back to article Apple MacBook Air 13in review

Two years ago Apple got really serious about thin and light laptops - and did something really quite important. It replaced its original Air model – that was by then almost three years old – with two new designs. The first Air had been widely perceived to be an expensive novelty, over-priced and under-powered, and it didn’t look …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less for more it seems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To those who value quantity over quality, yes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And these people

        Also tend to like eating at McDonalds and won't statistically live long with us to be much of a worry in the end.

    2. dougal83
      WTF?

      Asus should sue on Design infringement. What goes around comes around and all!

      http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/Superior_Mobility/ASUS_ZENBOOK_UX31E/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Except the Macbook Air was out first.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got a Macbook Air just over a year ago - have to say it is 'by far' the best laptop (for me) I have ever had and not just saying that because it's the newest. As someone who actually carries their laptop around (rather than being just a desktop replacement) it's been fantastic - so much smaller and lighter but still just as useable.

    No I do not need a built-in DVD drive - so it's fine for me - for the few times I do (perhaps 1-2 times in the last 12 months) I have an external drive than is barely larger than a audio CD case. 9.5/10 - for what it is can't fault it - screen res is perfect for it's size, battery life is great, solid state is more reliable / rugged. The whole lot is like carrying an A4 pad and even the power adapter is barely bigger than a plug on a conventional laptop.

    I'll admit it was not the cheapest but for what it is it's near perfect - the real test - if I lost it would I replace it - yes immediately.

    1. johnnymotel
      Pint

      the screen...

      I'd be interested in your feelings about the screen in real life use. Anandtech said in their review that they felt the screen was subpar when compared to the Macbook Pro series. Specifically, angle viewing and colour gamut.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the screen...

        Well as a laptop it is typically only used by me - so viewing 'angle' is not really an issue - but I've had 2-3 people (side by side) viewing the screen and also seemed fine - probably as much as you can expect. As for colour - a colleague had a Spyder3Elite so did various tests and calibrations on it and the changes recommended were 'minor' to say the least.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Colour gamut

        The problem is real. It's not as rich or deep in the blues or reds as a Pro or my ageing Dell professional monitor.

        Having said that, the Air screens have better pixel density than the Pro screens, and for me that's more important in actual use. Mine feels much, much sharper than even a pro-grade Dell Ultrasharp at normal viewing distances, and less glossy than a Pro's screen. Unless you're doing very serious pro photo editing the Air screens are near-perfect.

    2. Rufus McDufus

      I got one about a year ago too. It's a great laptop, but light it is not. That metal case doesn't help.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Light it is not? Really - compared to laptops it's very light and for the quality of build it's very light and rugged. Mine gets carried every day and is basically 'as new'.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    External storage

    I agree that the prices Apple charges for memory are insane. But then, they have always done so, it really shouldn't come as a surprise anymore.

    As for large collections of files, I either store them in the cloud or on an external disk.

    1. Philip Lewis
      Holmes

      Re: External storage

      Every computer manufacturer since the beginning of time has charged "over the odds" for memory supplied by themselves. IBM, DEC, Sun, HP etc. etc. Apple is no different and this shouldn't be news.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: External storage

        Yep: try and buy server hard disks or RAM upgrades from HP or IBM, but be prepared to whince!

        1. Neill Mitchell

          Re: External storage

          "Yep: try and buy server hard disks or RAM upgrades from HP or IBM, but be prepared to whince!"

          The Air is a server? How much is the rack mounting kit?

          "I agree that the prices Apple charges for memory are insane. But then, they have always done so, it really shouldn't come as a surprise anymore."

          That doesn't make it right.

          "Every computer manufacturer since the beginning of time has charged "over the odds" for memory supplied by themselves. IBM, DEC, Sun, HP etc. etc. Apple is no different and this shouldn't be news."

          You are being fleeced and no amount of apologist hand waving can hide the fact. I doubt HP get away with a 40%+ mark up these days. Ditto Lenovo, Dell etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: External storage

            As to the comment 'that doesn't make it right' - remember part of the extra cost is because that component is then covered by the warranty. I remember buying drives for HP servers and they were significantly more expensive but were then covered on the on-site warranty at no extra cost.

            The 11" Macbook air with 64Gb storage is £849 - the same one with 128Gb is £929 - so yes it's £80 for 64Gb. Yes I can get a cheapo 64gb USB stick for £25-30 but it's not got anything like the same performance - so is it really that expensive?

            1. Fuzz

              Re: External storage

              yes it really is that expensive, forget your cheapo USB stick. You can get a 128GB SSD for £80 that's the whole drive not just the extra 64GB of memory.

          2. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: External storage

            I doubt HP get away with a 40%+ mark up these days. Ditto Lenovo, Dell etc.

            Dell's prices are public record, go buy a Dell branded hard disk.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: External storage

        "Every computer manufacturer since the beginning of time has charged "over the odds" for memory supplied by themselves."

        Yes, remember this years ago when we were buying our first Sun workstation at work - Sun salesperson actually told us not to order additional memory from them and pointed us to someone who made "compatible" memory for about 1/3rd of their cost!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All Apple prices have a 10% gullibility tax added

      You can have it removed here:

      http://store.apple.com/uk/browse/home/specialdeals/mac/macbook_air/13

      (They have 2012 models in stock already.)

  4. djstardust Silver badge
    Meh

    Expensive flash and no ports .....

    Again Apple rip you off on the cost of flash memory, and put less ports in so you have to buy adapters.

    I have a Toshiba Z830-10U ultrabook which is actually lighter than the 13" Air ... it also has 3 USB ports (one of which is USB3), a full size VGA out, HDMI out and a LAN port.

    Beauty is it cost under £500 and is just as good. Only thing that lets it down is the display, not as good quality and only 1366x768.

    Apple are just a rip-off!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Expensive flash and no ports .....

      Does it run OSX? nope, there you go then.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Expensive flash and no ports .....

      hmmmm

      just as good = inferior display - what planet are you on?

      Think what you meant to say was for your particular use case you were only willing to part with £500 (btw was that real retail - a quick google suggests the online price of the current version is closer to £650).

      So in short your comment should read" I have no need for the features the air has over my tosh - therefore I question the value of the Air for my own little world but I fully understand that others need to have a better screen or different OS validates their desire to pay more".

      Agree with me or just having a thinly veiled dig at Apple for no real reason?

    3. Steve78

      Re: Expensive flash and no ports .....

      Cost is not the most important factor. You pay a slight premium for the MacBook Air but as soon as you start using the machine you know it was money well spent.

      For me, the best feature about any Mac has always been the touchpad. No windows based laptop has ever had a good touchpad. Samsung have got close to having a decent one in some of their premium models, but that’s the exception.

      Going back to your daft cost argument, if you pick up a base MBA and intend to use it for 3 years, then that's barely £350 per year. It's an investment even the most hard-up students don't even flinch at when purchasing the machine. Plus if you want to use OS X, then you don't even look at the PC alternatives, your decision is between the MBA or the MBP.

      As for spending money on a 1366x768 machine in 2012, I'm not sure what to say. I don't know whether to laugh or sympathise.

      1. Andrew Lobban
        Thumb Up

        @steve78

        There are many great features about mac laptops that I love but you are spot on with the trackpad comment. That is obviously your main means of interacting with the device and every single non Apple trackpad I have personally tried hasn't even come close to the muti touch pads used on macs. Worth the premium alone in my opinion.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Expensive flash and no ports .....

      I just looked up the Toshiba Z830-10U - don't know where you got it for £500 (inc. VAT) with the same spec. as the Macbook Air - the cheapest ones I saw were much nearer Macbook prices and I've seen the Toshiba - it feels flimsy in comparison and as you say the screen is not as good.

    5. Chris_Maresca
      Facepalm

      No depreciation

      It doesn't matter that XXX brand costs 10x less. After 18 months, brand XXX will be worth exactly 1% of what you paid for it.

      In contrast, pretty much any Apple hardware will retain the vast majority of it's value for years. I just sold a 2008 MacBook Air for $630, just as an example. Show me a non-Apple machine from ANY brand that's worth more than 5% of it's value after four years....

      Just looking at the initial cost of the machine is shortsighted - over the long term, the Mac's deliver much better TCO.

      Of course, if you don't have the money for a new Mac, then it's a moot point. Even then, you should still buy a used Mac, even if you are only going to run Windows on it. Anything else and you are just burning money...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No depreciation

        TCO is made up of many factors and for most people / companies Apple kit will cost less - i.e. lasts longer, worth more at resale and the biggie lower support costs or higher productivity. I have a friend who heads who says support time was cut in half for their users that switched to Mac - that is real $$$'s

    6. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Z830

      Seen it, like it, know a very rich lawyer who works off it and loves it a lot-but where can you get it for £500? Keen to know...

  5. Stacy
    Thumb Down

    So like the new iPhone

    Less features for the same or more money, but it's (supposedly) pretty.

    The original Air was a cheap and heavier take on the Sony TT (Released around 2008 or so IIRC). Hardly revolutionary.

    If screen real estate is what you need Asus has a much better option in the same bracket. If power and screen real estate are what you need Sony's Z series without the media dock comes in for a similar price these days with full HD not just 1400*900. Much better SSD, memory and processor (a full spec IvyBridge rather than the U version) - and at 2lb is even lighter, whilst keeping the 6+ hours battery life. (And personally I think the Carbon Fiber Sony looks oodles better...). Oh.. And all the connectors you need for day to day without having to buy an adaptor.

    Why does this score so high?

    1. Scott Earle
      Stop

      Re: So like the new iPhone

      The MacBook Air (released January 2008) is Apple's take on the Sony Vaio TT (released September 2008)?

      How does that work?

      1. Stacy

        Re: So like the new iPhone

        Err, extrememly small, light, ultra portable, with a good screen.

        They are the factors that seperate the TT and the Air from other machines. At least until Intel introduced it's UltraBook standard.

        The point I was trying to make is that contrary to what the review says the Air was not the first laptop to bring this type of machine to market.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So like the new iPhone

          So you are still claiming that a machine that ware released in September 2008 influenced the design of a machine that was released in January 2008? I'd go and have a think about that if I were you...

          1. Stacy
            FAIL

            Re: So like the new iPhone

            Er no... I beleive that I said I was wrong. You see, not being a fan girl, but a grown woman I can admit to mistakes.

            What I said is that I think this years machine is lacking.

            I admitted my mistake, are you adult enough to so the same?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              WTF?

              Re: So like the new iPhone

              I posted that at around 9pm last night. Don't blame me for El Reg mods laziness.

              1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

                Re: Re: So like the new iPhone

                "Don't blame me for El Reg mods laziness."

                With that attitude, I can't imagine why you were at the back of the queue :P

                C.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: So like the new iPhone

                  Did I say lazy? I meant over worked, clearly!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So like the new iPhone

        The Sony Vaio TT is really nothing like the Macbook Air - the 'TT" was like any other small laptop at the time.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Stacy
          WTF?

          Re: So like the new iPhone

          Re: So like the new iPhone

          Bull! How many other 11" laptops from the time had HD Ready screens, built in optical drives, full connectivity and real processors instead of Atoms?

          There is a reason it was many times more the cost of a NetBook or 15" laptop - because it was a full computer in a tiny, carbon fiber case! Before I killed it by dropping a large peice of metal on the screen (Oops!) I ran VS 2010, TFS Server 2010 and SQL Server 2008 on mine so that I could develop on the move. If you can say which other 11" laptop from the time would do that I'd be impressed!

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Armando 123

        Re: So like the new iPhone

        "The MacBook Air (released January 2008) is Apple's take on the Sony Vaio TT (released September 2008)?

        How does that work?"

        It involves a Delorean.

        1. Stacy
          FAIL

          Re: So like the new iPhone

          Oops :) I just re-read the review... My bad I thought that the Air was 2009, not 2008. I stand corrected (and in which case, yup I can see that it was pretty impressive for the time).

          So yes, it seems to have beaten the TT...

          I stand by my comment that the current one isn't that great when comparing with the alternatives though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So like the new iPhone

      The Reg have started getting comments from Apple now, rather than simply being ignored. Around the same time, this and the iphone 5 both get 90%.

      Coincidence?

      1. Euchrid

        Re: So like the new iPhone

        "The Reg have started getting comments from Apple now, rather than simply being ignored. Around the same time, this and the iphone 5 both get 90%.

        Coincidence?"

        Err, have you been reading *all* of El Reg's coverage about Apple? An overly obsequious tone isn’t a criticism that can’t justifiably be made.

        Also, IIRC, Apple started giving comments to El Reg before these reviews.

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  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did it have a rotten Core?

    No mention of opening it up to see if it has any nailed down features.

    Apple like to glue them down to stop or break would be tinkerers like me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did it have a rotten Core?

      Yeah because when I've just spent £1000 on a laptop the first thing I do is open it up.

      Tinkerers are probably 1% of the market and less than 1% of Apple customers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Did it have a rotten Core?

        "Yeah because when I've just spent £1000 on a laptop the first thing I do is open it up."

        Well, I just want to know "does it blend"!

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Did it have a rotten Core?

      Ever heard of google?

      http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook-Air-13-Inch-Mid-2012-Teardown/9457/1

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