Apple MacBook Air (11.6-inch) First Look Review

by Reads (46,178)

Overview

  • Pros

    • Small, sleek and light
    • Can run games in a pinch
    • Best-in-class trackpad
    • Full-sized keyboard

  • Cons

    • No Ethernet networking
    • No USB 3.0, no SD card slot
    • No backlit keyboard


This week Apple finally updated the seemingly forgotten MacBook Air line with new graphics, new looks and an entirely new model. The smallest Apple laptop ever, the new Air promises to pack notebook performance into a netbook form factor. Read on for our first thoughts.

To every season, thin, thin, thin
That’s not quite how the song goes, but it remains apt.  The new MacBook Air is thin.  It makes laptops we thought were previously thin look positively obese. Showing it around to a few other people, some didn’t realize it was a computer – not at first.  Apple claims that the device is 0.68 inches thick at the rear, tapering down to 0.11 inches thick at the front.  

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010

That taper plays a huge role in how thin the MacBook Air feels – after all, the Adamo XPS was actually substantially thinner at its base, but didn’t taper so drastically as the Air does. So it’s true that the new MacBook feels thin, but much of it is a carefully-crafted illusion.

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010  11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010

Unlike most – but not by any means all – laptops in this more portable category, the MacBook Airs (MacBooks Air?) have exceptional build quality thanks to an entirely metal construction. The only plastic to be found is on a part of the screen hinge and the four bumpers on the bottom.

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010  11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010

No legacy storage
While the previous generation of MacBook Air laptops omitted an optical drive, the standard configuration still shipped with a slow hard drive.  In this iteration, solid state storage is standard across all configurations.  In an attempt to shave those few extra millimeters, Apple took the flash memory out of any requisite housing and installed it like a stick of RAM. 

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010  11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010

Despite their marketing attempts otherwise, it really is just a weirdly-shaped SSD, not magical Apple storage technology. Still, having only flash-based storage means two things – one, everything feels snappy despite the relatively old processors being used and two, it allows Apple to optimize the operating system around the SSD.  

Part of this shows in the fact that Apple doesn’t want or expect users to turn the system off unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Many laptop users have gotten used to just putting their computers to sleep over the years, but few have been so blatant about the issue.  In fact, Apple is now providing a “standby time” for their laptops – it’s just the MacBook Air at this point, but it will undoubtedly spread to the rest of their offerings at some point in the future – similar to those doled out by cell phone manufacturers.  

In this case, the standby time is quoted at thirty days, meaning that if the laptop is fully charged and then unplugged and left to sleep, it can manage to go on for a whole month in sleep mode.

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010  11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air 2010


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