AnandTech comprehensively reviews Apple MacBook Air: Sacrifices all made up for by form factor

Anand Lal Shimpi thoroughly and extensively reviews Apple’s new MacBook Air for AnandTech. As is typical of Lal Shimpi’s reviews, this is one of the most in-depth product reviews you’ll ever read and it is a must-read for anyone considering Apple’s MacBook Air – or any Apple notebook, for that matter.

Lal Shimpi writes, “The build quality of the Air truly stands out among all of the incredibly impractical notebooks I’ve used in the past – it’s excellent. Generally you see an ultra portable and are impressed, then you hold an ultra portable and are scared. The same just isn’t true with the MacBook Air; it feels just like it looks and it’s surprisingly sturdy.”

Lal Shimpi writes, “As the MacBook Air is the only ultra portable Mac around, in many senses it doesn’t really have any competitor. Sony, Dell and more recently Lenovo all have similarly equipped notebooks but none of them run OS X. When I first reviewed OS X on a notebook I talked about how many of its strengths really came in handy in a cramped screen environment, which is what you get with a notebook. On an ultra portable machine like the MacBook Air, especially one with a fairly low screen resolution, the window management strengths of OS X grow even more important.”

Lal Shimpi writes, “The full sized keyboard is a must for any writer and it’s a decision that I’m beyond glad Apple went with on the Air. This entire review was written on the Air and it was done even faster than if I were at my desk typing it all out, mostly because I could be in whatever more comfortable environment I wanted to be in while writing it. If you need something ultra portable it’s generally because you want to carry it around with you all the time and presumably use it for something. The CPU and keyboard choices Apple went with made it so that you can actually get work done on the MacBook Air.”

Lal Shimpi writes, “Apple did sacrifice a lot with the Air, the lack of an optical drive and limited expansion both come to mind. But honestly, it’s all made up for by the form factor, build quality, CPU speed and keyboard decisions. Apple may have given up a lot but these four factors have made it so that the MacBook Air will be my desired travel companion from now on.”

Article Index:
Page: 01 – Index
Page: 02 – It Feels So Good
Page: 03 – The Best Keyboard on an Ultra Portable?
Page: 04 – The Trackpad
Page: 05 – So Bright, So Screen
Page: 06 – A Sound Sleeper & Connectivity
Page: 07 – Designed for a Utopian Society
Page: 08 – The SuperDrive
Page: 09 – Installing Mac OS X
Page: 10 – Inside the Air
Page: 11 – Little or No Upgrade Path
Page: 12 – An iPod Hard Drive in a Mac?
Page: 13 – Hard Drive Swap: DIY SSD Install
Page: 14 – Installing the SSD
Page: 15 – MacBook Air Performance: SSD vs. Mechanical HD
Page: 16 – The Impact of SSD on Battery Life
Page: 17 – The SSD Discussion
Page: 18 – System Performance: iPhoto & iWork
Page: 19 – System Performance: Office ’08, File Decompression, Photoshop & Quicktime
Page: 20 – Performance Summary & Subjective Feel
Page: 21 – Battery Life
Page: 22 – Thermals & Strange Issues
Page: 23 – Final Words

Full review – highly recommended – here.

20 Comments

  1. @ Tired of Retards,

    You are absolutely right. We don’t get it. We have no idea who this is for. Its not for students. Its not for developers. Its not for those who just want to sit on their couch and surf the web, check email, upload pictures, download music. You know, 99% of the population.

    But since you are the enlightened one, tell us why we don’t get it and while you are at it, who its for. Executives? Ha. 95% of them still run Windows. Apple is a consumer company. But this product is not aimed at the consumer whatsoever.

  2. He didn’t say a FireWire port is a “must-have”, he said “it would have been nice”. And, it’s true. There are quite a few “deleted features” we can regret not having, but not having them is what allows the small form factor – despite the sturdiness of it. As multiple non-retards have noted here – and elsewhere – the small size/weight is THE primary “feature” of this model, of and model in this market niche, and sacrifices of other features may be required. That doesn’t mean we won’t regret their loss.

    Dave

  3. And exactly why isn’t the MBA for students, developers, web surfing, upload pictures, download music?

    This MBA is great. As an original Macbook owner, I would love to cut the weight in half, and gain the backlit keyboard. I hardly ever use the optical drive in the MB. Rarely use any of the other ports either. The ethernet dongle/tiny USB hub just doesn’t seem like that big of deal to carry in your laptop bag.

    When I’m on the road, I’m not doing the kind of things that require all of the missing features. The MBA is all about loosing the weight. If you don’t get that, then the MBA is not for you.

  4. “I’ve already talked to far too many people that are allowing emotion to cloud better judgment and are considering the Air when they shouldn’t be. If this is going to be your only notebook and you plan on using it as your main computer, chances are the Air isn’t for you. “

    Ahh, the journalistic kiss of death again.

  5. In the U.S, Europe, Australasia and Japan (that’s almost all of Apple’s world market) the MBA has been the best-seller on the online Apple Stores for weeks, ahead of the previous no.1, the Macbook.

  6. @ @Jeff

    Simple. Its too costly for most people for what it does. Is it worth $700 to lose devices and save 2 lbs? The hard drive performance in the thing is horrible. I’m not saying its a bad machine. When I first heard about it, I really wanted to get it for my wife. She’s using my iBook G3 still. But at $1799, it gets no consideration against the MacBook. And if you think the MacBook is heavy, then maybe you need to exercise. I don’t understand how you can justify the removal of parts like ports, drives, etc. as an improvement.

    Its a niche product. Plain and simple. I’d rather see the LED screen on the MacBook along with improved graphics and maybe a tad higher resolution like 1440×900 instead of 1280×800.

    Same goes for the 15″ MBP which is want I want to downsize to. The 17″ is too big for my needs but I love the resolution. If the 15″ gets the enhanced resolution so that I can do 1680×1050, I’d be very happy.

    But its typical Apple. Instead of building a computer that the people want, they try something new. Why did they waste all these hours on this when they could have produced a desktop consumer expandable headless system that would outsell this thing by a considerable amount. Because that isn’t cool enough for his holiness?

  7. yeah it is a niche product…..

    ….looking to fill 16% of their sales according to analysts. lets see, 6 products, divide 100%….. that is 16.666% so see, the product is already expected to not live up to potential…. wait.

    god some of you people are stupid.

    meanwhile i went to local Mac store and watched people freak out over the thing and watched 7 switchers buy one on the spot in under an hour. yeah this thing sucks….

    “Instead of building a computer that the people want, they try something new”

    and they stopped making the other 2 macbooks didn’t they?

    and i am sure they won’t add new features from this machine to those macbooks will they.

    oh wait, you are just a moron.

  8. OMG, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it… I think Steve O knows a little bit more than we do about how and what to produce at “his” company. That said. There are other products that Apple sells to suit the naysayers’ needs. The Air is a product that looks to shake up the norm and move people to a totally wireless environment. I’m sure future iterations will have more of what people want… It’s a “wow” product that is not meant for everyone or power users… At least Apple is daring and innovative.

  9. Uh, if it is not for you, don’t buy it. I am confident that Apple does extensive research as to what people want and saw a market for it. Of course, it’s not for everyone. But there are other choices in the lineup if it isn’t. Apple hasn’t laid too many eggs lately, so I think they know what they are doing. I remember when they dropped the floppy drives people freaked out, too. The world didn’t end.

  10. The TV ad for the Air was on Australian TV last night.
    My 12 year old daughter saw it and said, completely unprompted, “OMG! Thats beautiful! It’s so thin! Dad, I want one!”

    She’s not an Apple fangurl by any means. It just struck her as a really great looking laptop.

    Alot of people are going to buy one of these without being too fussed about the technical details. It looks good, it feels good, they think they will be cooler if they own one, and that’s as complex as the decision making gets.

  11. Just to add more of the same. This will go on to be one of the more (if not even most) successful products (right up there with the iPhone and the original iMac) in recent Apple history.

    I will say this again: most purchasing decisions in an average western household are made by women! At the risk of stereotyping, I’ll say women generally do not know or care about the detailed specs. They will see MBA; they will pick it up; and they will whip out their credit card. They will ask no more questions after seeing and holding the device.

    If you have ever been in a busy computer store (or a Best Buy / Circuit City computer isle) around laptops, when women look at these, they begin (and often end) their questioning with “How heavy is it?”. It is logical to assume that any new computer you buy today will have good specs, be able to run contemporary software and do vast majority of tasks you’d want it to run. Therefore, there is no need for you to ask additional questions. Basically, weight becomes the biggest (if not the only) variable.

    Women will gladly give up two weeks worth of facials, deep-tissue massages and manicure/pedicure in order to buy this.

    Let’s review six months from now; I’m convinced there will be plenty of MBAs in Starbuckses across the globe.

  12. @emjoi lol we saw that ad last night too and my wife said she wants one cos it looks so sleek. That is saying something cos she isn’t really into that sort of thing and she normally likes to bash Apple just to annoy me ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” /> My point is the MBA is appealing to a big non-technical demographic

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