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.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

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128 months ago

You should try researching the meaning of that phrase a bit more carefully. You miss the point entirely. You take a loose dictionary definition and then apply it to what you think it means. Try wikipedia instead < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem >:

An ad hominem (Latin: "to the man"), also known as argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to link the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.

Your quote is me making a statement about you and your sort, a completely valid one. My arguments only reference facts, not your disabilities. They might be in the same post, but what do you expect me to do, start a mew thread to talk about you and ipad users?

I'm glad you've come around to my argument in this respect: the MBA 11.6 is the far superior choice for portable machines. You say you can edit spreadsheets, but so what? You can't edit Excel spreadsheets and use them the way they're meant to or other office documents. Hell I can edit Excel and Word documents on my Nokia phone by your standard, which is much more portable, has better battery life, 3G, etc, doesn't mean I can do real work on my phone. I can take my MBA anywhere too.

You are trying to tell me that the ipad is useful for real work when it's not. It depends on using stripped down software with limited functionality and a limited interface. You quote "beautiful" as a feature which confirms my point: people only buy the ipad if they are looking for a fashion accessory or are pretentious.

The ipad doesn't come any near the functionality of a laptop like the MBA 11.6. Your camera comparison is weak. The MBA 11.6 is comparable in price but does so many things that the ipad doesn't, can't and never will. Two cameras of differing quality with a big difference in price still take pictures in a similar way.

I know you have difficulty understanding complicated ideas, so here it is in nice simple terms:

The ipad does about 10% of what a MBA 11.6 does, at 75% the cost with similar portability.

Your plaintive cries of "bashing" of your beloved ipad lay bare your position. You're the child with the favoured new toy who just can't handle criticism of it, it doesn't matter what it is the fact that you love it is all that matters.

Meanwhile, people who have invested in a MBA 11.6 or another small laptop instead don't really care what people say, they just go back to getting stuff done instead of dealing with that nagging feeling that they've been taken for a ride. Enjoy your "magical" device.

The definition you quoted PROVES MY POINT. You are saying that my arguments are not valid because of personal derogatory characteristics you are assigning to me and other iPad users. Your statements could not be a clearer example of an ad hominem attack if Webster himself were writing them for the dictionary.

This is the last time I'll respond to you because you are quite clearly someone who has an off the wall hatred of a device that no one is telling you that you should purchase. In fact, this response is really meant more for other readers of this thread than it is for you because I know that you won't read it in an unbiased way.

* You have used no facts at all in any of your arguments. You have used inaccuracies based on what you THINK an iPad is capable or not capable of doing. They aren't based in reality at all.
* I haven't come around to any argument you are making. In fact, quite the opposite. What I've said is that the MBA is an inferior machine for my needs. It does not have the touch interface that makes the iPad eminently useful as a portable device that allows me to do what I need very quickly and move on and yet it also does not have the power of a full-blown MBP. So it serves neither need that I have.
* Let me bring you back to reality. I actually USE an iPad EVERY DAY for real work. I use it at work for up to half of my days work. Whenever I am not in my office I carry my iPad with me and it allows me to get done whatever I need to do while I'm away from my desk. When I'm at my desk I use my MBP. Period, end of story. You can make claims all day long about what you THINK about an iPad but don't sit there and tell me that I don't get work done on it when I do. I would love to know what you do for a living that you can't imagine a scenario where the iPad would be useful for people with certain types of jobs.
* The MBA is NOT comparible in price. The iPad starts at $499. The MBA at $999. The last time I checked double the price was NOT comparable. Perhaps you are using some new math of which my colleagues and I are not aware. Perhaps I'll ask my lead Math faculty tomorrow.
* Here is the part that you will never understand until you actually use an iPad. The iPad does many things that the MBA doesn't do as well. You can not buy a MBA and do everything that an iPad is capable of.
* I also noticed that a lot of your argument is that I'm defending the iPad because I spent so much money on it and it is my favored new toy, etc. etc. Well then let's see how this little tidbit fits into your narrative. I did not purchase my iPad. It was given to me by my employer to use for work as I see fit. This is in addition to the computer that they also provide me. So it cost me nothing and yet I use it for about 50% of my computing.
* Your statement about being able to edit Excel documents on your Nokia phone PROVES that you have never used an iPad. I had the same app (Quickoffice) on my iPhone long before I had an iPad. I only used it for viewing MS Office files on the iPhone because the screen is simply too small to waste my time trying to edit the files. The iPad's screen is PLENTY big to work with spreadsheets, documents, outlines, or any number of things.
* When I talk about how great the UI is for the iPad the best example I can give of that is the application OmniFocus. I have this application on my Mac. When it came out for the iPhone I purchased it there and now I have it on my iPad. The iPad version has, without a doubt, the nicest and easiest to use interface of all three applications. In fact, in designing the UI for the iPad version the developers at The Omni Group are changing the way they look at developing the UI for Mac applications.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
128 months ago

Ok replace, "ipod owners " with "ipod boosters". As I said, if you want to believe that BS that's your problem.

As usual, I have to save you from your own ignorance. An "ad-hominem" argument is basically "you're wrong because you are x", such as suggesting I'm projecting my own "inadequacies". Saying "you are wrong because of facts x, also you are a dimwit" is not ad hominem. "ad-hominem" is a logical fallacy, not abuse.

Ugh, another rabid ipad user, deep in denial. How convenient that the things that the ipad can't do (run windows software) aren't really required. And suggesting you can edit Excel spreadsheets in Numbers proves that you don't actually do any real work on your ipad and that's it's a toy. Those programs might be able to open an Excel spreadsheet, maybe, but will lose formatting and information, often making them completely unusable. As I said, people who actually work. You think that just because you can get some things done on an ipad, if you have heaps of free times and are willing to jump through endless hoops that the ipad is useful. It's not. It would be great to have two people, a set of common tasks such as reworking a spreadsheet with an ipad up against an MBA 11.6. Of course it hasn't been done because it's a foregone conclusion, the ipad is hopeless against a real laptop. You can do almost anything with a laptop, including adding 3G. ipads don't even have a USB port!

My math is fine, just because you for some reason think that an ipad without 3G isn't an ipad doesn't change the numbers. And why you think quoting more speculation somehow makes any difference to actual units sold to date is beyond me. Selling 100m units in 2011 or anything like it is deeply delusional, and makes me thing it will be time to short Apple stock soon.

Your righteous indignation and condescending attitude just sums up the ipad user: arrogant, pretentious and egotistical. Throw in ignorant and in denial and there you have the ipad market in a nutshell. People who believe their ipad is "magical" and "revolutionary" deserve to be relieved of their $500-$700.

Since you have no idea what the definition of ad hominem is please allow me to help you out.

ad hominem |ˈad ˈhämənəm|
adverb & adjective
1 (of an argument or reaction) arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic.
• attacking an opponent’s motives or character rather than the policy or position they maintain : vicious ad hominem attacks.

It is a personal attack instead of a logical argument. Here is where you went into an ad hominem attack...

Your righteous indignation and condescending attitude just sums up the ipad user: arrogant, pretentious and egotistical. Throw in ignorant and in denial and there you have the ipad market in a nutshell.

Anyone reading this thread that has or has used an iPad for more than just a few minutes knows without a doubt that you have not. Numbers, Quickoffice, and Documents To Go ALL not only keep the formatting, information, formulas, and everything else you need in your spreadsheet but they allow you to manipulate the data, change the formatting, sort, and adjust the spreadsheet in any way you see fit. Numbers has a gorgeous and extremely useful touch interface. It slides up a different keyboard based on what type of information you need to enter: numbers, text, dates, etc. When you claim that they are not useful at all you only show your extreme ignorance on this topic.

Finally, this isn't a question of one machine for every job. There is an old saying that goes something like this, "the best camera is the one that you have with you." What it means is that it would be nice to have the greatest SLR with all of the megapixels and lenses that we need to take the best picture possible but it simply isn't practical to carry that camera and all of its accessories with us wherever we go. The same holds true for my MBP and most laptops. This is what makes the iPad a great device to own in the same way that a pocket camera is great to own even when you also own the massive SLR. It is so light that you can easily carry it with you EVERYWHERE. And so the best computing device is the one that you have with you. The only MacBook that even comes close to me wanting to carry it around everywhere is the 11.6" Air. And while I can see it serving a ton of people very well, for me the price for that processor/storage/memory combination is just not worth it. If I were to get an Air it would most likely be the 13" model and then I'd be much more likely to carry the iPad around. So my next MBP will very likely be a 15" model and I'll use the iPad for all the times when I don't need a full-fledge pro machine but having a computing device would be great. And in my life those times are divided about equally.

Just because the iPad does not make sense for everyone does not mean it doesn't make sense for many people. You sound ridiculous with your constant bashing of it, ESPECIALLY when it becomes more and more obvious that you have no personal experience with the device.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
128 months ago

So you think that they're going to increase their sales by around a factor of 10 in around 12 months?

iSupply (sic) does, as they keep ramping the number higher with every update. I guess we can re-open this thread at the end of 2012 and see who was more accurate.

just goes to show that ipad owners will believe anything. Some "magical" sales forecasts to go with your "magical and revolutionary" device.

I am as yet not an iPad owner (waiting for the next spec).

And for someone who has taken others to task for ad hominem attacks against yourself, you certainly engage in making them against others a great deal. :rolleyes:
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
128 months ago

Well if you believe that sort of BS that's your problem. Meanwhile the facts state 3.27m (see below) to July 21.

And another 4.29 million were sold in the fourth quarter per Apple, so that makes 7.56 million so far in calendar year 2010 with Christmas still to come.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
128 months ago

I really haven't heard any arguments as to why the ipad will get more popular...It's over-hyped and set to fade away long term.

The sales figures and production backlog aren't argument enough?

100 million-plus unit sales by 2012 is not my idea of a "passing fad".

And hey, if it only ships a half-billion units or so by the time it "fades away" in the "long term", I am sure Apple will be okay with that. *shrug*
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
128 months ago

Uh, so you're right if they win the class action suit? Gotcha. Maybe you should just admit you were wrong on that one.

what are you talking about? You said the ipad fits no one's requirements and is merely a status symbol. I pointed out how it fits my requirements. One way it fits my requirements is that it requires NO CONTRACT for 3G access, unlike most every other device (yes, I admit this may be a U.S. issue only, but I'm in the U.S.). The only way to get no contract with other devices is typically $50-$60 a month for 2-5 GB. The iPad remains a far superior deal. Further, you need to add at least $75 (per your post) to the price of non-iPads for the privilege of contract free 3G, so that needs to be taken into account in price comparisons. Even comparing currently-available plans, the iPad at $25/month, 2GB no contract, is a good deal.

All you're doing is stating the capabilities of the ipad then saying that's what people's requirements are. What a joke. Look up "cognitive dissonance".

Your reading comprehension seems lacking. I talk about my requirements and those similarly situated. . Again, you are the one who claims the iPad serves no market. I am talking about at least one set of requirements that is fulfilled by iPad.

The fact is that real people, with real requirements can't do real work with a touchscreen device. If you can't do useful stuff on it then it's a toy or a fashion accessory.

I'm pretty sure I do more useful stuff on my iPad than you do on whatever you use as a computing device.

The advantages you state for the ipad, the portability, low cost, battery life, connectivity and the capabilities, such as reading or listening to music, can be done with a small laptop like the MBA, but also lots of other things that the ipad can't. Things like reading in an airplane are actually harder with the ipad because you have to hold it up manually (making it feel quite heavy) or prop it up.

Show me the $800 device with 2GB per month 3G for $25, that weighs the same or less than an iPad, and that has the battery life of an iPad.

And I used to carry my MBP on airplane flights. iPad is much easier. Takes less space, I can lay it flat on my tray, and don't have to wrestle it out of the overhead and worry that the guy in front of me is going to recline into it. I also don't have to take it out of my bag to get through security, and I can use it the entire flight across country and still have more than 50% battery when I land.

Most people I've seen with the ipad do the same thing people do with the ipod touch, listen to music and watch movies, which goes to the fact that it's a just a larger ipod. They usually look pretty smug, which is what makes me think they're pretentious, or they believe Apple's marketing drivel: "a magical device".

Obviously your feelings of inadequacy are leading you to project.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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