Is Macbook Air The Best Laptop Ever?

Category: Apple-Mac , Laptops

In July 2011, Apple updated its Macbook Air ultraportable laptop family. The new models come with the Intel Sandy Bridge processors, Thunderbolt connectivity, and a backlit keyboard. The new machines all run the latest Mac OS X Lion operating system, too. Does all that make Air the best laptop ever? Read on...

The Best Laptop Best Ever?

This refresh of the Macbook product line, first introduced in 2008, has Apple fans excitedly exclaiming "Macbook Air is the best laptop ever!" You'd expect a lot of Apple aficionados to say that, but does this statement have merit when you look beyond the bubble that Mac users live in?

Let's take a look at the Macbook Air family of four machines. The Macbook Air is available in two screen sizes, each of which is available in a basic or "performance" configuration.

The 11.6 inch Macbook Air has a resolution of 1366 x 768. Its $999 basic version includes a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 64 GB solid-state drive (SSD). The $1,199 performance version boosts RAM to 4 GB and the SSD to 128 GB. Options include a faster Core i7 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and even larger SSDs.
Macbook Air Laptop

The 13.2 inch Macbook Air has a resolution of 1440 x 900. Its $1,299 basic version sports a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD. The $1,599 performance version comes with the same processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. A 1.8 GHz Core i7 CPU is an option.

Interestingly, the price difference between 11 and 13 inch models decreases as you add options. With all of the options available, the 11 inch Macbook Air costs $1,650; the 13 inch model, $1,699.

All Macbook Air models come with WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, two USB 2.0 ports, and a headphone port. A microphone and a Webcam are built in. Intel's HD Graphics 3000 powers the display.

The 13 inch Macbook Air weighs 2.6 pounds while the 11 inch model weighs 2.33 pounds. Both are only 0.68 inches thick at their hinges, tapering towards the user. Batter life is rated at 5 hours for the 11 inch models and 7 hours for the 13 inch models.

The Verdict...

Personally, I wouldn't call the Macbook Air the best laptop ever made. Here's why... The upgrade to SSD is a dramatic improvement; bootup time is cut to seconds and read/write operations are lightning fast. The backlit keyboard is a nice touch. The Macbook is sleek and very stylish, all to its credit.

But at best, it's the best Macbook ever made. Ironically, there's one big problem with the Macbook Air - it runs Mac OS X. Now before you accuse me of some form of zealotry, keep in mind that at least 85% of all computers still run some version of the Windows operating system. And that makes the Macbook Air a non-starter for at least 8 out of 10 people. There is an Intel processor in that sexy case, and the Macbook Air can run Windows 7. But Apple is not likely to offer that option in any year that starts with a "2".

Even on a hardware level, I have issues. There are no user-replaceable parts in a Macbook Air. RAM is soldered into the motherboard. To replace the battery (which does wear out eventually), you have to send the whole computer back to Apple or leave it at an Apple Store or authorized repair shop for a while. Come on, Cupertino. Almost every other laptop in the world has a panel that provides user access to the RAM, battery or hard drive.

And moving outside the bubble, the Macbook Air is outshone in several areas by high-end ultraportable laptops that run Windows. The 13 inch Sony Vaio Z, for example, is 0.3 pounds lighter than the 13 inch Macbook Air. Whereas the Macbook Air uses a low-voltage processor, the Vaio's CPU is a faster standard voltage model. While this makes the Vaio run hotter, it also boosts performance into the desktop class. The Vaio also has USB 3.0 while the Macbook Air stuck with USB 2.0. And it's not bad looking, either.

What's your opinion? Agree or disgaree, post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Macbook Air The Best Laptop Ever?"

Posted by:

Dave Rhuberg
25 Jul 2011

I just bought a Macbook Pro 13", decided against the Air. The ULV Core processor was just too slow for Photoshop, it was even too slow for rapid scrolling in iPhoto using their stock images. It was very nice for carrying or web browsing though.
The new i5 wasn't enough of an improvement to justify the Air for my image intensive use.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2011

I don't share your feelings regarding Windows 7 being superior to Mac OS X. I will suggest each system has it's strengths and weaknesses, and depending on user application, one is bound to be better at a particular task.

I do however fully agree that it borders on ridiculous not to have readily accessible and replaceable RAM and battery on any laptop. This reason alone, would preclude me from purchasing the MacBook Air.

My last quibble regards your statement that "at best, it's the best MacBook ever". In my opinion, the new MacBook Pro is far superior to the Air on every level except weight.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't say that W7 was superior to OS X. What I said was that Windows still has 85-90% of the OS market. And I'll agree with your comments about the Macbook Pro. That's what I had in mind when I said "at best...".

Posted by:

25 Jul 2011

What makes the Macbook Air better is it has OS X Lion instead of Windows. That is worth $500 it self!

Posted by:

25 Jul 2011

Why is it the best Laptop over -- it's a Mac! Sure, a lot more people use cheap windows stuff, but the Mac is still, by far, the best computer made.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2011

You could offer to shoot me and I'd say, "Shoot" rather than go back to pc hell. Sorry, but my life was a nightmare for many years before I bought my first mac. I'm now on my 3rd but all the old ones still run well. Even my little asus eee, running Linux, is just fine. A dozen, at least, pcs are dead as door nails.

My son, the geek, says Windows 7 is "good enough" even for me, but I'm taking no chances.

As to the air, who cares? I'm happy with my macbook and will be until it drops (come to think of it, I've dropped it any number of times, already, lol).

Yay, Mac. Grandma loves you.

Posted by:

Bruce Tech Guy
25 Jul 2011

I have, use and work with both Windows and Mac PCs.
In general I agree with your comments. I have even posted to the Apple Feedback site similar suggestion requests. In particular, I agree that the battery and RAM should be user replaceable on all Macs.
The fact that it can run Windows could be a major plus to folks who want both OS's in just one machine. (That it doesn't come with Windows is just natural - it's a Mac after all ;) and this should not be a strike against it.)

Personally, I would vote for one of the MacBook Pro models, if only because I prefer larger screen, more storage, and more port plug options for the various external devices and connections I deal with.

But of course, everyone will have different measuring criteria for what they think is best -- for them and their own situation.

Posted by:

25 Jul 2011

I need a screen larger than 13 inches for a regular use laptop. I have a 17 inch screen Toshiba which I use at home in place of of a desk top and when I was still working took it with me for work. I also have a netbook which I use when I'm travelling on holiday which I use for email and a bit of word processing, but the screen is too small for regular use.
So different computers for different folks and different uses, there is no absolute best in my opinion.

Posted by:

Robert Lim
25 Jul 2011

In my 30 years of computing, I have yet to see a "one size fits all" laptop. Every user's needs are different.

In my case, Mac Air is the best!

I don't have time to mess around with Windows 7 system upgrades that killed my Toshiba T135 at the eve of a presentation. I just want my laptop to run.

USB 3.0? I will go with Thunderbolt anytime.

Soldered memory and batteries? Actually, this is a boon in my case. I don't want people reporting to me putting in cheap or incompatible memories that suddenly shutdowns the laptop. Same goes for batteries that quit without warning ... just when you're about to consummate a deal. I will gladly compromise to have this feature.

I have Parallels and Virtual Box to run legacy and new windows apps. I don't have time to play games.

Battery life? Beats most Windows laptops out there.

User interface and mouse pad? Blows away Windows 7.

OS stability? No comparison.

Microsoft/PC maker vs Apple support? No comparison.

Reliability? Consumer reports rates Macs THE best.

So in my case, I respectfully disagree with you. But that is not to say you are wrong since your mileage varies from user to another.

I'm not going back to a Windows based laptop, at least not in the near future. And oh, the MagSafe power connector have saved me countless of times, including sending laptops to have their power jacks replaced. This alone is a winner.

Mac is the best!

Posted by:

26 Jul 2011

I believe that you can run windows the the mid 2011 macbook air. You have to read between the lines of

If not I wouldn't buy one.

Posted by:

26 Jul 2011

I agree with most of your article however, my gripe is the aluminum case...I have a Mac mini that has the same aluminum case and I hate it...doesn't clean easily, I have skin alergys so the case effects my skin. I concidered a Mac Air but shot that down because of the case plus limited connectivity which I now understand is not a problem but almost $1000 dollars for it is way out of I concidered an ipad2 but $500 is also way out of line too...I ended up getting an unlocked Dell Streak 7 tablet and am happy!

Posted by:

26 Jul 2011

I use both OSs. Windows has improved to the point that it equals Mac OSs. Hardware--it's a draw. Windows allows more user hands on, Mac is sexier. I think the quality of Mac hardware is superior, but unless one plans to keep a computer for 5 years, it isn't worth the additional cost. It's a matter of what you mean by "best." IMHO.

Posted by:

26 Jul 2011

I have always said how the macbook air is a computer only for those who already have laptop/desktop but want something very light to travel with. With the last couple updates in my opinion they made it even weaker but better suited to its task. They did put intel's new "i" series processors but they took away the removable hared drive and ram. The macbook air is nothing but a iPad in a laptop body now. Anyway if I was a traveling business man and didn't want to bring my macbook pro to a presentation tomorrow morning in new york or take it to the office for my big presentation, I would load it up on a air and take that light little thing. The air is not made to be ones only computer but a supplemental one. If you want to talk power when it comes to laptops then you are looking at an 15"/17" Macbook Pro. In the pro you have a quad-qore i7 and not the first generation duel core like in the air. you have removable ram and hard drive and windows capabilities and much much more. The air is "The worlds thinest laptop" aka Apple artwork and for some a handy supplement.

Posted by:

Ken Seemann
26 Jul 2011

I find it funny when PC users refer to the "bubble Mac users live in." I don't know a Mac user who lives in a bubble. Virtually every one of us has been a PC user and switched. It's the PC users who remain insulated to the chronic reboots and shut downs that I ALWAYS experienced with my PCs. And frankly, the fact that 85% of computer use some sort of Windows means absolutely nothing. It's been said there are more McDonald's than any other restaurant in the word--does that automatically make them the best, or just the best marketed? If GM and Mercedes were giving away cars, which would you choose? Face it -- bigger does NOT mean better! I'll go further--Microsoft does a better design job when they work outside of Windows! I recently broke down and bought Office 2011 of Mac, and guess what -- it works better on my Mac than Office 2010 on my work provided PC!!! The layout is better, the menus are better, the navigation is better. I find myself working for an hour on my Mac, then spending the next eight on my PC and trying to find the same functions--only to find they didn't design the Windows version as well. It took me YEARS to make the switch, and I know now that I'll never buy another Windows-based machine if I can possibly avoid it. Why have a Big Mac when I can have Filet Mignon?

Posted by:

02 Apr 2012

I think there are several essential flaws in your comment, "Ironically, there's one big problem with the Macbook Air - it runs Mac OS X... at least 85% of all computers still run some version of the Windows operating system. And that makes the Macbook Air a non-starter for at least 8 out of 10 people." First, I'm not sure about your facts because Macs have been taking a bite out of PC market share for some time now. Second, all the newer Macs with Intel processors are fully capable of running Windows; one can partition your hard drive to essentially have two OS running, or you can simply run MS Office for Mac. Therefore, your argument doesn't make sense...why does the fact that they come with OS X make them a "non-starter" for Windows devotees?

I work on both platforms nearly every day and they both work...most of the time. I still experience at least ten times more problems, glitches, and bugs with PC hardware and software than I do with Apple products. Do I always think that Macs are worth the extra cost? Not always, but every time I spend several hours fixing a PC, I sure do! The reality is that Mac hardware and software is designed together, to work together, and it does, almost always. PC software is typically much too sloppy, and takes up way too much space as a result. I prefer Apple products because they just work.

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