Mini Laptop – Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, Summer 2011) Review
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In today’s article we have a look at the 11-inch version of the MacBook Air that Apple launched last summer. This new version of the Air comes with better CPUs, a backlit keyboard, Thunderbolt I/O port and Mac OS X Lion. However, it still lacks an SD card, while the storage and memory configurations are limited. When it came out, the starting price of this model was $999 for the version with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 64GB solid state drive, while the more expensive $1,199 version packed 4GB of memory and a 128GB SSD. Here’s what’s hiding under the hood of the entry-level model.
It comes with a second-generation Intel Core i5-2467M processor clocked at 1.60 GHz and that 2GB of DDR3 memory we’ve mentioned earlier, running at 1,333 MHz. For storage it packs a rater small yet fast 64GB SSD, while the graphics power is handled by the Intel HD 3000 with shared system memory. This ultraportable is running on OS X 10.7 Lion and has the following dimensions: 11.8 x 7.6 x 0.11 – 0.68 inches (W x D x H), with a curb weight of 2.34 pounds (2.68 pounds with the AC adapter included).
As far as the physical design is concerned, it looks virtually the same as the original 11-inch Apple MacBook Air that came out back in 2010. At the time of its launch it was one of the lightest laptops on the market. Featuring a blade-thin profile and an all-aluminum body that feels extremely solid and it doesn’t show any signs of flex at all. In addition, its magnetic closed upper lid can be smoothly opened on its center hinge to rest a suitable viewing angle.
Thanks to the all-metal construction, the Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, summer 2011) doesn’t feel fragile at all, which is a common issue among these thin ultraportables. The design of the Air is very minimal and in some ways it looks like an iPad when the Air is closed. This model feels light and thin even to those that have used a Samsung Series 9 or a Sony Vaio Z before.
Apple has installed a generous keyboard and a glass trackpad on this model, with both of them working very well. The keyboard in this model manages to feel just as big as the one on a full-size MacBook, but keep in mind that the keys are shorter in this model and as a consequence they have less travel to them. From the function buttons on top you will be able control the backlight brightness of the keyboard, and this is the place where you will also find the Mission Control and Launchpad keys.
As for the palm rest that sits below this great keyboard, it has a more than decent size which is something that you won’t find that often in this ultraportable segment. The big multitouch trackpad is just as good as before and in this model it has been hinged at the top. The amount of available space that you find in trackpad is impressive given the size of the laptop and it’s a good thing that it is so big because the Mac OS X Lion comes with a comprehensive multifinger multitouch vocabulary which needs a lot more space in comparison to the gestures available for Windows 7.
Aside from the OS X Lion, the Apple MacBook Air (11-inch model, summer 2011) comes with the regular suite of iLife programs, such as iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand, all of them with a long list of features that are ideal for the casual consumer.
Just like the original 11-inch MacBook Air, this one boots and starts from sleep very fast. Even though it doesn’t boot instantly, Apple’s Instant On does a great job of booting extremely fast, even quicker than an iPad.
The ultraportable has been fitted with an 11.6-inch display that has a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels and 16:9 aspect ratio. The screen on this model is surrounded by a thick silver bezel, whereas on other MacBooks it features an edge-to-edge glass over a black bezel. Even though we are dealing with quite a small display, the viewing angles are exceptional and the screen manages to be crisp and bright.
There’s also a built-in speaker that doesn’t have a lot of volume to offer, but at least it seems to be quite crisp. Also on board is a webcam which unfortunately isn’t high definition. For this reason, the quality of the videos is not very good, as most of them have a gray pattern, but at least it’s serviceable.
As far as ports and connectivity features are concerned, the Apple MacBook Air (11-inch model, summer 2011) comes with the aforementioned Thunderbolt I/O with Mini DisplayPort, along with a headphone and microphone jack and two USB 2.0 ports. Also on board are the Ethernet port, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. Due to the reason that this is an ultraportable, it doesn’t have an optical drive.
In the 2010 model you had an old Intel Core 2 Duo processor while the summer 2011 version of the Air packs a second-gen Core i5 CPU running at 1.60 GHz, which is a lot more powerful than the processor it replaced. The integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics solution has replaced the 2010’s Nvidia integrated graphics so the performance has suffered a drop-off, but even so you will be able to do some light gaming, while full HD videos will work very smooth.
You probably know that the MacBooks are famous for the extremely long battery life that they offer, and this version is better than the original 11-inch Air, even though it is powered by a considerably quicker CPU. Its large and sealed battery allows the ultraportable to provide enough juice for approximately four and a half hours, which is about 15 minutes than the model that came out in 2010. Apple says that this battery should last for about 5 hours but even so it manages to be more than decent. However, due to the size of the system, the battery is outperformed by the 13-inch MacBook Air, as well as the MacBook Pro and the iPad.