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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  • hmurchison - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Other than build your own computer (which is overrated IMO) there's little you can do with your PC that I can't do with my Mac.

    Yup ...I have style which means that I do get "owned" by the finer things in life. I don't have a tacky 3rd rate Alienware like box sitting on my desk. I could easily program by installing the free Xcode IDE that comes on my disk and create apps if I so choose. With Unix underpinnings I can do terminal commands and geek out if I want to.

    I'm not a lowest bidder guy nor to I spend an inordinate amount of time tinkering. My time is precious and time is the one thing money ..or cheap PC cannot deliver.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    See... Everyone is different, everyone has different tastes.

    To me Apples products don't look all that attractive to myself, from a hardware or an aesthetics perspective.

    I like my big flashy case full of UV Cathodes and LEDs which highlight my impressive looking water cooling loops running from my crossfire setup and Core i7 which can be admired through the side window.
    Nothing Apple has ever made has actually "Impressed" me from any angle, not the Aesthetics, the hardware, none of it, hence they aren't for me and a reason why I have never owned an Apple product.
    My neighbor even modded his Laptop so that it was all made from a clear plastic, and that to has a bunch of nice looking LED's inside of it which lights up really well and does look impressive.
    These... I dunno, the look just doesn't do it for me.

    As for the touchpad... I use a keyboard to scroll down a webpage, I guess it's a habit from the days of Ball-Mice giving me hell, so I used a keyboard as much as possible.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Please, just because Apple tells you you have style doesn't mean you do.

    Again, you got owned by advertising, and you probably look like a giant douche or a turd sandwich when you walk around, all the while thinking in your head you are the sh*t!
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    play games? *cough*

    no, bootcamping Windows does not count.
    Reply
  • captainBOB - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Its called Steam for the Mac

    Its also called TF2, HL2, HL2: Ep 1 and 2, Portal, Left for Dead 2, HL2: Deathmatch, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3 (when it arrives) WoW, City of Heroes: Going Rouge, Day of Defeat, CS: Source, EVE Online, Civilization IV.... they don't look like indie games.... should I keep going?

    Sure its not quite the library that Windows based PCs have, but the argument that Macs can't play games was dead in the water when Valve brought Steam to the Mac.

    Oh and no, It can't play Crysis.
    Reply
  • MikosNZ - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Most of those games are old and you will note they are only AAA titles. Yes you are right a handful of the most popular games come to OSX. But the vast majority do not.

    Apple and Apple OSX are a nice platform but they most certainly are not a serious gaming platform. Fine for the hobbyist gamer not anyone who spends a significant time gaming.
    Reply
  • captainBOB - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Yep, I mention the big AAA games because they aren't so quickly dismissed as say, "Torchlight" or the other nice indie games on Steam available for both platforms.

    Definitely a Mac a gaming machine does not make. Just wanted to clear up a misconception that Macs cannot play games. Better to jump into the Hundred Years flame war prepared.
    Reply
  • solgae1784 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Display is still one of Apple notebook/laptop strengths.....11 inch Air has the same res (1366x768) as most manufacturers use in 15 inch display and some of the 13 inch displays. 13 inch Air has the same res as the Macbook Pro 15 inch model (1400x900), which also puts most other manufacturer's 15 inch display notebooks/laptops to shame with its paltry 1366x768 res. When will those other manufacturers learn that 768p (or heaven forbid, 800p) on a 15 inch screen is just not large enough?

    I have also yet to saw a single touchpad that can at least match Apple notebook/laptop's implementation. Scrolling is just plain frustrating (especially horizontal scrolling) on those touchpads.
    Reply
  • Accord99 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    "When will those other manufacturers learn that 768p (or heaven forbid, 800p) on a 15 inch screen is just not large enough?"

    It's a good thing other manufacturers offer products that use higher resolutions like 1920x1080 or 1920x1200, something not available on a Mac except at 17".
    Reply
  • solgae1784 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I checked just now on Dell/HP/ASUS/Lenovo 15" notebook and apart from Alienware notebooks, none of them offered anything but a 768p res. Dell used to offer a 900p res on their XPS 15" line, but that option is gone as of now. I don't recall any notebook/laptops apart from Alienware that offered a 1080p or 1200p res on a 15" screen notebook. Reply

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