I have just returned from a hands-on at my local Apple Store with both the 11.6” MacBook Air and the 13” MacBook Air. I went to the store with the thought that if the MacBook Air could handle a few ‘tests’ that I wanted to run I would buy one on the spot – unfortunately they took MacBook Air’s out of the box and the employees were carrying them (they were not tethered down yet) due to this there were no ‘Pro’ apps installed so I could not run my tests.
The Baby 11” MacBook Air
First things first the 11.6” MacBook Air (herein called the ‘11’) is a 16:9 aspect ratio – a full HD ratio like the 27” iMac (the 13” model is a 16:10 ratio). This was something I did not know, this aspect ratio makes the 11 look pretty silly. It is super wide and very shallow, the proportions just look off on the machine.
I was not interested in buying the 11 so I didn’t spend much time really playing with it like I did its larger sibling. What I will say is that it is tiny, really tiny. In fact the screen is so small that I just don’t know if you would really want to work on it for prolonged periods. There was a time when 768 pixels was a pretty good screen resolution on the verticals, unfortunately for the 11 that time was 4-5 years ago.
Just looking at the Apple startpage on the 11 and I knew that there was no way I wanted that computer, the whole thing just felt entirely more cramped than the iPad – though this was in part due to the fact that the Dock was not hidden on the screen and thus took up a large portion of the bottom. The positive to the 11 is that it has a fantastic footprint, it really is one of those computers that you look at and think “how is that possible.”
The 13” MacBook Air (herein called the ‘13’) was in quite the demand, I had to wait a few minutes to play with it. I was testing the base model 13 (1.86ghz and 2gb RAM) and I must say I was impressed with the speed of the machine. Having played with the older MacBook Air I was expecting a rather disappointing speed, but the SSD really makes that machine snappy (as SSDs tend to do). As I said there was only the base load of apps (with iLife) on the machine.
I opened up PhotoBooth and recorded a short 10 second video on the built in camera, popped it into iMovie. Once in iMovie I cut the clip up a few times and added transitions, at no point, no matter how fast I went did the machine stutter on me. Now this was not HD video, but those little transitions usually make a slow machine pause no matter what. At this point there was a line forming to check out the machine so I didn’t have time to export the video file.
What I can say is that the performance impressed me, I would say it is fast enough for most everyone out there. I doubt that there will be that many times where even I would regret not getting the MacBook Pro. The apps that I did open snapped open faster than they do on my MacBook Pro (even with my SSD). This of course is not subjective, but that is certainly the way it felt.
The 13 also wakes up incredibly quick. It definitely comes to life faster than my MacBook Pro. I also tested to see if you could open the screen with just one finger as Apple advertises. You can indeed do it, but if you go to slow the base will lift just before you get to the 90° point. Still I could see how if you did it fast enough you would be able to open the screen to the 90° position with no problems.
My Overall Thoughts
Color me impressed with these machines. My Mac life went from a 12” PowerBook G4 —> Mac Pro (first Intel line) —> MacBook Pro 15” (again first Intel model) —> 15” unibody MacBook Pro (current machine). The new MacBook Air is no Mac Pro, or even a my generation unibody MacBook Pro, but I would say it is handily faster than the original Intel MacBook Pros and faster than the PowerBook felt back in its day.
When I was done playing with it I was going to buy the 13 – unfortunately you can’t get any RAM upgrades from the store, the are custom order online only. You can however get all the hard drive and processor options in the store (I imagine that you will be able to get all options in the near future).
After playing with it I think I will just order one next week or this weekend. (I will probably go with the 13 1.86ghz 4gb and 256gb HD)