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Old Aug 15, 2012, 11:56 AM   #1
Fuire
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Macbook Air vs Windows 7 (/8?) ultrabooks

Hi all,

I've had my iMac for a long time now and could do with something a little more portable.

I've been looking into getting an ultraportable like the Macbook Air, but have recently got interested in some of the new generation of ultrabooks that have just/ are about to come out.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what is the best option, in terms of value/ overall hardware specs/ longevity/ OS/ usefulness/ anything else? Of course I realise this is the MacRumours forum so if you're reading this you probably have a bit of a soft spot for most things Apple, but I was hoping to maintain a little bit of objectivity.

Basically what I'm looking for is something up to the price of the 13" MBA. Portable as possible, high spec, nice screen etc. I'm also considering the MBP, but it is somewhat heavier. I live in the UK so prices aren't directly comparable to the US (sadly), but am still a student and am able to get a discount for the time being.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 11:59 AM   #2
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What do you want to run, windows or OSX?

Ultimately that is what you need to decide on. I think the MBA is a great machine and so far the only ultrabooks I've seen were pale imitations of the MBA
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:01 PM   #3
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If you want the Windows OS, I've got to say that an Ultrabook would be better as they are made for windows. Mac OS will get the whole of the MBA's battery however, when bootcamping, this will loose some of the things that the MBA is known for-battery life, gestures. They are all slim and you're guaranteed a good deal but the MBA is where I would go, better customer service and it just looks nice! Next, I would go with either the XPS or the Series 9 but I would never go for them... :P
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:10 PM   #4
Fuire
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Thanks guys.

maflynn:
Well I'm used to OSX but get along just fine with Windows as well - either will do fine I think.

I haven't had a go with any of the new Windows 8 features though so a little unsure as to whether I'd use Metro (or whatever they're going to call it now) that much, but honestly I'm not a huge fan of the Mountain Lion look either. Either way I doubt I'll get OSX withdrawal as I'll still have my iMac!

jamesjingyi:
I really do quite like the look of the Series 9, I have to say. What about the Zenbook UX31A? One of the consistent issues reviewers tend to have had with ultrabooks is that they just can't match the ergonomics of the MBA in terms of the keyboard (with the exception of the new thinkpad) and the trackpad, since Apple seems to offer unrivalled gesture control and sensitivity. Any thoughts?

Last edited by Fuire; Aug 15, 2012 at 12:35 PM.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:24 PM   #5
KPOM
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Mountain Lion is made for the MacBook Air. Even if you don't like it on the iMac, give it a try. The reverse scrolling, etc. make a lot more sense with the large trackpad.

I have seen the Samsung Series 9, and my dad has a Vizio Thin and Light (14"). While the Ultrabooks have their strengths, they all tend to be missing something, usually a workable trackpad. The Vizio's trackpad is awful, which greatly detracts from the otherwise solid machine (its screen is very good and has a 1600x900 resolution). The Series 9 is lighter than the Air, but it, too, has trackpad issues.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:26 PM   #6
bubbleboyjones
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Originally Posted by Fuire View Post
jamesjingyi:
I really do quite like the look of the Series 9, I have to say. What about the Zenbook UX31A? One of the consistent things reviewers tend to have had about the ultrabooks is that they just can't match the ergonomics of the MBA in terms of the keyboard (with the exception of the new thinkpad) and the trackpad, since Apple seems to offer unrivalled gesture control and sensitivity. Any thoughts?


Im in the market for an Air as well. One thing to consider is that going that Mac route allows you to have a laptop that you can sell down the road. Apple products generally age very well. Its hard to explain but its funny how my Mac Mini from 2007 still runs flawless and I can still get some $$ for it if I wanted. I have a hard time spending the same amount of money on a Windows laptop as an Apple one.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:41 PM   #7
MacLappy
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Macbook air for the win, but if you really need a pure windows machine, take a look at the new Lenovo X1 carbon. It's pretty good, for a windows machine.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 12:58 PM   #8
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Macbook Air (of course I'm now a fanboy so that doesn't hold much weight).

I can tell you how I became a fanboy: Windows8 metro. Absolutely HORRIBLE when it was first released to developers. It has certainly improved over the last 2 years, but during that time I moved my team from windows computers to Macs and could not be happier. Not a single second of downtime due to hardware, they have managed to crash it a few times with coding errors, but a reboot fixed it as good as new.

I sincerely hope Microsoft gets Metro perfected, it is such a novel and brilliant UI idea. They just miss on tons of little things, like me previously having to contact support to figure out how to turn it off ( 3 screens and 6 clicks later, tada! ). They have worked that kink out though, so they are listening.

Just me

PS all my old win boxes are now very happily running ubuntu
PPS bubbleboyjones hit on another reason for our switch, try selling a two year old win box ( we generally purchased top of the line, alien level ) and you would be lucky to get $300 for it ( last auction before the macs we got about $150 each ). The macs resale was much higher.

Last edited by 960design; Aug 15, 2012 at 01:05 PM.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 01:06 PM   #9
plucky duck
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Series 9 track pad is pretty bad, lack of response and/or delayed response from gestures. Keyboard keys are pretty shallow. PLS screen on 13" is very vibrant, love the form factor, butthe ttrack pad was a deal breaker for me.

The zenbook keyboard feels second rate, quite mushy and the keys themselves were quite wobbly. Like the form factor but don't like the swirl marks and color scheme.

The biggest compromise was none of the ultra books allow for dual boot osx and windows. I realise battery performance under windows 7 boot camp is not ideal, but I have easy access to power source most of the time, so I am willing to take a hit there in order to be able to gain access to both OS's, so in the end the MacBook air it is.

I love the keyboard feel, build quality, key travel, color scheme, and osx experience. Display panel is obvious not up there compared to the series 9, but its not like its so bad its unbearable. Everything I considered weighted me towards the air, for osx and build quality. Its the overall osx experience I very much enjoy.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 01:21 PM   #10
EmaDaCuz
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I also was in the hunt for an alternative to the MBA and ended up with... a MBA!
Seriously, there is nothing that can get any closer in terms of trackpad capabilities. I was tempted by the Lenovo U310, quite an impressive laptop I have to say. Not an ultrabook, it could be more fair to compare it to a MacBook (the old good white) but still portable. Trackpad worked quite nice to be a Windows machine.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 02:10 PM   #11
DrumApple
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I'm sort of in the same boat. Planning to finally retire my late 2006 15" MBP within 1-2 months and probably get an ultrabook. I use my computers mostly for writing and web surfing, and after doing a lot of research I've narrowed it down to three candidates, unfortunately they all have pluses and minuses and nothing fits the bill 100% for what I really want:

1) Macbook Air
+Good keyboard/trackpad
+Wedge design, very slim and light
+Decent price
-The screen, worse than the competition and since I write, I NEED a matte screen, not glossy. This is a HUGE drawback in consideration. My '06 MBP had the matte screen which is why it works for me.
-Not too impressed with Mountain Lion (I'm still on Snow Leopard, Apple didn't support my MBP to upgrade anyway- lame)

2) Samsung Series 9
+Excellent screen, matte, amazing brightness, 1600x900
+Lighter than the MBA, very slim, and black which I like better than aluminum
+Battery life is top of the line
-Pretty expensive
-Nothing is upgradeable or customizable
-The keyboard is pretty shallow

3) Lenovo X1 Carbon (have not used in person yet, based on reviews)
+I like the black soft touch design
+Best keyboard for an ultrabook, I hear the touchpad is great
+Several different configurations available
-A bit heavier and not as slim, some clunky physical buttons for business users etc.
-Battery life is below average
-Screen is good but not the best, it's a TN panel (not IPS).
-Very expensive

I'm basically just waiting to try the X1 Carbon in person, then make a decision. I am bilingual when it comes to OS's, and actually might prefer windows just because I love OneNote so much. And iCloud is a joke compared to SkyDrive for my needs.

By the way, I can't even seem to sell my MBP on craigslist for $399 right now, so if you keep your computers as long as I do, Macs' trade in value are pretty much the same as any other PC.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 03:11 PM   #12
plucky duck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrumApple View Post
I'm sort of in the same boat. Planning to finally retire my late 2006 15" MBP within 1-2 months and probably get an ultrabook. I use my computers mostly for writing and web surfing, and after doing a lot of research I've narrowed it down to three candidates, unfortunately they all have pluses and minuses and nothing fits the bill 100% for what I really want:

1) Macbook Air
+Good keyboard/trackpad
+Wedge design, very slim and light
+Decent price
-The screen, worse than the competition and since I write, I NEED a matte screen, not glossy. This is a HUGE drawback in consideration. My '06 MBP had the matte screen which is why it works for me.
-Not too impressed with Mountain Lion (I'm still on Snow Leopard, Apple didn't support my MBP to upgrade anyway- lame)

2) Samsung Series 9
+Excellent screen, matte, amazing brightness, 1600x900
+Lighter than the MBA, very slim, and black which I like better than aluminum
+Battery life is top of the line
-Pretty expensive
-Nothing is upgradeable or customizable
-The keyboard is pretty shallow

3) Lenovo X1 Carbon (have not used in person yet, based on reviews)
+I like the black soft touch design
+Best keyboard for an ultrabook, I hear the touchpad is great
+Several different configurations available
-A bit heavier and not as slim, some clunky physical buttons for business users etc.
-Battery life is below average
-Screen is good but not the best, it's a TN panel (not IPS).
-Very expensive

I'm basically just waiting to try the X1 Carbon in person, then make a decision. I am bilingual when it comes to OS's, and actually might prefer windows just because I love OneNote so much. And iCloud is a joke compared to SkyDrive for my needs.

By the way, I can't even seem to sell my MBP on craigslist for $399 right now, so if you keep your computers as long as I do, Macs' trade in value are pretty much the same as any other PC.

The thing is between 2006 and now, the price of laptop has dropped pretty noticeably. Those like myself who enjoy using OSX and the Apple experience may be relunctant to fork over $400 for much dated technology, when $500-$600 can get me a lot more computer, even if it means having to deal with Windows. Price-to-value is skewed much towards newer laptops.

If I make a living writing, I would avoid the Series 9 altogether. As a casual user who rarely type anything much I still find the Series 9 keyboard counter productive, as I am more focused on how I'm typing, constantly adjusting, rather than what I am trying to type. It adversely affects productivity and efficiency.

The X1 carbon exudes quality, and carries the Thinkpad name quite well. Keyboard feels rather nice, very "Thinkpad" like. Display is standard fare, considering Lenovo's audience I don't expect anything bleeding edge in this area.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 03:35 PM   #13
DrumApple
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Originally Posted by plucky duck View Post
The thing is between 2006 and now, the price of laptop has dropped pretty noticeably. Those like myself who enjoy using OSX and the Apple experience may be relunctant to fork over $400 for much dated technology, when $500-$600 can get me a lot more computer, even if it means having to deal with Windows. Price-to-value is skewed much towards newer laptops.

If I make a living writing, I would avoid the Series 9 altogether. As a casual user who rarely type anything much I still find the Series 9 keyboard counter productive, as I am more focused on how I'm typing, constantly adjusting, rather than what I am trying to type. It adversely affects productivity and efficiency.

The X1 carbon exudes quality, and carries the Thinkpad name quite well. Keyboard feels rather nice, very "Thinkpad" like. Display is standard fare, considering Lenovo's audience I don't expect anything bleeding edge in this area.
I agree, only if the X1 C boasted a gorgeous display- it would be the clear winner for me.

BTW I'm also reluctant to get another aluminum Apple because my '06 MBP got a lot of corrosion on the case palm rest. My hands do tend to get a bit clammy nothing too excessive. Others have had this also, who knows if they've fixed this problem. The edges are a bit sharp on the wrist too, I read the X1 C is nice and smooth.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 03:51 PM   #14
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I agree, only if the X1 C boasted a gorgeous display- it would be the clear winner for me.

BTW I'm also reluctant to get another aluminum Apple because my '06 MBP got a lot of corrosion on the case palm rest. My hands do tend to get a bit clammy nothing too excessive. Others have had this also, who knows if they've fixed this problem. The edges are a bit sharp on the wrist too, I read the X1 C is nice and smooth.
It's actually pretty easy to clean aluminum corrosion. And if you would wipe down your MacBook after you sweat all over it, this wouldn't happen.

***just kidding***
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 03:57 PM   #15
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It's actually pretty easy to clean aluminum corrosion. And if you would wipe down your MacBook after you sweat all over it, this wouldn't happen.

***just kidding***
I am surprised he didn't cause any water damage? lol j/k
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 04:20 PM   #16
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Good question. I've looked very hard. In fact, about 3 week ago, I was in the market for an Ivy Bridge ultrabook to run Linux (Intel have high quality open-source drivers for the HD4000, and efficient power saving optimisations in the kernel and user-space), as the second wave is closing in on the MacBook Air... Or so I thought.

They all have major turn offs, whether the keyboard, trackpad, battery, display, plastic casing, poor warranty service, etc...

The one ultrabook that stands out, the only one I would consider buying if the MacBook Air didn't exist: the ASUS ZenBook Prime. They fixed they keyboard and trackpad from the 1st iteration and added a 1080p IPS display that beats the MacBook Air's. Major drawbacks though: only 4 GB of RAM, not Apple-level warranty (understatement, they redirect you to the vendor who sold it to you).

FWIW, in my case, I ended up being drawn toward the MacBook Air 2012, eventually ordering an rMBP instead . Simply couldn't resist the eye-soothing display once I saw it at an Apple Store. Do check it out (really) if you can stretch your budget and don't mind the extra bulk.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 04:35 PM   #17
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Does anyone put any stock into the $199 Surface RT rumor? That really would be an amazing choice in the modern computer marketplace.



Anyway, answering "what should i get" questions are so much harder now because computers have become so niche-specific.

iPad. Macbook Air. MacBook Pro wRetina. Windows 8 for Intel. Windows RT. Android. All of them are good but none of them can be recommended so generically because it really is all up to the user.

Personally, this is my year to cut down on my gear so I've sold my iPad3, MacBook Air, a bunch of old Windows machines and Mac Mini in favor of an iPad 2 and MacBook Pro (w/SSD). I have room for one more device which will likely either be a Windows RT or iPad 7" depending on price and performance.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 04:44 PM   #18
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Does anyone put any stock into the $199 Surface RT rumor? That really would be an amazing choice in the modern computer marketplace.
I doubt Microsoft will be able to pull it off, considering that Google had to cut corners to get the Nexus 7 down to that price point with a screen less than half the size. Maybe they'll have a $199 deal with some sort of subscription, and it's likely they will undercut the iPad pricing with the Surface RT, but I'm thinking $399 is more realistic.

The Surface Pro will be pricier, though, as that is essentially a Microsoft Ultrabook.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 05:30 PM   #19
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I took a look at the ASUS UX31A, it's got a gorgeous IPS screen and surprisingly good trackpad. Definitely has the MBA beat on the display. If I were a Windows user, I would buy it. I use an MBA with VM Fusion to run Excel and OneNote now, but if Apple doesn't have a significant upgrade to the 2013 MBA, I may switch back to the Win side next year. The deficiencies of PC laptops' displays and trackpads have been mostly overcome with these latest Ultrabook releases.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 05:37 PM   #20
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The X1 Carbon is going for $1000 through the EPP lenovo sites with the email coupons.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 05:43 PM   #21
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I took a look at the ASUS UX31A, it's got a gorgeous IPS screen and surprisingly good trackpad. Definitely has the MBA beat on the display. If I were a Windows user, I would buy it. I use an MBA with VM Fusion to run Excel and OneNote now, but if Apple doesn't have a significant upgrade to the 2013 MBA, I may switch back to the Win side next year. The deficiencies of PC laptops' displays and trackpads have been mostly overcome with these latest Ultrabook releases.
Perhaps some Ultrabooks, but definitely not all have improved trackpads and displays. I certainly wouldn't say the issues have been "mostly overcome" as most reviews still give the Air the nod for the keyboard and trackpad. I do think Apple will need to make a more substantial upgrade next year, and I think they will.
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 06:54 PM   #22
DrumApple
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It's actually pretty easy to clean aluminum corrosion. And if you would wipe down your MacBook after you sweat all over it, this wouldn't happen.

***just kidding***
Please share how to clean. . .
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Old Aug 15, 2012, 07:21 PM   #23
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Macbook Air, hands down.

The Air runs Windows 7 just fine under Boot Camp, with every gesture you would want (not sure which ones you can't do--the drivers seem to be there for all of them). Plus, you can run OSX. Two computers for the price of one.

Windows 8? Neither the Ultrabook or the Mac has a touchscreen, so the real advantages go out the window.

I am on my 4th generation Air, and they just keep getting better. Mountain Lion tightens the software even more.

There is very little I need Windows for anymore. Office for Mac works just fine.

Again, I'm not really sure why anyone would want an Ultrabook at this point, other than some small price differentials.
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Old Aug 20, 2012, 08:58 AM   #24
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Linux on MBA?

Lots of good information and input in this discussion. I've been ultrabook shopping for a few months now and keep moving in the MBA direction, mostly for reasons already mentioned in these replies. I'm neither a Win or Mac person, I use both at work but this would be a personal machine and whatever I buy will end up running Linux (probably Ubuntu). Do any of you have experience with Ubuntu or other flavors of Linux on the MBA? Are there any drawbacks or issues I should know about? TIA.

I'm also considering the X1 Carbon but would want to get my hands on one first. The ASUS Zens look good on paper but when I checked them out at Best Buy I just didn't like the way they felt, especially compared to the MacBook Air.
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Old Aug 20, 2012, 10:00 AM   #25
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I wouldn't have gotten a Macbook if it was not for Windows 8. I used the developer preview, which was decent, but the consumer preview was just terrible. I don't care about the 'Start' button, I just wanted to find the 'Off' button. Using OS X for the last 2 weeks, I must admit it is much better than Windows, simply because of the combined hardware+software experience. I used a Asus Zenbook Prime (my friend's) and it gave the feeling that I had to literally fight with the computer to make it do something. The trackpad was terrible and unresponsive. Noticeably better than most Windows notebooks, but very bad when compared to the Macbook Air. The trackpad on the Macbook Air wants you to 'touch' it and use it. Its so responsive. I absolutely hate it when a computer/smartphone/tablets don't respond to your touch immediately. It gives me a headache after a while. This is one of the main reason I hated my Android devices and sometimes I still have nightmares about them.
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