MacBook Air Impression After 3 Months

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Mike1969, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. Mike1969 macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    Thought I would take a couple minutes to summarize my thoughts on the Macbook Air after 3 months of use. For comparison, my prior machine was a Sony Vaio TR Series machine that I had for 4 years. I use the machine primarily for web-based applications, and Microsoft Office applications.

    Overall, I would buy again, but there are a few pros and cons I would point out. For most of what I do, it works fine. But if you are routinely using a lot of applications at one time, or working with large programs, I’m not sure it would be for you.

    If you buy, get the external DVD drive. You won’t use it that much, but it will be useful for installing software. While cool, the remote-disc feature makes these tasks more complicated than they need be, particularly when it’s only a $99 added cost.


    • Size and weight. Clearly the biggest reason to buy the machine. Lives up to billing in these areas.

    • Screen. Large screen with excellent definition. No question it’s in a class by itself in the ultraportable market.

    • Cost. Actually reasonable for the ultraportable market, solid state drive excepted, but you do get more for your money with a traditional Macbook or Macbook Pro than with this. Depends on what's important.

    • Intangibles. From this perspective, it’s an easy buy and light years ahead of others.


    • Battery. Continues to be the single number one biggest complaint I have.

    - Battery life is disappointing. Under normal working conditions, I get maybe 2.5 hours (this would be using the internet and maybe Word or something like that. Not even with iTunes running). Rarely do I use it at home in the evening and not need to get the power supply.

    - Battery drain in sleep mode. This continues to be a mystery. One that 2 phone calls and 2 trips to the Apple store have yet to resolve. Routinely loose 20-30% of my batter life in sleep mode with the machine in my bag during the day. This becomes significant with relatively low battery life.

    - Lack of external battery. Not that I am all that likely to lug an extra one around, but I did with my Sony when I was traveling even though I had a 5 hour battery. When traveling, this is a big deal, particularly with a relatively poor battery life.

    • Performance. From what I read, it is slower than other Macbooks, but I don’t have any personal experience. I will say that it is NOT much faster than my 4 year old Sony was that had a 1 Ghz chip and 512k of RAM….I would have expected a bit more from 1.6 Ghz and 2GB.

    • Accessories. I’m ok with not having an optical drive, I rarely use it, but needing a “dongle” (I just like saying that…) for both Ethernet connectivity (again, more theoretical than a real problem) and for video output via the micro-DVI port (more important) does present some problems. It just means that I have to remember to carry these things around and I know I’m going to show up for a talk some day and have forgotten the DVI connector.

    • Runs hot. Definitely more so than my Sony did. Not a deal-breaker, but a consideration, particularly when sitting with it in your lap.

    • Fan noise. I may be alone in this, but I think it is noisy and because it runs hot it is on a lot. Again, not too big a deal, but noticeable and a difference for me from my prior machine.
  2. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Nice review, but I will have to argue some of your "opinions"

    Yes I agree it's very light, but it's footprint is almost as big as the 15" MBP's!

    It looks nice to most people, but it's TN panel nonetheless; trust me when you see a WSXGA (1440x900) MVA/IPS panel on 13" computer, you will really see what perfect screen is.

    I think it's looks great and all, but it's too much compromise!

    Don't forget it is a low voltage chip which means with the same clock the performance is lower.
  3. Olvenskol macrumors member

    Feb 20, 2008
    You might check-out Coolbook. Since installing that, I can't recall the last time I heard the fan. My machine definitely does not run hot (much cooler than any other laptop I've ever owned) running just office-style apps.

    I seem to be one of the luckier ones though, at least reading these forums.
  4. mac jones macrumors 68040

    Apr 6, 2006
    When the next version of the Air comes out i will sell my present one and buy one immediately.

    I will get the SSD as this 4200 is a piece of ****

    I love the thing put it needs a 45nm cpu and better HD.....sorely

    Trust me, the 1.8" 4200 is annoying.
  5. Denny Crane macrumors member

    Denny Crane

    Jul 8, 2007
    Good review. If I were in the market for a MBA this would be useful information to have.

    One question though....I thought everybody carried their "dongle" with them....:D
  6. CaptainCaveMann macrumors 68000


    Oct 5, 2004
    Good review, but you forgot to mention what model your reviewing? :D
  7. Thetics macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2008
    you really shouldn't put the air in your bag (or any closed containers) while its in sleep mode. it generates a lot of heat very quickly and even in sleep mode your fans will blast and drain your battery to keep the air cool. (learned this with my mbp =) enjoy.
  8. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Sep 30, 2003
    Fans should not come on and heat should not be generated while sleeping.
  9. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    Thanks for the comments. Appreciate some of the technical clarifications. A couple thoughts based on the comments.

    1. when I refer to size, I didn't so much mean footprint, but the fact that it is thin. I literally do carry it around in an envelope with other papers.

    2. agree that there are compromises here and the comment on "intagibles" is just my opinion based on less quantifiable evaluations.

    3. have not noticed a problem with sleep mode, heat generation or fan use in sleep mode. agree with the "Fuchal" that my understanding was this shouldn't be an issue in sleep mode.

    4. like I said, "dongle" is just fun to say.....
  10. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    Great review, I enjoyed reading it.

    Didn't you know the battery was non-user replaceable before buying it? I hope so.
  11. hildegueden macrumors member


    May 1, 2008
    My battery also drains in sleep mode.. but only about 10% in a single night. I thought this was normal. Why does it drain?

    Yeah, I would also like an external battery. 5 hours is simply not enough (lucky if you manage 5 hrs). Especially on those long flight trips to Europe. When are direct methanol fuel cells going to be on Macbooks? :confused:
  12. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    Yes, did know about the internal batter, but chose to accept the compromise. However, was hoping that it lasted a bit longer, although admittedly didn't expect it to last 5 hours.
  13. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    The battery life varies like crazy depending on what you do. With WiFi off, taking notes on a dim screen, it lasts crazy long. But the problem is that this is mostly unrealistic for most people.
  14. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    You are correct, the WiFi really does seem to use battery life. Problem for me is I'm unwilling to make the compromise of having to turn it on and wait to connect when I want to get access since I do that a lot. If you are an infrequent user of WiFi, then that would be a reasonable solution.
  15. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    Even with wifi on you should be able to get close to five hours if you reduce the screen brightness. Even at 50 percent brightness you get a better screen than most laptops out there.
  16. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    I wish I agreed with the 5 hour life with a dimmer screen. I think it's popular legend. I have adjusted all of the power settings with modest change. I don't think I would get 5 hours if it on using only Word or something minimal and WiFi off, maybe not even with the screensaver.

    If others have 5 hour life with any activity at all, then there really is a tremendous variability between batteries.
  17. richardhunt macrumors regular

    Oct 2, 2007
    I have a 1.8 c2d with the hard drive. Why does everybody think the screen is so "gorgeous"? It's a TN Panel, it's functional, but I wouldn't call it gorgeous. My MBA also gets pretty hot within 1 hour of use, the fan stars blowing out pretty loudly. Battery life is a bummer, and the thing is LED backit!!! All that being said, I'd much rather carry this around than a Macbook or MBP, just wished it had an external battery of some sort to compensate for the non-removable one. Any 3rd party vendors manufacture one with the magpower connector?
  18. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008

    I agree, the screen doesn't match up to many, but in the category of "ultraportable" machines, I think is at least the equal, and in my opinion, better than any other.

    Same as you, despite my criticisms, I would rather carry this around than any other machine I looked at.
  19. EspressoLove macrumors 6502


    Jun 29, 2007
    Bay Area
    I'm in a market for 13-14 inch laptop, and for me coming from MB - screen is fantastic!
    MBA's brightness, angles, seem to be drastically better then MB.

    So, if MBA gets overhauled this fall, I'm all over it!
  20. radiotowers macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2008
    4-4.5 hours is pretty typical for my MBA (hard drive model).

    That's with wifi on, lots of web browsing, some light Photoshop work, Office-type applications, etc. The battery life is actually one of the things that pleasantly surprised me - it was a concern prior to purchasing since you can't swap batteries. Can't say I've really had a need yet.
  21. desenso macrumors 6502a


    May 25, 2005
    Fan noise (and heat) as well as battery drive me crazy. I use mine with a well-reviewed xpad and the fans still run full blast the whole time when it's on my lap.
  22. freddiecable macrumors 6502a


    May 16, 2003
    1. my batterylife is around 3.5 hours - working with word.

    2. agree that the footprint could be a bit smaller - but other than that a wonderful road mate.

    3. i easily can work with photoshop or indesign. not too heavy files though.

    4. agree that one forgets the dongels sometimes. one more usb would be nice.
  23. Rondue macrumors regular

    Jul 30, 2008
    Battery life issue

    Yea, I figured the battery life would be awesome, or at least better than my MAC book. My 2.4 GHz macbook white gets about 4hr with wifi web surfing i'm lucky to get half that with my macbook air. I thought that I would sell my macbook and coast using the AIR until the reset in sept but i'm realizing thats not going to be feasible due to the battery life of this thing. and the huge loss in performance but thats a whole different issue. I've used 299.99 dollar compaqs with Celeron's with more power but thats not a huge deal since Im not a power user for the most part. :confused:
  24. Rondue macrumors regular

    Jul 30, 2008
    Most laptops yea,, but we are comparing apple models and stacked against the reg MB it doesnt splash with me :mad:
  25. Mike1969 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2008
    Still remains a mystery to me to hear people with 4-5 hours of battery life with MB Air. I wonder if you are really putting a clock on it or if it is just your perception. To make sure I was being accurate myself, I clocked it this a.m. and again this p.m. Machine was on running Word and VMware Fusion with Internet explorer running on that (have to use for compatibility with my office). I was primarily doing work via explorer. Was using it heavily for the entire hour.

    Fully charged battery overnight and read 100%. 1 hour of work and battery had only 60% of life remaining. As I type this, I have had 30% battery d/c in 45 minutes with the same activity.

    Assuming consistent battery discharge, that extrapolates to 2.5 hours. Pretty poor if you ask me and totally discordant with the 5 hour reports.

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