A laptop can be successful only if it offers a set of features without any major miss-outs on design or portability. Though this machine has come quite a long way in the past few years, they were not able to compete with desktops when it comes to features of prices. And size wise, the smaller it is, the more compromises it had on it. Apple has earned a niche for itself in design. The year 2007 marked the beginning of its rise that contributed to the fact that they have managed to transfer their PCs to the hardware platform of Intel, welcoming new users. Mac Computers now are fully compatible with Microsoft OS and allow you to use Mac OS on the same PC simultaneously as well. Apple Notebook is probably the thinnest in the market right now and probably the finest too. Ultrathin and Ultraportable, its new processor really pushes performance up to the extremes. But is the price justified? Read the following review to figure that out.
Apple has its own class when it comes to design. The first look is a hybrid of Apple’s other 2 laptops. The Apple MacBook Air Notebook has a shiny aluminum body and the really interesting backlit keyboard. Its uni-body design results in a clean seamless appearance and is simply a marvelous piece of design. But perhaps, the most impressive is its thinness. At 0.16 inches at its thinnest and 0.76 at its thickest, it is perhaps the thinnest available laptop in the market. The skillful use of rounded curves gives one that it is airy and weightless. While it is not weightless, 1.36kgs is all that it weighs. But is it really that portable? The thicker Sony TZ and the older Apple model are perhaps more portable. But the Air is a much easier machine to work on and feels sturdier than the other 2.
Full-size, full-feature keyboard:
The Keyboard of the Mac is similar to that of the MacBook, differing only in terms of thickness. The spacing in between the buttons is the same as the MacBook as well. The keyboard is the same square key capped design with backlighting included. The full size keyboard along with its backlit keys allows working in dim conditions. There is an in built ambient light sensor that adjusts the keyboard illumination and display brightness. The Multi-touch allows you to control certain functions using a thin touchpad. Rotating 2 fingers in iPhoto rotates the image and using 3 fingers up and down to swipe allows switching between photos, web pages etc. Though the touchpad is not very effective nor smooth, it is a great addition.
The Apple MacBook Air Slim notebook has a 13.3 inch widescreen LED backlight screen. Its 1280×800 resolution allows viewing vibrant images. However, the screen is notably different because the lighting is from an LED. Instead of starting out dim and gradually increasing in brightness, like in the MacBook, the Air’s display starts on full brightness. A tiny sensor is located to the left of the iSight camera which allows to automatically adjust the brightness of the display.
There is a 90 Degree bend in the Air notebook; though it is nicer, the bend makes it harder to snap into place. The older Magsafe adapters fit well, but the plug when resting on a table, knocks it off.
The absence of the usual set of ports is slightly disappointing. On the right side of the notebook is a single USB 2.0 port, Micro DVI Connector and a jack for analogue headphones. Yes, a single USB port is a mockery for a contemporary notebook like this. However, the absence of Firewire ports is more frustrating as it would not allow connecting digital cameras to MacBook Air Notebook.
The absence of a DVD Drive and a single expansion port is not convenient nor is it acceptable. However, it would not make much of a difference as this notebook is not a replacement to a standard desktop system.
Solid State Drive:
The Apple MacBook Air runs on a Solid State Drive or an SSD. An alternative to the conventional HDD, it does not feature any moving parts. The SSD is basically just an array of computer chips solder on to a board unlike the HDD, which resembles a phonograph. The lack of moving parts in an SSD allows it to read instant access data from one region of storage to another without delay. This kind of reading is referred to as Random Read/Write and in contrast to the random, there is a sustained read write. This gives consistent access to data over a sequential area. HDD has an advantage of speed here as it is faster to change flux in a particle of silicone than on a charge on a platter.
The Apple MacBook Air 13.3″ Laptop does not support wired network as Apple believes that in this hi-tech era of wireless technologies, Wi-Fi is more than enough. It supports an 802.11 protocol with 248Mbit/s peak bandwidth. You could also buy an Ethernet adapter from Apple separately.
The Air runs on an 80GB 1.8 Samsung Spinpoint S2 inch drive which is sturdy enough to withstand normal usage. Its small size despite capacity is its main advantage. The 5 mm thick drive has a speed of 4200 rpm and an access time of 13ms. However it is not as fast as the 2.5 inch laptop drives and will lag behind in storage and it uses the outdated Ultra ATA 100 interface. If you can afford for a 6GB SSD, the reliability, performance and battery life would get a huge boost.
Software and Remote Disc:
The Apple MacBook Air Notebook runs on the Leopard OS slightly modified to take advantage of the touch pad. There are videos included on how to make gestures. Though it is not the most practical solution to control, the touchpad seems to be intuitive and well integrated.
Apple’s Remote Disc allows the Air to borrow a networked computer’s optical drive. The disc is very hefty and the drive does not support a lot of playback. Sadly, it can neither rip CDs or DVDs nor play back songs and is only functional for installing programs. The Remote Disc works not only on the Mac OS X but also on the Windows as well. For the MacBook Air, it is recommended to buy a Superdrive, especially if you are on the go.
The Air has a reasonably good hardware. It runs on an etiolated Ultra Low Voltage performance chip. So low was it that Intel was forced to repackage a slower version of its Core 2 Duo processor. It is a Mobile Core 2 Duo with 4MB L2 Cache and 1.6 GHz frequency. There is a newer version of the Air that runs on a faster 1.8 GHz. The X3100 graphics core means that you cannot make the Air a gaming platform as its 3D graphics are weak. The only limitation when it comes to maximum screen resolution supported by the DVI port does not exceed 1920×1200. The Realtek dual channel codec produces very poor audio quality. The only speaker is under the keyboard and one will hardly be able to listen to anything except the OS beeping.
Multimedia and iSight:
The limited space available on the Air restricts the multimedia to a webcam, a microphone, a speaker set. The microphone and webcam are on the top of the screen and the mono setup speaker is under the keyboard. The colour accuracy and the image quality are as good as that of a high end cell phone. The webcam can be used along with the in-built microphone and the iChat software. One could use iSight for taking pictures and editing them. You do no need to install the software as it is already in built and you can use it with QuickTime and share it to iTunes and Youtube.
Apple MacBook Air Performance:
Performance is usually what matters to most users. The speed of the MacBook has surprised all of us. In the native OS 10.5, its performance was lacking. Boot times are as long as a minute and starting up an array of programs took longer than usual. The Bootcamp performance was on the snappier side. When we tried the tests on the Vista environment, we were in for a pleasant surprise. The machine ran better on Vista than it did on the native OS. That is perhaps, because the MacBook Air firmware version for Microsoft OS is not impeccable at all.
However, there were a lot of bugs throughout the bootcamp. The touchpad was the source of several problems including the Blue – screens and lockups due to multiple touches. The system benchmarks in Vista were quite well and gaming ran on decent frames. The 1.8GHz core 2 processor is nothing compared to the mammoth 3.2GHz available in the market today. But perhaps where the computer shines is in everything that does not hog many resources. Because of the SSD, Microsoft Word, MATLAB, Photoshop and other applications pen up in fraction of a second.
The performance demonstrated by the Air is quite good, since it has pretty up to date hardware With a Core Micro architecture working at 1.6GHz frequency and 2 GB of high speed RAM performance on Vista was pretty good. Though the Spinpoint HDD Drive cannot boast of great performance, it is not that slow as well. There were more bottlenecks in the configuration. Because of some firmware problems, when the processor’s clock speed was slowed down, the CPU seemed reluctant to return back to nominal levels.
The aluminum design of the MacBook Air notebook makes it act as a gigantic heat sink. The processor is right under the top left part of the keyboard, a portion many gamers place their hands. The surface of the notebook is very hot and sometimes gets unbearable. Gaming alone is not responsible; CPU intensive activities such as compressing music will put one in a similar situation under heavy workload, the temperature reaches 46 degrees and the CPU reaches dangerous levels of about 85 degrees centigrade. Normal web browsing does not heat-en up the processor; however the notebook gets heated up faster than other notebooks. The temperature however does not affect the thermal conditions of the HDD as it is placed on the cooler side of the laptop.
The second generation MacBook Air runs on a 37 w Lithium polymer battery, selected to be as light as possible. It has a quoted battery life of 5 whole hours and it is fairly accurate. The Air can run for around 5 hours in optimal conditions and even longer if all you do is some light internet browsing. The Power Adapter provided is a 45W brick which is specifically shaped due to the Air’s slim design. But there is one complaint with the battery – the time it takes to get charged is a lot. It takes about 8 and half hours to get fully recharged and that by standards is pathetic. The Integrated battery does not allow you to swap the battery in case it dies making matters worse.
The Apple MacBook Air Laptop Notebook is covered under a warranty period of one year from the date of purchase. Defects from Service are covered by a warranty of 90 days. However, one can extend the warranty to up to 3 years. If the battery’s capacity to store charge diminishes, Apple will replace it even if the warranty expires.
It is hard to put a judge on such a thin, simple and interesting machine. The MacBook Air with a 1.6GHz, 2GB of RAM, and 80GB of space is expensive, but this is the lightest OS X machine out there. At double the rate, the 64GB of SSD and a 1.8GHz processor is a joke. The MacBook Pro is much cheaper and more loaded. The notebook however is beautiful, innovative and portable and hence is recommendable to users who would want a second laptop .The Apple MacBook Air is not a notebook in the sense of the word, but is a gadget with notebook functionality. Most Apple lovers would be disappointed with it as it is perhaps not a mainstream product. When Vista was installed and tried out, the Air worked wonderfully well. That would help Apple gain lots of Windows fans. This is not the best choice for an ultra portable Wintel solution. If you are looking for an airy design and Microsoft OS, this is the best way to go.
Apple MacBook Air – Technical Specification Table
|Series||Apple MacBook Air|
|DIMENSIONS AND DISPLAY|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||12.8 x 8.9 x 0.76 inches|
|Display type||LED-backlit glossy widescreen display|
|Display resolution||1280 x 800 pixels|
|PROCESSOR, MEMORY, STORAGE|
|Processor type||Intel Core 2 Duo processor|
|Clock speed||1.86GHz or 2.13GHz|
|Front Side Bus||1066MHz|
|Chipset||Intel 945GSE with slight modifications to allow usage of Multi-touch|
|RAM||2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM onboard|
|Hard drive size||250GB
300GB, 500GB – Optional
|Spindle speed||4200 rpm|
|Optical drive||Optical SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)|
|Keyboard||Built-in full-size keyboard with 78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys and backlight.|
|Track pad||supports two-finger scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, double-tap,
three-finger swipe, Multi-Touch track pad for precise cursor control; tap,
and drag capabilities
|GRAPHICS, VIDEO AND SOUND|
|Installed Graphics Type||256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory|
|Graphics processor||NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor|
|Speaker Details||Built-in mono speakers|
|Microphone||Built-in omni directional microphone|
|Audio Output||Combined optical digital output/headphone out
Supports Apple Stereo Headset with microphone
|Video out options||DVI output
Dual-link DVI output
|Wireless||Built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking
IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
|Webcam||Built-in iSight camera|
|CONNECTIVITY||MagSafe power port
One USB 2.0 port(up to 480 Mbps)
|Operating System||Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard and Microsoft Vista|
|Other software||Xcode Developer Tools, Quick Look, Spaces, Time Machine, Dashboard,
Mail, iChat, Address Book, Safari, QuickTime, Spotlight, iCal,
Photo Booth, Front Row, DVD Player
|Battery technology||Built-in lithium-polymer battery|
|Power Adaptor||45W MagSafe Power Adapter with cable
|Estimated battery life (mfr)||5 hours|
60W MagSafe Power Adapter, AC wall plug, and power cord along with
Printed and electronic documentation
|Environment friendly features included||BFR free, PVC free, mercury free, arsenic free display,
recyclable polycarbonate display,
20% smaller packaging, meets energy star
version 5.0 requirements and rated EPEAT gold.
|WARRANTY AND SERVICE||One year warranty for Parts and Labour
24×7 toll free service support