Using the 11 inch and 13 inch from an amateur's point of view

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by cityathrt, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. cityathrt macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    **I know there have been a lot of related threads on the forums, but I'm hoping to offer a perspective from your average amateur user, because I formed one conclusion based on what I'd read, and ended up with another entirely. Please feel free to skip over my thread if you're utterly bored by these topics. I'm not a developer or do any code, just a young professional going back for her master's next year. I have high standards for my tech gadgets, wanting them to combine the latest technology in an attractive form. I use my laptop to browse the internet, Word + Excel + Powerpoint, watch lots of media + Asian TV, music score composing software, the occasional game such as Warcraft 3, Titan Quest, Spore, etc.

    I've been rabidly pouring over the forums since the latest MBAs have come out, and as some might have read from a recent thread, went to the Apple store with the full intention of getting a 13" from everything I've read on here, but.. actually walked out with a 11 inch yesterday! My original intentions were completely wiped out when I started seriously looking at the 11 inch. Shorter height, check. But it just didn't seem to be so much of a problem as I felt I'd understood when reading the forums.

    I got home in the early evening last night, fully intending to get an early nights sleep (intentions being knocked askew are going to be a common theme...), but actually didn't go to sleep until 1:30 am because I was playing with my new (and first) Mac. I've been slightly musing though, afraid that I was missing out on something, so just came home with a 13 inch, and decided to do a side by side comparison (from my purely amateurish point of view).

    Keyboard seems to be the exact same size, with the exception of half height "F" keys at the top of the keyboard on the 11", and an about 80% height bottom row of keys also on the 11".

    Screen size has been discussed to death, so I'll refrain here. I did install Microsoft Office on both units and of course, the bigger 13" screen offers more space to work with for Word. But the 11" isn't that far off, and still quite easy to work with.

    I was hoping the 13" had bigger size text in system function (ie the preferences menus), but surprisingly... I can barely see a difference! The ribbon at the top appears to have almost the same size text. I'd say the 13" has size 12 text, and the 11" has size 11 text. The system preferences window however, has the exact same size text to me (which means... all equally tiny).

    With regards to heat, I know there's been much talk that the 11" runs hotter. I'm currently running media in both and thus far, both become warm and seem to run at the same temperature. Both fans kick on when I use the Asian version of downloadable Hulu.

    Of course, the 13" has a bigger palmrest and a bigger trackpad, but the 11" is perfectly, perfectly usable. My palms are still resting on the laptop, and not hanging over the edge.

    One thing that the 13" does better though, is that I don't have to hunch over to use it on my lap like I do for the 11". This is a minor quibble, but I've been using both sitting against my bed, legs out for the past hour and this is one difference I've really noted. The difference is negated when one switches position or curls up, etc.

    These are my initial thoughts, and I'd be happy to keep sharing if I'm not flamed to the end of world beyond for creating yet another 11" vs 13" thread. :D

    11" specs: 4 GB ram, 128GB SSD, Samsung SSD, LG screen
    13" specs: 4 GB ram, 128GB SSD, Toshiba SSD, ? screen
  2. macrat, Jul 30, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011

    macrat macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2003
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm also on the fence between the 11 and the 13 and I have probably 3 days left to make up my mind before I go on a trip. I already have an iPad 2 but I need my laptop (2006 Macbook) for serious photo-editing while away from my iMac 27. I have photoprocessing software that will not work w/ the iPad (Lightroom and NIK plugins). After I got my iPad2, my old Macbook seem to weigh a ton already:)

    I'm leaning more on the 13" after a visit at the store today only because of the SD slot. On my iMac I find it so convenient to use it when I transfer 200-300 images from my DSLR and this is almost everyday!. It would be the same situation with the Macbook Air. Since I already have the iPad for ultimate portability, I think I will get the 13". But I'm like you. Each time I go to the store and see the 11" Air, I'm back to square one with changed logic :eek:

    So what did you decide to get?
  3. KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    I'm constantly debating as well. Things that used to initially compel me toward the 13in (screen resolution, SD card slot) are now moot points. My main concern is battery life. From what I've read in this subforum, the 11in is simply just getting subpar battery life. And for a mobile device, that's concerning.

    What kind of battery time are you getting between the two devices in your amateur usage (which would be similar to my usage it seems)?
  4. sparkhill macrumors regular

    Oct 27, 2010
    I own both, and based on your post, I think you would be much happier with the 13.
  5. cityathrt thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    macrat -- it seems you do a lot more photo processing than I do, and the one consistent thing I've heard/read on the forums is that the 13 inch is better for those who work with graphics. As hard as it is to pass up the wow factor of the 11 inch... you might have to go with the 13 inch (not that I'm saying the 13 inch is bad! :) ).

    KylePowers -- I went into this with low battery expectations because I was a previous PC user. I'm used to 2.5 hours, max of battery (or more like 20 minutes with my old HP because the battery was well on its way to dying). I too have heard so much regarding the 11 inch's subpar battery life. But as I'm typing this, I'm using the 13 inch which is registering 5 hours left on a 100% charge. I checked mission control and I only have Safari open, and I fully discharged the battery once since I've brought the 13 inch home yesterday. *shrug* In contrast, I've seen the 11 inch at 5 hours on a 100% charge. Either way, not quite what we've seen from the Apple store, so I'm really not sure how they're getting those benchmarks.

    Both models' battery tank down to 2.5 hours if I'm playing video of any kind, whether on YouTube, the Asian version of downloadable Hulu, or Realplayer. When I ran the same applications yesterday on both, they showed the same remaining battery life. :confused: I'll definitely continue to report on this as I keep trying them out.

    I have to say, whether psychologically or actually speaking, the 13 inch looks and feels so much bigger than the 11 inch. It's really a significant difference to me. I've read many threads that talk about the 13 inch and 11 inch both being portable, but I'm tempted to conclude that the 11 inch is still much more portable than the 13 inch.

    When I picked up the 13 inch to use in bed this morning, I noticed that the screen on the airs are so thin that I can see the Apple logo... from the other side. Definitely illustrates why a HD camera didn't make it into the 2011 airs..
  6. roccobladr macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2011
    Just to chime in, I was about to get the 13 inch while I was in the store, but ended up going with the 11 instead. The cpu speed difference didnt seem like a factor. I would have been nice having the SD slot, but its not necessary. The 11 inch seemed to be dwarfed in comparison, but it just works so well.

    My other computer is a windows machine I built in 2002 and have been upgrading. I use it on my 32 inch 1080p LCD tv. So I would have thought the 11 inch would be a drastic difference.

    Well, after a few days of use, my eyes have completely adjusted to the screen. It is awesome. Don't feel like theres any type of struggle. The 13 seems huge compared to this. I don't miss those extra 2 inches at all.

    Another factor to consider is that if the screen really is that small for some applications, just hook it up to an external monitor when that problem arises.
  7. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    Yes and no. The increased resolution is a plus obviously

    However the 13" Color reproduction I find not as good and the smallest tilt on the screen can change the color you see by a good degree. The smaller 11" screen suffers too but no where near as bad as the 13" model, and therefore for doing graphics work where color accuracy is important the 11" has a better screen for that.
  8. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009

    Right on!

    I still find myself using the 11" MBA over my 17" MBP even when I have both machines present in the same room.

    I am amazed by the 11" MBA and intended on using it only as my mobile, out-of-the-home laptop, but it's unintentionally become my primary machine.

    I even lie in bed (not sitting but actually lying supine) and use the MBA!
  9. reputationZed macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2011
    34°55′42″N 80°44′41″W (34.
    The best I've seen so far on my 13" MBA is 6.9 hrs. I keep the screen brightness down around 3 bars, which may be why I'm seeing better battery times.
  10. mrgossett macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2008
    I'm going through the same decision process on the 11 vs 13 question, and I need to decide this week, as I'm planning to buy next weekend during my state's tax-free holiday. I live about 90 miles from the nearest Apple store, so I can't easily drop in and try out both models. I have an older 2008 model 13" Air that I've really enjoyed. I have a Mac Pro and Cinema Display that I use for heavy-duty work, so I use the Air almost totally on my lap in my recliner for web surfing, email, Pages and Keynote work, and a few other school apps (I'm a teacher.) My big question on the 11 vs 13 question is screen readability. I know that both new Airs have a higher-res screen than mine, so text size will be smaller unless zoomed. In some apps, I could use the extra desktop space that the 13" has. On the other hand, I wear no-line bifocals, and I'm constantly pulling program windows to the bottom part of the screen on my 13" to see more clearly with the Air in my lap. So having a shorter display on the 11" might be a good thing in that sense. Is the 11" screen noticeably sharper or better than the 13"? That might make up for the slightly larger text size on the 13". Battery life is not an issue with me, as I keep mine plugged in most of the time. Thanks for any input or opinions that anyone can give, as I'm not going to be able to actually try out either model before ordering.
  11. reputationZed macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2011
    34°55′42″N 80°44′41″W (34.
    From the Anandtech comparison of the 11" and 13" MBA's

    It doesn't sound like there is a significant difference. Since the drive to the Applestore may rule out a direct comparison you may want to give the article a read.
  12. cityathrt thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    roccobladr -- Right there with you regarding not missing the 13"s size.

    mrgosset -- I was similarly worried about text size, so brought the 13" home to compare side by side, and I have to say I really don't notice a difference. It's sincerely like 12 point font versus 11 point, perhaps even 11.5 point font. I'm quite nearsighted, and have no desire to make my eyes worse.

    VMMan -- indeed. Even just over the weekend that I've been testing the machines, I've found myself more "meh" when it comes to using the 13", but I honestly get happy every time I look at the 11" and pick it up.

    reputationZed -- goodness! Three bars? That's really dim (for me), you don't get a headache from reading such a dimly lit screen?

    I've been testing a variety of browsing, movie watching, Excel and Word over the weekend and I don't mind that I have to scroll a little bit more on the 11". Seriously, I don't notice it at all. On the other hand, I do notice the huge palm rest on the 13". It's comfortable, sure. But when I switch back to the 11", I just think they could have done so much more with that empty space on the 13".

    At this point I've all but decided on the 11". I've going to load some videos and pictures later tonight, and see if anything screams out at me. Otherwise... always trust your gut instinct. It was screaming "I want an 11"!!" at me in the Apple store. :D (On a sidenote, man I love these SSDs. I transferred 600+ photos from an external to my 11" this morning, and it took a grand total of.. 10 seconds, when it would take around 2 minutes on my HP. Got to love Apple products. :) )
  13. mortenandersen macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2011
    Scrolling using Word 2011

    Thanks for this interesting and informative thread. As a very likely prospective (future) Word 2011 user on an 11, I wonder if you please can elaborate on what you wrote here: "I've been testing a variety of browsing, movie watching, Excel and Word over the weekend and I don't mind that I have to scroll a little bit more on the 11". Seriously, I don't notice it at all."

    In Word 2011, full screen view, I would not mind some more scrolling VERTICALLY due to the real estate of the 11 screen, but I would not like to have to scroll horisontally. I hope you can confirm that your need to scroll in Word 2011 only was vertically!

    BTW, your day to day reflections and thoughts about the Mac Airs 2011 are very valuable to read for me, as I soon am going to buy one, and I am definitely going in the direction of the 11.
  14. adnoh macrumors 6502a


    Nov 14, 2010
    Thanks for the post. Things like this really help the guys on the fence.

    What I think would really help is if you took pictures of the things you talk about in your fist post. That way people can see the difference as well. I dont think everyone is lucky enough to have both machines side by side and able to do a comparison like that.

    May take a bit of time but I think it would be really worth it.
  15. yongren macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2011
    I'm pretty sure that a 1366-pixel horizontal resolution is more than enough for any standard Word document.
  16. FieldingMellish Suspended

    Jun 20, 2010
    You got to be willing to compromise a bit for the 11. It's like a sports car that you can't fit golf clubs into. So instead of playing golf, you're out there picking up chicks. :)
  17. cityathrt thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    Ask and ye shall receive. ;) Uploading pics as I speak. Unfortunately, this comparison did not make me go ahead and box up the 13" afterwards as I'd planned on doing tonight. That's because.. pictures on the 13" screen were absolutely stunning. (That's the one thing I hadn't tested with my use). They were equally pretty on the 11", but much more meh. When I loaded a picture onto the 13", I literally stopped for a second and just went "wow".

    I also strongly suspect that my 13" has a Samsung screen though. The screen shows better saturation, and the contrast is slightly better. Not enough to be awful, but enough that an amateur like me can notice the difference. I feel that Toshiba SSDs may have been paired with Samsung screens, and Samsung SSDs with LG screens. That's the combination I have. For what it's worth though, the LG screen has not been calibrated, I haven't done that yet as I'm not quite sure how to do it. Although saturation and contrast would be improved by a calibration, sheer stunning-ness of pictures will not be. ..I would like a 13 inch digital frame now, kthx. :) Heck, maybe I should get a Thunderbolt display and just have my 11" plugged into it all the time when I'm home..

    So unfortunately, while I may like using the 11" better, I'm starting to waver because pictures are just so gorgeous. I appreciate fine art, and am an amateur musician so I know a slight bit of what I talk about. Speakers on both models are excellent.
  18. cityathrt, Aug 1, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011

    cityathrt thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    Alrighty, I loaded the same files on both machines and took pictures for comparison. Please note that in some of the pictures I had to turn the brightness down for both (they are at the same brightness levels) because the glare made it impossible to take an accurate picture.

    First off, here's dear MR to show the height differential. As you can see, more scrolling with the 11". No surprise there.

    Same case when it comes to Word. This is 100% magnification, didn't tinker around with settings.

    In Excel, the 13" shows one more column and two more rows. Not a huge deal for me, I work with large Excel files on my work laptop anyway.

    I personally think the system text is very, very similar in both machines.

    And here's the kicker... pictures:
    Due to the 11"'s wide screen, you can see there are more black lines around the ends.

    Here's a portrait view...

    Natural size of pictures as they are opened up. Notice again that because of the 11" screen, more of the screen is utilized in the 13", and hence pictures look much bigger.

    Here is the same picture full screen, again those pesky black bars!

    You can really see the difference in screens here (or perhaps it's my angle. I am not an amateur photographer, just a casual one).

    My brief waffling is over, I'm going to box up the 13" soon and send it back to the mothership. I do admit, pictures look absolutely amazing beyond belief on the 13", and I would sincerely recommend it for anyone who does any type of graphics work, or place a higher priority on prettier displays than portability. I literally stopped and went, "oh no. It's not supposed to look *that* much better" when I loaded the pictures and I saw the 13".

    Once I got used to the 11" again though, it wasn't a problem for me. I'll just have a brief moment of adoration whenever I see nothing but a picture loaded on a 13". At the end of the day, I still prize the ability to shove this into my medium sized bag (that would be a Mulberry Alexa, for any ladies out there) or use it in random places around the house.

    Another thing in the 13"s favor is that since it has a larger palm rest, the palm rest tends to be cooler. But the 11" doesn't get uncomfortable by any means, as I'm currently using it propped on my knees. Up and down bouncing motion is more pronounced on the 11", the 13" is a little steadier when used in this position because of the larger palm rest, but really not by much. Shan't be using either in this position much longer.

    I hope that was helpful, please let me know if you have any questions.
  19. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
    When I compare the MBA 11" next to my MBP 17" it becomes clear how much better the MBP screen can be, but at the end of the day, it's the MBA that I always want to use.
  20. Roller macrumors 68020

    Jun 25, 2003
    @cityathrt: Interesting thread - thanks.

    My chief reasons for choosing the 11" were size and weight. I like having a Mac with a keyboard that I can carry around as effortlessly as my iPad. As much as I like the iPad, though, it's difficult for me to take notes on it.

    My only disappointment so far is battery life. Although I haven't done any formal tests, it seems worse than on my older 13" aluminum MacBook. On that computer, I often had to crank the brightness way down to minimize power consumption, and I guess I'm going to have to do it with the MBA as well.
  21. ovrlrd macrumors 65816


    Aug 29, 2009
    Good comparison thread. One thing that many people don't realize is that for widescreen content they are identical in picture size. You get black bars (on top and bottom) with the 13" with widescreen content, compared to none at all if it's fullscreen 16:9 content on the 11" but in the end the width of the displays are nearly identical. If you can stand a little extra black bars on top and bottom with widescreen content then the picture for that content will be the same size between the two.

    Where the size difference really shines is any ratio less than 16:9, so 16:10, 4:3, etc all have more space to move about on the 13" compared to the 11"

    That said, giving up that extra screen real estate does mean it's smaller and weighs less. You can't really make a laptop any smaller than the 11" MBA and have it still be practical. The inclusion of a full size keyboard, and high pixel density display make it work, and any smaller it would not fit all of that.

    For me though, portable devices are all about size and weight, the smaller and lighter it can be, the better it is. If the 11" MBA is the smallest a laptop can get and still be practical, then that's what I am all about.

    If they make the next iPad even thinner I will have to get it. Same with the next iPhone, though I am kind of disappointed about the rumors of the dimensions getting larger (though it might still be thinner at least).

    Anyway that is off topic, point is, small as possible while still keeping it practical, that is the goal of a portable device. If 11" is not practical for your needs, then the 13" is definitely for you. It's all about what you need it for.
  22. cityathrt thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    :) I'm glad people found this thread interesting and helpful. I know I was driving myself up a wall over the weekend trying to decide what to do, so I hope this helps some regain their sanity.

    ovrlrd -- Ahhh, a light bulb is going off. The 13" isn't widescreen, is it? I think that's why I feel such a jarring difference in the two screens. I was also switching between the 13" MBA and my 13" widescreen HP, and still couldn't quite place my finger on what was so different between the two. In that case, those pesky black bars make quite a bit of sense, and would decide me even further for the 11". I've used widescreen for so long that it's really the ratio that I prefer.
  23. mrgossett macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2008
    Thanks so much for these pics. I'm on the fence about which size to get, and I can't easily visit an Apple Store to look at them in person. I do have one question about the pic (shown below) that shows the System Preferences window open on both models. That window looks wider on the 11" than the 13, and the icons and text look larger. There's an extra preference row across the bottom on the 11", but that doesn't explain the extra width, with 8 icons across on both windows. That window is not resizable, so what's accounting for that? The 11" has a higher PPI (135) than the 13" (127), so everything should be a tad smaller. Maybe someone can shed some light on that.

    Attached Files:

  24. amitdoc2b macrumors 6502a

    Feb 25, 2008
    This photo was also a big deal to me and made me realize 13" is the right size for me (I had been on the fence about 11 and 13 inches as well). It appears that the preferences window in the 13" only takes up 25% of the screen, while the same window takes up almost 50% of the screen in the 11". The extra real estate seems like a big deal if thats the size these windows open in a normal setting.

    I'd also like to see two word documents open side by side on an 11 inch? I'm able to open two documents side by side at 100% on a 13-inch just fine, but would help be an extra deciding factor see this on an 11-inch as well..
  25. mrgossett macrumors 6502

    Mar 18, 2008
    That System prefs window shouldn't be larger on the 11 than the 13, unless it's being scaled up somehow on the 11. Readability of small text (as in this window) has been my main concern with the 11, so that pic is a big deal to me too. Hope someone can explain it.

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