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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  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Good case. Another example is Porsche, who has the widest profit margins of any car company. A 911 doesn't cost anything near what people will pay for them, and adding a $8,000 turbo doesn't equate to the $40,000 premium they can charge for it. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Did you even bother reading the entire comment? I thought it was logical enough.

    A business is in the business of making money, not selling things. If a business can make more money by selling fewer things, they will do it.
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I should have been clear:

    It will never happen because it makes to much sense to US. I'm not talking about the general unwashed masses that have an orgasm over an Apple Logo.

    I'm talking about sensible people that would rather spend half as much for an ASUS Eee PC 1215N, or people that want luxury would get the HP Envy 14 or 17.
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    Wow. Sorry to kick up a dead thread, and I really hope I don't restart it. I just was really surprised by that comment. If you're kidding, maybe you're one of those griefers that says this stuff for kicks, then I guess that's your bag and you carry it, but seems silly to me. If you're serious, then you really have quite the glut of self esteem.

    My advice. Try it out. Want to keep your nose up? That's fine, don't buy one, just hackintosh a rig you've got. Don't game on it. Work on it. Read all the griefer blogs you want. Write on it. Produce something with it. I'm not an owner, yet, I'm a hackintosher. And having used XP, Win 7, Ubuntu and OS X on my netbook, laptop and desktop, OS X is my favorite platform to get work done, and the only one I would want to use on something with a screen smaller than 17".

    If you give it a try and you still think Apple b10ws and you r001, fine. Us unwashed masses will just keep getting things done and loving every minute of it.
  • robco - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    There's a few technical reasons why some of these things don't exist in the MBA. Apple can't use the iSeries chips in their low-end products because Intel has blocked third-party integrated graphics. The MBA doesn't have space for a discrete GPU. Intel's integrated graphics don't support OpenCL, something Apple intends to make use of going forward. USB 3.0 is a nice idea, but at the moment, requires a separate controller chip, something else there isn't room for. Hopefully either Intel will make decent graphics (I'm not holding my breath) or AMD will come out with a decent mobile CPU with better integrated graphics. I would imagine the microphone got moved because it wouldn't fit into the new, thinner display. Including an adapter isn't something that can be done at the factory - which would they include? Some folks will want VGA, some DVI, others might spring for the Cinema Display and not need it. As for the ExpressCard slot, I do with they remove the optical drive from the MB and MBP and add that, plus an extra USB port or two. I can count on one hand the number of times I've used an optical drive in the past four years.

    No offense, but I imagine Apple's engineers considered all these things and more. I looked at Windows laptops before getting my 15" MBP and good quality laptops are expensive no matter who makes them. I had a hard time finding anyone who could offer a fully featured notebook in a case less than an inch thin, with a high quality display, excellent battery life and rated EPEAT Gold. Apple just doesn't compete at the low end. By the time you take that $699 Windows laptops and start adding options, the price difference shrinks considerably.
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    that's a very "can't do" kind of attitude.
    i really like apple's designs, but i really don't like the outdated processors they are using.
    i refuse to believe that there is NOTHING that apple could do to bring better tech to it's fans.
    it's very disappointing. :(
  • coldpower27 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Well Apple wants to support a certain feature set, and they can't do so if they go Intel and their lackluster integrated Graphics. They want nVidia graphics.

    If they tried to add Intel's Westmere based products with Integrated Graphics it would become a 3 chip solution. They have done this for the 15/17 markets where the chasis can hold everything and the larger battery required.

    On the 11/13 where space is premium it's integrated nVidia graphics, once Sandy Bridge rolls around, we may see that Intel graphics is on the CPU itself.
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    This is exactly it. While Dell/Asus/Gateway churn out laptops designed to be able to fit whatever will be required of them from the next CPU/GPU/chipset, Apple chooses a set of function requirements and build their design out of that. The 11/13 size laptops are all about portability, so big batteries and thin designs at the expense of the newest, fastest processor. It's pertinent that when Dell decided to build an MBA competitor (the Adamo) they went with a rather similar specification, and ended up with worse battery life.

    So, could Apple sell a laptop for $600? Yep. It'd have a plastic chassis, carry whatever the cheapest processor they can squeeze out of Intel, the same crappy Clickpad everyone's slapping on their laptops, have a craptastic LCD, mediocre battery life and run Windows 7. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll go get a Mac.
  • OrionAntares - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Something about the MacBook Air and the processors. If they moved away from the Core 2 I'm pretty sure given the size constraints they'd need to stick with the Pentium and/or i3 ULVs. Making the Air thicker would be contrary to the whole point of the Air line. If you want a stronger processor (and more thickness) you'd go up to the regular Macbook line that is already thicker. Reply
  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I concur, this guy is a tard that doesn't know anything about systems engineering or manufacturing or "productizing". Reply

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