Back to School: Apple MacBook Air 11…I love my first ever Mac
This will be a bit different than most of my reviews as I take you along on the voyage of discovery that was my first ever Mac. I have been a Windows guy since before it was Windows. My only experience with a Mac was occasional use of a Mac driven weather system at CFCF TV many years ago and a brief dalliance with a Hackintosh I built so I could provide remote support to my daughter who had bought a MacBook some years ago.
It all began with the arrival of the warm summer weather..I like to write my Home Technology Montreal articles outside..I managed some success with a Logitech Keyboard on my iPad..but it really wasn’t satisfactory, so I started shopping for a new Notebook. It had to be small..max 12″ was my preference..very light agood screen and reasonable battery life. As a Windows guy that meant I was looking at Ultrabooks..a Netbook just didn’t cut it. I narrowed the choice down to the Dell XPS 13, the best of the Ultrabooks as far as I am concerned but, with a 13.3″ screen still a bit bigger and heavier…around 3 pounds..than I was looking for.
As I browsed through the stores I kept coming back to the MacBook Air 11…it was the perfect size for me..in fact it met all my hardware requirements in spades..but it was OS X..was I ready to cross over to the dark side? I did what I tell everyone who asks how to buy a computer..I evaluated my needs. I wanted to write HTM, deal with email and surf the web researching new technology…and oh yes..Facebook and Twitter too 🙂 Except for the fact that I get my mail from an Exchange server nothing really tied me to Windows. By now Apple had announced the mid-2012 refresh of its MacBook line. All that power in the now familiar lightweight MacBook Air box started to look really interesting.
So off I went to my local Apple Store where I started to seriously look at a MacBook Air 11.I played with OS X Lion (at the time) and was impressed how snappy it was on this little notebook. I found it actually less of an adjustment than switching from Windows 7 to Windows 8..Most things worked as I expected based on my Windows experience..some was new to me but I was pleased to see the Apple Store offered workshops…I have since taken advantage of two sessions. Finally armed with the knowledge that I could bring it back in 14 days if I hated it, I handed over my credit card and became the owner of a brand new MacBook Air 11.
It took me less than a week to become comfortable..I did install Outlook to provide a familiar face for my email..which it did..but it didn’t integrate as nicely with OS X as did the native Mail app…but it was familiar…but I kept trying the native mail, calendar and reminder apps and started to like them. The arrival of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion clinched it..Outlook didn’t integrate with the new notifications and the Outlook notifications at the bottom right started to look downright ugly and intrusive compared to the nice looking little grey banner at the top right..plus Outlook Mail did not show up in the notification panel..That did it..and since the native apps sync nicely with my Exchange server..it became a no brainer to switch.
Now that I have had the MacBook Air for about six weeks what do I think? I love it..this is one powerful little machine..take a look at the specs.
And all of this packed into a svelte 11.8 x 7.56 x .68 (19.2 x 30 x 1.7cm) silver slice of aluminum that tips the scales at a mere 2.38 lb (1.08kg)..By the way I chose the 128Gb SSD model which is a good size for most users..I would not recommend the 64GB version it is not quite enough capacity for most users.
Performance is very snappy, the SSD means it is almost instant on and apps load quickly and run well. The MacBook Air 11 fits nicely on my lap and although it does get a bit warm..it is nowhere near uncomfortable. The 1366 x 768px screen is bright and sharp with a very wide viewing angle even outdoors and there are no undue reflections. The Intel HD Graphics 4000 supports Dual display, video mirroring and simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display
There is a price however for the small size..ports are limited to 2 USB 3 and one Thunderbolt port and a standard headphone jack as well as the new MagSafe 2 power port. A SD card slot would have been nice but there is just no room.
Battery life is about 5 hours on a charge with WiFi on..in practice , outdoors I get about 4 hours because the screen is at full brightness. Indoors I have managed a shade over 5 hours with the screen at about 50%, and WiFi and keyboard backlight on…that is pretty good for a notebook this small
The MacBook Air is a great little notebook to take to school..it is light enough and small enough to take everywhere..it fits nicely in pretty much any backpack..battery life is good enough to get you through the school day. Great for taking notes, doing research on the Internet and writing papers..but don’t expect to do any serious gaming..for example expect about 20fps on Call of Duty which provides decent game play but the cooling fan runs continuously and don’t plan to play too long on battery power.
The MacBook Air 11 is available at Apple stores and wherever Apple products are sold..the 64Gb model is $1029 ($999 in the US)and the 128Gb (which I recommend) version is $1129 ($1099 in the US). Until September 21, 2012 there is special pricing as well as a $100 Back to School Card to use on apps, books, music, and movies if you are a university student, a student accepted to a university, a parent buying for a university student, or a faculty or staff member from any grade level.