MacBook Air 11.6″ ( 2010 model ) – My impressions and brief review

Posted on November 17, 2010

5


This is my impression and a brief layman’s review of Apple’s latest MacBook Air ( Model MC506LL/A ).  This is the 11.6” model with 2 GB ram and a 128 GB SSD . I will make some comparisons with my previous owned 2009 1.86 Ghz model.

On 20 Oct during its launch, Apple CEO’s Steve Jobs had said the new MBA represent the direction for future MacBook models. The new MBA is a fully-fledged notebook in a slim, lightweight package, with the quick-start accessibility of the iPad along with the flexibility of OS X.

For the first time, Apple has picked a 16:9 widescreen aspect panel for the 11.6″ MacBook Air. Resolution  is now at  1366 x 768 pixels , now offering 25,000 more pixels than the older 13.3″  model of 1280 x 800 pixel . It still use the older Intel Core 2 Duo processors ( choice of either a 1.4GHz or 1.6GHz ). By avoiding the newer chips, they’re free to stick with NVIDIA’s  GeForce 320M graphic chip.  Ram size of 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 memory is standard (or a 4GB option). Battery life is expected up to 5 hours on wireless browsing. Storage is now in the form of SSD , slimmed-down NAND flash – either 64 GB or 128 GB.

Apple solders the MacBook Air’s RAM to its mainboard, and the SSD is a proprietary component; that means later upgrades are not possible. One can however configured the upgrades during purchase : RM 327 upgrade to 1.6 GHz and RM 359 upgrade ram to 4GB. Ordering online from Apple Store delivery of the standard specs notebook is within 3 days while configured models takes up to 10 to 14 days.

HARDWARE and DESIGN

The MBA is a full unibody aluminum chassis crafted from a single, machined chunk of metal – it measures 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.11-0.68 inches. Apple claims is the slimmest notebook , actually my previous Sony Vaio VPCX117LG ( windows 7,  11.1″ model ) is thinner  by 0.20 inch,  shorter by 0.5″ and lighter at 760 gm versus 1.0 kg for this MBA. My review of the Sony Vaio is here .

The previous MBA had an angled downwards MagSafe power connector and it was quite inconvenient to plug in the charger. In the new MBA it is located right spot on at the left hand edge . The older MBA had a small cover hiding the three connectors: mini DisplayPort, USB and line out.These are exposed in the  new MBA  design . I was extremely glad to find an additional USB port in the new MBA.  There is however no SD card reader, which is only available in the 13.3″ model.

A webcam, which is even thinner than the one on iPhone 4 – now rebranded as a “FaceTime camera” – is built into the wafer-thin MacBook Air display, for video calls.

The old MacBook Air lacked the glass trackpad found in the new MBA. This glass trackpad is superb , similar to my other MacBook Pro. Multi-Touch gestures works very well on the glass trackpad.

Similar to previous MBA, the new MBA didn’t have an optical drive. Apple recommends the use of its SuperDrive but I find that my old generic unbranded USB external DVD R/RW works well with it. I could even burn DVD’s with it.

Unlike the original MBA, there is no recovery DVDs. Instead one get a 8GB USB stick with OS X and all bundled apps on the drive. If you need to restore your machine, just pop the USB stick in and hold down the ‘c’ key while you start the MBA.

The  new MBA do not  have a backlit keyboard – a disappointment as I expected it, seeing it being a feature in the last release of the new MacBooks. There is also no inbuilt 3G mobile broadband – so I have to use the USB modem. After installed the drivers, detection was instant and performs reasonably well.

Overall, the new MacBook Air oozes out beauty in a solid well built  and eye-catching design. Its looks alone gives one an impression too of a first class performance.

PERFORMANCE

I faced several issues with the older MBA : It lags and slows down with several windows open simultaneously, it gets ” hot” after an hour of use, the fan noise was obvious after more than an hour usage, and  battery life was poor 3-4 hours.

I consider this MBA model a high end Netbook. It performs excellently well in my daily routine of office applications and browsing. I would say it is comparable to my other Macbook Pro 13.3″ Alu. It was definitely much faster, smoother than the previous 1.86 Ghz  2009 model . I would think this is mainly due to the usage of SSD as storage instead of SATA hard disks. It has been reported by several testers that the new 1.4 Ghz MBA performs better than the older 2008/9 13.3″ 1.86 Ghz  models. You can read these technical reports at the links ( Arstechnica and Anandtech )  I have listed below. Using photoshop was satisfactory . I would say if you are into heavy intensive graphic applications , the 13.3″ 2.13 GHz model is a better option.

The new MBA remains cool even after 3-4 hours continuous usage. There was no audible fan noise too.These two improvements trumps the older MBA.

The new MacBook Airs are the first Macs to ship without Adobe’s Flash Player plugin . This is easily resolved by just downloading and installed it.  So far I do not faced any lag watching Flash enabled videos as reported by some users.

The bootup time of this MBA when switched on  is very fast – about 12 seconds. I remember my previous MBA took close to 30 seconds to boot. Shutdown is about 2-3 seconds only. On standby mode or recover from sleep mode, restart is INSTANT just like the iPAD. Apple had reported if left unused and on standby mode, the new MBA had a standby time up to 30 days .

Battery life in the new MBA is impressive and excellent. With screen brightness on about 70 %, continuous usage of  browsing, downloading podcasts through iTunes, music playback in backgound , it can easily last me 5 hours.  Apple had reported a 5 hours limit  usage but based on my usage, I figure getting up to 6 hours will not be an issue at all.

Some had said that the new MBA is  like an iPad with a hinge and a keyboard. I quote “ That description isn’t too far from the truth—the 11.6″ aluminum unibody frame is about the same width and approximately 2″ longer than the iPad. At its thickest point, the MacBook Air is 0.68″ inches, while the iPad is 0.5″ at its thickest point. And at 2.3 pounds, the MacBook Air is less than a pound heavier than the iPad—if you add an Apple Wireless Keyboard to your iPad then the MacBook Air actually has a weight advantage.”

Some photos to show the new 11.6″ MBA versus the iPad :

 

Official site  : http://www.apple.com/macbookair/specs.html

General reviews :

http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/26/macbook-air-review-late-2010/

http://www.slashgear.com/macbook-air-11-6-review-22109859/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+slashgear+%28SlashGear%29

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371199,00.asp

http://computershopper.com/laptops/reviews/apple-macbook-air-11.6-inch-2010-version

Very good , comprehensive and technical reviews :

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3991/apples-2010-macbook-air-11-13inch-reviewed

http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2010/11/the-future-of-notebooks-ars-reviews-the-11-macbook-air.ars