New Sandy Bridge MacBook Airs take ultra-light to new highs

Posted on by Mike Evans

My 11in MacBook Air is now just six months old but is soon to be upstaged by new models featuring the Sandy Bridge processor. Even without the forthcoming upgrade, this ultra-light computer is definitely the best portable Mac I’ve owned—and that’s a long list, ranging from the final G4-powered Power Book through to a very recent 13in Pro. Unless you really want a 15in or 17in screen, more ports and a built-in optical drive, the 11in Air is about all the portable computing power you need.

I equipped my Air with the 1.6GHz processor, 4 GB of memory and the 128GB SSD. I knew from experience with my last 13in MBP that an SSD dramatically reduces startup and wake up times and makes for much faster disk access in use. I also try always to max the RAM because this is perhaps the most important upgrade you can make to increase speed. Better a slower processor with maximum RAM and an SSD for real-world computing.

The 11in model, with its high-resolution 1366x768 letterbox display, offers a more usable screen than the 1280x800 13in MacBook Pro. The 13in Air is even better, with a resolution of 1440x900, identical to the 15in MBP. You definitely do not feel shortchanged with the diminutive Air. It starts quickly, wakes instantly and feels, subjectively, faster than the lower models in the MacBook Pro line. In fact, the duo of Airs is already making the 13in Pro models irrelevant. Sandy Bridge will only clinch the deal.

As you see, the iPad is virtually the same width as the Air, while the 11in computer is just over 2in longer. The Air weighs 2.3 lb while the iPad is 1.35 lb. If you want a small, portable computer buy one of the Airs rather than a 13in MacBook Pro. You won’t regret it. And I would strongly recommend the 11in over the 13in Air. It is not much larger or heavier than the iPad and is the sort of computer you can carry around every day without realising it’s in the bag.

My dilemma will come when the next-generation 11in Air comes on the scene later this month or early in July. Should I upgrade? Probably not, at least not immediately. I don’t feel a burning need for more speed and, frankly, the only real improvement I could envisage would be a doubling of the 128GB SSD to 256GB. That would be really useful, but not yet essential. For the moment, there’s a lot of life left in the current model.


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