MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

Summary: The 11-inch Apple MacBook Air has broken new ground for netbooks. See why and learn its one major flaw.

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The 11-inch Apple MacBook Air has broken new ground for netbooks. See why and learn its one major flaw.

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MacBook Air 11-inch: The Mercedes Benz of netbooks

Specifications

  • OS: Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
  • Processor: 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (1.6GHz in $1199 model)
  • RAM: 2GB SDRAM
  • Storage: 64GB (128GB in $1199 model) of flash memory integrated into the motherboard
  • Display: 11.6-inch LCD with LED backlight; 1366x768 resolution
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU with 256MB of shared SDRAM
  • Battery: 35-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • Ports: 2 USB ports, Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack
  • Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Dimensions: 0.11-0.68(h) x 11.6(w) x 7.56(d) inches
  • Camera: FaceTime-compatible webcam
  • Keyboard: 78-key full-size keyboard with 12 function keys
  • Mouse: Multi-touch trackpad
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Price: $999 (64GB hard drive) and $1199 (128GB)

Who is it for?

The MacBook Air 11-inch is a good fit for road warriors who want a top quality laptop in a small, light, and super-thin package. Users interested in the Mac Book Air will need to be able to access all of their business apps from Mac OS X and be able to justify the premium price for the superior build quality and portability.

What problems does it solve?

Netbooks typically have had one good feature: small form factor. Meanwhile, the screens and keyboards were too small to be useful and the underpowered processors made them sluggish and frustrating to use. The 11-inch MacBook Air is first real exception to the rule. Its 11-inch LCD screen has a 1366x768 resolution that is usable (even if it's not super-roomy). It has a full-sized keyboard that's almost identical to the standard Mac chicklet keyboards. And, the performance of the MacBook Air is surprisingly strong -- faster than many full-sized laptops -- due primarily to the fact that it uses flash storage integrated directly into the motherboard.

Standout features

  • Form factor - Apple has certainly stretched the boundaries of what's possible with the 11-inch MacBook Air. It is amazingly thin and light while maintaining a high build-quality and feeling as sturdy of its industrial-strength MacBook Pro line. We can only hope that this form factor gets emulated by other computer makers as well.
  • Performance - The most surprising aspect of the 11-inch MacBook Air is how fast it open programs and web pages. It performed respectably in Macworld's benchmarks comparing it to other Macs, but in real world tests it felt faster than most of the computers I use on a regular basis (PCs, Macs, desktops, laptops, etc.). That can mostly be attributed to the Air having flash-based storage that is integrated into the system at a deeper level than the standard flash-based hard disks.
  • Portability - At 2.3 pounds and less than an inch thick, the 11-inch MacBook Air is a minimalist machine that you can slip into your padfolio, purse, or briefcase and you'll barely notice it. In fact, if you're not careful, you could lose it between a magazine and a piece of paper.

What's wrong?

  • Price - The biggest problem with the 11-inch MacBook Air is its price. The base model will cost you a thousand dollars. The one with the bigger hard drive and the faster processor is $1200. I don't know too many people (or IT departments) that spend more than $1000 on a laptop any more.
  • Software compatibility - Mac OS X is a respectable operating system and known for being easy to approach for non-technical users. However, business users have to make sure that all of the software they use for their everyday tasks will work from a Mac (and, let's face it, a lot of business software still runs on Windows). Otherwise, they'll end up having to run an instance of Windows using virtualization software or Bootcamp, and that would add at least another $300 or so in software licenses to the cost of an already expensive laptop.

Bottom line for business

The MacBook Air 11-inch is the ultimate small form-factor laptop and it will naturally appeal to a lot of executives and road warriors in business. IT departments could certainly use a high-quality system that they could deploy to some of their most mobile professionals that need a mix of durability, portability, and performance.

Of course, the MacBook Air is expensive and it runs Mac OS X, which isn't compatible with Windows-based business applications unless you add virtualization software and a license of Microsoft Windows.

However, keep in mind that a breakthrough product like the 11-inch MacBook Air is also likely to spawn a variety of copycat PCs that will run Windows and will have a much lower price tag.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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31 comments
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  • You aren't being fair to netbooks or the MBA

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook</a><br><i>Netbooks are a category of small, lightweight, and <b>inexpensive</b> laptop computers.</i><br><br>You've done the equivalent of writing:<br><i>The Toyota Tundra is the best economy car in the world with its massive HP and torque and its class leading towing capacity. The Honda Fit, Ford Focus, and other econoboxes simply can't compete with the fantastic Tundra. The only negatives of this otherwise perfect econobox are the fact that it costs 4 times more than any other econobox and gets 1/3 the fuel economy.</i><br><br>The MBA isn't a netbook and isn't the future of netbooks. While I suppose it is possible that someone in the market for a sub $500 netbook would consider a $1,000+ MBA in the same way that someone in the market for $13,000 Fit might consider buying a $60,000 Tundra, most rational people don't think that these 2 models compete with each other at all.<br><br>So don't insult the netbook by saying it is weak next to a computer that costs more than twice as much and don't insult the MBA by saying price is a major flaw when comparing it to netbooks.
    NonZealot
    • Correct; Jobs said that MBA is future of NOTEbooks, not NETbooks

      Apple still does not do (and will never do) netbooks, considering these machines to be "<b>junk</b>", as both Steven Jobs and Timothy Cook said.<br><br>And no, author of the article is not correct about copycats following Apple's ideas with their cheap offerings soon: either they will do it with quality and their products will not be cheap at all (see Sony), or they will turn Apple's ideas into "junk". These will not be Apple's ideas any more, actually.<br><br>Some companies have this magic to turn ANY idea they copycat into junk, yet.
      DDERSSS
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @NonZealot

      NZ, you raise a valid point about the new 11" MBA price point versus the original netbook definition, if you will.

      However, all definitions can be adjusted over time. In my view, what defines the netbook class of computers is its form factor and not its price. (Although, again, I do see your point regarding a traditional netbook class machine being inexpensive.)

      Just be happy and accept the that the 11" MBA holds the distinction of being the most expensive netbook on the market! Its an Apple product. Expensive hardware is their "thing". Grin.

      Anyway. Did you see the CR reports out today regarding the 11" and 13" MBAs? Remember when I got razed a few weeks back when I mentioned that the new MBAs were "Best in Class".

      Well, at least Consumer Reports thinks that way. (Although to be fair, the 11" screen notebook class had only two contenders in that particular CR category.)

      But the 13" screen size category had far more entries and the new MBA topped that bracket as well.<br><br>Best in class, indeed.
      kenosha77a
      • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

        @kenosha7777 Yeah, except it isn't a Netbook. Netbooks are cheap, slow and small. Consumers love the cheap, many actually want the small, and the slow is how you get the other two.

        The MacBook Air isn't cheap (though it isn't expensive either). It isn't slow. It is small, well the 11" is, the 13" is thin rather than actually small.
        Jeremy-UK
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @NonZealot

      The ad on TV is great. A slim, light machine held in the hand.

      Then all that sophistication goes away as they show OS/X. It looks like a toy UI designed by a 14 year old with ADD. I never realised how good Win 7 looked until I had to put up with OS/X.

      Of course the next downer is when you read the specs (not in the TV ad of course) and realise you are paying huge amounts of money for old tech squeezed into a new package.

      But that's Apple - it's all design and packaging ;-)
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

        @tonymcs@... you have got to be on drugs! I have been a PC user for 20 years, then last July I got my first Apple and hands down the best thing I ever did. My Apple can run Windows via "Parallels", but I would never contaminate my Apple with Windows products on it.
        michael@...
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @NonZealot - great job. My only critique is that it's more like an Audi TT roadster than a big honkin' pickup truck.
      JoeBob_z
  • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

    Compare apples with apples please.
    The MBA is an ultra portable laptop, not a netbook.
    Will T
    • This

      @willt1984@...

      Exactly.
      pmcgrath@...
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @willt1984@...

      I agree with that 100% If they want to make netbooks thinner and more powerful then the price goes up and it is no longer a netbook. Big difference in a $250 - $350 netbook vs. a $1000 - $1200 ultra portable laptop.
      bobiroc
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @willt1984@...
      It's a high quality, well made expensive netbook. (period)!
      faxmonkey
  • Don't get out much, do you?

    "I don?t know too many people (or IT departments) that spend more than $1000 on a laptop any more."

    I'm typing this in a Dell Precision M4500 provided by my employer. Starts at $1500. It's a POS.

    I always recommend people spend around $1k on a laptop. The cheap ones are, well, junk.
    itguy08
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @itguy08

      We get some nice Latitudes for about $700 each with a 5 year warranty. Work good aside from the abuse the students and teachers give them. Had some cheaper Vostros but they did not hold up as well. Worth the extra $100 a unit for a bit of durability.
      bobiroc
  • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

    yup, nice advertorial ZDnet!
    explodingwalrus
  • Even "IF" a Yugo looked like a BMW.....

    What you'd have is a Yugo that had a nice body but still Yugo under the skin. Now I'm guessing that the original skin or body of a Yugo cost less than the then BMW's body and if you placed a BMW's body on a Yugo it would cost more for said Yugo that looked better. So in this case your 350.00 netbook might cost you 450.00 but still be a Yugo. So you pay more for the same ole same ole. Lipstick on a Palin if you will:)

    Pagan jim
    anonymous
  • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

    Every netbook I have seen has the same resolution (1338x768), and a 1.6+ GHz processor, so it sounds like I could have a MBA+ for $300 +$150 for a 80Gb SSD.
    anothercanuck
  • MBA's SSD

    Jason, I haven't seen any evidence that ". . . it uses flash storage integrated directly into the motherboard."

    Based on the teardowns, it looks like it uses a mini-SATA interface. If there is a performance improvement it is most likely due to the quality of the SSD controller, not the fact that it sits on the motherboard.
    R Harris
  • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

    Perfect.
    james347
  • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

    I just bought a 13" MacBook Air and it certainly feels like the fastest computer I have ever used. I ran MacBench on it and it's rates 20% faster than a dual Xeon MacPro (admittedly an older one), but nonetheless that's a remarkable accomplishment for an ultraportable. Apple understands that for every person who can afford a luxury automobile there are a thousand that can afford a luxury laptop. That's a pretty nice market and I am happy to participate in it. All the haters out there can revel in the cheapness of their laptop choice. To each his own. I'm going to be enjoying every moment of my computing experience for years to come. Thanks, Apple.
    mrs1622
    • RE: MacBook Air 11-inch: What a netbook should look like

      @mrs1622 "for years to come"?! There will be MUCH, MUCH faster computers and fancier Mac OS in a year from now. Investing in MBA is not that same as invsting in a BMW or an Audi. So,,, keep on dreeming
      pupkin_z