On the release of the second generation of MacBook Airs in late 2010, the new models seem to demand consideration. Is the 11″ MacBook Air the perfect laptop for working the photographer working on-location? For the traveling photographer, the 2GB RAM that ships with the base configuration of the Apple MacBook Airs simply isn’t going to cut it. The 11″ MacBook Air comes with the bare essentials – the standard MagSafe power adapter, extension cord, and a square packet. The packet includes a slim, perfect-bound instruction manual, software agreements, and standard white Apple stickers so you can broadcast your expensive taste in electronics. Almost equally mind-boggling is knowing that Apple will inevitably make an even thinner and gorgeous design that will leave your wallet even lighter. Of course, the big question with the appealing design of the MacBook Air is whether it comes with sacrifices that limit its usefulness for the professional photographer.
On the underside of the MacBook Air, one nice touch is a set of four rubber bumpers in the four corners, which keep the bottom of the laptop just slightly raised off surfaces and scuff-free. For as thin and light as the Air body is, it’s actually a little amazing just how nice the build of this machine feels in the hand. The one point where there’s a detectable flex is on the screen – the very thin aluminum casing of the screen does give in the center when the Air is squeezed near the light-up Apple logo. My old laptop is an ancient beast – a vintage 2004 15″ Apple PowerBook – a true dinosaur in computer-years.
The 13″ MacBook Air features the same connections, but also features a built-in SD cart slot.
The MafSafe power connection has been around since 2006, and while it’s not a new feature, the design fits in perfectly with the new MacBook Airs.
The keyboard of the MacBook Air is pretty much the same keyboard found on the MacBook Pro line. One thing of the new 16:9 aspect ratio sported by the new MacBook Airs is that content is, unsurprisingly, narrow. Overall, the battery life of the 11″ MacBook Air is good , but not excellent compared to the larger MacBook Pro models.
With light tasks like web surfing without heavy video viewing, the 11″ Air does deliver on the 5-hour estimate specified by Apple. Aside from general day-to-day use, one other consideration is the very low power consumption of the Air models while not in use – up to 30-days standby juice. Overall, I found general that the modest MacBook Air was more than up for general Photoshop work in terms of quick editing – cloning, layer masks, layer adjustments, etc.
If anything, the stock interface of using the Air’s touchpad was the most limiting factor, due to the slight awkwardness moving sliders with the touch-based interface.
Adding in my preferred interface – a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet – makes processing on the Air much easier, though it takes it out of the realm of an ultra-portable, too. The workaround I found was in rendering 1:1 previews for the batch prior to editing, which made checking focus on a batch import a breeze. Overall, I had no complaints with the speed of using the Develop module in Adobe Lightroom 3.
Again, just as with Photoshop, the biggest stumbling block of RAW processing is the fact that you’re using a labtop – using a trackpad on any laptop, even one multi-touch enabled – is far from ideal. To test the new 11″ Air, I setup a simple experiement – pitting the laptop against my current workhorse, my Apple Mac Pro. My test for these two machines was simple – I exported 60 RAW (Nikon .NEF) files from my Nikon D3 at full resolution to 80% quality JPGs and timed the task. So, is the 11″ MacBook Air the perfect laptop for working the photographer working on-location? However, in terms of delivering an ultra-light platform for mobile editing, the 11″ MacBook Air proves a completely viable solution when size and weight are of paramount concern. I can’t help but think that the MacBook Air line is something famed nature photographer Galen Rowell would have appreciated.
The 11-inch MacBook Air lasts up to nine hours between charges and the 13-inch model lasts up to an incredible 12 hours. Whatever the task, new fifth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with Intel HD Graphics 6000 are up to it. Order an in-stock Mac before 2 pm AEST and have it delivered the next business day in most metro areas. Apple offers two potentially important upgrades for the 11-inch MacBook Air that could alleviate some of my concerns. Normally 200MHz isn’t much to write home about, especially not for $300 more than the standard 11.
Combine the two upgrades and you’ve got a fairly expensive MacBook Air ($1399 if you’re keeping score). The price drop of the latest iteration of retina MacBook Pros means the MacBook Airs have new competitors abutting their top-tier models.
I come at this review as someone who has not upgraded her computer in almost exactly three and a half years.
I ended up selecting the mid-range 13-inch retina MacBook Pro, as the top-tier option comes with an unavoidable $300 bump to a 512GB drive (and an improved processor). The only upgrade I took for my Pro was for the RAM—to 16GB from the stock 8GB, because a healthy portion of my job involves photo and video editing. The slightness of the MacBook Air’s design and uneven weight distribution may affect this perception a little. Like its larger 15-inch brother, the retina MacBook Pro has a full-size HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, two Thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack, and a port for the power cable.
Most of the keyboards Apple now makes are near-identical in design, but I do notice that key travel on the MacBook Air is a little shallower than on the retina MacBook Pro.

This isn't a point of comparison but something that seems worth noting: almost as soon as I brought the Air and Pro into the same house, they began a power struggle over the Wi-Fi connection. One of the reasons I originally made the jump from the original MacBook to the MacBook Pro line was the speakers.
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Conde Nast. Whatever the task, fourth-generation Intel Core processors with Intel HD Graphics 6000 are up to it. With the lightning-fast Thunderbolt port, you can connect your MacBook Air to the latest devices and displays, like the Apple Thunderbolt Display. Even at less than an inch thin, MacBook Air sets a pretty high standard — by making flash storage standard. Since space-saving flash storage leaves room for a bigger battery, you can devote more time to the things you enjoy most.
Though Apple does offer a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo setup, this is only an option with the 128GB SSD model at additional expense. Thankfully, the late-2010 models feature the option of upgrading to 4GB of RAM, unlike the original MacBook Air.
The base model of the 11″ Air ties with the MacBook for the cheapest Mac with display at $999. Price and performance aside, that shiny piece of aluminum is going to look good in its box.
Thin, sleek, and impossibly spare, the case design for the 11″ MacBook Air is a stunning work of industrial design.
There’s zero creak, the screen closes absolutely flush to the body, and the the hinge has no play.
After using the MacBook Air for the past several weeks, it’s actually hard to imagine using anything heavier.
As much as I’d love to see it, even a Firewire 400 port seems as though it might be too thin for this design. Considering there are only two USB ports with one likely to be needed for an external drive, the issues of importing, transferring, and backing up with the MacBook Air certainly highlight the very limited connectivity of this setup.
However, due to the very limited real estate, the only issue here is potentially tight fits with USB port. It’s not a dealbreaker, but back-illuminated keys would certainly be nice for editing, keywording, etc in questionably-lit locations on assignment.
For any photographer not used to multi-touch on their min workstation, the gestures-enabled trackpad is beautiful for quick navigation.
In contrast to the real estate of a larger screen, the relatively short height of the screen means that the working area in programs like Adobe Lightroom becomes extremely tight, even when hiding some content panes. The reason being is simply the limited space available for battery cells in the extremely thin unibody design of the Macbook Airs.
With processor-intensive tasks like photo development, the work time can dwindle to 2-hours. Even with the wispy 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, apps open with almost shockingly alacrity and general computer tasks are fast, fast, fast. Despite diminutive processing power, the solid state drive lends a snappiness to the machine that belies its true specs when compared to mechanical drives. In other words, the basic retouching tasks you’d be performing on-location or while traveling. Using keyboard shortcuts helps diminish this problem to a degree, but it’s still not an ideal situation. Here, the Air really seemed to struggle to render the images at 100%, which can be important when checking focus or determining detail effects like noise reduction or sharpening. However, this system of editing assumes the luxury of time to render 1:1 previews (albeit also with the necessity of checking focus). For exacting edits based on technique and focus, it makes sense to edit as completely as possible before this level of granularity of selection, and then to batch render previews as needed. For the kind of quick edits would would need to process in the field – exposure, WB, curves, etc – changes are pretty much instantaneous and smooth. However, with its compromises also come a level of freedom that translates into an efficiency impossible with heavier setups. Connect to an 802.11ac base station — including AirPort Extreme or AirPort Time Capsule — and experience wireless performance up to three times faster than the previous generation of Wi-Fi. With OS X El Capitan, it’s simple to do amazing things and delightful to do all the everyday things.
I concluded the 11-inch was the pinnacle of portability, delivering the weight and form factor of a netbook but without the drive-you-crazy performance of an Atom.
For $100 more than its $999 starting price, you can outfit the 11 with 4GB of memory instead of 2GB. But if you want the portability of the 11 and are looking to get as much performance as possible, it’s your only option. Note that the original MBA started out higher than this upgraded machine, and the competitors that followed with the SFF LV C2Ds were just as expensive, if not more.Who else is using the ULV C2Ds from Intel? I can’t find any, which makes me wonder how Anand can say the price is “a lot” when there is nothing to compare it to. From preview on SNB destop we can expect 10% higher frequency and 10% higher performance vs.
My laptop before this was a “mid-2010” 15-inch MacBook Pro that recently took as many as 10 precious seconds opening the System Preferences menu while having fainting spells over simple GIFs. For that amount of money, I decided it would be better to beef up my home storage situation and try to carry less material around on the computer itself.
These tasks are already fiddly and moderately enraging enough without a beach ball cropping up for a few seconds after every action.

I expected this weight difference to be barely noticeable when spread over the whole body of a computer, but the relative heft is easy to feel in the retina MacBook Pro. But stacked on top of each other and standing side by side, the Macbook Pro is actually more compact in length and width while sitting lower to the ground than the Air is.
I will cop to being someone who is less affected by this feature, or at least, I don’t melt into a wailing puddle when I meet a 1366x768 screen. Eventually the Air established dominance and blocked the Pro entirely, unless I put the Air to sleep. There's more power, and videos and music sounded less like they were taking place in an Altoids tin. From editing photos to perfecting a presentation to just browsing the web, everything moves ultrafast. With three times the resolution of the previous FaceTime camera, every smile looks a lot brighter. For me, this necessary upgrade gets the MacBook Airs to a bare minimum for photo editing and processing. The interesting aspect of this included USB dongle is that it eliminates the need for an optical drive and disk to reinstall the software.
Not only for surfing the web, but also for working with the cluttered (and scrollbar-filled) panes of Adobe Lightroom, too. For anything more serious, the format of a laptop simply isn’t viable, regardless of the power. Aside from a difference in the processors, we’re also talking 9GB RAM in the Mac Pro vs 4GB RAM in the Air. The 11″ MacBook Air, with its limited processing power and even maxing out to 4GB RAM, is far from the perfect engine by any standard when it comes to photographic software. When it’s time to kick back and relax, you can get up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback on the 11-inch model and up to 12 hours on the 13-inch model. MacBook Air even wakes up fast, thanks to flash storage and fifth-generation Intel Core processors. You also get great apps for email, sur?ng the web, sending texts and making FaceTime calls — there’s even an app for ?nding new apps. The 13-inch was more of a regular, get-your-work done notebook - just in a very thin and very light chassis.
Light web browsing and writing don’t need more than 2GB, but start editing videos, photos or open way too many apps at once and you’ll quickly want more memory. In applications that are CPU bound, you may see close to that percentage in improved performance.
If it’s just a personal thing, then there is a lot of history of ultra-portables that are vastly more expensive for performance making the 11” MBA the cheapest such machine he’s tested, that I can find.If you want to talk 13”, I like the styling of the Vostro but it isn’t close to the MBA.
For the sake of performance Sandy will not be much better than Clarkdale in the CULV space.Thank god Ontario is coming soon. In this review, I’m holding the Pro up against a 2013 MacBook Air with an i7 processor at nearly the same price point. I never liked this march of key wells toward being almost nonexistent, and I don’t really like the flat tactile feel of the MacBook Air keyboard. The disparity in volume and quality between consumer and pro Apple laptops is less than it once was. These new processors also help give MacBook Air its extended battery life, thanks to a new architecture that’s designed to use less power.
MacBook Air even wakes up faster than ever, thanks to flash storage and the latest Intel Core processors. MacBook Air also comes equipped with two USB 3 ports, so you can connect the latest USB 3 devices and access a pipeline that’s up to 10 times faster than USB 2.
Get up to 9 hours of battery life on a single charge on the 11-inch model and up to 12 hours on the 13-inch model. If you’re planning on keeping your system for a while, the 4GB upgrade makes a lot of sense. How can Sony justify an Atom Z550 CPU + GM500 IGP for that price when the bulk of the cost has been reduced to a $30 CPU and IGP. During photo editing, it’s now extremely evident which of my pictures are really, really sharp and which are just slightly, maddeningly blurry. While the Air can get decently loud, it was slightly cracklier and tinnier at the highest volume levels.
The 11-inch MacBook Air features a resolution equal to that of a typical 13-inch notebook, while the 13-inch MacBook Air wows with a resolution equivalent to a typical 15-inch notebook.
Put MacBook Air to sleep, and it enters standby mode to conserve battery life for up to 30 days. Anything below that is tough to feel in real world use, but anything at or above that 10% mark usually feels quicker.
If you happen to be using my same Netgear router, this is an apparent incompatibility worth looking out for. And with Power Nap — a new feature in OS X Mountain Lion — you’ll continue to receive new email and calendar invitations while MacBook Air is asleep.
When it’s connected to a power source, it can download software updates and make backups with Time Machine.
It’s an ultra-portable, I guess, but it’s not in the same class as the Adamo, MBA or now defunct Voodoo Envy.The first Adamo is a well engineered machine. Hopefully they something else coming.Note, that Vaio X is thinner the new MBAs but with an Atom CPU+GM500 IGP and 3 hour battery.

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