Ars Technica reviews Apple MacBook Air: Despite questionable battery life, it’s a keeper

“Apple advertises that the MacBook Air can get up to five hours of wireless productivity on its 37-watt-hour, non-removable battery. This is a hair less than what Apple typically estimates (guesstimates?) for its other notebooks (up to six hours), but it also includes “wireless productivity,” which is not considered on its other laptops (those estimates are based on WiFi being turned off). Because of Apple’s willingness to include the “wireless productivity” in its advertising, I was optimistic that the battery life might come something close to that, especially based on my usage,” Jacqui Cheng reports for Ars Technica.

“I’ll cut to the chase here: the MacBook Air’s battery life sucks. A lot. I found it to be a pretty big disappointment, holding it to my admittedly-high standards. I ran down the battery from full charge four times and came out with an average of two hours and 33 minutes,”Cheng reports.

“I can’t even imagine what I’ll do the next time I have to cover a keynote and have things like a USB EVDO modem sucking battery like no tomorrow. Maybe I’ll buy one of those external car batteries with a three-prong plug built-in and keep it in my bag for extra juice. So much for three pounds of MacBook Air delight,” Cheng reports.

MacDailyNews Note: Something may be wrong with Ars Technica’s MacBook Air, as their battery life experience does not match that of other respected reviewers. For example: The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg reported, “In my standard battery test, where I disable all power-saving features, set the screen brightness at maximum, turn on the Wi-Fi and play an endless loop of music, the MacBook Air’s battery lasted 3 hours, 24 minutes. That means you could likely get 4.5 hours in a normal work pattern, almost the five hours Apple claims.” USA Today’s Ed Baig reported, “Air’s battery life is decent. I got about three hours and 40 minutes as I surfed the Web, used Remote Disc and wrote.” Newsweek’s Steven Levy reported, “The battery life is quite acceptable–I didn’t have time for a definitive study but was getting only slightly less than the five hours per charge that Apple promises.” Please see related articles below for links and more reviews.

“I won’t be able to go back to a MacBook or MacBook Pro—despite the Air’s other downfalls. The light weight is, by far, the best part of the MacBook Air,” Cheng reports.

“The MacBook Air is the only super-thin notebook that (legally) runs Mac OS X, and we feel that Apple did a decent job at figuring out how its users would use such a computer. It’s not perfect by any means, and we hope to see Apple make improvements upon the Air with future iterations,” Cheng reports. “Despite all of the Air’s (sometimes glaring) flaws, I plan to keep it and use it as my notebook from here on out (maybe with a hard drive upgrade in the near future, and definitely with a battery upgrade when they become available).”

Full, comprehensive review – recommended – here.


  1. Misery! We become so spoiled and accustomed to the incredible technological prowesses of nowadays… Can’t we be a little more satisfied, at least for few short weeks of our lives, instead of constantly wishing for more “perfection” and/or more of this and that?!

  2. How much time do we give “Jacqui” (cute spelling) Cheng to recant her putdown? Jacqui– it doesn’t suck. you do. Take that car lighter plug batter cable with you everywhere pleeeze. The makers of the product you pan know what they’re doing young lady.

  3. Uh oh…the under powered multi-dimensionally under powered. Good thing that battery is replaceable..uh…that can’t solve the problem either, at least without voiding the AppleCare terms of service.

    Once my tax refund comes back I am buying an MB and give a sigh of releif that I did not fall sucker to the MBA 1.0 hype. People are going to be chucking their MBA 1.0’s out the car window when MAB 2.0 comes out. And that’s gonna be a pollution problem because the highway shoulders will be loaded with discarded iPhone 1.0’s once iPhone goes to true-no-b.s.-excuses 3G.

    Just my $0.02

  4. It does puzzle me why so many people are pointing out the sacrifices that you would have to make to use an Air (the loss of features) yet they don’t grumble about a 17″ MacBook Pro as being very large to use as a portable machine. All models of machine come with compromises over other models but also benefits over those other models. Perhaps the sacrifices of the Air are more extreme on face value but the benefits will outweigh those sacrifices for a lot of people. It might not be as big a success as the other models but it doesn’t need to be.

  5. Someone should tell that moron to learn how to write an article (without parenthetical writing). What is this, jr. high(yeah, totally)?

    That’s all, (but what’s the feminine version of moron?).

  6. “Moron” is not a gender specific term, so using it is fine… better, really, than using the standard feminine terms; what does gender have to do with it?

    That said, I would certainly like to see Ampar’s suggestion become widespread.

  7. battery life experiences will vary….it wouldn’t surprise me that the usb EVDO maybe sucking more juice than other components…

    for ex: my iphone battery lasts great in standby mode as long as I am in an area that has good and consistent cell coverage, but if I am in my house, with no or very weak cell coverage, it will drain the battery in less than 4 hrs. If I put it in airplane mode while in my house it will last multiple days….

  8. Hard drive: “The cruel and unusual 4200rpm drive began burning me on my first evening using the Air, and has continued to burn me every evening since.”

    Ports: “My Logitech USB Skype headset didn’t fit into the port, which of course, I first discovered the moment I needed to use it the most. Pick and choose your peripherals wisely.”

    Wireless Migration Assistant: “…I’m left pretty disappointed”

    WiFi: “…I can easily see over 25 wireless access points on my MacBook. I can only see 13 on the MacBook Air.”

    Battery life: ” I’ll cut to the chase here: the MacBook Air’s battery life sucks. A lot.”

    Upgradability. “Put simply: you can’t upgrade this machine.”

    Compactness: “…fits into places you might not normally place a laptop (including some of my nicer, girlier bags…)

    Bottom line: “…I plan to keep it and use it as my notebook from here on out…”

  9. Reasons for LONGER battery life:
    Slower, less power-hungry chip.
    Slower, less power-hungry drive.
    Less heat generated, less fan running.
    Less power-hungry LED screen.

    Reasons for SHORTER:
    Smaller battery.
    Wifi enabled, for Apple’s battery spec.
    ?Battery not yet conditioned?

    Honestly, I think the MBA based upon the specs and how it stacks up against the MB, should have better battery life.

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