Review: A month with Macbook Air 120gb

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by andrewp, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. andrewp macrumors member

    Oct 24, 2008
    So, like the most of you I was really confused whether to buy the MBA, (with the flickering screen, overheating issues, missing cd-drive) or just stick to the top Macbook and save some money.

    I went for the MBA, and I haven't regretted it for a second. So for all the guys who are in the same confusion as I was, here goes my review after 1 month of permanent use.

    Expectations: I am very hard to please when it comes to technology, I am willing to pay much but then it also has to deliver 100%. I went for a Mac because I'm sick of PCs filled with errors, and an OS that you need to control all the time to get the favorable performance.
    I also just entered College and needed a small computer, that can handle everyday tasks + more (unlike the Asus eee crap)

    So main things I'm going to talk about are:
    • A stable machine,
    • Battery life
    • Handling office/homework tasks,
    • Watching HD movies
    • Playing games once in a while.
    • SDD or HDD

    The Heat

    This might be the most discussed term concerning the MBA. For me the heat is a minor problem. Compared to my 1-year-old laptop, the heat control is much better. Placing the laptops on your bed sheet while lying down I couldn't even feel the macbook while the PC got me all covered up in sweat in 10 minutes because the heat was uncontrollable. Only when I played HD movies in my bed, the MBA couldn't handle it and used coreshutdown.
    So overall the heat is no problem unless you don't block the fans while running cpu demanding programs.

    Office and homework stuff run like a dream, but again a mobile phone can handle these things nowadays.

    Watching HD movies:

    This was the most interesting thing for me because I have a lot of HD movies that I want to enjoy on my MBA. The first day I got really disappointed because the players I used were VLC and Quicktime and the playback was really unwatchable due to a low frame-rate. However a guy here redirected me to Plex and now 720p movies run like a dream.
    The only thing that I'm still a little sad about is that the playback of 1080p movies isn't good enough, since my old PC with 1,5ghz can handle it without problems.

    Playing games:

    MBA isn't a gaming machine but it can indeed perform in older games. In my case I tried out WoW, and with reasonable quality and shadow rendering off, it resulted in 30-40fps which is indeed very playable. Newer games like Need for Speed- Pro Street, using a lot of rendering effects and antialiasing won't be playable.

    Battery time:

    The battery life really depends on what you are doing...If you are just surfing the net or doing homework you can expect it to last 4-5 hours. However audio and video playback will lower the charge very fast, for instance a HD playback will only give you one and a half hour.

    SDD vs HDD

    Again a very famous question.
    I went for the 1,86ghz 120Gb model and I'm happy with the HDD choice. The main performance difference will be in the loading times, startup and program loading. The startup may be a little slow 45-50 sec, but programs like Safari launch in 2-3 sec which I can't complain about.
    So IMO the the SDD solution is not worth the money, but if you feel like adding the last bit to your MBA, go on ;)

    The most amazing thing about the MBA is the trackpad. There's times where I'm not using the keyboard for 10 minutes, because the trackpad can do almost everything next to writing. This really speeds up net surfing and switching between windows.

    Looking at the rumored problems stated in the beginning I haven't experienced any mistakes. The screen is clean as a crystal and the lack of cd-drive doesn't matter to me. The wireless remote installation of Mac OSX takes 70 minutes, and the only limitation you have is that you can't install windows unless you try with a bootable USB.


    So here comes the bad/good things:

    • Exclusive design, thin and only 1 kg
    • One of the best laptop displays at the market
    • Amazing Trackpad and a beautiful back-lit keyboard
    • Great performance with 720p HD movies
    • Descent performance in games
    • Silent
    • Good heat control in most occasions
    • You'll get everyones attention


    • Low battery time when playing entertainment media
    • Core shutdowns while overheating, making it slow
    • Can't playback 1080p movies like 2nd generation PCs can

    So imo the Macbook Air is an amazing machine that is extremely underrated and criticized at the market. That's really the thing that made me write this long review, because as a very hard-to-please customer, Im really satisfied with this machine.
  2. andreab35 macrumors 6502a


    May 29, 2008
    That was a really nice review! I enjoyed reading it very much!

    I have a review of my own a while back when I first got my MBA Rev. B. I got my MBA at the time when everyone else started getting theirs after waiting 2-3 weeks.

    Glad you enjoy the MBA. I do to. It's the best laptop I have owned yet!
  3. matperk macrumors 6502

    May 6, 2004
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Great review! I've only had my MBA for a week, but I love it. No regrets.
  4. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2005
    Man I love my Rev A Macbook Air and I know it can only get better.

    Great review and post so far....

    until the Uni Macbook users show up, then this thread is going to be locked.
  5. BlizzardBomb macrumors 68030


    Jun 15, 2005
    Great review, short enough to keep my attention, without missing any of the important details. Hope you enjoy your MBA for many months to come. Hopefully, Snow Leopard will improve on HD performance with Quicktime X and offloading some processing to the GPU.
  6. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    The only problem with your review is you didn't spell it out for people that this is exactly what they can expect from a revB MBA. A lot of people are buying the refurbished revA MBA thinking the same. The revA MBA does not apply to 90% of your praise. I agree the MBA revB is incredible and very worthy of high praise, while the revA MBA is NOT the same.

    Congrats on your very wise purchase of a revB MBA! Thanks for the write up, and please always tell others that your praise is of the MBA revB. Go MBA 2.0!
  7. 1rottenapple macrumors 68000

    Apr 21, 2004
    Good to here. I too have a rev b with ssd. I have used it for handbrake, and mactheripper, as well as numerous bittorrent clients. Works great for it!!! very happy. Not as fast mind you as a macbook or mbpro, however, it does the job well.
  8. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003

    H.264 playback is already offloaded to the GPUs on the rev B Air.

    Quicktime X should improve efficiency further though.
  9. BlizzardBomb macrumors 68030


    Jun 15, 2005
    What I meant to say was some more processing, I did read the article a whlie back detailing it. But nice catch anyway :)
  10. lewchenko macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2004
    You cant have

    'Good heat control in most occasions' as a pro point and

    'Core shutdowns while overheating, making it slow' as a negative point. The good point just isnt true then really is it ?!!!

    The laptop should not overheat to the point where core shutdown occurs. Period. My wife's sony vaio CS model gets hot when used on the bed to watch movies, and the fans come on quite loud... but it never drops the CPU speed down or anything like that.

    I consider this point to be a major flaw of the machine.

    All in all though, Im sorely tempted by the Rev.B model. I wouldnt consider the Rev.A model for almost any price as the overheating issue with that model is unforgivable.

    So Im probably gonna hold on until Rev.C. Maybe that model will have better cooling.

    Nice review though.. Although I think you are a little biased. Your old PC laptop sounds like a nasty cheap piece of work. If your PC laptop had been half decent then it may not have boiled your lap etc !
  11. EnderTW macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007
    That's weird. I can watch 720p mkv files in VLC fine.. No stuttering at all.

    Even quicktime 720p and even 1080p plays fine.. I am not sure what you are talking about?

    I have 1.6/120 rev b
  12. tubbymac macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2008
    Thanks for the review Andrew after using it for a while. It's nice to see the small cons as well as all the big pros taken together. Call it a pet peeve of mine but I hate reading "hey guys I just recieved my new computer and it's PERFECT even though I've only used it for two minutes!!!"

    As to VLC, I had the same initial problem with stuttering on my Macbook and it turned out some of the older versions of VLC were badly done. I switched to a newer version of VLC a month or so ago and it fixed all the stuttering issues.
  13. glitch44 macrumors 65816

    Feb 28, 2006
    I believe there was a previous thread where someone claimed Boxee (or was it XBMC?) is better at HD content than VLC. I haven't checked this out myself.
  14. bmstrong macrumors 6502a

    May 30, 2007
    OT: What torrent client do you use the most?
  15. LinMac macrumors 65816

    Oct 28, 2007
    I ended up buying a Macbook Air Rev. B about a week ago when I went to the Apple store. I really need to stop going there, but anyway... :D

    I've used the Rev. A (1.6GHz/80GB) next to the Rev. B (1.6Ghz/120GB) doing various tasks and I don't see a lot of differences with everyday tasks.

    The Rev. A (Early 2008) runs fine for Safari/Firefox, Adium, Thunderbird/Mail, iWork/, and a lot of other standard software without even turning the fans up. I've run various (heavy) combinations of these without any real issues.

    The real problem with the Rev. A is lack of video power and heat. You can run Handbrake on it at between 14 - 22fps (from my testing depending on options from a standard source DVD) while on a flat surface, but the fans will run very fast when doing it. Quicktime has no hardware decoding (Intel graphics have always been another name for barely adequate graphics) so the CPU works harder at decoding video too. Flash 9 is also a big problem that is partially mitigated by the Flash 10 upgrade because of the massive improvement in CPU usage (1/3 - 2/3 less CPU usage with HD flash video).

    You can talk about the Rev. A all you like, but it is still a decent machine at the right price. Is it worth $999 plus tax? Eh, I think $700 no tax and free shipping is a good price point for it.

    Is the Rev. B a better machine? No question, but most people will not see any problem with the Rev. A under reasonable usage cases. It is no Macbook by any stretch (heat, heat, heat), but it is still very usable.

    Hopefully Snow Leopard will introduce GPU optimizations for the Intel graphics chipsets that allow them to do at least basic video decoding without the CPU. That would go a long way to making the Rev. A an even more usable machine.
  16. EnderTW macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007

    Exactly, that's the reason I bought the MBA Rev b. IF it were just for office work, (spreadsheets, word processing, safari, and chat) then it would have definitely been the MBA rev a.

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