Walt Mossberg Reviews the New MacBook Air
Walt Mossberg, the influential tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has published his review of the new MacBook Air, which comes after testing both the 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models over the past week. Overall, Mossberg finds the new MacBook Air to be a true hybrid between Apple's traditional Mac portables and the iPad in many ways.
I've been testing both versions, but especially the 11.6-inch model, and I find that, despite a few drawbacks, they really do offer the different, more iPad-like experience Apple claims they do. Battery life is strong, and the wake up from sleep is almost instant, even after long periods of being unused.
In Mossberg's battery tests under harsh usage conditions, he found the 11-inch model offering 4 hours and 43 minutes of runtime while the 13-inch model offered 6 hours and 13 minutes. As his report notes, those figures should allow users to reach Apple's stated battery life of 5 hours (11-inch) and 7 hours (13-inch) under more reasonable usage battery and with a minimum of energy-saving techniques.
On the negative side, Mossberg dings the MacBook Air for its "paltry" 64 GB of storage on the low-end 11-inch model and notes that the entry price rises quickly once users start upgrading storage and RAM, as well as adding peripherals such as an external SuperDrive and Ethernet adapter.
But overall, Mossberg finds the machines to be remarkably capable for their size, finding them likely to be satisfactory as a primary machine for many light-duty users, while heavy users may find them to be handy secondary machines.
I was surprised to find that even the base $999 model was powerful enough to easily run seven or eight programs at once, including Microsoft Office, iTunes and the Safari browser with more than 20 Web sites open. It also played high-definition video with no skipping or stuttering.
So, if you're a light-duty user, you might be able to adopt one of the new Airs as your main laptop. If you're a heavy-duty user, who needs lots of power and file storage, they're likely to be secondary machines.
Those users who are considering the new MacBook Air for frequent traveling may also be interested to know that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has determined that the 11-inch MacBook Air does not need to be removed from passengers' bags when passing through airport security, ruling it to be smaller than a traditional notebook. The status of the 13-inch MacBook Air remains unclear, however, as the agency is still deciding whether the machine qualifies as a full-fledged notebook computer that would require separate examination or if its thinness and reduced complexity achieved through the lack of an optical drive and traditional hard drive would allow it to slip through as a smaller electronic device.