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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  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    When someone resorts to name-calling they lose respect from me. Putting down people with a medical or educational diagnosis in the process causes me to think even less of them.

    Put a reasonable argument out there, back it up with some numbers, then let it go if the other party doesn't get it; it's all you can do. If you resort to name-calling that is about you, not him (or her) and your state of mind. If you feel tempted to bash someone by calling them " [expletives deleted]" then take a moment - go punch a pillow and scream at it or whatever you need to - and get clear before you post.

    If your intent is to just make people mad and isn't to actually have a discussion - well, there's nothing I can say about that except, have a nice life, and enjoy your stiff neck, back aches, and ulcers.

    ;)
    Reply
  • huai - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    MBA currently has space on its board for 2 chips:
    C2D CPU
    Nvidia Chipset w/ integrated GPU and USB2.0 controllers

    You propose a 5 chip solution:
    Core i CPU
    Intel Chipset (which doesn't support USB3.0)
    3rd party USB 3.0 controller
    Dedicated GPU
    Optimus

    Where's the space going to come for this? Are you willing to cut battery life by a third to make room?
    Reply
  • freefallgrue - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    No FireWire? Get real. Reply
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    No, the MacBook 13 needs to become cheaper. If the "elite" MBA11 is $999, the MB13 should be $899.

    Four screen sizes is a non issue, any more than it is for Dell, Lenovo, or HP.

    1) 11.6" is great as an entry point as it allows for a full sized keyboard
    2) 13.3" is great as a portable as it allows for speakers and a full sized keyboard
    3) 15" allows for greater performance without loss in portability
    4) 17" maximizes performance for a tradeoff in portability

    The pro terminology is perfect as it indicates more performance. The problem is that the 13" MBP shouldn't be a Pro since it lacks a Core i3; if we get rid of any, it should be the 13" MBP.

    If you want a logical and maximal pricing structure:
    MB 11: $899
    MBA 11: $999
    MB 13: $999 (no optical but only 4 pounds)
    MBA 13: $1299
    MBP 13: $1299 (no optical but core i3)
    MBP 15: $1599
    MBP 17: $1799
    Reply
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Macs make fancy looking products, but as you notice you compare apples to apples because at a lower price range these products would be getting smashed against $1000 price-point laptop PCs.

    I just don't get the appeal for paying for less, but I do know there's a lot of less-than-brilliant people out there that can't tell when they are being owned by advertising and no matter what anyone does there's always going to be those less-than-brilliant (yes, that's sarcasm) roaming the planet, so by all means dump your money into a cult like company.

    I just find it funny that Anandtech got all Apple over the past 3-4 years, I don't remember seeing that many Mac reviews prior to that. You getting a kick back now?
    Reply
  • hmurchison - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Yes but the problem is we Mac users don't want to run Windows or Linux for the sake of hardware that looks better on paper. As Anand said in his review...the tight integration of the OS and the hardware means that Apple extracts more performance out their computers than what is typical of the industry.

    It's not about Advertising it's about design and aesthetics that extend from the hardware to the software. To some it's appealing much as a BMW is more appealing than say a Ford to car lovers.

    With 50 million Mac users and 3-4x times that amount of iPod/iphone/iPad users Apple left Cult status a LONG time ago. $300 a share isn't a cult ..that's good biz.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Have you heard Steve Jobs talk? That's cult like.

    And everything you just said proves my point, you got owned by advertising (design and aesthetics? lol, c'mon).

    You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)

    Macs are for people who can't customize their own computers (both design, aesthetically, and software) themselves and like to pay out the bum to feel part of the cult.
    Reply
  • AMDJunkie - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    "You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)"

    Very good. Make a laptop from the ground up with the exact same dimensions, fit, finish, as the MacBook Air; while also surpassing it in benchmark prowess, appearance of speed, and battery life. And since you can program too, might as well make your own OS while you're at it. I suppose you could appropriate another and make your own modifications to it, as long as it works as well as what Apple has.

    Go on...

    Riiiiight. Just because they're designed to appeal to aesthetes does not mean there is not quite a bit of engineering that goes into these. When you go through the iFixIt, or take it apart for yourself and reassemble it, you'll have a greater appreciation for Apple's "toys."

    Also, keep on trollin'.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Tell me what the value is on a $1000 plastic Macbook with an outdated processor, ram capacity and everything else.

    Sorry, OSX isn't worth the extra $500 premium.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Point is, if I wanted to, it could be done. Why would I have to write my own OS when it's possible to modify and customize one of the better ones out there? (If you noticed, I haven't bashed OS X at all, simply their price point on their hardware).

    Mac users are just used to paying more for less, which is the point in all my trolling points.

    Sounds like a bunch of idiots to me.
    Reply

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