This is my review on the latest macbook air 2011 13 inch 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 128 SSD which is the base model for the 13 inch model and one of Apple’s latest and greatest portable macs.
13-inch : 128GB
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
128GB flash storage
Intel HD Graphics 3000
13 inch vs. 11 inch model
Choosing between the two models comes down to personal preference , if you’re on a budget and you want to ” hand ” carry your air all the time and you want it to be as light as possible,?get the 11 inch version 128 gb model ( 64 GB SSD is lacking, unless most of your data is in the cloud or you can manage your hard drive space well) , better yet if you can afford the 11 inch?core i7 256 gb ssd model.
I chose the 13 inch model since it beats the 11 in almost all areas except portability and price.
Better battery life : 13 inch = 7 hours , 11 inch = 5 hours ( a difference of two hours)
Maximum Display Resolution: 13 inch = 1440 x 900 , 11 inch = 1366 x 768 ( bigger resolution is very important to designers , some people are complaining that text in the 13 inch version is small and hard to read, so in that case it makes text in the 11 inch even smaller. My advice to people who complain about the small text on both the 13 and 11 , get an external monitor or use the double tap gesture to zoom in, or you can even lower the resolution and yes it does make the text bigger )
Sd Card Slot : 13 inch model has an additional sd card slot.
Processor : 13 inch is much faster 1.7 ghz vs. 11 inch 1.6ghz in the core i5 models , but the ultimate versions of the 11 and 13 both have 1.8ghz core i7 processors.
13 inch 128 gb ssd vs 13 inch 256 gb ssd :
The difference between the 2 versions is that the 128 gb is 300 usd cheaper than the 256 gb version. If you have a lot of files I suggest you go for the 256 version , but if you know how to manage your files , store some online ( cloud ) or other methods like an external hd or external sd card then the 128 gb version is fine. You can use the 300 usd you save on buying other mac accessories/software. I
13 inch i5 128 gb ssd vs. 13 inch i7 256 gb ssd
The i7 1.8ghz model is built to order in the apple store and it retails for about $1,699 which is 400 usd more than the 13 inch i5 128 gb ssd . The i7 is for people who want serious power, that’s very important especially if you are into video editing and 3d or you want the ultimate perfomance macbook air . But in reality the i7 version is only a minor speed bump in the 13 inch models , so the i5 is best choice in my opinion, since you can save 400 usd and buy other stuff. There are also some issues being reported by i7 owners complaining about the extra heat compared to the i5.
Mac OS X Lion
There are over 250 new features in this version of the mac os and two of my favorites are the multi-touch gestures and the full screen mode. The multi-touch gestures makes navigating files and applications in the mac a breeze, it simply works. The big trackpad of the air + different finger gestures makes an awesome combination , and I do hope they support gestures more in safari like going from one tab to the next. The full screen mode is also a welcome addition giving you more screen space for your favorite applications. There’s an issue though when you close the lid or you wake up from sleepmode when it turns on for a few seconds, not an instant on, the cursor somewhat freezes for 1 – 2 seconds. The App Store application too is very slow. I can’t say much on the OS improvements since it’s my first time using a mac , but Im liking it so far.
It’s very fast , benchmarks indicate that both the 11 and 13 inch models doubled in speed compared to the 2010 models. The i5 if faster than the 2010 macbook pro as indicated in an article in osxdaily. I opened several tabs in safari + 5 or more widgets in the dashboard + mail + adium + skype + while using adobe fireworks at the same time editing a high resolution file and you won’t experience any performance lagging issues. Opening files is quick due to the SSD ( Samsung or Toshiba , Samsung SSD is faster than Toshiba in benchmarks but it’s no big deal ) and especially the new sandy bridge processors. Using filters like motion blur in a lot of objects in Adobe Fireworks is not a problem, it can give you results in an instant. I will try to test Fireworks and other Adobe products and let you know how the i5 can handle it. I got 5400 + on my geekbench score compared to my old windows xp pentium 4 pc with 256mb ram which is 1084 lol , but the old machine still works. I use the i5 as my main computer now and I’m confident the air can make me more productive for years to come.
Gaming + Youtube
I have tried only a few games in the i5 mostly yoville , farmville and other zynga games and it works pretty well. Except the fans start to get louder especially when there are a lot of animated objects in the game which may bother you if you want the air to be quiet. Viewing 1080 HD videos in youtube is not a problem , although there was one occassion where i saw some lines appearing while viewing a 1080 hd music video.
External Monitor + Mouse + Keyboard Setup
Do you really need to use the $ 999 Apple Thunderbolt display ? It depends on your needs , if you can afford the price and you want the extra features like 27 inches high resolution display, facetime hd camera, 3 usb 2.0 ports , firewire 800 , high quality audio , gigabit ethernet , and this only needs one connection from the air’s thunderbolt port. You don’t even need to connect the air to a power adapter since the thunderbolt display can charge your air already. An external display is important because it gives you more screen for your favorite applications which I highly recommend if you’re a designer or your application demands a bigger display resolution. You can always choose an alternative like a buying 21 inch monitor from other popular brands, samsung, dell etc while just costing around less than 1000 usd, I bought mine last year for around 200 usd and i used the mini display port to dvi adapter to connect to the air. The external monitor doesn’t show any lagging issues when playing videos or using different applications.
I bought an apple wireless keyboard and it’s a similar size to the keyboard used in the 13 inch models. Not a big fan of the up arrow key since it’s too close to the shift button. If you can find a better bluetooth keyboard than this, go get it.
I also used a usb mouse since my apple mighty mouse hasn’t arrived yet. I love the trackpad in the air, it’s big and responsive, and the gestures are pretty awesome. But if you want to be really precise you’d better get an external mouse. Take for example in Fireworks where you use a tool that needs you to use the two fingers in the trackpad and a keyboard button which is quite challenging. Selecting a point in a vector path is really handy with an external mouse and you won’t regret ever using one.
I highly recommend this external setup for those who want the best of both worlds. Using the external mouse + monitor + keyboard to use it as your main computer at home, and unplugging all the accesories for traveling.
Protecting your air
For those who want to keep their air prestine, go get some protection, like a hard shell case or an invisible shield. The transparent shields like zagg and wrapsol protects your air from dust , scratches and other sharp objects but doesn’t protect from a hard fall. Shell cases come in different colors and materials too so pick one that you think looks nice and can absorb some impact from a fall.
The Macbook Air 2011 13 inch 1.7 i5 128 SSD is an amazing machine for casual users to power users alike and could be used as a desktop replacement. It offers a reasonable price with amazing features and considered one of the best or the best in the ultraportable category. My only advice to those who are into gaming , video editing or 3d , try your favorite games or 3d / video applications first in the air and see if it works well. If it does, then welcome to the air family =)