New MacBook Air Models 11 & 13 inch Comparison+Review

 In Gadgets

New MacBook Air Models Not Revolutionary, But Better…

Jobs is certainly dead-on when he suggests that the future of notebooks is in ever-slimmer, lighter laptops featuring flash storage. But is the new MacBook Air like nothing Apple has created before? Not really. The 13.3-inch model is basically an improved version of the previous MacBook Air ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), albeit at a better price.

The new 11.6-inch MacBook Air, on the other hand, is the smallest and lightest Apple laptop of all time, and its base price of $999 ties it with the plastic MacBook ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) as the cheapest Mac laptop available. I’m not sure I’d call it unlike anything Apple’s created before-it’s got all the stylings of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines, but is tiny like the legendary 12-inch PowerBook of old-but it might be the most novel new Mac released since the Intel Mac era began.

The 13-inch model

The new 13-inch MacBook Air isn’t a radical departure from the previous-generation Air, which was itself a surprisingly thin and light laptop compared to Apple’s other MacBook and MacBook Pro models. The new Air is almost imperceptibly thinner (0.05 inches thinner at its thinnest point, 0.08 inches thinner at its thickest), has exactly the same width and depth, and weighs just 40 grams (1.4 ounces) less. The keyboard’s the same, and while the glass trackpad is new, it takes up the same space as the old Air’s trackpad-and-button combo.

Beyond the physical changes to the case, the extra USB port, and the upgraded video processor, perhaps the biggest hardware change to the 13-inch Air from the previous model is the screen itself: the old model was 1280 by 800 pixels, while the new one is 1440 by 900 pixels-all in the same physical space. The result is that everything looks a little bit smaller, but you’ve got more room for stuff on the screen. I found that after a few minutes using the new display, I was used to the change in resolution, though I did increase the default font size in a few of my apps just to take it easy on my eyes.

From a financial perspective, the 13-inch Air is a much better deal than any previous MacBook Air model. The base model, priced at $1299, features a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 128GB of flash storage. That’s $200 less than the previous base-model Air, where $1499 got you the same processor, a 120GB physical hard drive, and inferior graphics performance. The stock high-end model, with the same specs as the low-end model save 256GB of flash storage, is similarly $200 less than the previous stock high-end system. (Though that $1799 system came with a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor, it also had only 128GB of flash storage.)

This is not to say that $1599 is all you can spend on the 13-inch MacBook Air. Apple has provided several options for those who want to trick this system out: for $100 you can add a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor (to the high-end configuration only), and either configuration can be upgraded from 2GB to 4GB of RAM for $100. (And you can only make these upgrades when you order the product; none of these features is upgradable after the fact, ether by you or your local Apple Genius.) Even with those two additions, at $1799 you’d be getting a majorly upgraded system from the MacBook Air offered by Apple previously.

In our Macworld Lab testing, we found that the 1.86 GHz 13-inch MacBook Air was slightly faster overall than a current-model 13-inch 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. However, our Speedmark 6.5 score is based on a suite of tests, and the individual tests were all over the map. The Air, powered by its flash storage, excelled on our storage-based tests. Powered by the nVidia GeForce 320M graphics processor, it held its own on graphics-related tests, but our calculation-intensive tests showed the effects of its processor’s slower clock speed.

The 13-inch Air also easily outdistanced previous models of MacBook Air, aided by its fast storage and upgraded graphics. Not only is this new MacBook Air the fastest Air ever made, it’s roughly comparable in speed to the other two current 13-inch Mac laptop models. That’s a first for the MacBook Air product line.

The 11-inch model

I love small Mac laptops. The smaller, the better. That’s why I embraced the 12-inch PowerBook in its heyday. But the 11-inch MacBook Air puts even that legendarily small Mac to shame: it trades an inch of depth for an inch of width, weighs in at half the PowerBook’s weight, and is a full half-inch thinner than the old paragon of tiny Apple laptops. Yes, there’s a new champion of Mac laptop smallness, and it’s the 11-inch MacBook Air.

The 11-inch Air is only 11.8 inches wide (a full inch narrower than the 13-inch model), 7.56 inches deep (1.4 inches less deep), and a scant 2.3 pounds (nine ounces lighter). Apple’s $999 white MacBook weighs more than twice as much! The original MacBook Air made all the other MacBooks in Apple’s product line feel like boat anchors; the 11-inch MacBook Air makes the 13-inch Air feel heavy. It’s a little bit crazy.

But while the 11-inch Air is small and light, it doesn’t feel cramped. Part of that is due to the high-resolution display, which packs more pixels into its compact 11.6-inch diagonal screen than fit on the screen of that 13-inch white MacBook. Sporting a 16:9 aspect ratio (1366 by 768 pixels), it’s a bit wider than most Apple laptop displays, and 768 pixels is the bare minimum number of vertical pixels you’d want in a modern Mac display. However, most modern Mac software has been designed with widescreen aspect ratios in mind-and the extra width of the 16:9 display is what keeps it from not feeling cramped.

Longer bars are better. Blue bars in italics represent reference systems. Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, William Wong, Gil Loyola, and McKinley Noble.

Source :  MacWorld

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Comments
  • Dan Brock
    Reply

    Wow. Awesome, well-written article. You explained your points really well. And I’m interested about this 11-inch Mac now. 🙂 Thanks for posting this, really informative. Hope you keep posting.

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