Wall Street Journal 2014 Laptop Guide: Get an Apple MacBook Air

“I can rely on a few things in life. The sun rising in the east, my overpriced morning Starbucks latte, and people asking me, “What laptop should I buy?” as summer winds down,” Joanna Stern writes for The Wall Street Journal. “I can also rely on my usual four-word answer: Get a MacBook Air.”

“No other laptop in its price range has yet to beat Apple’s masterful mixture of speed, endurance and design,” Stern writes. “In fact, a few months ago when Apple lowered the starting price to $900, I declared it the best laptop ever made.”

“But that would be a very short, not to mention narrow-minded, laptop buying guide,” Stern writes. “A MacBook Air is not the answer for everyone. For some, a Windows laptop is a necessity and, let’s face it, $900 — or really $1,000 by the time I recommend the larger 13-inch MacBook Air — is potentially far more than some hope to spend on a computer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Macs run Windows, too, Joanna. They also offer far greater resale values and vastly superior Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Not mentioning that major fact and then proceeding to plod through a list of forgettable Windows and Chrome craptops while obliquely suggesting that people waste their money on vastly inferior wares does a huge disservice to your readers as does your failure to mention resale values and Total Cost of Ownership vs. sticker price.

Over their lifetime, from purchase to resale, MacBook Air is less expensive than a $400 Windows POS laptop.

Anyone who’s buying a laptop needs to be informed upfront that (1) Macs run all of the world’s software, (2) Macs offer far greater resale values, and (3) Macs deliver vastly superior TCO. Armed with that information, only those who don’t have enough money on hand for a real personal computer or are too stupid with which to bother will settle for some piece of crap PC. Anyone purporting to guide people to laptop buying decisions who fails to mention these three salient facts has failed miserably.

Otherwise, Joanna, great article!

Related articles:
PC Magazine reviews Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air: The ultimate in portability; a great travel companion – May 19, 2014
Low-priced $899 MacBook Air taps Apple into massive $63 billion-per-year notebook market – April 30, 2014
Apple kills the Windows PC and no one seems to mind – April 30, 2014
3 ways Apple improved the MacBook Air today – April 29, 2014
Apple updates MacBook Air with faster processors and lower prices; now starting at $899 – April 29, 2014
Battle of the world’s best 13-inch notebooks: Apple’s MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro – November 7, 2013
Computerworld reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: ‘Mind. Blown.’ – July 22, 2013
PC Magazine reviews Apple’s new 11-inch MacBook Air: Excellent; highly recommended – July 17, 2013
With new 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple just made the perfect notebook even better – July 1, 2013
Wired reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: ‘The best gets better; buy it now’ – June 27, 2013
Ars Technica reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: Big boosts to storage, GPU, and battery performance – June 27, 2013
AnandTech reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: Really quite awesome – June 24, 2013
TIME Magazine reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: Pushes battery life to new, productivity-changing heights – June 19, 2013
ZDNet reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: The new standard for laptops, a stunning achievement – June 14, 2013
PC Magazine reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: Astonishing, astounding; Editors’ Choice – June 14, 2013
Engadget reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Air: Stunning 12+ hour battery life – June 13, 2013
Hands-on with Apple’s new MacBook Air: True all-day battery life – June 13, 2013
Why the MacBook Air didn’t get a Retina display – June 12, 2013
Apple brings all day battery life to MacBook Air – June 10, 2013


  1. The biggest problem with the MacBook Air is when the new models come out, it ‘s hard to justify an upgrade to the newest model unless your current MBA is 2-3 years old.

    1. [Until I buy my new MacBook Pro…] I still limp along out on the road with my 2006/11 MacBook 2GHz Core 2 Duo with 3GB of RAM running 10.7.5.

      It’s nearly 8 years old! I can’t kill it! It runs everything I want (…except 1080p video and decent 3D games). I love the thing! Mmmm. <3 <3 <3 Soooo in LUV. 💋💋💋

      Once I replace my dahling, she'll still be hanging around as a media server. Beat that ANY Windows box. 😀

      1. Do your MacBook and yourself a (relatively inexpensive) favor. Swap out your old MacBook’s HDD and put in a SSD. The speed difference is amazing and it’s like getting a new computer. You’ll love it and get a few more years out of it.

        1. I had swapped out the old 5400 rpm HD for a 7200 rpm HD, which has been terrific. Because of my saving up for a current MBP I couldn’t justify going SSD. They’re still too expensive IMHO. My MBP will be SSD. At that point I will be saving up to toss an SSD into my 2011 MacMini server (with NVIDEA GPU!) alongside it’s 7200 rpm HD, using it as a hybrid. I can hardly wait for both.

          1. Today I swapped the HD for an SSD in a friend’s 2008 iMac 24″ that had ground to a halt after the Mavericks upgrade. Result: it’s as fast as it once was out of the box and will handle Yosemite too. If no serious hardware failure happens, this machine will probably keep on working happily for a number of years.

            1. Excellent! I keep an eye on SSD tech for progress, which is ongoing.

              (I have to wonder if your friend was beta testing Mavericks as I ran into a couple beta versions that would not boot on my hardware, requiring version drop back reinstalls. Just wondering. But I’ll assume the HD had gone EOL. In the past I’ve swapped in new HDs every 4 years to be safe, then kept the old guys for occasional backups).

            2. > I have to wonder if your friend was beta testing Mavericks

              Nope, just running stock 10.9.4. When he installed that instead of 10.8 the problems started. At first we thought it was RAM deficiency, so we put in 4GB instead of the 2GB the machine originally came with. That made no difference at all. The SSD did make all the difference though. Somehow 10.9 seems to increase the load on the HD interface in such a way that it has trouble handling it. The SSD doesn’t have that trouble.

              My iMac 2009 and 2010 MBP had the same problem and the solution was the same albeit in the form of a fusion drive in order to expand storage capacity.

    2. Why would you upgrade unless you need it?

      At home we’re still running an original model MacBook Air — the one with the flip-out USB port (late 2008?).

      It’s still going strong for web, Facebook and email. And it’s ideal on vacation to review and temporarily store photos from our cameras.

      1. I upgrade about every 3 or 4 years. For work related things I appreciate the higher speed, and I can give the loader one to my wife who appreciates a relatively new laptop and can still get the next 3 to 4 years of use.

  2. What most non Mac users fail to understand is like MDN says cost of ownership. A friend my two years ago as me about laptops and said she couldn’t spend more than $450, so she bought a Lenovo for $445, it lasted about 1 & 1/2 years, now she needs a new laptop again. Before that she had a HP that she spent between $400 & $500 which didn’t last two years. I bought my daughter the last White MacBook made 4 years ago for $850 with a rebate and no sales tax and that laptop is still humming along just fine. I told her save your money and buy a Mac, but what I hear so often is ‘I can’t afford one’ to which I tried to explain had you bought one instead of the HP on the first go around you’d still have a laptop that works rather than going on your 3rd pc laptop. I say this over and over and I’m lost on why people can’t get this.

    1. There’s a reason why some of these people can’t afford a real personal computer: They do not understand how to manage they money. Unfortunately, some people can’t see the forest for the trees.

      1. You don’t exist. Because if you did, you would not be able to continuously spill the slime from your mouth very time you post for fear of choking on your own useless vomit

    2. Even for people who seriously cannot come up with the purchase money to buy a brand new Mac, there are other options to find or buy a Mac that may suit their budget. (1) If they asked around family, friends, and colleagues, they might find a still useful older Mac ‘hand-me-down’ for nothing. (2) Or they might find a good used Mac on eBay within their price range. (3) Or some people might be willing to pay the discounted price for “refurbished” Mac directly from Apple. It is not so much a matter of money, but a matter of choice. Shows the benefits of a good education and the ability to look into the future and plan.

    3. True, but if she had waited the time to save, how much time would she not have a computer to use at all? Based on the example you gave it would have been about 1.5 years. It may not be TCO concerns at all. Some people just can’t wait (situation or desire) and it seems other people have a hard time empathizing. 😛

  3. There should be two “laptop buying guides” :

    1) The one for people wanting to use a computer
    2) The one for the chap geeky nerds that only want to do Windows.

    The first one should explain the various Apple products
    The second one, needs to be limited to Windows based products.

    Mixing these two guides in one combines two very different offerings in a unwieldy way. It would be like a buying guide for cars that includes trucks and motocycles in the comparisons.

  4. Let’s face it, $900 — or really $1,000 by the time I recommend the larger 13-inch MacBook Air — is potentially far more than some hope to spend on a computer.

    Sure, if you only plan to use the computer for a couple years. Buy a throwaway PC for dirt cheap.

    A) The PC will come with Windows 8. Gawd help you. The MacBook Air will come with UNIX based OS X, the most advanced and user-friendly OS on the planet.
    B) The PC will require on average 10x more maintenance than the MacBook Air. That’s time and $$.
    C) The PC will require anti-malware software installed and running 24/7. That’s time, $$ and CPU cycles. OS X comes with its own malware prevention.
    D) The PC will have approximately HALF the lifetime of usability relative to the MacBook Air.

    Read up on Return on Investment and Total Cost of Ownership. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

  5. “Macs run Windows, too, Joanna.”

    Isn’t that funny. You just don’t hear about that these days.

    There was a time people got so excited about the ability to run Windows on a Mac, and now no one seems to care.

    1. There’s very little software for Windows that doesn’t also run on Mac OR there’s a superior Mac equivalent. There are obviously some key exceptions for specialty software and enterprise server-based software. But most of it runs either in some rendition of WINE, one of the virtualization systems or Apple’s own Boot Camp software.

      1. The problem with virtualization software is that you are basically emulating in software the guest hardware.. When a situation occurs where the guest OS itself has to run virtual machines (e.g. Java and the like) the performance may not be what is desired compared to the guest running on actual hardware. If you are considering running other OSes on your mac hardware I would recommend a mac setup that allows at least dual booting.

        1. Emulation is entirely different. Virtualization allows direct access to the CPU. This was one of the great features Intel built into the Core 2 CPU series. The speed is entirely native.

          How well the virtualization software is written is another matter. For example: I’ve been running Parallels 9 on OS X 10.9 Mavericks on a 2011 Mac Mini for over a year. But I was concerned about some of the graphics speed within my Windows XP installation. Then last month Parallels updated the video driver. Wham, all the graphic speed catches up to what I’ve been used to on XP. That had been Parallels’ fault, not the fact that it was using virtualization.

          Here’s one article on the subject, from 2009:


          1. Great article but I didn’t see any part of it that claimed direct access to the CPU, rather this is the closest quote I can find in the piece: “A virtual server is a carefully isolated software “container” with its own software-based CPU, RAM, hard disk and network connection.” I’m sorry if I misused the term ’emulating’ but that’s what that quote makes it sound like. Emulation of a very generic CPU, RAM, HD.. Perhaps depending on virtualization software it can make use of more than one core per ‘session’ to improve performance.

            1. Ok, just one question then.. When using the OS in the virtualized session, what does the guest OS say it sees the processor as? Is it the same as the host OS or some generic description? When I use VMWare or VirtualPC on Windows to host XP and older Windows versions the Guest OS only sees it as a generic x86 processor which I am taking to mean it is emulated and does not have direct access (e.g. a thin emulator layer is managed by the Virtualization software).. I have looked into materials you mentioned and it does not make it seem otherwise.

      2. IOW, Windows users should just compromise and suck it up because, Apple. I’ve already commented on the dumbed down Boot Camp drivers. I loved my iMac, but I hated the compromises Apple forces on users who want to also run Windows.

  6. I purchased a 13″ MacBook Air for general home use and I like it. The SSD made it perform a lot like a big iPad with a keyboard – rapid boot, rapid awake from sleep, lightweight, good battery life. The display is nothing special by modern standards, but fine for its intended purpose.

    However, the new, low-end 13″ MacBook Pro with retina display is even more impressive, in my opinion. It has the same SSD goodness and much of the Air’s thin/lightweight nature, but packs in more RAM and a terrific, high-resolution display. With an education or similar discount, it is only $1199. Yes, that is a couple of hundred more than the 13″ Air, but I believe that most people will find it it worth it. If the base model included a 256 GB SSD, it would be a no-brainer.

  7. I understand the allure of Macs to those who prize design over utility. But for those of us who type for a living, or use spreadsheets, databases and thoughts that require more than 143 characters, the Mac designers’ minimalist obsession in a nonstarter. Specifically, the Mac Air keyboard is missing keys labeled Insert, Delete, Home, End, PageUp and PageDown. I use these several hundred times a day. While the same functions are available on the Mac using various control and function keys, I work much faster with dedicated navigation needs. A slightly heftier laptop can also do the work of a desktop (meaning you need only one machine). The MacBook Air can’t. For many serious users, a better alternative might be Dell’s touch-screen, hard-drive-equipped 14-inch Inspiron 5000 series with the I5 processor. Much cheaper, too.

  8. Greater resale value? Seriously, who resells their laptops? Virtually no one. Total cost of ownership? The cost of ownership for most Windows laptop owners is ZERO since Microsoft started including anti-virus protection as part of the OS in Windows 7. The reality: $1000 is more than many people can afford, and more than what most people are willing to pay when all they use their laptops for is web surfing, streaming and creating the occasional documents. PCs and Chromebooks do that just fine. (Actually, Android tablets do that just fine. Not that anyone buys Android tablets, but if they did, the devices would.) For 75% of people out there, it really does not justify the added expense.

    Also, the best option is actually to buy a Windows laptop with good hardware and dual boot (or outright replace) Windows with Fedora, Ubuntu or Linux Mint. (Or for power users, CentOS or OpenSUSE). Not as good as a Mac, obviously, but it can be done for half the price. Curiously, that was not listed as an option.

    1. I resell every Apple product I buy, eventually. The only reason nobody resells their Windows laptops is that they aren’t worth crap on the second-hand market.

      Every time I upgrade, I sell the old one for good money. In the rare case that I don’t upgrade, it lasts years and years – far longer than any Windows box.

      As for the “best option” I doubt anybody asking her about the best laptop is really going to install a Linux OS. A used MacBook is much better than anything new from the Windows world, and will still last longer.

  9. Sure Macs can run Windows, but that needs to include the caveat about Apple’s dumbed down BootCamp drivers. I’ve used both a MacBook and an iMac to run Windows and have always been frustrated by Apple’s refusal to provide trackpad drivers that had the same functionality as their OSX versions. Same hardware. Apple is intentionally reducing the functionality on the Windows partition. I love the Apple trackpad so much I kept it when I sold my iMac, only to be frustrated that Apple still wants to punish users of their products that dare to think different.

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