iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MacBook Air

Apple's thinnest and lightest.

May 29, 2008

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Technical characteristics and features

MacBook Air is equipped with Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz (you can optionally buy a notebook with a 1.8 GHz processor) and (good news) 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM (don't forget that you cannot add memory modules either). The hard drive is just 80 GB, which is not very much for these days - 1.8" single-platter model. It's impossible to install a hard drive with two platters as in iPod 160 GB - it's too thick.

The notebook has a 13.3-inch (diagonal) glossy widescreen TFT LED backlit display, 1280x800. We were happy with its brightness. MacBook Air has an integrated graphics adapter Intel GMA X3100 that uses 144 MB of system memory.

Wireless features are typical of Apple notebooks: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n. By the way, data transfer rate from our iMac to MacBook Air was practically always at the level of 5 MB/s - it's a good result (it's about 40 Mbps).


MacBook Air comes with a 45-W MagSafe power adapter with an extension cord, Micro-DVI-to-DVI and Micro-DVI-to-VGA adapter, cloth to wipe the notebook, manuals, and two installation DVDs, one of which contains Remote Disk software. Interestingly, the package does not contain a handle (probably to highlight compact dimensions of the notebook).

Battery life

On the whole, this notebook has a very good battery life. For the movie test we copied a HD version of "All The King's Men" via Wi-Fi. It's 720p (a higher resolution makes no sense here, because it's not a Full-HD display). We set brightness to maximum for video playback (we used VLC), audio volume was at 70%, quite loud for a notebook. This mode loads a CPU almost to maximum, the cooler is working actively. The playback time was 2 hours 20 minutes.

It takes about four hours to charge a fully discharged battery. The charge level of 70% is reached for the first two hours.

Positioning and tendencies

MacBook Air is a purely satellite product for a main computer, for example, iMac or Mac Pro. It's a convenient product for travels and business meetings. However, the lack of an optical drive, only one USB port, and low-capacity hard drive hamper its usage as the main working computer for home and office. But if you already have a main computer, MacBook Air is an excellent addition.

The notebook is designed for well-off people, of course, who can spend a lot on a notebook because it's slim and fashionable, not because it's fast. So the target audience includes top managers, directors, and company owners.

The decision not to integrate an optical drive may become a trend in future. Apple is satisfied with this situation, because it will encourage users to buy multimedia content in iTunes Store instead of watching DVDs - Apple has been actively conquering the online video market for several years already. A lot of people rarely use optical drives even now (once in several months).

Besides, Remote Disk allows to open access to an optical drive of another Mac or PC (the bundled installation disc lets you share a drive in Windows, and it's even easier for Mac, you just allow access to an optical drive in System Preferences). Having inserted a disc into the optical drive of another computer, open Remote Disk in the left Finder panel in MacBook Air, and choose a computer. The computer with the shared optical drive will ask you whether to grant access. If you click Yes, the inserted disc is mounted on the desktop. It's convenient.

However, you cannot install Windows via Boot Camp this way - you will have to buy an external optical drive for $99 (in the USA).

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Page 2: Features, bundle, battery, purpose

Page 3: Performance, price, conclusions

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