Apple 13.3-inch MacBook Air (2011) - Fruits of Perseverance


Close to Perfect

Close to Perfect

Overall design of the MBA is good, but also has certain small hidden flaws. An example would be that the very simple act of opening the lid lifts the bottom of the unit as well, causing you to instinctively use both hands to open the laptop in proper. While this definitely isn’t a major issue, we have seen other manufacturers pay attention to even this little detail so we know it can be done. What you do have however are the magnets on the edges of the lid and near the trackpad that keeps the lid shut. Of course you can also argue that this minor issue is testament to the tightness and solidity of the plastic hinges (which also hides the air vents by the way) that keeps the screen at your favorite angle.

 

Another noteworthy addition (or re-introduction) is the back-lit keyboard that went missing in the previous generation of MacBook Air. The chiclet keys themselves are still matte black, and still feel incredibly comfortable (not too hard and not too mushy) to type on just like the other MacBooks, which is not surprising for a machine made by the company that single-handedly popularized the use of chiclet keys. It is also spacious as you would expect it to be, and slightly recessed to accommodate the screen when closed, but still has plenty of key travel for tactile typing.

 

The sharp (1400x900 pixels resolution) screen itself is still obviously glossy, but it’s coated with an anti-glare finish that reduces reflections from the background. This understated feature is something which other manufacturers should learn from, since they are all using glossy screens for their deeper blacks and brighter colors. Reflections are still there, but somehow the screen manages to absorb or diffuse background light into a blurred image that doesn’t pierce your eyeballs, and distract you from what is happening on your screen.

We also noticed that the Apple logo that lights up, using the same LEDs that also light up your screen, isn’t protected by anything. You can tell when you put the screen up against the light and you can discern the Apple logo. It doesn’t actually mean much to consumers, but we’d like to caution that the logo area of the lid is actually the weakest point, so take care when pointing sharp objects at your MBA (or anything else for that matter).

 

The matte glass-covered trackpad -- a feature found on other MacBooks -- is huge and an absolute pleasure to use. This multi-touch trackpad works very well with Apple’s latest OS X, Lion (which ships with this notebook) and introduces a user interface that is very similar to the touch-friendly iPad.

 

A pleasant surprise which we had was with the MBA’s speakers. The sound coming out of the machine at top volume was loud (very loud) and clear. Which is surprising, when you consider how small the unit is. But because this is Apple we’re talking about, anything regarding a good multimedia experience would definitely not be compromised, and the speakers were no exception.

One minor niggle we had with the MBA’s interior is the very sharp edge along the keyboard and trackpad area. Users of the MacBook Pro, which has the same design, have complained that the edges hurt the wrist after prolonged use. While it is also true here, the low (3mm) height of the MBA’s palmrest mitigates this issue somewhat, because you’d actually have to go out of your way to let your wrists feel the cold kiss of metal.

 

9.0
Design
9
Features
8
Performance
9
Value
9
Mobility
9.5
The Good
Very slim
Very light
Design is good
Premium aluminum body
Affordable
The Bad
Slight flex on the keyboard
Gets hot when doing wireless transfers
OS X Lion takes some getting used to