MacBook Air Header

If you follow my rants on Let’s Talk iOS then you know that there’s a running joke about how many times I change my mind. In the last 2 years, I’ve switched from an iMac, MacBook Pro, another iMac, a MacBook Air, a Retina MacBook Pro and another MacBook Air. I don’t have to tell you that that’s insane, and probably not a healthy way to go about living your life.

But I’ve settled. I’ve settled on the machine for me. That machine is the 11″ MacBook Air. It’s the MacBook with the exceptionally long battery life due to its Haswell processor. This — and trust me I would know — is the perfect computer for me. It’s probably the perfect computer for you as well; you just don’t realize it yet.

Three important factors

A good computer is capable of getting work done. Not just text editing or blogging, but real work. I’m talking photo editing and video editing and a little bit of gaming, too. I’m talking graphic design and web design and podcasting. This MacBook Air’s underpowered underpinnings can do all of that, and it can do so surprisingly well.

Portability is another huge concern for me, and if I had to guess, it’s probably a concern for you as well. There exists no Mac that’s more portable than the 11″ MacBook Air. I won’t spout off numbers on weight and size, but if you’ve ever touched the MacBook Air, you know I’m not lying. You’d be hard pressed to find any computer, Mac or otherwise, that competes in this area.

MacBook Air ThinThe MacBook Air set the standard for the thin and light working machine

My last requirement is battery life. This isn’t a factor for desktop machines like the iMac, obviously. But for recently released laptops, it’s become their defining factor; a true differentiator from the laptop of old. Battery life no longer feels like this ominous cloud hanging over your head. For the first time since the laptop’s inception, I feel free to go out with a fully charged device feeling confident about its 9 hour battery life.

Compromise A.K.A. the Mac with the terrible screen

The 11“ MacBook Air is the perfect laptop for me for the reasons listed above, but there’s more to the story than just weight and battery life and performance. The device’s full size keyboard and trackpad are two things that I think we as longtime users take for granted. Having the ability to have a ”real” computer with you in such a diminutive package is a feat that I continue to marvel at down to this day.

As someone who just recently started podcasting, I’ve found it to be an excellent machine for the job. Not only does it have the power, it’s extremely quiet, which is great for podcasting. I’m not just talking about the quite fans that are barely audible when working on a processor intensive task; it’s the low decibel keyboard, too.

The only real compromise that I find with the MacBook Air lineup is the screen quality. Granted, that may be a deal breaker for those who place screen quality above all else, but it’s something that I can live with. That’s not to say it’s not annoying. The MacBook Air’s screen is borderline horrendous. Its viewing angles are a joke and there’s no way to color it to make it sound nicer. And don’t make the mistake of marveling at the Retina MacBook Pro’s gorgeous screen, because it makes the MacBook Air’s screen look even worse. This is the one area where I feel that the MacBook Air fails miserably in. Even the first iteration of the device was pretty lackluster in this area when compared to other laptops.

But even with the terrible screen, I still love the MacBook Air. Screen quality falls below the other important aspects I named earlier: battery life, performance, and form factor. I’m going to wait it out until Apple updates its MacBook Air line with a better screen, which will hopefully be sooner than later. Until then, I’m fine with compromising screen quality in order to benefit from the MacBook Air’s other desirable qualities.

But Jeff, you can’t possibly do real work on that!

I’ve heard this argument for a while, especially after I posted my office work space setup for you all to gawk at. But you should know that I do do real work on the 11″ MacBook Air. In fact, I wrote this post on my MacBook Air. I do graphic design on this machine, render videos from Final Cut Pro X and bounce hour long podcasts from Logic Pro X. Many of these tasks are accomplished while out and about, away from the power plug.

Holding MacBook AirFor my needs, this is the best working machine available today

You can get real work done with any device. You can do real work with an iPad or an iPhone, as long as you have the proper workflow and drive to do so. It doesn’t feel like much of a compromise at all to work on my MacBook Air. It actually feels like I get more done, because there’s less to get in the way. There’s no big monstrous 27″ screen to fill with apps. There’s only so much real estate offered by the MacBook Air, which forces me to focus more on what’s important. You could say that that’s a cop-out in an effort to defend the Air’s shortcomings, but I find it to be a tangible benefit.

There has yet to be a task that I’ve encountered where I’ve said: “I can’t do this, this MacBook Air just isn’t capable.” That has never happened, and I don’t ever think it will. I think that the MacBook Air is the perfect machine, especially the 11″ variety. It’s the perfect balance of all that matters to me. If you’ve yet to try it, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to try one of the best computers ever made.

  • William Z. 

    Am I the first one who leave a comment here? Shafa~~

  • Liam Mulcahy

    I got that same mac yesterday

  • chumawumba

    I love my Air too, but personally 11 inches is too small.

    • Matt Taylor

      That’s what she said

      • Bob

        lol that came to my head after reading it. It said 1 new reply, clicked it and your comment came up.

      • Matt Taylor

        Figured if I didn’t drop the “she said” bomb, someone else would. Haha

    • omrishtam

      i love air to…. i literlly can’t live without it

  • vs511

    I used to have the 11′ MBA (2010) and switched to the 13′ MBA (2013) and the difference is day and night. I used to love the 11′ MacBook Air like anything.

    But now I think 13′ MacBook is the best. Provides 3 extra hours of battery, bigger screen (workspace), an SD card slot for $100 more. Only compromise being the extra dimensions and weight obviously; takes some time getting used to.

    • Damian W

      Agree. 13 inch is the smallest laptop I could work on. Anything less than this, I might as well use iPad or surface pro.

      I think 11 inch screen is mostly for people who travel a lot and don’t really care much or don’t have time to care about the estate of the screen and the comfort of working on bigger screen. Otherwise, why would you work on 11″ at home if you could work on a more comfortable 15 or bigger. Smaller = less comfort + less weight. which one is more important is the individual preference.

      Just recently I switched my desktop screen from 22″ to 27″ and oh I am telling you it is a gigantic difference.

  • Henry

    What games do you play Jeff? And have you connected it to an external monitor to play your games? If so, what kind of FPS do you get?

    • Matt Taylor

      This is not the laptop for games! Correct me if I’m wrong but Apple don’t use high spec hardware, compared to competition… You pay for shiny aluminium and a good OS!

      • Henry

        I agree! But I was just wondering, because I don’t own a desktop but I use my current MBP for school in the day (which I really love) and one round of league of legends at night (I get an FPS of about 80+).

        So if I were to get an air, would it be similar?

      • daftcinema

        No.

        Don’t bother with the Air. Just get the rMBP if you must upgrade.

      • bn326160

        Depends. The Air’s and 13″ rMBP’s only have the Intel GPU, whereas the 15″ have a dedicated Nvidia GPU, which performs better in games. But the Intel is perfectly able to run LoL or CSS or any ‘small’/’old’ game

      • klouud

        Yep. You are paying for overall performance, speed, quality, esthetics, and most importantly — the best OS on the market. If you want to game then you need to go with the MBP or higher – the 13″ MBP retina can game decently at lower res settings – which I am totally ok with. The 15″ has an option for a stand-a-lone GPU and the 27″ iMac has an option for a monster 4GB GPU.

      • Matt Taylor

        You’re right in what you say, however even the discrete gpu chips in the high end high price models are worth next to nothing… Here in the UK, an iMac that costs around 2k has graphics specs of a card that would cost around £70! Macs are not for high end hardware and not for games! The high price tag you pay, is mostly for Apples profit margin, not for high spec hardware! And if you don’t believe that then go research how much it costs Apple to manufacture their devices, including iDevices! It’s shocking and I really wish they used better hardware for the money they charge, or drop the price to where it should be, around 30% less, at least!

        And just a quick ps, go and research what panels the screens in the latest RMBP’s have. Manufactured in early 2012 and with inherent ir problems! They say you get what you pay for in this world but… Not With Apple You Don’t!!

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        I bought a 15″ RMB (the one with the NVIDIA graphics card) this Wednesday and love it. The screen as far as I can tell has no issues whatsoever and as far as performance goes it is incredibly quick and will do pretty much anything you throw at it. As a student Apple even gave me a nice discount so overall I’m quite happy…

      • klouud

        I somewhat agree with what you are saying. This is a mixed bag because Apple will actually modify hardware made by its suppliers to meet its needs. Also you have to take into account that the software is being written for a very small collection of hardware parts – and that is part of why OSX is the best OS (IMO of course). Some hardware Apple lags behind in, and it leads the industry in others. GPU’s are on area that Apple seems to be coming to the table late in. The A7 on the other hand… is ahead of the rest of the mobile industry. But the new MBPr’s have integrated GPU’s that are more than capable of gaming at high FPS’s if you put the settings on “Mid” instead of Ultra. Most people won’t be able to tell the difference in picture quality. But you normally don’t get a laptop to game on – you use a much more powerful desktop. Honestly my 2011 21″ iMac handles games perfectly – I only need to run 60fps on a 720p HDTV screen.. so my requirements are very very low – and gaming looks and works great with that setup! Love it! Steam all the way baby!

      • Adrayven

        Not true! I was testing out Guild Wars 2 on my mom’s brand-new MacBook air 13 inch, I was getting 30 frames per second just fine as long as I left it on medium settings. This is a testament to how far Intel has come with its new integrated graphics.

        For moderate not intensive games like Diablo III or Civ 5, this should be just fine.

        Amazes me how far technology has come to the point to where you can play modern games and such a small system.

    • I don’t game on the Mac outside of simple stuff like VVVVVV, etc.

  • Ilter Cengiz

    Jeff, what have you done? I was thinking to go with 15″ rMBP. Now I have to think and discuss it with myself for an another week.

    • Damian W

      just get 13. find a middle ground

      • bn326160

        but pro of air? ahaa

      • Damian W

        hmm. I guess it depends if you plan to carry it a lot. Air for outside work, pro for home work.

    • Russel

      I went with the 15 inch rMBP. Could never go back.

      I take it everywhere. I never take my laptops anywhere without a bag, be it the 11 inch MacBook Air or the 15 inch Retina MacBook Pro. It’s not even that heavy compared to my 13 inch MacBook Pro I had before the 13 inch Air.

      I had the 13 inch Air, and man, it was so light, but the power was no where near the power in my 15 inch rMBP. I couldn’t edit photos, run DJ software, or even open up more than 7-8 intense tabs on my browser without it lagging.

      It was getting pretty bad. I upgraded to the 15 inch Retina MacBook Pro and I could never go back.

      I run several different resource-heavy tasks such as Logic Pro X, Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro X, Traktor Pro, and like 15 tabs on Chrome, all without any lag whatsoever.

      Portability-wise, the 15 inch MacBook Pro isn’t even that hard to move around, and it’s huge screen size + clarity more than makes up for the slight loss of portability. The power also more than makes up for the portability issue.

      Go for 15 inch rMBP. You will be happy.

      • Ilter Cengiz

        When I consider the size, weight and portability, I convince myself to get an 11″ Air or a 13″ rMBP. But when I consider the gorgeous screen, power and the discrete graphics card, I convince myself to get an 15″ rMBP.
        Also I thought of setting up a workspace with dual machines. An iMac at home and a 11″ Air on the go. The portability comes with power thanks to remote connection.
        I think I’m gonna think a while to decide. *sigh*

      • 13″ rMBP man. You won’t be disappointed. virtually no compromises if portability isn’t your foremost concern.

      • The 15″ was a bit of a bear for me, but don’t get me wrong, when I had it (and it worked) I was satisfied with it. It had a lot of problems though. Those first generation rMBP’s all had logic board issues. I got rid of it after my second issue with the machine.

    • You should get the 13″ rMBP. I think you’ll be very satisfied with it.

  • Decio Arruda

    I have the 13″ MacBook Air. I love it but, I wouldn’t be able to get the 11″. It’s too small for me.

    • Stefano

      I bought the 13″ about two months ago. Perfect for everything.

  • klouud

    Totally agree – and I have the 2011 MBA 11″!!!! So I’m in the stone ages with mine!! I do think that if I had to purchase a new laptop, the 13″ MBP retina would be my first choice – they are much lighter and thinner than they used to be… and I stare at my screen so much that the MBA’s actually has a negative effect on my eyesight. But I agree with everything else you said.

  • Here’s my belief:

    If you care solely about portability: get the 11″ Air
    If you care about portability but want a larger screen: get the 13″ rMBP
    If portability doesn’t matter to you at all: get the 15″ rMBP

    I don’t see the point of getting the 13″ Air. Yes, it has more battery life, but at that form factor, you might as well sacrifice a bit of portability for the screen of the rMBP.

    • Nick

      I disagree, many people prefer the 13.3″ Air over the 11.6″ because of how much scrolling is required on the 11.6″. Plus the price on the 13 Air is cheaper than the rMBP and not everyone needs the extra power that comes out of it. The retina display is nice, but honestly I can’t complain about my 13.3″ airs screen.

      • Alex Marwaha

        First world problems: my fingers get tired when I scroll too much on my 1300 dollar computer.

      • Nick

        Its not my fingers that get tired its that my productivity is reduced.

  • omrishtam

    i love it coz it’s small, powerful (for its size at least) and mobile

  • Cool story bro, hopefully Apple hears you and lives the 90’s screen behind in the next generation.

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      I’d hope for the same too unless they can include a better screen and a better battery and better graphics processing without sacrificing portability and at the same price as the current model…

      • I’m sure they could build an awesome recipe including those factors, ’cause that’s mostly what the Surface Pro 2 is, except battery life is 8 hours…that’ll be fixed with the up coming power cover.

  • Arthur Geron

    My CCE (national brand) T745 core i7(3rd generation) does all that and better due to the specs, and it’s also very thin, light and it’s cheaper than a macbook air.

  • Valinor

    Get the Samsung Ativ Book Plus, its awesome.
    Thinner and lighter then the Macbook Air andddd:
    touchscreen, 3200x 1800 resolution super bright screen
    And no I’m not a Samsung fanboy.
    Got an ipad, ipod and iphone….
    Was funny though when I opened my Samsung ultrabook in the Apple store. Some people looked at me like I desecrated a holy place xD

  • Uwe Moeschel

    Totally agree that’s why I have exactly the same machine…only thing which would top it the 11″ with retina and touchID..maybe next year

  • Brandon Weidema

    i would prefer a 15″ macbook air if one was avaliable over my current 15″ macbook pro retina i think

  • Craig Wayman

    It is useful but the bottom line if you want to do any serious computing the processor is slowwwww! If you want a laptop, get a Macbook Pro (Preferably the discontinued 2012 i7 Macbook Pro), max it out on RAM & add an OWC SSD, and it will blow all these Retina ones away when you run benchmark tests. Fusion drives are garbage. Aftermarket SSDs are the way to go and OWC make the fastest ones for a Mac.

  • Amjad

    MBA 13″ is the device for me. 11 is simply TOO SMALL!

  • weztimonial

    Love my MBA 13″

  • kumar714

    i just got 11” macbook air last night and I’m loving i got 2012 model on which i don’t get the great battery life but i absolutely love this Air.

  • CPVideoMaker101

    Am I the only iBook G4 user here?

  • love the mac

  • I picked this up last year to use while traveling and have really fallen for it. The only complaint is the screen size–at bit too small to work on for too long. That said, I’d travel with it over my 13″ MacBook Pro any day.

  • Jan

    Awesome setup

  • Flynn Larson

    i think the screen is fine. I love my little mac.

  • gonzo

    i loooooove my 11inch mac air! couldn’t live without it

  • janet

    reading this from a macbook air 11′ i still don’t see anything wrong with the screen ya’ll complaining about, i think its amazing!

  • nathaniel mcconnell

    Although the screens on the MBA are TN Panels, at least the 2015 versions support 4k at 60hz external display/monitors. So, if you were to grab a 4k HD Dell, and use the display port from the 2015 MBA, you’d easily make up for the lackluster screen at least at your desk.