Several years ago, Apple updated their product line with an ultra flat laptop. In 2008, CEO Steve Jobs (passed away in October 2011) arrived on stage with a brown envelope and took the first Macbook Air out of the envelope. Recently Apple launched the new Macbook Air. The laptop is available in two versions: 11” and 13”. I had the opportunity to test the 11”-model for about one month.
The new 11” and 13” Macbook Air (or simply MBA) are both almost completely identical, except for the size. When the laptop is closed, people couldn’t believe it is a laptop! Many people are really curious to see, feel and hold this piece of design. At the front, the new Macbook Air is less than 3mm thin and it increases up to 1,7cm at the back. In total, the laptop weights 1,08kg.
The display of this 11” MBA has a resolution of 1366x768. That is a lot for such a small display and results in sharp pictures and good colours. The only part I don’t like is the glossy display. As a photographer, personally I prefer anti-glare displays for editing my pictures, but this display didn’t bother me at any time within the period of testing. Still, it would have been nice to have a mat display.
Speed is a relative meaning on a Macbook Air. The 11” MBA has a standard 1,6Ghz dual-core Intel i5 processor on board. For those who want to upgrade, you can have an i7 1,8Ghz processor for only 150 Euros extra. In practice, the MBA is really fast. In some way, the flash storage will be a major part of this level of speed. This new way of storage is a lot smaller, less noise, less heat (read: no heat) and is a lot faster! A cold boot on the MBA will take less than 50 seconds and within 3 seconds, you will awake the MBA from sleep-mode. You can buy the 11” MBA with 64 of 128GB flash storage. In the Apple store, you can buy an ssd of 256GB for 300 euros. It is therefore clear that your budget will determine the storage capacity.
Using Solid State Drives (with flash storage inside) is the future. It will improve the Macbook Air in many ways: it produces less heat, it’s less sensitive to shocks and has a higher read and write speed. The disadvantage is the limited storage capacity (maximum 256GB). For a photographer, this is no luxury! If you remove all pictures after each job (like I do), it will however be enough.
Standardly, The MBA is equipped with a video card: Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 256mb cache, which is enough for that kind of laptop. Standard, you’ll find 2Gb memory in a MBA, but for just 90 Euros extra, you’ll be able to upgrade to 4Gb. Personally, for such a small supplement, I would take the upgrade.
The main reason, you wouldn’t find many connection ports on this laptop is because it is ultra flat. Macbook Air users of the first generation could only use one UBS 2.0 port. On this laptop, there are already two ports available. You can easily connect your external drive as well as your iPhone. At the right side of the laptop, next to the USB 2.0 port, you’ll also find a mini display port. You can connect the new Apple 27″ Cinema Display and use the USB hub at the back of the screen. The new Thunderbold technology is included in the Display port.
Next to these ports, you’ll find one 3,5mm audio jack and a SD-card reader (only on the 13” model). You won’t find an ethernet-, Firewire 400- en Firewire 800 port on this laptop. If you need an ethernet connection, you can buy a small convertor from USB 2.0 to ethernet (costs 29 Euros). Personally, I think Apple thought that you can connect everywhere to a wireless network which is of course quite frequently the case in hotel rooms or conference rooms, but not everywhere.
Apple still sells an external optical DVD super drive to watch films or install programs, but the OS and iLife are on a small USB-stick delivered with the laptop. If needed, you can simply reinstall you OS or iLife applications. If you still want an external DVD writer, you can buy one in the Apple store for 79 Euros extra.
Intel developed the new Thunderbold-technology and Lacie/Apple gave them some technical support. The new way of data transmission is great because of the transfer speed. You can reach up to 10GB/sec. If you know that the best ssd can reach up to 634mb/sec and a sata hdd up to 190mb/sec – this technology is 16 times faster than the best ssd!
At the time of writing this review, Lacie couldn’t deliver a Lacie Little Big Disk so I was not able to test these speed-benchmarks.
Battery wise, the Macbook Air is, like Steve Jobs told, awesome! It would hold for 30 days in stand-by, but that seems to me a little bit exaggerated. Still, when the MBA is charged entirely, it can be used for 5 hours! That is almost 50% more of my (old) Macbook Pro 15”.
Apple has chosen the right design for the new Macbook Air. The Thunderbold technology is too new to deliver conclusions, but if all speed tests are correct, this technology is the new future!