The 13

13-inch MacBook Air (left) vs. 15-inch MacBook Pro (right)

The 13-inch MacBook Air feels more like a regular notebook. It’s like one of those cartoons where you see the character straight on and he looks normal sized, but turn him 90 degrees and he’s pencil thin. When viewed from above you’d think you had a 13-inch MacBook Pro on your desktop. Its footprint isn’t that different:

But pick it up and you’re dealing with a much thinner notebook. Like the 11-inch MBA, the 13-inch model ranges from 0.11 inches to 0.68 inches in thickness. You get the same angular ID from the 11-inch model, just on a bigger scale.

13-inch MacBook Air (left) vs. 15-inch MacBook Pro (right)

The underlying hardware is unchanged, although you do get a noticeably quicker CPU. While the 11-inch model ships with a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo (3MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB), the 13-inch model comes with a 1.86GHz part by default (6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB). I call it a noticeably quicker CPU because it is noticeably quicker, even in typical day to day use.

The 13.3-inch diagonal screen features a 1440 x 900 display (16:10 ratio). That’s the same screen resolution as the 15-inch MacBook Pro but in a smaller package. And it really makes a big difference when it comes to getting work done on the MacBook Air. This is a big improvement over the limited 1280 x 800 found in the previous two MacBook Airs and a high enough resolution to actually get work done on.

The old 13-inch MacBook Air (left) vs. the new 13-inch MacBook Air (right)

I’d go as far as to say that Apple could’ve bumped pixel density even further and the 13-inch MacBook Air would still be useable.

The 13-inch screen is a bit brighter and has a slightly better contrast ratio than the 11-inch, but it’s not something you’ll notice in use. The same vertical viewing angle limitations apply here. Unlike the 11-inch model however, you’re more likely to notice them because of the size of the display. On a plane when the passenger in front of you leans back all the way you’re probably going to have to angle the 13-inch display, while the 11-inch model may give you enough room to clear.

From left to right: 11-inch MBA, 13-inch MBA, 15-inch MBP

The trackpad on the 13-inch model is a taller rectangle, identical in size to what you’d find on a MacBook Pro. The wrist rest area is also normal-sized. In fact, other than the thickness there’s very little that separates the 13-inch MacBook Air from a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple integrated an SD card reader with the 13-inch MBA which further identifies its light workhorse nature. It’s a nice addition that does make the MacBook Air more useful if you have a camera that uses SD cards (*grumbles at the D700*). The rest of the ports are unfortunately just as limited as the 11-inch model, but if you really want an Ethernet port you can either go the USB route or you can get a MacBook.

The 13's SD card reader

The stereo speakers are an improvement over the original MacBook Air. The old mono speaker was horrible to listen to. Now you've got two of them, which somehow makes the sound better. This isn’t exactly a set of Klipsch drivers but you get far less of a laughable sound out of them than before

The keyboard is identically sized to the 11-inch. You get larger function keys but there’s still no backlight. The backlit keyboard continues to be the biggest miss from the old MacBook Air.

Apple calls the new MacBook Air the future of the MacBook. If we take that literally it could mean that all future MacBooks will be the Air. Pro users will simply buy the bigger machines if they need the added performance, but the majority of users could get by with the Air. I tend to agree with this philosophy. There’s really no reason to get the base MacBook. The 13-inch MBA sacrifices a bit of performance and expansion, but you get a far more portable machine. For users who need the performance, there's always the Pro line.

The 11 The SSD: Not Half Bad


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  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Get it through your thick skull, an Apple is not a Ferrari. It's just another pc. An overpriced pc. As soon as you come to that realization you'll sleep better at night and save your $$. Reply
  • MeesterNid - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link sure seems like your skull is much thicker there buddy as he just gave you solid, logical reasoning and all you did was post incoherent blabbering about how Apple is not a Ferrari. You should try searching Google for the meaning of a "metaphor" there.

    But alas, I fear logic and reason do not fit into your "reality" filtered through, what's probably baseless, anti-Apple bias.

    Good day.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I know what a metaphor is. Do you really think I thought that an Apple PC is a car with four wheels that you can transport you from point A to point B using an internal combustion engine? Really?

    So, since you need clarifying... *sing along with me*... an Apple Computer is just another PC... an overpriced PC. A pretty PC with no cutting edge technology, but still more expensive nonetheless. No anti-Apple bias on my part because I point out the obvious. And no, Apple is not a BMW either (another metaphor in case you think I am mistaking a PC for an automobile).
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Apple is more like a Lexus.

    A more expensive and shinier rebranded Toyota--err, PC.

  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    A Lexus is nothing like a base Toyota. They use separate unibodies, engines, etc. and only share little things like cabling and mirrors - as do all car brands and their platform strategies. Let's not forget the extra engineering that goes into quality or a quiet ride.

    You obviously have not owned a Lexus or are intimately familiar with - and judging from your witt, never will.
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    A Mac is nothing like a base PC. They use separate cases, batteries, motherboards, etc. and share only little things like connectors and ports - as do all PC brands and their platform strategies. Let's not forget the extra engineering that goes into quality or superior battery life.

    You obviously have not owned a Mac or are intimately familiar with - and judging from your wit, never will.
  • UltimateTruth - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    "A Lexus is nothing like a base Toyota. They use separate unibodies, engines, etc. and only share little things like cabling and mirrors "

    I'm sure he's not talking about base Toyotas. And yes, models do share MANY common components from little things like hose clamps, electrical connectors up to engines and transmissions in their platforms.

    The DI V8 in the bloated 350 IF-S is the same as used in the home market Toyota Crown. Variants are used in Tundras and Sequoias.

    Toyota and it's subsidiaries makes the components. Lexus is just an upscale brand of Toyota Motor Co..
  • MeesterNid - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Brother, your ability to carry on a coherent, rational debate with adults needs practice. Allow me to illustrate:

    1. While my assertion that you do not understand the meaning of the word metaphor was clearly sarcastic you proceed to define it in your response making it look like you either really didn't know what it meant or felt insecure enough to have to prove your knowledge.

    2. You, once again, spout unsubstantiated nonsense about Apple being "just another PC" while in fact Apple does a good bit of original design in their products unlike other PC OEMs (i.e. you should put forward, or at least attempt to, some reasoning that lead you to your conclusion).

    3. Your statement that Apple is not a BMW is redundant to your previous one of it not being a Ferrari, but beyond that you bring that comparison up for no reason. That just makes your previously illogical ranting sound childish.

    I'm not even going to attempt to debate your statement about your not being biased "because [you] point out the obvious" as I'm afraid reason may be lost on you.
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    So, if I feel that Apple's products are underwhelming and overpriced then I must be biased. I see... :eyeroll:

    Use all the metaphors you want. Misinterpret my post for your selfish reasons that only you know.
    It's still just a PC. I don't care what OS it uses. If you actually want to compare technical specs and features then we have a discussion. But that's not really what you want. You're off on some mission defending the honor of your beloved Apple. <i>It's Sir MeesterNid and his knights of the stupid table here to save your honor Miss! At your service.</i>

    You know it's the same Intel cpu or did Apple do some design work there? It is thin like a cracker. Did you plan to use it as a frisbee? Make sure you buy the insurance.
  • tim851 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    And Ferrari is just another car. If you think there's $200k of engineering in there, your skull is thicker than mine. The main reason for the high price is that Ferrari positions themselves in a certain market segment. Price elasticity is given though, they would move more cars if they were cheaper. They just don't want to. Producing more cars creates new hassles and puts them in a different market position.

    Also, the primary benefit of a Ferrari - that is as a means of transportation - is rather bad, as they often seat only two people, have little luggage space, low MPG, frequent service intervals, high cost of operation.
    The technical superiority - i.e. the performance - doesn't matter on public roads. A Ferrari won't get you anywhere quicker than a Ford.

    People buy them because they are fun, they are pretty and they are representative. Buying a Ferrari is a more emotional act than buying an Apple.
    And I, for one, don't own an Apple. I don't care about those secondary and tertiary values and prefer a cheaper PC. That doesn't mean that Apple's market strategy is wrong - it's just wrong for me. Their overwhelming success shows that it's right in general.

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