Macbook AIR build quality/ usage

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by netddos, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. netddos macrumors regular

    Oct 22, 2005
    I'm about to buy Macbook AIR. This will be my second mac machine owned in a long time (first was G4 12in laptop). Before I make my purchase, I'd like to ask a few questions.

    I know Macbook Air is built like tank with no flexing because it's made out of a solid aluminum block.

    However, I must question the toughness of the said material...Is there some sort of "coating/finishing touch" on the pure aluminum material that could warrant possible wear downs in time? Fade,discoloration, ect..

    From looking at the units in Apple Store, Air seemed like to get scratched rather easily on the bottom..

    What your verdict? How is the finishing? Do you think invisibleShield will be a necessity?

    Any other problems using the machine? Fan noise? Heat? How do I manage them to an acceptable level?
  2. maestrokev macrumors 6502a


    Apr 23, 2007
    I find the material does scratch if contacts other hard surfaces like metal. Mine is scratching often as it bumps against my metal watch wristband as I'm often moving it in and out of bags. Same happens when I hold the MBA and my ring touches it. Not deep scratches but it makes a slight mark so I'm extra careful. I would have gone with Invisible Shield but the discount was over and I'm waiting for the next one. I'd only apply it to the top LCD side though as many have reported increased heat using the shield.

    Fan noise and heat are pretty low unless I try watching H.264 video, under normal web browsing it's perfect.
  3. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    It's not made out of 'solid aluminium block'. Not only would that be a waste of space and weight, it's not the case. What Apple has done (and how it's been done is debatable in terms of effectiveness) is to integrate the notebook chassis (usually a separate component) with the body shell. As a result, they've made the shell itself stiffer by using thicker aluminium and an overlapping shell design.

    Apple notebooks (and the iPod Mini before) use a fairly thick hard anodising process to protect the soft aluminium alloy. It's pretty effective, but once the anodising wears off that's pretty much it for aluminium - if you breathe on it wrong, it'll nick/gouge. The hard anodising can last for a long time, but metal-on-metal scratches and constant wear will make it go away faster.

    How to protect it? Well, I wouldn't recommend IS as the shell is an integral part of the thermal design - which is itself on the bleeding edge of acceptability. Be careful and use a soft slip case is all I can say really. ISing the palmrests alone may be a good halfway point - if you're keeping the notebook for a while it may prevent very visible wear on the rests without affecting the ability of the shell to radiate heat too much

    The heat dissipation is not good in terms of the machine working effectively, but the machine doesn't get anywhere near as hot to skin contact as the Cookbook Pros do. Fan noise is very quiet, I'd say the quietest on the market - until you start doing slightly stressful things for an ultraportable, in which case it becomes perhaps the noisiest ultraportable on the market.
  4. duffyanneal macrumors 6502a


    Feb 5, 2008
    Correct, sort of. The main body of the machine is milled from a solid piece of metal with a thin formed shell that covers the internals on the bottom.

    The MBA runs cool to the touch and so do the new Penryn MBPs. If you push the machine hard for an extended time the case can get warm. If you sit it on soft surface or cover the vents it will get quite toasty. The fan is virtually silent unless it has to rev up to cool the machine. Many people here have tried Coolbook which allows the MBA to run even cooler and quieter than stock. Even at full tilt the MBA's fan isn't the noisiest ultraportable. I've had a few that were more annoying by a wide margin. While I don't like fan noise the MBA's isn't terribly annoying when it is whaling away. What I find more annoying is a fan that cycles on and off every few seconds which it seems quite a few Japanese machines do these days.
  5. jarpod macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2008
  6. AstroHouse macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2008
    Morada CA
    I would be very surprised if the exterior is milled versus stamped aluminum. Very surprised as CNC is such an expensive, time consuming process.

    If I am wrong, well, go figure.
  7. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    Machining to finish en masse is cheap - and it's been cast then machined if I'm not mistaken. It wouldn't be that viable to mill the shells 'from a solid block' if the machine was expected to sell in any significant volume.

    duffyanneal might want to do a bit more research on both counts. I can take my noisiest-in-regular-use Sony, place a mic near it, put the Air about two feet away, let both machines munch on some video playback / some of my apps - much the sort of thing that you would unthinkingly end up piling up on even an ultraportable as you do stuff - and leave them for a while in a summer-range ambient... and in the recording the Air will be drowning out the Sony. Said SSD'd machine also marginally outperforms the Air in general application use.

    The most practical way to manage fan noise is perhaps to follow the recommendations given in the undervolting thread. Which if you (oh all right, clearly not most of you deluded by the JRDF but I do) think about it is totally ridiculous and something that no machine with any pretensions to quality should force you to do, but does prevent the machine spiking under load and causing thermal issues.
  8. duffyanneal macrumors 6502a


    Feb 5, 2008
    If you remove the bottom cover you can see the mill marks. You're probably right on the casting in order to form the palmrest and keyboard area. It's cool to open up the machine and see the mill work inside. The one area most people will never see.

    I've owned a couple ultraportables in the past few year (I'm being modest) and the MBA wasn't the noisiest or most obnoxious. The TZ I had was a fairly quiet machine (departure from some previous models), but the fan was a bit noisy under load though not as loud as the MBA. The P8010 I had a few weeks ago was more annoying in that it was a bit louder and it cycled every 15-20 seconds. The Dell D420 was noisy and cycled every 30 seconds or so. I had an Asus U1 which was a nice machine, but the fan was buzzy. My two X61s were on the whole quieter than the MBA especially after I installed a fan control program. I prefer the fan to run continuously rather than cycle. I only kept my Sony TX a few days before sending it back it was very obnoxious. I loved my Sony X505 which didn't have a fan. I guess I can mention the OQO2 that could sub for a hair dryer on a business trip.

    I'm sure everyone has different opinions on the subject of fan noise. If given the choice I would prefer a quiet fan that runs constantly vs a noisier one that cycles. I'll eventually tune out the fan noise if it is constant (helps if it isn't a buzz). A fan that cycles can be likened to a mosquito looking for a juicy patch on one's head. The MBA during normal use is nearly silent. If you press it it you will hear the fan. It's the price we pay for craming a non-typical CPU in such a tight space. Undervolting the CPU has made my MBA silent on all accords. I haven't heard the fan spin up in days and that included some stints watching videos and running Fusion. In every PC that I've owned I've used some sort of program to control CPU voltage. To me that is just another step to squeak the best performance out of the machine all the while reducing fan noise and increasing battery life.
  9. grimdonnn macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2008
    Austin, TX
    I've just upgraded from 12" Powerbook to the Air...

    so I have experience with the cases of both. The case on the Air is very similar to that of the 12" powerbook in my opinion, so is just as likely (or unlikely) to scratch. After 3 years, my 12" has almost no scratches on the lid (top) and only a few on the bottom (and I never babied it). I see no reason that after 3 years the MB Air would be any different.

    As far as the heat and fan noise... both are significantly better than the 12". I could not hold the old Powerbook on my lap for more than a few minutes without getting hot - I routinely hold the Air on my lap for 30-40 minutes every night without problem. I also do not notice the fan at all; the 12" fan was much louder.

    Get the Air... compared to the old 12" notebook it is a substantial upgrade!
  10. Retops macrumors regular

    Feb 10, 2008

    I certainly agree. I bought the first 12" powerbook that arrived at the store here. I used the heck out of it and never found another computer that I liked better or found more convenient until the MBA came out. Now the 12" is staying home.

    My MBA runs very cool and I seldom hear the fan kick in. Much cooler than the 12" and much much cooler than my MBP--that baby runs too warm for my taste.
  11. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    Wow (at your list of ultraportables). You're darn close to being a Sesshi Jr!
  12. samroberto macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2008

    :) Cookbook Pros.. i like that it made me laugh.
    SO TRUE, though, ... my wrists have been burned before
  13. thibaulthalpern macrumors regular

    May 2, 2008
    East Coast, USA
    Just a simple observation:

    It seems that lots of people type on their laptops resting their wrists on the so-called "palm rest". Don't do that. It's ergonomically bad for your hands, wrists and shoulders to do that. Your wrists should not be resting on anything when you type. It also does solve the problem of not scratching up your computer.

    Go to any ergonomics website and you'll see that they are not recommended resting your wrist on a foamy palm rest etc.
  14. mrob321 macrumors newbie

    May 14, 2008
    12 inch powerbook to macbook air

    I switched over from a 12 inch powerbook 1.5 to a macbook air 1.6 HDD.

    I totally agree about the fan noise. The air is far quieter in general, however, I find there are a few major problems with it, as compared to the 12 inch.

    1. I like to work lying down on my bed and so I find the macbook air is sooo thin that it actually just jabs into my stomach. The 12 inch is thicker so that doesn't happen.

    2. Kinda related, I find the thin edge of the macbook air catches the palm of my hand. Its a bit annoying.

    3. The 12 inch powerbook had a way better tilt than the macbook air, and possibly the newer macbook pros

    4. Its easy to block the heat vent on the macbook air. The vents are sitting on the bottom side rather than the back side of the machine, so it can start to overheat rather quickly unless its on a flat surface. I ended up buying an ilap, but its seems kinda sad to have to buy (or make) an accessory since it starts to defeat the whole simple light laptop factor.

    Generally a good machine. I think apple should offer a faster rpm drive for it though as an upgrade soon (for existing beta testers), and a cooler faster chip and it would be perfect. Still a good machine overall.

    btw. Are there any macbook pro users with a new machine that can say whether the air is quieter or louder than the macbook pro?

  15. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    Regarding #3, you're right that when the PowerBooks switched to MacBook Pros, the Pros tilt less than their predecessors did. That was a commonly read complaint right after the switch.

    Regarding which is noisier (the new MBPs or the Airs), it depends. I think the Air's sound (when the fans run full tilt) is higher pitched than the new Pros, but the MBP overall might be a little louder. Having said that, I'm way more likely to hear my Air than my MBP because things that cause the Air's fans to full tilt don't raise the fan speed on my MBP at all.

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