Thursday, 16 August 2012

New MacBook Air 13" Reviewed

My old laptop was getting a little slow for my personal use, and so I donated it to my better half for her use. And I got myself a new MacBook Air for Uni/Blogging/Photo editing purposes.

First off the bat, let me say that this is a great machine. The slim design, the battery life and the display are all fantastic, and I am really happy with it.

The thing that impressed me the most was the resolution on the 13" display. My previous laptop was a 15" MacBook Pro, with the same resolution. 1440x900. However having the same resolution on a smaller screen makes everything seem so much crisper than before. I did consider for a brief moment the MacBook Pro with the retina display but the price tag was a little too high given the specification it came with. I felt I just couldn't justify purchasing it. Having a resolution like this on a small screen is kinda like the improvement noticed between a using an iPhone 3G (and 3GS) then using an iPhone 4. Everything is sharper. And when it comes to reading text, or editing photos, you can really see the difference. But enough about the display, what else?

The size is perfect. 11", the model below the 13" felt too small when I picked it up in the shop. And the display did feel a little cramped when opening a webpage or a document. It's lightweight, unlike it's brothers in the "Pro" side, and the battery life is really good. Lasts just long enough for a day at uni, without the need to bring a charger.

The SSD (solid state drive) which is the internal storage for the laptop makes accessing files instant, and the power on time is much faster. There is virtually no lag at all on the machine when in use, however I have noticed that when resuming from standby, i.e. opening the laptop from closed position, that there is a bit of a delay before the input is recognised. Although the display does light up and show instantly, mouse movements and keyboard inputs are not recognised for approx 3-5 seconds, sometimes up to 10 seconds. However when in use, everything is a snap, and multi tasking is a breeze. The laptop can quite easily handle multiple applications open at the same time. For example, I have at least 10 apps open at the moment (in addition to the other system applications) and switching between them is instantaneous and responsive, this is because of the SSD and the 4GB of ram that the computer has, allowing multiple processes to easily be handled.

I am very thankful that Apple has decided to include a backlit keyboard with the Macbook Air's as it makes working in low light conditions, like on an Airplane, or in a dimly lit coffee shop (like where I am posting this right now) great, without having to strain your eyes to see where all the keys are.

One noticeable change with the move the ultrabook computing (MacBook Air falling into this catagory) is that there is an absolute minimum on external connections and ports. The most obvious example is the omission of a CD/DVD drive. Most Apple software that previously came on discs is available through their new "App Store

This store sells a lot of software made by Apple and other developers, and even includes entire Operating System upgrades - which is a huge change in the way that users upgrade their operating system. Normally this would involve buying a disk with a unique code that would assign itself to your computer. However with the introduction of the App store, software is now sold and assigned to your AppleID, or email address which is used to identify yourself with Apple. This means that if your computer get's stolen or damaged and is no longer useable, once you get a replacement computer all the previously paid for applications can be re-downloaded to your computer at no cost, as you have already paid for them. All you need to do is sign into the store with your Apple ID (or email address) and you can view your purchases. When I was at the Apple store, I signed in to the App Store on my new laptop and I was instantly able to download all of my applications! This was a huge bonus for me. So the omission of the CD drive is significant, but much of the content from discs is now available online, movies and music included. In the rare case you do need to use a CD drive you can "borrow" the drive from a nearby Mac via wireless, or you can purchase a USB drive which attaches itself to your computer.

Finally the exterior. This was another reason I picked the 13" over the 11". The additional port for the SD card slot made the 13" a clear winner for me. Having a hobby in photography, being able to shove my SD card into the side of the laptop without the need to actually get the camera, and a cable plugged into the laptop is a huge help and saves time and effort in getting my pictures onto my computer for editing as quick as possible.

There is not a lot wrong with this laptop. At all. Apart from setting up bootcamp (read: installing windows) on to this computer which I could see to be a problem this laptop has it all. For the amount of power packed into this very lightweight machine, the two USB3 ports, the thunderbolt port and the SD port this machine is very reasonably priced especially with the latest 3rd generation ivy bridge processor.

For an everyday laptop with punch, battery life, and speed, this is an excellent buy and I have yet to complain about anything. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

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