6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
No longer the weakling of the Mac family...,
This review is from: Apple 11-inch MacBook Air (Intel Dual Core i5 1.7GHz, 4GB RAM, 64GB Flash Memory, HD Graphics 4000, OS X Lion) (Personal Computers)
I've been the proud owner of a Macbook Air for almost 5 months now, travelling with it on a regular basis and plugging it into a 24" Mac display when I'm in the office. An avid Mac user for a decade now, for both business and personal reasons, it's been the go-to choice for me whenever I've had the chance, so when I was asked what machine I'd like for my new job (and given a budget of £1k), I jumped at the chance to try out the Air.
I have the standard 1.7 GHz 11inch model, with upgraded RAM (8GB) and SSD (128GB). I update it regularly without issue and spend about 9-10 hours a day using it - so I think I'm well qualified to pass judgement on it - heck, I'm writing this review on it!
I'm going to try and highlight 2 instances of use in this review - office use and travelling - the Air performs admirably in both, but you'll see some differences between them that might help you make up your mind as to whether the Air's a suitable laptop for your needs.
Price - not so much an issue for me as this is a work device, but the Air isn't cheap. The basic 11" model starts at £849 and climbs right up £1200 for the 13" inch model, but I'll say straight off the bat, you don't need the 13" model unless you have terrible eyesight - the 11" screen is beautifully crisp and more than adequate.
Look & Feel - some people would jump on my back for this comment, but it's very true, even to the point where people try to duplicate Apple's style. Simply put, this is the most beautiful laptop you've ever seen. Everywhere I've taken it it's had admiring glances - from night flights where people have noted it's backlit keyboard, to the London Tube system. Admittedly, that might've been some scamp eyeing it up to nick it, but still - there's no denying this is a desirable machine. However, desire without practicality is nothing, but the build quality is outstanding, as I find with all Apple products I own. It's incredibly light, slim and easily carried in a handbag/man-bag/rucksack. It can take a few knocks as well - believe me on this!
The Keyboard - a hugely over-looked feature on ultraportables. Many reviews claim the Air to have one of the best, if not the best, keyboard around - and I won't argue with them there. Whether I'm sat at my desk, or sat with it on my lap, it continues to type beautifully. The 'chiclet' keyboard you see so often now on laptops has been superbly designed, with the keys having the perfect amount of travel. My one critique here? I've got a crumb of something under my P key, and it's almost impossible to get it out - repeated crunching of the key in the hope it will break down said crumb seems to have done the trick, but still. It's also backlit, a huge bonus for those of us that work late into the night, or sit on a night flight struggling to hit the right keys.
The Trackpad - again another over-looked feature, but the Air's trackpad (and in fairness, all the Macbook Pros trackpads are the same) is top notch. The glass is slick and stays smudge free, and the multi-touch features work beautifully.
The Screen - not a hugely impressive resolution here (1366x768), but the screen is still beautiful. Lovely and crisp, whether your working on Excel documents or catching an HD movie, it's perfectly adequate.
Processing Power - I work heavily with intensive programs like Photoshop and InDesign - modifying large files that are over a GB, so this was my one concern with the Air. I needn't have worried - the 8GB RAM and SSD drive fly through the tasks in hand, coupled with a deceptively speed processor. I moved from a basic Macbook Pro to the Air, and was dreading the slowdown, but the SSD and increased RAM really do make a difference. It would struggle with video processing I'd imagine - but then those of you looking to do that on the go will probably be after the big brother to the Air, the 17" Macbook Pro. All in all, very impressed, multitasking across 2 screens with no lag or noticable slow down. It's more than fast enough for 90% of computer users, and the super quick boot up (> 20 seconds) and instant wake from sleep is a blessing for the busy worker.
Battery Life - This is the one area the Air lets me down in - but then I don't think I'm really using it under optimum conditions. I'm usually sat with the Air connected to a 24" Mac display, so it's pushing 2 screens of images out whilst charging a few USB devices, on maximum brightness and with Wifi on. Generally I'd get about 4-5 hours in that situation, but it ups to about 7-8 when I'm just on the Air itself with screen dimmed slightly and the wifi off.
Operating System - I'm sure there are reviews of Mountain Lion out there, so I won't touch on this too much. Having used the Mac OS for the last 10 years or so, it's come on in leaps and bounds, and is still the most productive OS for my needs (creative).
Overall: Whilst the Air is no doubt an expensive machine, it's well worth the bang for buck in my opinion. You get a powerful, compact machine that's great for travelling with, but equally as comfortable in an office or completing your usual day to day tasks. The trackpad and keyboard only serve to help matters and makes using the Air for long periods comfortable. All in all, it's a fantastic machine that I'd highly recommend to anyone with the budget looking for an ultra-portable with great power.
Summary: A fantastic laptop for the regular traveller or student looking for a bit of portable power.