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CNET First Look
Apple MacBook Air (Fall 2010, 11.6-inch)By doing more to differentiate, and dropping the entry price, the new MacBook Air succeeds in carving out more than an enthusiast niche for itself.
-Hi, I'm Dan Ackerman, and we're here with the new 11.6-inch version of the MacBook Air. We've gotten a little bit of time to play around with it now. So, we've got a feel for it. You know, it kinda feels like a mix between a traditional MacBook Pro and the sort of premium netbook-style 11-inch systems we've seen this year. Obviously, very thin, very light, starts at about 0.68 inches in the back, tapers down very narrow in the front. The 13-inch version actually has the same thickness. You don't really get a big discount on that area by moving to the 11-inch version, but they're still both very slim. There's a couple of interesting notes about the 11-inch version. It is the first MacBook that we've ever seen with a 16:9 display. This is actually a 1366 X 768 native resolution display. That's pretty much the laptop standard now for anything, you know, 11 and like 15 inches. You've also got a very familiar, you know, flat, widely spaced key keyboard. If you have any other, you know, MacBook experience, you'll recognize this, and of course, the same large multi-touch touch pad, and of course, it uses the same sort of multi-finger, you know, gestures that the other MacBooks all use. If you're familiar with the original MacBook Air, you'll be pleased that instead of just 1 USB port, there are now 2 USB ports----one on each side. There's no SD card slot on this 11-inch model however. Internally, this is actually a lot closer to the white $999 basic MacBook than anything else. It's got an Intel Core 2 Duo processor from that older line, along with NVIDIA's 320M graphics rather than something from the newer Intel Core i3, i5, i7 line. It's the ultra-low voltage version of that processor, but it still seemed pretty zippy in our anecdotal use. And the NVIDIA graphics are at least as good as what you'd find on the white basic MacBook, which is perfectly adequate for basic gaming. Inside is basically all battery. They've taken the hard drive. It's an SSD drive, but it's the flash components inside the SSD drive. They've just kind of soldered those right onto the motherboard rather than having it in the traditional hard drive case, so there's more room inside for batteries. And, you should get about 5 hours of use on this and Apple claims, if you just close the lid and leave it alone, it has up to 30 days of standby time, which is actually kind of similar to what you get from an iPad. And one more iPad-like feature that Apple is eager to point out is what they call "instant-on." So, if we take the laptop and we shut it down, as you know, when you boot up your Windows PC, your laptop, your desktop, there's definitely, you know, 45 and 90 seconds, maybe even more, to get it to boot up. And Macs are a little bit quicker, but really not that much. So, with this new "instant-on", once the laptop is powered off like it is now, if I just hit the power button, let's see how long it takes to turn on. If I have one or two design issues with the new MacBook Air, is that there's now backlit keyboard, which we've kinda gotten used to from a lot of MacBooks and even other laptops. In fact, there's a big blank spot right here on the F5 key where the backlighting button is on other MacBooks. And we also miss the edge-to-edge glass over the display that on a lot of other MacBooks. It looks like you have this big, thick, silver bezel that just doesn't look as good. Other than that, you know, we've heard people asking for 2 big things from Apple over the last couple of years: one, a smaller MacBook; and two, a less expensive version of the MacBook Air. And this guy starts at $999. So Apple has pretty much combined those 2 wish-list items into one system. I'm Dan Ackerman, and that's the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air.