The Bottom Line
Sep 21 2011 - With the removal of the MacBook 13, the MacBook Air 11 is now Apple's least expensive laptop available. While the 2011 update has brought some marked improvement in performance, it doesn't address enough of the other issues to make it a great replacement for the MacBook Pro. It certainly is extremely small and light but this is not a great primary computer due to the memory and storage concerns. In addition, the battery running time has decreased from the past model. Now, if you are looking for an extremely compact and lightweight yet durable travel PC, it certainly is fits into this role well.
- Extremely Small And Light
- Improved Performance From Core i5 Processor
- One Of The Best 11-inch Displays Available
- Below Average Battery Life
- Limited Storage
- No Aftermarket Memory Upgrades
- Intel Core i5-2467M Dual-Core Mobile Processor
- 2GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 64GB Solid State Drive
- 11.6" WXGA (1366x768) LED Backlit Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 2.0, Thunderbolt
- 11.8" x 7.6" x .7" @ 2.4 lbs.
- Mac OSX 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple 2011 MacBook Air 11-inch
Sep 21 2011 - The 2011 redesign of the Apple MacBook Air 11-inch is the first real major update of the ultrathin platform. Externally, there is very little change to the overall aluminum clad design. The mini DisplayPort video port has been upgrade to the new Thunderbolt port which is Apple's version of the Light Peak interface that can be used for video and high speed external interface in one. Additionally, the keyboard now features a backlight that is very useful for those that light to work late at night or in darker environments.
Internally, the major change to the 11-inch MacBook Air is the introduction of the new second generation Intel Core i series processor, or Sandy Bridge. For the base 11-inch version, this is the Intel Core i5-2467M dual core processor. It is a lower power consuming processor which is important for the small space and limited battery within the ultrathin design. It is a major update to the overall performance of the laptop from the aging Core 2 Duo processors found in the previous MacBook Air 11. Apple still keeps the base memory at just 2GB of DDR3 memory which also cannot be upgraded after purchase. This is a major problem as 4GB really should be standard.
The storage on the 2011 version of the MacBook Air 11 remains virtually unchanged. It still uses a 64GB solid state drive that does help much with the performance especially with the limited RAM. It would have been nice to see it use a larger size as 64GB is a very limited amount of space to hold data. It essentially prevents the laptop from being used as a primary system and more as a secondary mobile platform. Thankfully, the Thunderbolt port does allow for some high speed external storage options which were not available previously. It would have been nice to see a USB 3.0 port added as well but Apple chose to stick with the traditional 2.0 versions.
Along with the new processor comes a new graphics system. Past models used the NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics that were built into the chipset. Now, it uses the Intel HD Graphics 3000 engine that is built directly only the CPU. While the Intel graphics are greatly improved over the past GMA graphics, there is actually a decrease in overall 3D performance with this new solution. It certainly helps keep the production costs down, but it means that 3D applications will basically perform worse than the past model.
The screen of the MacBook Air 11 remains unchanged. It is one of the better 11-inch displays available on the market. Apple still users the high gloss coatings which does cause issues with glare and reflections outdoors and in certain lighting conditions but this is a trend that it common to most of the consumer laptops now. Color and viewing angles are superb and well above your average 11-inch laptop.
The overall battery used for the MacBook Air 11 remains unchanged from the past version. It uses an internal battery that features a 35Whr capacity rating. Apple claims that this should yield roughly five hours of running time using the wireless to web surf. In video playback tests which are more demanding, it was able to run for roughly three and a quarter hours before going into standby mode. This is lower than the past version so apparently the added performance has impacted performance. This also puts it below many other traditional ultraportables that tend to have larger batteries.
With the removal of the MacBook, the MacBook Air 11 is now their least expensive laptop at $999. The problem is that the MacBook Air has enough limitations from the memory, storage and features that don't really make it suitable as a true replacement for someone looking at a lot cost primary computer system. In fact, just just $300 more, the MacBook Air 13 offers a slightly faster processor, double the memory, better running times and storage and a larger screen with high resolution. Of course, if you are looking for a highly compact travel PC, then the MacBook Air 11 is a suitable choice.