In the past Apple online store had held one day sales event for "Black Friday" (aka "Boxing Day", the day after Christmas). Usually any other times Apple products are rarely discounted; unless it is through the Corporate or Education sites or refurbished items. So it is a bit surprising to receive a Sale event announcement from Apple Hong Kong this morning. Let along a one day sale event from Apple HK. The email announcement detailed their first ever Chinese New Year 2011 one day sale event to be held on Friday, January 14th in their online store. There are currently no additional details about the deals, discounts or products included in the one-day-sale event. Visiting the page on Apple HK online store right now, one will see a message asking visitors to return on Friday for details.

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:

Features 11-inch 13-inch
The Intel Core 2 Duo CPU Speed either 1.4GHz or 1.6GHz either 1.86GHz or 2.13GHz
L2 Cache 3MB 6MB
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.

Many people are tempted by the low cost of Apple products in Hong Kong compared to all other countries around the world, including USA. They are most attracted to the factory SIM-unlocked iPhones sold through official Apple resellers and Apple HK store online. So they are tempted to purchase one or more of these products while they are travelling to Hong Kong. Making a purchasing decision like this should not be taken lightly. Aside from the cost, for any electronic product there should also be consideration of warrantee.

Fortunately, Apple had changed its warrantee last year for all its "portable" devices (ie. MacBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.) such that they have a worldwide warrantee coverage. But you need to read the (not so) small print in Apple's warrantee documents. Apple has the rights to request any warrantee services to be performed in the purchased country. Of course, this is less likely if the country where the warrantee requester is in also officially sells the item in question.

In some cases, people who lives in Hong Kong may want to consider purchasing Apple products from other countries. One such example, is the current situation with the iPad, where they were sold out within one day and Apple Premier Resellers have stopped receiving pre-orders because they can no longer promise a date on which to fulfill the backorders. Fortunately, for people who lives in HK, by this Friday (July 30th) Apple HK will be officially selling every Apple released products. Therefore, the chances of Apple HK requesting purchasers to send the warranted item back to purchasing country for warrantee repairs is low. So if you have the means to purchase iPad or iPhone 4 from UK or France, and willing to pay the higher cost due to exchange rates, you can.

Please understand I am not suggesting you purchase from the gray-market sellers in Mong Kok or Wanchai. These resellers are charging approximately HKD1000.00 above List price for iPads and close to 200% more for the iPhone 4 (from UK or France), lower for the ones from USA.

MacBook MacBook Air MacBook Pro
2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB DDR3 Memory 160GB 5400rpm Hard Drive Super Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M video card 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB DDR3 Memory 250GB 5400rpm Hard Drive Super Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M video 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB DDR3 Memory 120GB 4200rpm Hard Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M video card 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB DDR3 Memory 128GB SSD Hard Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M video card 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB DDR3 Memory Super Drive 250GB 5400rpm Hard Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB video card 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 4GB DDR3 Memory 320GB 5400rpm Hard Drive Super Drive NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB video card
$10,200.00 $12,500.00 $13,900.00 $19,200.00 $15,400.00 $19,200.00

* All currency in HKD

This new line of Macintosh notebooks cause me to be indecisive about my justification to upgrade my current MacBook Pro (October 2006, Glossy Screen), 2GB of RAM, 2Hz Intel Core Duo, 100GB 7200 rpm Hard Drive. Let me get into the details so you can decide whether you have the same issues.

These new MacBooks have many technical advancement in terms of manufacturing and user interface. There are hardware in the Mac that the upcoming Mac OS X (10.6) will be able to take advantage and make these efficiencies available to all applications running on the new Mac OS X.

Apple has removed the Firewire port on the MacBook, making it the first time since the iBook released in 2001 that a Mac does not have a Firewire port. They also removed the Firewire 400 port from the new MacBook Pro. These decisions are strange to me, as Apple had originally participated in the development of the IEEE 1394 (the IEEE name for this) standard. Unless this is a sign that Apple will drop Firewire for something new in the very near future?

Although the Firewire 800 specifications are backward compatible to the Firewire 400, the plugs for these ports are different. So a bilateral cable will be needed to connect an external devices with Firewire 400 ports to the Firewire 800 ports on the MacBook Pro. Of course this is not the first time Apple included Firewire 800 ports on Macintosh, but this is the first time it is the only Firewire port.

In the past Firewire (aka. iLink or IEEE 1394) ports have been standard on high end video and still digital cameras, but in recent years these ports have given way to mini-USB ports. Is Apple's recent decision simply a normal transition, as they often lead the industry in adopting technology changes. For example, removing the Floppy Disk Drive from their computers, pushing the adoption of Read-Writable CD and DVD players on consumer level computers. Or may be it is just a cost saving for the lower-end consumer MacBook.

For the new MacBook Pro, it is the same weight as my current MacBook Pro (Glossy), and slightly thinner by 0.05 inches, which is not much. Its case is tapered like the MacBook Air, iPhone 3G and iMac, so it appears to be much thinner.

My current problem with my MacBook Pro is the weight and amount of RAM I can install. My current MacBook Pro max. out at 2GB of RAM, since it is the 32bit version of the Intel CPU even though Mac OS X supports much higher capacity. Therefore, the new MacBook Pro will resolve my RAM capacity issue, but will not resolve my weight issue.

On the other hand, it does have a brand new buttonless TrackPad with a glass surface, which can take advantage of Apple's new gestures.

The new MacBook Pro has two GPU, one integrated GPU and a discrete GPU, that you can turn on and off as your graphics need changes. To balance between graphic performance and battery life.

Aside from the above, the battery, memory module and hard drive are designed to be easily replaceable by the end-user. Therefore when Solid State Drives improves in speed, increase in capacity and lower its price, one can easily upgrade the internal drive.

In my particular situation I do not think I have enough justifications to upgrade to the new MacBooks. I guess I will just have to wait for the amalgamation of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro before I upgrade. I may have to fork out some dough to renew my AppleCare, so that my MacBook Pro's resell value does not drop too much.