embed a carrier specific component in a machine!?!?! wtf would I want to be tied to one provider (and complicate the line by having carrier model options for alternatives). Plus, they'll give me a free 3G/4G adapter if I sign a plan, the one in the machine is not free (of COMITS you to a plan). And a USB 4G adapter only drains my battery when i need it, and fits on a keychain. this really is a non-issue....

      1. Matt_payne666


        the amount of times Ive needed to use the internet without having to bother with locating wifi details from busy people that dont care... Built in 3G is a deal breaker in any new laptop, its just so easy to just dial up without tethering or messing about with dongles...

        3G doesnt have to be carrier dependant too... the GOBI card in my toughbook is sim unlocked, I just pop a random SIM inside and away i go!

        I like the air, but i wouldnt buy one, it woldnt take the abuse I bestow on a laptop, or have the necessary runtime, but even so, 3G is a silly thing to loose on a business machine, that and biometric scanner...

        1. Volker Hett

          Do you need UMTS, CDMA, LTE or WiMax?

          Here it would be UMTS now and LTE next year. What shall they put in?

          A cheap USB Dongle gives you all the future possibilities, a built in UMT/GPRS chip might be obsolete in 18 month.

          And if you're like me, you have a dataoption on your mobile contract anyways, so tethering is a valid option.

      2. Adam 10
        Thumb Down

        Integrate 3G/4G FTW!!!

        The computer I am typing this from is an ultralight HP with integrated 3G. SIM slot behind the battery, and it's away.

        If you were to read the T&Cs of your mobile contract, you would find that tethering is against them (unless you have a specific contract with tethering in mind).

        As I previously used a PCMCIA 3G card, I have to say that reception is far better with integrated 3G as they can put better aerials into the machine. Long gone are the days of reaching into my laptop case and pulling out the big aerial.

        So, no integrate 3G = fail.

  9. Workings

    Dells i7 11inch?

    Umm, 'none of the other 11.6in notebooks on the market have a Core 2 Duo inside'. Thats not quite right. Remember Alienwares m11x which can now have an i7, NVidia GT335? Oh, and it does look kinda cool too, although the Air is still damn sexy! :-)

    1. Rich 30
      Thumb Up


      I think that Alienware netbook is going to be a little bit bigger than the Air.....

      ..but thats what you get with Alienware - big size, big performance.

  10. Wyrdness

    Seriously overpriced

    What, £1100 for an ultra-thin 11" notebook PC with just 64GB SSD and 2GB RAM?

    What kind of idiot would pay for that?

    No, I'm not talking about the Air, I'm talking about it's direct competitor, the Sony Vaio X. Which only has a 1.86Ghz Atom, as opposed to the Air's Core Duo.

    Makes the £850 Air seem pretty good value, doesn't it.

  11. Dapprman
    Thumb Up

    I'm a happy windows user, but ...

    If the original Airbook had been this 11.6" model then I might have been tempted. At the time I was looking at replacing my previous laptop, which is used mainly for travel, and not only was weight important, but also size. While I like and am happy to use Windows, I'm also happy to give OSX a try, but at the time it was too large and far too expensive, where as this is about right, just possibly a little too much for me cost wise (I sitll use a desktop at home so can't justify spending a lot on a laptop that will only be used for 4 or 5 weeks of the year).

    I think the fact it's got a second USB port is a good thing, but the lack of an ethernet port would also be a killer for me. Sure I've got wireless at home, but not all the hotels I've stayed in have, and some where I've had both options, the wireless has been shaky or poor reception.

  12. viet 1

    Honestly, I'm trying...

    ... to find an interest in those things. Especially the smallest of the two, but then, my eyes fall on my asus eeepc 900A, and I can't see how I could get rid of it.

    Granted, the hardware is - as someone elegantly put it already - a piece of shite. The plastic is flimsy. The battery protrudes. It's thick. And surprisingly heavy for its diminutive size. Not because it's well engineered mind you, one of the track pad mouse button gave up after two years.

    But It cost me - 2 years ago - less than half of those 850$, the screen is adequate and it's got 3 USB ports and a SD reader. Its little atom for sure is no power house but it runs Fedora 13 KDE spin with all bells and whistles, and the intel graphic chip handles all I throw at it (mostly aero-like GUI effects). What I use it for is unloading pictures from my camera, making minor edits (on 16 bits raw) in the process before feeding my full workflow back home, and saving the result to a 2.5" HDD while I'm traveling.

    I pack it along a hard cover novel : they're about the same size (the apple wouldn't fit in the bag in that space). I hook it to a monitor via the included SVGA port. I then plug a full format keyboard and any usb mouse (often borrowed on location). This leaves me 1 USB free for the HDD, the SD reader for my camera's memory card, and I'm set to work.

    Feature wise, this leaves the Apple dead in the water, and completely useless to me. Aptly, someone compared it to a Ferrari : the perfect garage queen.

    1. Michael C

      not fail

      If you can get buy with an atom, no GPU, the extra dimensions, the shitty ass 600v line screen, et al, all well and good.

      THIS machine is for the real business people who can NOT. It runs real business apps without stuttering, can run a VM on top of that as well, boots in seconds not minutes, weighs less, is smaller, has a great 900v line screen, wifi N, bluetooth, SDXC slot supporting up to 1TB cards when they're released and up to class 16 devices, can drive a 30" cinema display, plays MMOs and even more graphically intense games, can EDIT not just play 1080P video, and multitasks like an atom can only dream of.

      THIS is a business machine, or an ultra-compact media machine. People pay $1400 for one because there is not other machine in this class that can do a fraction of those things, let alone all of them. It is a machine that does not REQUIRE you to also have another "real" PC in addition to it (and 2x of each software license, 2X the patching time, 2X the hassle, and issue syncing data between them).

      These will fly off shelves, the vast majority being reporters, field photographers, corporate America, and students. BTW: you can;t bring an Atom CPU on most campuses in this country at all. If it won't run Windows 7 Pro (as is necessary to join a managed domain), you can not access campus systems, and thus can not do homework, access presentation material, schedule a class, and more. Check the incoming student CPU requirements of almost any major university. the 2 here in town have on their site "Can I use a NetBook?" and the answer from campus IT is "NO, you CAN NOT, campus systems require a Window 7 Pro or OS X 10.5+ and access to campus WiFi is not possible without it." And the CHEAPEST system either campus recommend for "general education" incoming freshmen is an $1100 Dell system. (with the expectation it will still meet campus requirements 2 years hence, though no guarantee of making it 4 years). Some departments require much more expensive systems, several REQUIRE a Macintosh, and Mac is highly recommended for it;s "versatility" in being able to run multiple operating systems and meet varying student needs. They "strongly" caution not to buy ANY system not on their list as they stock parts and are certified to repair ONLY those systems. The local bestbuys get a few dozen returns every fall because parents go cheap and the on-campus IT folks laugh and send them away.

      1. Matt_payne666


        My HP mini5101 was supplied with Vista Business and runs the upgrade to 7Pro like a dream on its little atom, even only scoring 2.3 on the windows experience, It has wifi A,B,G,N, Bluetooth and will run 1080p if i swap my 3G gobi for the Bcom Crystal decoder, the 1366x768 dosplay isnt quite as High a resolution but the machine will run for 7hours...

        but yes, the air is quite nice...

      2. viet 1

        in other words...

        It's really a nice freudian slip you made between 'to go by' and 'to go buy' ; shows nicely what your uni is really all about, form over content. This 'puter will certainly make you feel good, go for it. Your tutition fees are a good investment obviously.

        Anyway, that wasn't my point. What I was saying is, I don't mind if a computer can multitask faster than the one I've got, if it can't address the task I'm expecting it to fulfill. Most real life computing problems are io-bound, not cpu-bound. Those little things look good, but they don't have enough connectivity for what I do. They can run as fast as they want, if I can't feed the processor with my data the way I need, they're useless. To make a comparison, much like sport cars, they are nice, shinny and fast, but the trunk can't hold what I expect to fill it with.

        But pedal to the metal and godspeed to you, my friend.

        ps. mind you, I learned the basics of computing on CP/M (no multitasking -at all-), spreadsheets and wordprocessor on a DOS 286-12MHz, and then I switched from finance to law science, and, oh, shock and horror, most of it was in DEAD TREES BOOKS !

  13. JDX Gold badge

    Looks nice

    I've got a MacBook but am really a Windows guy... however even I can see it's a nice package. It's expensive but remember to anyone on a decent salary, a few £100 extra to get something sleek and cool is not a big deal, it's like buying a granite kitchen worktop or a Rolex watch... aesthetics are worth money to people who don't have to watch every penny.

    If I did a lot of travelling for work I'd consider one.

  14. Si 1

    "As a lover of small, slim, lightweight computers"

    I think we need to start the TNLCA: Thin 'n' Light Computers Anonymous.

    I don't have a need for another small lightweight laptop (I've already got the Alienware M11x), but it's such an attractive wedge of aluminium that I want one anyway. It reminds me of the time I first saw Sony's VAIO range with their magnesium casings back in 1999...

  15. Justin Stringfellow
    Dead Vulture


    Seriously, pointing out that the machine is far more expensive than the wintel competition isn't prejudice, it's just a plain fact, so get over it. Clearly it seems the reviewer is a Apple apologist and feels the need to come out fighting with this assertion. As it stands - and reading the other comments - the price IS the sole interesting fact about this latest Apple notebook offering. The rest of the stats are just a list of parts that will fit in the case of the specified dimensions and do the required job for the sort of people who will buy this thing.

    Is it too much to ask for an actual review conducted over a few days using actual proper demo kit, and by a reviewer capable of neutrality?

  16. Francis Begbie

    Glovely (sic) !

    Very hot little bit of kit!

    As a pro who spends upmty hours of work doing LAMP-ish stuff I appreciate what Macbooks are. I'm prepared to pay premium for lightweight, just-works, FOSS-ready (thank you, MacPorts!) kit that's a pleasure to use day in day out. Sweet when lugging it about on my motorcycle.

    Games? i have my Xbox for that - Apple is nowhere on that horizon.

  17. MondoMan

    err, Pentium Dual-Core CPUs ARE Core 2 Duos

    Just with a bit less cache (and a bit less cachet!).

  18. Shingo Tamai

    None of the other 11.6in notebooks on the market have a Core 2 Duo inside.

    Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T

    To be read as: not all the notebooks are available in the UK.


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