Apple MacBook Air Fall 2010 review: Apple MacBook Air Fall 2010

There is some confusion over Apple's use of Intel's older Core 2 Duo line in both the MacBook Air and also the 13-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro, but the back-and-forth performance lead compared with the ULV Core i7 Acer Timeline shows that this isn't a deal killer. The real reason for the Core 2 Duo is so Apple can include the pretty decent Nvidia 320M graphics chip. If the MacBook Air used an Intel Core i-series CPU, it would have to use Intel's uninspiring integrated graphics or else a fully discrete Nvidia GPU (which is bigger, requires power, and is more expensive).

Macs have never been known as gaming machines, but a few new wrinkles may change that perception. The Steam platform for online game delivery now has a Mac client (although the selection is still pretty thin), and the OnLive streaming game service works on Macs as well, and has the added value of allowing you to play PC-only games on a Mac.

In a cross-platform Call of Duty: Modern Warfare test, on medium settings at 1,366x768 pixels, the MacBook Air ran at 40.5 frames per second (thanks to the Nvidia 320M), whereas the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118, which has only integrated Intel graphics, ran at 15.1 frames per second.

Juice box
Apple MacBook Air, fall 2010 Average watts per hour
Off (60%) 0.42
Sleep (10%) 0.83
Idle (25%) 5.51
Load (05%) 19.17
Raw kWh number 23.40
Annual power consumption cost $2.66

Annual power consumption cost
Apple Macbook Air 11.6-inch
$2.66 
Asus U30Jc
$4.20 

MacBooks have always been known for the long battery life, and the Air continues the trend. The large, sealed battery takes up much of the system's internal space, and it ran for 4 hours and 23 minutes. That's very close to Apple's 5-hour estimates, although the lowest-power Netbooks and tablets such as the iPad have us more accustomed to all-day computing than ever before.

Service and support from Apple is always a dual-edged sword. Apple includes a one-year parts and labor warranty, but only 90 days of telephone support. Upgrading to a full three-year plan under AppleCare will cost an extra $249 and is pretty much a must-buy, considering the proprietary nature of Apple products. Support is also accessible through a well-stocked online knowledge base, video tutorials, and e-mail with customer service, or through in-person visits to Apple's retail store Genius Bars, which, in our experience, have always been fairly frustration-free encounters.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple Macbook Air 11.6-inch
719 
Asus U30Jc
786 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Apple Macbook Air 11-inch
OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard; 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9400 (ULV); 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 320M; 128GB Apple SSD

Asus U30Jc
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27Hz Intel Core i3 M350; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310M + 64MB Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Alienware m11x - Core i7 ULV
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i7 U640; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 335M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA 4500MHD; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.46GHz Intel Core i7-680UM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio VPC-Z116GX/S
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M; 256GB Intel SSD

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Apple MacBook Air Fall 2010 (Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz, 64GB SSD, 11.6-inch)

Part Number: MC505LL/A Released: Oct 20, 2010

MSRP: $999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 20, 2010
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Weight 2.3 lbs
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce GT 320M
  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4 GHz
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