With a starting price of $999, it’s hard to call the new MacBook Air a netbook… if your definition of netbook is a small, cheap computer. But as far as Apple laptops come, the MacBook Air is probably the closest we’re ever going to get to a netbook. It’s smaller and lighter than a typical Apple laptop, and reasonably priced. The cheapest normal MacBook also costs $999.

The difference is the standard MacBook comes with a more powerful processor, an optical disc drive, and higher storage capacity. You have to sacrifice something if you want to release a 2.3 pound computer with instant-on capabilities for the same price, right?

But you can tell all of that just by looking at the specs. If you want to know how the new 11.6 inch McBook Air fares in real life, you’re in luck, because two respected news sites have already posted detailed reviews of Apple’s new thin and light computer.

SlashGear reports that the laptop has a full sized keyboard and the same huge multitouch trackpad found on larger Mac laptops… but the keys are not backlit. On the other hand, the computer actually scored lower on the Geekbench benchmark than the older MacBook Air which was released in 2008. To be fair, the new model is less than half the price, though.

Most importantly though, SlashGear reports that if you’re trying to decide whether to use an iPad or a MacBook Air as a mobile device, the Air wins if you need to run apps like iPhoto or the full version of iMovie. Heck, you could probably run Final Cut on the MacBook Air. Sure, it won’t be as fast as on a more powerful machine, but try doing that on an iPad.

Laptop Magazine reports the unibody aluminum case makes the MacBook Air feel much sturdier than most netbooks, which with a few exceptions are generally made of plastic. Laptop was also quite pleased with the display, suggesting that “you won’t find a brighter, cripser, or more colorful display on a notebook this class.”

Of course, if you’re not happy with the glossy display, Engadget reports that you can pay a company called TechRestore $249 to replace it with a matte screen.

Laptop also confirms Apple’s promise that the MacBook Air resumes from sleep in a split second, thanks to the speedy solid state disk. In fact, it only takes 15 seconds to cold boot OS X. The reviewer also managed to get over 5 hours of run time while surfing the web over WiFi, which actually exceeded Apple’s estimate by nearly 20 minutes. On the other hand, the fact that the Air has a non-replaceable battery could be troubling to some.

Overall, the MacBook Air looks like it might be just what Apple needs to convince loyal Mac fans to buy an ultraportable from Apple instead of building their own hackintosh netbooks. At $999, I’m not sure it will convince many Windows or Linux fans to trade up from a $299 netbook or a sub-$600 ultraportable from Dell, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, or other PC makers.

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15 replies on “MacBook Air reviewed”

  1. Apple will probably sell a lot of these, regardless of price or storage. Personaly I would buy one. I was hoping flash storage would come down to close to hdd costs but I guess I was dreaming. I love the aluminum case, thats the only thing I really like and OS X is ok but I still prefer Ubuntu. Most of my pc’s run Linux and I have removed windows 7 except my Netflix media computer. I would put it in the Netbook category but no Ethernet ?. Apple used to be hardware innovative but seem to be going downhill as far as usability.

  2. It seems that Apple continuously wants give customers what Apple thinks is best instead of what customers want the most. There is no way I could justify spending double the industry norm on a machine that has a proprietary (which probably means non-upgradable, or expensive if it is) storage, a battery the user can’t replace, and screen resolution and battery life that is still no better than industry norm. Instant on? Power management has improved in OS X and Win 7 to the point that just using standby will provide that. As much as I like OS X, my Early 2009 Macbook will be my last Mac notebook unless they become more competitive.
    And don’t even get me started on the iPad. $500 base price for what is essentially a computer accessory? An iPod Touch for the visually challenged? Please…

  3. I have a dilemma: This machine is pretty much what I want, but both more expensive and more powerful.

    What machine in this class is the next notch down? I want a quality 11.8″ computer that weighs under 3lb, and I’m having a lot of trouble finding one. I care a lot more about the keyboard/screen/build quality than the actual power of the CPU, since my old Atom netbook meets my computing needs fine…

  4. I was hopeful that the new Air could replace my 2-year old Lenovo S10 hackintosh which cost $400 and has superseded my 2006 MacBook as my daily computer for everything but photo editing and video-editing (and done a remarkable job). But Apple has crippled it just enough to preserve future early-upgrades and cancel my planned purchase.

    I don’t care how fast a solid-state disk is, it’s not useful if I can’t carry all of the data and media I want to have on a daily basis. My netbook has a nearly full 320GB drive. The tiny 128GB drive is still smaller than the 160GB my 4-year old MacBook had. And if these benchmarks are right, I have a hard time justifying the purchase of a new computer for $1200 that is slower than the previous generation which was ridiculed for its slowness back when it was introduced.

    If someone could just get 10.6 running on an Acer 1830t i5 11.6″ laptop with its 6-7 hour battery life and a full complement of ports, that would be my next laptop. It seems that Apple no longer cares about the tinkerers and hard-core computer users…

    1. I know they got OS X 10.6.2 in VMware to work on the 1830T… You should check the insanelymac.com forum, believe they got a topic or two following the progress on that development and of course many other systems you may be interested in…

      1. I had posted this on insanelymac.com too, that it took me less than an hour to set up OS X 10.6.2 up and running in VMware on 1830t. Over all I love this machine and would never want to trade it with slower, less functional, albeit leaner and sleeker, 11.6″ Mac Airbook.

    1. Even major newspapers make spelling and grammatical errors all the time. Journalist in general neither have the time, or financing, needed to have proof reading of all articles, and even if they did the proof readers don’t always catch mistakes.

      We’re all just human after all!

        1. Not just Journalists either, as the same hold true for writers, bloggers, politicians, commenters and anyone who doesn’t have unlimited time to publish…

          Really, we can quantize every single word and be at this forever. Like “Lets” is perfectly valid but you could also have used “Let’s”, which being a contraction for “Let us” would have better suggested it applies to everyone.

          So let the first perfect person throw the first stone 😛

    2. Welcome to the internet buddy.ps. Brad has a off the cuff style. Hey if your okay with it, so am I. Afterall, you’re opinion counts as much as anyone else posting here.

  5. A backlit keyboard on a device like this is not required and constitutes little more than a gee-whiz feature. If your lighting conditions are insufficient for you to see your keyboard, then your lighting conditions are UNSAFE for your eyes to be using the computer. Ergonomic standards and OSHA guidelines are thoroughly clear on this. However, it takes little more than a basic level of awareness to figure this out for yourself (which is probably why so many people don’t get it).

    It disgusts me that people who posture themselves as legitimate devices reviewers position this as a valid criteria to then complain about. In doing so, they are advocating the destruction of eye site as a positive and important thing. However, it would not be the first very ill-advised ideal that a technology “reviewer” inadvertently (or purposely) promoted to the detriment of its readers. I’m unsurprised that reviewers who love this device and love to love Apple are either unaware of such basic pieces of information about technology or have access to simple common sense.

    1. Problem with referring to common sense is it’s not always really common and not necessarily always correct.

      For example, a system you use on the go can’t always be in a well lit condition. But while it may be a strain to use this size system with a back-lit keyboard, it’s more of a strain trying to see the keyboard in low light conditions without the back light.

      Like say for example the user is a writer and is under a deadline, they won’t have much choice but to work wherever they may be. The ergonomic guidelines are correct but people don’t always have the luxury to properly follow those guidelines and it’s better to reduce the strain if you can’t avoid it. And remember many of these reviewers are writers!

  6. How many old Airbooks were sold? I don’t recall ever seeing one “in the wild.”

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