My 2010 Macbook Air 11.6in Super Review!!!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Dammit Cubs, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. Dammit Cubs, Nov 4, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010

    Dammit Cubs macrumors 68000

    Dammit Cubs

    Jul 31, 2007
    So it's been about 5 days since I got a macbook 11inch. I originally bought the 13in 2.13/4gb/256GB version also known as the "ultimate version"

    I decided to save 500 bucks and go with the Macbook Ultimate 11inch which is comprised of 1.6Ghz/4GB/128GB setup.

    How did it stack up?

    Screen: Well I have to say the screen is great. The text is small after using an older 13in macbook, this real estate is still more than I'm used to. I don't really have to hunch back. The smaller text isn't that bad for my eyes and I compared an 11inch vs a 13inch, in terms of DPI the 11inch is a touch sharper but really compared to a 13 inch, you are getting more work space. I don't believe you are getting smaller icons or other fonts. It terms of glossy, this is a glossy light. I don't even notice the glossiness but at the same time the colors pop. Great color reproduction. Blacks are black and blue are blue. I'm using some of default wallpapers found in the OSX (the space one makes the colors really shine).

    Keyboard: I never had a backlit keyboard. I always wanted one and still after 4 years…i still don't have a backlit keyboard. The keyboard is nice. I can see where people might have issues and thats the palm resting area. I have some space but for people who have bigger hands can see some of your hands being on the edge of the keyboard. The back keys do leave some oil behind after using it for a long time. The keys time good. I don't see any errors with this

    Portability: This is it. This is the reason you bought a 11inch or else it makes no sense and the 13in is the better buy. You wanted a more portable laptop and there is a different. It's only like 1.5 inches shorter on the sides and front but having that added weight off makes this completely different. I just came back from Las vegas. I got on the shuttle bus to get to the airport. I had a duffle bag and thats it. I pulled out the macbook air 11in and started using the internet via tethered iphone. when the bus stopped at my destination, I just closed the lid and walked with it; not putting it back in my bag. The smaller size makes it better to carry and feels more like a notebook…an actual notebook. When I got to the southwest boarding pass machine, I just opened the lid, opened Evernote and got my confirmation. Instant on made the process fast and quick. I re-closed it. I walk through the security area. My laptop was already out and i just put it in the bin. I see everyone else's computers. Large, clunky… with the feeling of "i hate my life". I'm feeling great. Afterwards, I just walk to a open chair to wait for my flight, I just open the lid and proceed with what I was already working on.
    I get on the plane. The laptop is still being held like a notebook pad. I get to my plane. and put my computer on the seat. It fits just fine and I start writing my report which i have to send to my boss using microsoft word. The only problem, even at 11in design, there people who like to recline their seat to vertical mode. But because the screen was smaller, i just moved the computer a bit closer to me to dodge the seat from hitting it. It really is annoying when people do that. I know they have to right to but seriously? To get better work, if I don't use the tray, it fits perfectly. Whats awesome is that I can have both a drink and the computer on the tray. With a lot of computer, you don't have that luxury. Ipad, because its low profile even when typing wins but i can do a lot more on my MBA 11. I still brought the ipad, i never used it. It was in my bag the whole time.
    In vegas, I had to wait till my friends came down to pick me up for the room, i was just in the lobby and with such a small macbook, i was able to just open it and look up stuff on the internet. It's truly a blessing having a computer this small. In the room, It's just on the my bed but if i have to get a lot of work done, i like to just bend my knees up to prop up the MBA and i have a good keyboard layout, the screen is tilted max back and its close to my face and I don't have to crouch over and have back issues. My back was covered in many pillows that feel like boobs. Life is great.

    I took some pictures of the computer on the plane.

    Notebook + MBA 11 + IPAD with ROOM TO SPARE!!!

    Compared to an Ipad:

    Performance: When it comes to performance, its all about what you are gonna use your computer for. You have to seriously ask yourself a lot of questions. For me, the only thing I probably need thats computer intensive is video. This GPU is wayyyyy better than my 2007 macbook but I didn't get to see the value right away. I used VLC and running 720p video was great and for a moment, running 1080p video was looking until i saw some pixel breakdowns. This could be related to the USB data transfer. Then I put Iron Man 2 on my SSD and ran VLC. Most of the scenes was fine until a reached a high bit rate moment then i started to see the choppiness. It really bothered me and i started thinking….I think im going back to apple to get the a 1.8 C2D 13in. I started looking at activity monitor and seeing that running 1080p, my VLC player was running 94% to 134% CPU usage. I got some great advice from macrumors members to try plex. Although plex has a great interface, there is a learning curve in how to use it. After using plex, the GPU was used to help relieve the CPU workload. My CPU workload was down to 50% on 1080p video. Videos ran smooth and kept going in and out of multiple 1080p video. Hopefully we will see GPU acceleration on VLC soon.

    VLC - CPU 94% - 115% - GPU not assisted - smooth video playback until high bitrates were found, typically during action.
    PLEX -CPU 50% - 60% - GPU assisted - smooth video playback on 1080p action or no action.

    I added other programs such as hyperdock, evernote, dropbox, logmein. All working fine in the background.

    For the battery performance: I posted my numbers for an all day run. I logged most of the time stamps. This is using Ichat on, the entire time with me browsing, running terminal with some perl code run. I didn't watch a video. Here is my update on those numbers:

    97% 2:31pm 5:42 remaining Ichat, Safari, Macvim
    75% 3:58pm 6:22 remaining….changed to 4:22 remaining
    68% 4:26pm 3:42 remaining
    66% 4:32pm 2:48 remaining - LID CLOSED
    Session 1: 31% drop, 121 minutes used.

    64% 5:30pm 3:43 remaining - LID OPENED
    62% 5:41pm 3:27 remaining Internet use
    54% 6:10pm Lid closed
    Session 2: 20% drop 40 minutes used

    53% 6:20pm Lid Opened 2:54 remaining
    51% 6:26pm Lid closed
    session 3: 2% drop 6 minutes used. (i was in the middle of table tennis matches)

    51% 6:43pm Lid Open
    46% 6:56pm Running the Hornets vs Rockets game on Internet
    44% 7:00pm Done running game on internet - it was halftime
    39% 7:23pm Lid closed
    session 4: 12% drop 40 minutes used.

    39% 7:46pm Lid Open Ichat enabled
    29% 8:24pm 1:57pm remaining Typing this article on my MBA, running Ichat
    27% 8:29pm Lid closed
    Session 5: 12% drop 43 minutes used

    26% 9:46 Lid Opened time remaining 1:46
    9% 10:31pm 0:24 remaining
    8% 10:31pm lid closed
    Session6: 18% drop 45 minutes used

    Total: minute usage down to 9% = 121 + 40 + 6 + 40 + 43 + 45 = 295 minutes. Let's just say I can last another 5 minutes and make it a even 300

    300 minutes = 5 hours.

    I did another test. I wish I can edit my original post.

    Iron Man 2 Running 50% brightness. - 1080p 15 gig file
    Time stamp: 1:15pm 99%
    Time stamp: 3:35pm 11% - i think the movie ended at like 3:15 or something. The movie length on IMBD is 2:04:00 so thats 126 minutes.
    This is using plex with GPU assistant. I'll try standard tv shows and see what the outcome is.

    More testing complete:
    Starting at 80% - at 50% brightness, ran Formula one qualifying from the Japan Race.
    Time Stamps include:

    80% 9:35pm Running .mp4 (standard resolution, 1.5GB File)
    66% 10:03PM
    47% 10:45PM (running time 1:10)
    37% 11:05PM (Running time 1:20)
    From the looks of it, standard definition video runs at 2 minutes of video for every percent. Which would give 200 hours of video? or 3 hours and 20 minutes.
    CPU load: 18.9 to 19.7 using quicktime player.

    Ipad vs MBA 11
    This is a touch one. First off they are both very different and Ipad is mostly a consuming device while the MBA is both. The biggest strength that the Ipad has battery life. I get 10 hours on the Ipad without trying and with Xvid movies...probably a good 6 hours. Read E-books is great on it and I still believe the Ipad is one of the best devices for reading the internet (non-flash) especially when you have a screen that is catered to be vertical. There is something about the Ipad I truly love. And my biggest usages are downloading and reading Naruto Manga on it. Using Goodreader. I use Airvideo to watch movies through a wifi connection and I use logmein. I even have a keyboard that goes with my pad. I use my ipad to document my work notes and scan my work drawings instead of keeping a lab notebook.

    But there is something about the MBA that is drawing me away from the ipad. Even though the battery life is not as good, i lasted 5 hours on it. Thats 5 hours of productive work. with the Ipad, the feeling of never worrying about battery isn't produced in the MBA but there is something about long battery life. Combined with MBA's smaller footprint and the power to run anything without restrictions. It's a pretty powerful machine. For people who are selling their ipad's for a MBA. I can't say thats a bad decision. For people who are keeping both/ or still going to buy an ipad, I can't argue with that either. The biggest thing is, we don't want to leave our apple products neglected. I still see alot of room for the ipad with an MBA but after using the MBA. I kinda wish for a 7inch IPAD. Something even more portable that manages all the little things a notebook use. (when i say notebook i mean the paper one).

    So I guess there's my review. I think the MBA is awesome and for me its my secondary computer. My 2.2Ghz macbook runs all my torrents, stores all my pictures, has all my movies, has all my music and is connected to a big 24 inch monitor. It never turns off and thats how i like it. My macbook air is something i want to carry everywhere and when i can't carry it, i want to bring my ipad. Performance, you wont' notice a difference until you strain the CPU because the SSD brings the illusion of a fast processor. If you need to do heavy video or crunch serious data then thats what the pro is from. macbook PRO. I wouldn't complain if you are trying to cure cancer with this processor. But if you are doing the general things then this computer is more than enough and with the size factor, it adds a new element. A game change.

    This is only the beginning. Welcome to 2010 and what is soon to be start of greater and better gadgets.

    That's my 2 cents. Buy this or don't buy this. Either way, i'm enjoying what I go. One note: if you aren't traveling that much and don't mind the extra weight, the 13 inch is by far the better value. But what can I say, I want the attention. HAHAHAHA.
  2. Jobsian macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    One of the most enjoyable reviews I've read, thanks :)
  3. JonLa macrumors 6502

    Dec 22, 2009
    Really nice to read a review of one actually in use by somebody. Don't get me wrong, I like the reviews where they are put through their paces, but yours actually told us how you wanted to use it and then how you did and how it performed.

  4. Maziar macrumors 6502

    May 22, 2010
  5. ImperialX macrumors 65816


    Jul 17, 2007
    Tokyo, Japan
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.5 Mobile/8B117 Safari/6531.22.7)

    The battery is more impressive than I thought. Good for you. :)
  6. Josemacariofay macrumors newbie

    Nov 4, 2010

    Congratulations on a great review. I'm currently waiting for my 11 inch as well.
  7. kathfern macrumors newbie


    Oct 30, 2010
    Central Coast NSW Australia
    What a wonderful and entertaining review thank you!

    I am flying to Canada in January for a ski holiday and was wondering how my 11.6 MBA would go on the plane trip. From your description and pictures, it appears that it will work well thankyou!
  8. MikePA macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2008
    Agree with the others - Superb review. Thanks, also, for mentioning hyperdock. A neat piece of software.
  9. sinophilia macrumors regular


    May 7, 2008
    thanks, cool review! the dilemma iPad-MBA is excruciating but I think keeping both is the best choice. the iPad is superb as eBook reader and for all apps that look better in portrait mode. the MBA is a full-fledged computer.
  10. theobvious macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2010
  11. abriwin macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2009
    A thorough and interesting review

    Nice to read a review that echoes my own thoughts on the 11.6" MBA.

    Back in September I was desperate for the new machine for a holiday in Japan but had to settle on the iPad. No complaints apart from typing and getting the darned cursor in the right place when editing. It was great for storing and previewing my photos as I went along and the fact that it automatically groups images on a day to day basis was perfect as I could look later at a particular day and see all the images from that day.

    It was perfect for reading books and guides from places I was visiting which I had downloaded as pdfs. Where wifi was available it helped me stay in touch but it is a nuisance not being able plug in a wifi stick. Guess I'll just have to get that little Huai router eventually.

    So why did I still want the 11" MBA? Horses for courses. If I have a lot of typing to do the the 11" is far better and it also has a full OSX which the iPad doesn't have despite having thousands of apps available. The lack of folders on the iPad was a real nuisance for me as was getting files in and out, how cack handed to have to use iTunes for that.

    So now I am just waiting for mine to be delivered. Shanghai to South Korea, to Almaty in Kazakistan I wonder where next, I suppose Helsinki and only then Lisbon, Pt. Talk about well travelled.
  12. peterb69 macrumors member

    Oct 14, 2008
    Great review Dammit Cubs. Well written and from a real user, not a business reviewer hoping to get traffic on thier website.

    One question please? I want to get the 11", 4GB ram, & 128 SSD. This will be my secondary computer, so I'm trying to cut corners with $$. I will use this for MS Office, temp storage of photos, and minor LightRoom & Photoshop work. Any heavy photo processing will be done on my home computer.

    Should I save the $100 and stick with the 1.4ghz, or bite the bullet and get the 1.6ghz. In my mind, I hate to pay the $100 extra because for the same price I could get the 13" with a 1.86ghz. But I want the 11" for mobility.

    Would you get the 1.6ghz again based on your usage so far? Thanks
  13. YMark macrumors 6502a


    Nov 7, 2008
  14. TheMadBrewer macrumors regular


    Feb 11, 2008
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Thanks for the insight and great review. My thought process matches yours to a big degree.

    My current "traveling computer" is an original MBA. It has been a good workhorse and has been all over the world with me.

    But sometimes it is just too big for the situation -- it doesn't fit in a small backpack so it tends to stay in the hotel room when I'm traveling. I tried using a netbook but the tiny keyboard (and Windows XP) was such a pain and with the power brick it wasn't all that much lighter.

    I recently did a three week beer trip thru Europe with just an iPad and Apple wireless keyboard. It actually worked pretty well for most of things, but when it didn't it was a royal pain.

    I now have an 11inch "maximum" (like that better than "ultimate") on order.

    On my last three transatlantic trips I had a great time with the iPad catching up all my TV shows that I didn't have time to watch at home plus I am a long time "e-reader" so I will probably still bring the iPad for this -- battery life being important when you're on a plane for 11+ hours. But maybe I'll reclaim my Kindle from She Who Must Be Obeyed and just read on the flights.
  15. Dammit Cubs thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dammit Cubs

    Jul 31, 2007
    it's a tough call when it comes to 1.6ghz vs 1.4ghz. It's kinda the same dilemma that alot of uses are going through for the 1.86 vs 2.13 on the 13. I would say the most important for lightroom and photoshop would have to be ram. I think the 1.6ghz will be marginally better. But with that said, I didn't want to take a a chance. The ram is the most important spec as well as the gpu. You saw, when you can do with photoshop with people posting on youtube. I think you might be fine. I wanted to pick it up at the store so I was willing to spend the extra 100. Plus, i thought the extra horsepower will help somewhere in the future. If not anything, lower my CPU usage/rush to idle faster.

    Yeah, it sucks that the 13 has better specs all over. My friends like the 13in and I wish i can have both. If you are trying to cut corners, going with the "ultimate" isn't the way. The reasoning was, I didn't want the 13in ultimate because it was only .07ghz slower than my primary computer. Which would mean I would have to sell my old computer and make my macbook air. My goal was having 2 computers. Plus, I too needed to save money. In the end, I ended up going with the 11 because my heart was looking at it even though my brain was looking at the 13. There is no reasoning other than portability that makes any person want the 11 over the 13.

    Interestingly and I won't know the ripple effect to my next configuration: 128GB SSD. I went with 128 gigs of SSD. That price is way too bloated ($200) but at the same time doubling 128 -> 256 on the 13in was $300. Even though maybe of over spent for 64 gigs of space, i feel like this is will be important for me. I'm at 74 gigs of space. with one 15 gig 1080p movie. so really 90 gigs. I'm going to continue to use cloud storage and my secondary computer to hold majority of my storage but you never know when you there will come a time where you need the storage. So that's why I went with the 128gig.
  16. peterb69 macrumors member

    Oct 14, 2008
    Thanks Dammit Cubs. Once again, great review and thanks for answering my question.
  17. wirelessmacuser macrumors 68000


    Dec 20, 2009
    Kudo's for a great detailed review. I truly enjoyed it.

    That was a lot more than 2 cents... ha..ha...ha...

    Cheers... :)
  18. Dammit Cubs thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dammit Cubs

    Jul 31, 2007
    Also. there is a big factor, if you are going to be on your MBA every day for 5-7 hours, then there is no reason to go with a 11in. That or...I would highly recommend another monitor to connect. It's a great screen, but its meant for quick usage. I personally like to bring my laptop to work and have my work stuff on my work computer and when i take a bring, browse on my MBA/ipad. If i was working on a MBA for 7 hours daily, I would take the weight hit and go 13 all the way.
  19. riverfreak macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2005
    Thonglor, Bangkok
    A three week beer tour? Very nice.

    And I concur. Nothing beats the iPad on long trans-oceanic trips. So much better to watch what you want instead of what the airline has chosen. Being hunched over a laptop doesn't cut it. I typically travel with an original MacBook Air, a Dell Mini Hackintosh as a backup, and an iPad for entertainment.

    But as an original MBA and now 11" owner, can you speak to the difference in hinges? My original air had the hinge problem where they gradually loosened over time to the point they wouldn't really hold the screen open. Apple replaced no questions asked 2 years out.
  20. potentpotable macrumors regular


    Oct 22, 2010
    Like you, OP, I like the ultra-portability of my 11.6". And the good battery life (I've scored 6-7 hours). And boobs.
  21. ukpetey macrumors regular


    Oct 15, 2008
    Durham, England

    A brilliant review. Even though I already have the 11" Air, I still read the review and found it very interesting to get the thoughts of another "regular' user.

    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to write such a great review. That sums up what the word "community" means to me, and it's wonderful!

    Oh, and I LOVE :) my MacBook Air 11.6" - got the 2GB RAM and the 128GB SSD version.

  22. TheMadBrewer macrumors regular


    Feb 11, 2008
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Don't have the 11" yet :(

    I've had no hinge problems with my original MBA, but it only been used a week a month or so over the past 2.5 years.

    And the beer trip is every year, mid-to-late October. Everybody welcome, PM me if you want details....
  23. Dammit Cubs, Nov 4, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010

    Dammit Cubs thread starter macrumors 68000

    Dammit Cubs

    Jul 31, 2007
    I did another test. I wish I can edit my original post.

    Iron Man 2 Running 50% brightness. - 1080p 15 gig file

    Time stamp: 1:15pm 99%
    Time stamp: 3:35pm 11% - i think the movie ended at like 3:15 or something. The movie length on IMBD is 2:04:00 so thats 126 minutes.

    This is using plex with GPU assistant. I'll try standard tv shows and see what the outcome is.

    Edit: I can!!!
  24. bowlerman625 macrumors 68020


    Jun 17, 2009
    Chicago, IL area
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.5 Mobile/8B117 Safari/6531.22.7)

    Good job!
  25. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    A great review, very informative and a pleasure to read. Thank you

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