MacBook Air 11
Let’s first talk about the MacBook Air 11. This is a very small laptop with an 11.6" display. Although I would not call it a netbook due to its price and power, it is certainly the same size as a netbook – which makes the previous insults Steve Jobs threw at netbooks a bit puzzling.
The puzzle continues when you look at the system specifications. The system comes with a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and Apple’s exclusive Nvidia 320M integrated graphics. These specifications are, for the most part, the same as or worse than what you’ll find in other ultraportables. The Nvidia 320M is the sole redeeming feature, as it is a surprisingly capable IGP. In my tests on a MacBook the Nvidia 320M achieved about 4700 3DMarks in 3DMark 06. I expect that the MacBook Air 11 would score a few hundred less due to the slower processor.
Flash memory is now standard on the Air and is the only means of long-term memory. That’s right – there is no removable hard drive. This is a precedent that future Macs are (to my dismay) likely to follow. Worse, the basic hard drive is hilariously small, offering only 64GB of capacity. If you install World of Warcraft, several thousand music files and some movies you will have filled the hard drive up to capacity. A hard drive this small also effectively destroys the ability to dual-boot into Windows – by the time you partition the hard drive and install Windows 7 you won’t have enough room to install anything meaningful in either operating system.
All of these problems aside, these issues would be worthwhile if the price was reasonable. Apple laptops are extremely well built and offer a superior user experience when compared to many Windows laptops. But the price isn’t reasonable at all – the basic MacBook Air 11 with 64GB of flash memory is $999. That’s right - $999! And if you’d like 128GB of flash memory you have to upgrade to the $1199 model.
Equally unimpressive is the battery life, which is quoted at 5 hours, and the display resolution, which is 1366x768.
This price is absurd. I am not someone who believes in the idea of a “Mac tax." I think most of Apple’s products justify their higher prices by being superior to the competition. This, however, is not a product that is superior to the competition. It is no quicker than a $600 ultraportable (like the Toshiba T235D or ASUS UL30). It offers less battery life. It has the same display resolution. It has less hard drive space and, in most cases, less RAM.
It isn’t clear that the MacBook Air 11 would be a superior choice even if it retailed at the same price as Windows alternatives. At $999, however, the Air 11 proves that even a genius can sometimes do stupid things.