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New Apple Macbook Air (13-inches) 2011 Hands-on + Review in depth !!!

Last October, Apple released the last MacBook Air. It was a mighty fine-looking piece of hardware - a newly designed unibody shell, 0.3cm at its thinnest.
Trouble is, the meat inside didn't quite match up with the supreme exterior – Apple had been forced to stick with the ageing Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
Intel had originally produced a special, smaller packaged Core 2 Duo variant for the first-generation MacBook Air that was still clinging on in last year's release.
Check out our hands on video of the MacBook Air below:
The small processor package, presumably, couldn't be bettered until this year's Sandy Bridge generation of Intel Core chips arrived.
So here we are with the newly-launched 13-inch 2011 MacBook Air running the new Mac OS X 10.7 Lion operating system. The MacBook Air is expensive for what it is, starting at £849. For the components involved, it's an expensive system. But as with all Macs, it's the sum of its parts that gets everyone excited – and this time, it's with really just cause.
There's no doubt about it - this is a superb-looking and performing machine on which Apple has finally managed to bestow the performance that its appearance and price deserve.
Four models are available - two 11-inch and two 13-inch, all with Core i5 processors as standard - more on that on the next page.

The 13-inch MacBook Air is a lot more usable for most workhorse tasks than the 11-inch -although it is still a highly capable machine.
The MacBook Air 2011 is certainly no longer the poor-powered portable Mac – indeed, Apple has so much faith in it that it has discontinued the MacBook for retail purchase (it's still going to be available for education, apparently).
MacBook air review

It's worth mentioning that are now some genuine contenders to the MacBook Air's ultraportable crown – the Samsung 9 Series ultraportable offers a genuine alternative to the MacBook Air while there's also the powerful Sony VAIO Z Series and the cheaper but older Dell Adamo XPS. But even the 9 Series doesn't have as speedy an i5 as the MacBook (1.4GHz) while the Z Series is crazily powerful but simply too expensive.
Let's look at the Specifications in greater depth overleaf before moving onto the Performance.


The great news is that the new models don't lack for performance. Even the base models are stacked. The off-the-shelf models come with the blistering Core i5 1.6 (11-inch, £849/£999 depending on memory and SSD) or 1.7 Ghz (13-inch, £1,099/£1,349 depending on memory and SSD) variants.
Both Core i5s are dual-core with 3MB shared L3 cache. The 1.7GHz version in the 13-inch has 4GB of DDR3.
MacBook air 2011
Even better is that, for an extra £100 you can pop a 1.8GHz Core i7 into the high-end 13-inch (it's £150 to pop it into the high end 11-inch).
It's this processor that is what is inside the 13-inch MacBook Air Apple has been kind enough to loan us here. (It's the 7-2677M, if you're a codename aficionado).
As with the new MacBook Pros, the new MacBook Air also adopts the Intel-gestated Thunderbolt technology - again manifesting in a DisplayPort connection. Various Thunderbolt products will launch in due course, but in the meantime Apple has also released a new Apple Thunderbolt Display which is a thorn in our theory that Thunderbolt is just a gimmick.
Thunderbolt
You see, the monitor acts as a docking station for the MacBook Air.
There's Gigabit Ethernet, USB ports and FireWire – and it all connects over the Thunderbolt connection along with the video of course! We have to say, the idea of having Thunderbolt as a single point of docking connectivity is mighty appealing – even if the display is a monstrous £899.
Apple thunderbolt
The displays remain the same as the last generation, though what they're driven by is different. In terms of pixels, the 13-inch panel is 16:10 - 1440 × 900.
Graphics punch is now provided by Intel's HD 3000 graphics built into the new Core chips rather than the Nvidia GeForce 320M used in the last generation. While Intel's Sandy Bridge graphics are fine for most needs, if it's supreme graphics performance you want than you need a MacBook Pro.
The 13-inch Airs have 384MB of dedicated DDR3 graphics memory, while the other MacBook Airs have 384MB.
All the memory is solid state as with the last generation, and the 13-inch provides either 128GB or 256GB depending on the model. You can have up to 4GB of DDR3 memory. As such, the Air is getting to be a machine that you can use as your main system, but we doubt many purchasers will - once apps are installed those with large media collections will find themselves a little restricted.
One of the most annoying things about the last MacBook Air was that a compromise had had to be made about the backlit keyboard – it disappeared to the chagrin of many potential purchasers. Thankfully, it is now well and truly back. The keyboard, as before, is light to the touch and incredibly pleasant to use.
As you'd expect from any Apple notebook, there's the glass Multi-Touch trackpad that supports Lion's multi-touch gestures.
Trackpad
There's also support for Bluetooth 4.0 should you be interested in that, while you also get the standard Apple FaceTime webcam (not an HD model) and an SD card in the 13-inch which was introduced with the last generation. As then, there isn't the space to include one in the 11-inch.
The battery remains non user-replaceable, but is a 50 Watt unit in the 13-inch (compared to the 11-inch's 35-Watt unit).
Weight is comparable to the last generation of the Air at 1.34Kg for the 13-inch. It seems strange that the MacBook Air has become Apple's entry-level notebook. But that's what has happened.


The Core i7 model we have in our hands is seriously quick, though having used numerous Sandy Bridge Core i5s including the new 2011 MacBook Pro, we're confident the performance of those machines won't disappoint.
So the processor - remember we're checking out the Core i7 here. The Xbench CPU score checked in at 204.53 and Xbench overall (looking at CPU, memory and hard drive performance) at 265.20. That's measurably better than the 2010 MacBook Air and stacks up reasonably against the quad-core Core i7 2.2GHz MacBook Pro which gave us an overall score of 402.14 and a surprisingly similar CPU rating of 253.83.
In Geekbench, the system scored 5292 overall and it's here that the benefit of a MacBook Pro quad-core chip becomes apparent - a 2011 MacBook Pro Intel 2.2GHz Core i7-2720QM with 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory scores over 10,000. Last year's 13-inch MacBook Air scored 3650. That's a 45 per cent increase in performance - almost double.
MacBook air
The previous top-of-the-range 15-inch MacBook Pro was a dual core 2.66GHz Core i7. It's a tribute to the power of the second-generation Sandy Bridge chips that in our Xbench test that looks at CPU, memory and hard drive performance, the newer 2.2GHz Core i7 processor almost matched it, scoring 132.76 against the older Core i7 2.66GHz processor's 136.58.
The lack in high-end graphics grunt was revealed by Cinebench, which confirmed an Open GL frames per second score of just 9.74, compared with 35 on the MacBook Pro.
However, that's not to say there's no graphics power here - it snaps through iPhoto and iMovie and the SSD means that apps boot and run almost instantly. Real-world performance is staggering. However, if you're looking for something to use Final Cut or Photoshop on, you'll notice the benefit of a MacBook Pro.
The original MacBook Air had a poor battery life of just over two and a half hours, the last generation ran for around six hours as does this latest model, though when maxxing out the Core i7 we noticed that battery life decreased significantly.
You'll also notice that when the processor is running quickly, the fan - again concealed behind the screen hinge - is quite noisy, while when the processor is working overtime the heat produced is rather surprising. However, our surprise is probably misplaced, as this is such a thin notebook it's perfectly reasonable that you will feel some heat - here it's in the top left of the keyboard.
MacBook air keyboard
Sleep and resume is pretty much instantaneous, something we absolutely loved about the last Air and, here again, it's like a breath of fresh air. Mac owners are used to great resume times but if you're used to using a PC, it's a completely transformed experience.
As for Lion, it's a great operating system - check our our OS X 10.7 Lion review. We did have some teething troubles with it running on the Air though. This is a straight-from-the-box system and at one point, the screen went completely black. At another, it completely crashed out and we had to restart. And there's a nasty pause whenever you plug any headphones or similar into the 3.5mm jack - strange. Not flawless then.
MacBook air
Macbook air 2011

If you can spare the not-inconsiderable cash, the 2011 MacBook Air is one hell of a power portable whichever model you decide to plump for.
Our pick of the 13-inch models is the lower-end £1,099 variant. It's 128GB SSD may not be the biggest, but that's the only thing that's lacking compared to its more expensive sibling is the bigger SSD. And at £250 more, you'd better be sure that you need that extra storage.

We liked
The MacBook Air is a stunning machine in terms of looks and now, brilliantly, in terms of performance for most needs. For general computing, for web and office apps, for music and digital photos, things seem a breeze - especially with the 4GB of memory included with all 13-inch variants. In our opinion, the £849 11-inch MacBook Air just doesn't have quite enough scope with 2GB.

We disliked
There's relatively little to actively dislike here, but we have to say that the expense is a problem. Mac converts won't have a problem with this but on sheer cost-of-hardware, it's just not at the races compared to the equivalent PCs. There's still a lack of performance with the Air, but this time it's right at the high end. And if you need your Mac to do video and high-end photo editing you'll need a MacBook Pro. Don't buy an Air if you're hoping to complete these tasks. Yes, there is great performance here, but for general computing tasks. Also bear in mind that, while the SSD is fast, make sure it isn't going to restrict you in terms of capacity.

Verdict
This However, the benchmarks are clear - if it's high-end task-orientated or gaming performance you want, you need a MacBook Pro. If you don't need that extra oomph, a MacBook Air is one of the very finest laptops on the market. Sleek. Powerful. A real statement and pretty handy at every common task. But you're digging pretty deep for the pleasure of owning one.



2 comments:

  1. I want I want, buy for me please :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

    ReplyDelete

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