Today I have my first hands-on with the brand new MacBook Air (MBA) that Apple released last Wednesday, October 20 (US PDT). Until I touch it myself I did not appreciate how thin this latest revision of the MBA is. As we all know from Apple's specifications the thickest part of the MBA is 0.68 inch and tapering to 0.11 inch at its thinest part. The 11-inch weights in at 2.3 lbs (1.06 kg) and the 13-inch weights in at a 2.9 lbs (1.32 kg).
The main differences between the 11-inch and the 13-inch aside from prices, obvious screen size and physical dimensions are:
|The Intel Core 2 Duo CPU Speed||either 1.4GHz or 1.6GHz||either 1.86GHz or 2.13GHz|
|Internal storage (SSD)||either 64GB or 128GB||either 128GB or 256GB|
|Apple estimated battery life||5 hours||7 hours|
|Expansion Slot||None||SD Card Slot|
The CPU differences is not that significant except when comparing the lowest configuration 11-inch to the highest configuration 13-inch. Even then user will not notice the differences unless they are running applications that stress the CPU.
A significant difference between the two MBA sizes is their L2 cache sizes. The 13-inch MBA models have twice as much L2 cache compared to the 11-inch models. L2 cache is what the CPU use to remember instructions while the CPU communicates with the relatively slower RAM. The more L2 cache the faster the CPU is able to perform its tasks.
Unless you do not intend to store much data (files: documents, photos, music or movies) internally on the MBA while you're on the go, you should buy the largest storage possible. This is because Apple did not use a SSD inside the new MBA due to space considerations. Instead they used Flash memory chips soldered onto a custom build daughter card to the motherboard. Therefore aftermarket upgrades to the MBA internal storage will most likely not be available. Plus there is a sticker on the card indicating any tempering will result in voiding the AppleCare warrantee.
Battery life is something to consider but unless you do not charge the MBA every night you the 5 hours and 7 hours difference should not be a factor for choosing the 13-inch over the 11-inch. Of course the safety of extra battery life is always nice to have.
The option of directly plug a SD Memory Card into the MBA like the latest MacBook Pro models is always convenient. Aside from not wasting a USB port to plug in a memory card reader there is no memory card reader to loose or carry around.
The 13-inch models screen sizes are 28% larger by area than the 11-inch but only a bit over 1 inch wider and taller. For some, this extra 28% of screen real estate may be the decision factor to make one choose the 13-inch over the 11-inch.
Although the new MBA is very thin it is constructed very well. Its unibody construction gives it the same Apple quality feel as any other Macs. Since it is also made out of the aluminum like all other Apple notebooks a case will be required to prevent scratches. At the moment no manufacture has made a case custom designed for the new MBA.
The MacBook Air line has never been ideal as one's only primary computer, but in the past it features had not differentiate it from the other Macintosh as a good secondary portable computer. With its new design it serves well sitting in the Apple product line between the iPad and the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The new MBA is catered for the individual who needs a very light portable Macintosh where the tasks s/he like to perform are not achievable on the iPad. For people who need only to surf the Internet, process emails and make minor edits to documents, the iPad may be a better choice. With iPad apps continue to mature and advance the MBA's target audiences may grow smaller and smaller in the next year.
It is very likely Apple will discontinue the MacBook or transition it to be only sold to Educational customers.