The new 11-inch MacBook Air is one of Apple’s most interesting launches to date. This improvement on last year’s MacBook Air — unbelievably thin and light, with a regular notebook’s screen and keypad — comes with a choice of screen sizes. It is 1.7 cm at its thickest point and a bit over 1 kg, making it easy to slip it into pretty much any backpack, sling, or even handbag.
An entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air costs the same as an entry-level MacBook. This raises some questions about which option is better value for money.
Connectivity in the 11-inch MacBook Air is improved with the addition of a second USB port, thankfully spaced on the right edge so oversized plugs don’t block both ports. There are even stereo speakers, as opposed to the older Air’s single mono one.
In ordinary usage, the new baby Air is a delight. No netbook so far feels as well-rounded and easy to carry. On the flip side, the hardware seems to be only just about capable of running OS X. Ordinary tasks such as Web browsing work just fine, but graphics and CPU-intensive tasks in iPhoto and Garage Band can quickly bog this system down.
That said, the solid-state drive affords unbelievably fast boot and shutdown times, and resuming from standby takes barely seconds.
There is one inconvenience: The lack of a keyboard backlight — something that is associated with Apple machines. It is also not the most comfortable for extended use — while Apple promises the keyboard is full sized, it is a bit too shallow for comfort. The trackpad is typically oversized, but is centered to the MacBook’s body rather than to the keyboard, so your palms will drift across it quite often. Finally, the high-resolution screen is just a tiny bit too cramped Battery life is a bit of a disappointment. The 11-inch model is rated at five hours of continuous usage with Wi-Fi enabled, but we found this to be a bit of an optimistic figure. The Air’s battery also famously depletes faster depending on what software is installed, particularly things such as Flash that keep the CPU and graphics processors churning.
Apple also touts a new sleep state that allows the Air to remain suspended for up to 30 days, during which it will also resume instantly when the lid is opened. There is surprisingly little battery drain while it is asleep, but the claim of instantly resuming work is a bit exaggerated. If you need longer battery life, you might consider the 13-inch Air, which is rated at 7 hours.
The 11-inch Air occupies a space that makes it way more than a netbook, but at a way higher price (Rs. 72,900). If you’re looking for something ultraportable just for Web surfing, you’d have to really consider whether the Air is worth the money when there are dozens of netbooks and even full-sized laptops that you could get for a lot less. If you need a Mac for work, the cost of upgrades would mean you’re spending as much as you would on a much more capable MacBook Pro.
Processor: 1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo.
Memory: 2 GB. Solid-state drive: 128 GB.
Battery life: 5 hours.
Graphics: NVidia GeForce 320M.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi N.
OS: Mac OS X and the iLife suite is standard.
Size: The 11-inch Air is 1.7 inches at its thickest point.
Weight: 1.06 kg.
Display: 11.6-inch, 1366x768 pixels. It has a non-upgradeable RAM, no DVD drive, no SD card reader (the 13-inch Air does have this), no Ethernet port.