The 2011 MacBook Air (11 & 13-inch): Thoroughly Reviewedby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 28, 2011 3:25 AM EST
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- MacBook Air
I've always liked ultraportables. Back when I was in college I kept buying increasingly more portable notebooks until I eventually ended up with something horribly unusable for actual work. When Apple introduced the first MacBook Air back in 2008 I fell in love. It finally stuck a fast enough CPU in a small enough chassis and gave me a full sized keyboard to type on. I was set.
Last year Apple introduced the first major update to the MacBook Air, bifurcating the lineup with the first ever 11-inch model in addition to the standard 13. With last year's update the MacBook Air did so well that it actually started outselling the base MacBook. Apple isn't a fan of large complicated lineups so it retired the MacBook. If you want a portable Mac you can buy a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro.
As the mainstream counterpart to the MacBook Pro, Apple had to do something about the performance of the MacBook Air. While last year's updates were great alternatives to cheap, underpowered netbooks, they weren't fast enough to be a mainstream computer in 2011. Last year's Air featured Intel's Core 2 Duo processors, based on an architecture that debuted in 2006. Intel has released two major architectures since then.
Just nine months after the release of the 2010 MacBook Air, Apple fixed the problem. Meet the new Air:
If these systems look identical to the ones they're replacing that's because they are, at least from the outside. With the exception of a backlit keyboard, some differences in the row of function keys and a Thunderbolt logo, these babies look identical to last year's models.
You shouldn't judge a (Mac)book by its cover, because the MacBook Air's internals are much improved.
|2011 MacBook Air Lineup|
|11.6-inch||11.6-inch (high-end)||13.3-inch||13.3-inch (high-end)|
H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 11.8" (30cm)
D: 7.56" (19.2cm)
H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 12.8" (32.5cm)
D: 8.94" (22.7cm)
|Weight||2.38 lbs (1.08kg)||2.96 lbs (1.35kg)|
|Base CPU||1.6GHz dual-core Core i5||1.7GHz dual-core Core i5|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|RAM||2GB DDR3-1333||4GB DDR3-1333||4GB DDR3-1333||4GB DDR3-1333|
|SSD||64GB SSD||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||256GB SSD|
|Display Resolution||1366 x 768||1440 x 900|
|Ports||Thunderbolt, 2x USB 2.0, composite audio in/out jack||Thunderbolt, 2x USB 2.0, SDHC slot, composite audio in/out jack|
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netmask254 - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkIt's really surprising to me that the huge random speed difference, and how can Apple tolerate such an inconsistent behavior among different machines? I heard that the buyer will randomly get a Sumsung or Toshiba SSD even for the same model, that's too bad. However, maybe most Apple users don't care about it or don't know it.
beginner99 - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkYeah, especially since you would actually pay an apple premium for knowing what you get. But then these are more priced like windows laptops so they probably had to lower some standards.
The so called ultrabooks according to rumors might even be more expensive than MBA. IMHO especially the 256 GB version is a bargain (if you get the Samsung ssd). That alone costs you like 400$ if you would manually upgrade a cheap windows laptop.
Isn't the 4k random read the main thing that prevents stuttering issues ins ssd compared to hdds?
lyeoh - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkI think the stuttering is more to do with the max access latency.
You could have a very fast drive that averages 100MB/sec over 1 minute, but if every 30 seconds it "hangs" for one second, you would notice it.
e.g. for one second your transfer rate drops to 0MB/sec, but for the other 29 seconds it transfers at 104MB/sec.
That's why many of those benchmarks don't tell you everything about how it feels.
Same goes for fps you could get 120fps but if what appears on the screen is actually delayed by a 100 milliseconds, it's worse than something that "only" does 60 fps with 5 millisecond delay.
Not many reviewers test for latency. Anandtech does have some latency tests for a few SSDs, but so far it does not appear to be a standard benchmark.
KPOM - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkInterestingly, on the MacRumors forum someone posted results of another benchmark that suggested that the Toshiba outperformed the Samsung on random reads and writes, though the Samsung outperform on sequential.
Anand says the Samsung outperforms on both. Note that this was also the case in the 2010s. Toshibas started shipping first, and Samsungs made their way into the system in January. Apple seems to have carried them over unchanged to the 2011. I wonder what impact supply chain issues (e.g. the tsunami) and legal issues (e.g. Apple's lawsuit against Samsung) have on their purchasing decisions?
fericia - Monday, August 15, 2011 - linkMy wife's 13-inch one came with SM256...
arthur449 - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkLight Web Browsing Battery Life
13-inch MacBook Air (Mid 2011) - Core i5 2.7GHz
This message will self-destruct after reading.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkFixed :)
refresh_time - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkThank you for a very in-depth review.
I was ordered the i7 13" without needing the bigger ssd, but after reading this, I think i should exchange it for a i5 :D
All I wanted from i7 was video work on imovie but if there is only about a 10% gain in performance, I think I'm better with i5.. (right?)
But i read the mba review here (http://www.gadgetreview.com/2011/07/apple-macbook-... and they seem to recommend i7 highly. what do you think?
I'll use the return money to buy a 1tb hardrive and a nice sleeve
iwod - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkI think we need something thinner, lighter, and more size to choose from. Not everyone's home can fit a bloody 27" Monitor.
ImSpartacus - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - linkApple doesn't do low margin products.
Even if they offered a 24" IPS panel with all the fixings, it would approach $500. It's hard to explain to a customer why they need to spend twice as much as a bargain bin 24" TN panel.
There aren't a lot of 1440p 27" monitors on the market today for less than $1000, so Apple doesn't run into any comparison problems. The camera, speakers and connectivity features are just gravy.