Saturday , 25 October 2014
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MacBook Air 13″ Ivy Bridge (mid-2012) MBA Ultrabook Review and SSD Performance Analysis

I was the ultimate PC Guy.  Being an avid PC enthusiast, as I am a motorcycle enthusiast, I believed that Apple and Harley Davidson were simply brilliant marketing schemes that sold millions on the belief that brand ownership was more important than product build.

That was then. Three days ago I received a new Ivy Bridge Mac Air, locked myself in the office, and swore that I would give Mac and OSX a fighting chance with one condition; I needed to get Windows 7 running flawlessly beside OSX .

Just before starting this report, I finished the installation of Windows 7 on my new MBA and, even alongside of OSX Lion, it seems to run better than my PC machines.  The installation of both operating systems on the same computer was easier than that of a typical software package.  My MBA is now an Ultra and my Ultra an MBA.  Go figure!

FOR THE NEW MAC USER FROM THE NEW MAC USER

Don’t let the fact that we installed a dual boot system on our Mac Air deter you from reading one of the most interesting reports that you may find on the MacBook Air.  Truthfully, I had NEVER touched an Apple product prior (well, except for my Gen 1 Ipod) and, if you are considering an MBA purchase, this just may be the most informative and helpful article you will find that helps you on your way.

If you are an enthusiast, our thorough SSD analysis is sure to grab you if our success in this dual OSX/Win7 installation hasn’t already.  This report will be anything but boring as direct Mac/PC comparisons can’t be avoided coming from a devout PC enthusiast of far too many years.

UNBOXING

Our order for the new MacBook Air was placed on 16 Jun and it arrived at our office from Shanghai, China, ten days later, this being very quick considering it was a special configuration.  It arrived in a plain brown box with cardboard inserts securing the internal packaging.  The configured value of this system is $1749 at the Apple Store and shipping from Apple is free.

The interior box is a very plain white with a side shot of the new MacBook Air on its face and sealed in plastic.  Inside was the MBA, also sealed in plastic and accessories consisted of the plug and adapter along with The MacBook Air Quick Start Guide.

SPECIAL NOTE – PLUG ASSEMBLY

It was at this point that we noticed two things very unique to the MBA relating to it’s power assembly.  The first was that the plug connected to the unit by something called MagSafe 2, an ingenious device that requires the user only to hold the connector close to the unit for the magnet to make the connection.  Unlike just about every PC I am aware of, there was no necessity to insert the power adapter into the unit which meant no chance of it breaking (as four already have over the years) when the unit was charging while seated on ones lap and in use.

The assembly contained both two and three pronged plugs (for us Canadians), the three pronged plug adding another six foot length for a total length of twelve feet for the power cord.  This is a far cry from the original Samsung Series 9 review we conducted where our plug assembly broke (on it’s own) within a week and Samsung Customer Service said it would cost around $50 for a replacement. Thanks but no thanks as that is what returns are for. For those Samsung lovers though, the Series 9 has definitely redeemed itself, as shown in our recent review of the Series 9 15″ Ultra.

About Les Tokar

is a technology nut and Founder of The SSD Review. His early work includes the first consumer SSD review along with MS Vista, Win 7 and SSD Optimization Guides. Les is fortunate to, not only evaluate and provide opinion on consumer and enterprise solid state storage but also, travel the world in search of new technologies and great friendships. Google+
  • dravo1

    Does Apple still offer the extended AppleCare hardware warranty on these units? Almost a necessity.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Yes, I noticed it in a Google search. The unfortunate part is how they maintain such control. On any other laptop, if say the RAM or ssd went dead, you could simply replace it…not with Apple! It practically mandates the warranty…agreed.

  • Claran

    Great article.
    To give you some help with … “Now if I could just figure out this right mouse button thingy” To Go to System Preferences and click on Trackpad. Under “Point & Click” you will see a settings for “Secondary Click”. This will give you a “Right Click’ function.

    Sorry if you were looking for “right mouse” help in Windows 7, I cannot help you there.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Thank you and it was the right most button in Win 7 for the most part but I was surprised at the ability to personalize on the mac side. Thank you very the response by the way.

  • asw74

    Les, I was a Windows guy through and through like you were. Call me petty but when my wife insisted on buying the 2011 macbook air (after using a Lenovo X61), I felt ‘betrayed’.

    After 3 Hail Mary’s (you know, for protection)…needless to say, after a few days with the MBA, it is an ‘experience’ and the best designed hardware in any notebook/ultrabook I have seen to date. I had to fight her for the privilege of using the MBA ;p.

    I now easily recommend the MBA to all my friends who want to buy a notebook.

    OSX was another matter. After a while, I started to miss Win7.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Yes…small hiccups as well… Office Outlook just crashed and I lost some messages. In Win 7… What is a crash? Litttle things to work out I am sure but sincerely like the system and OS.

    • asw74

      These are quickbench results for the original Samsung 256GB SSD on the MBA 2011 and the OWC 6G SSD 480GB (I upgraded last week).

      Original: https://www.box.com/s/g6dg77qgv4gu5xuvi8st
      OWC 6G SSD: https://www.box.com/s/07350f2899bd6fea063c

  • David Lindegren

    Migrating an OSX boot drive using Superduper! is very easy, especially if OWC would release a similar “external drive enclosure” for the new “air” as well. You could also exchange the drives, put your old one in an external enclosure and then use the migration assistant to move the information from your old drive to the new one when installing OSX on the new drive.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      I will look closely into this. If you do the migration, does it affect your registration with any of the OS X utilities like iTunes/itore etc and also, once the migration is complete, does it automatically delete the source drive? The deletion of source drive is the big one.

      • David Lindegren

        I am not sure how the iTunes/store is affected.

        What do you mean by deletion? As far as I know it does not automatically delete the source, but if you want it to I guess you can just format it. Superduper! allows for some scripting and stuff to be run after the mirroring so it might be able to do what you are looking for.

      • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

        Yes it may be what I am looking for. The reason I ask about it formatting the source is because this is an Apple thing so there arent two copies. I would like that, however, as it is easier to maintain a duplicate of the laptop.

  • asw74

    I just did a migration last week to the 480GB OWC drive with carbon copy cloner. The new version (last few months now) of CCC has the option to clone not only the primary partition but the hidden OSX install source partition as well.

    I bought the external enclosure, stick the 480GB SSD in it, cloned the main partition and the hidden partition.

    Before you physically replace the SSD, press ALT during bootup and you can boot off the newly cloned drive running off USB (this is an amazing feature of OSX that I wish MS could do with Win).

    If that works, then just put the new SSD in the MBA and voilla, a bigger partition.

    • asw74

      By the way CCC will automatically detect when you destination drive is missing the hidden OSX source partition and all you have to do is follow the on screen instructions, easy.

  • Obone

    I would love to read this on my iPad but those crazy widgets on the left get in the way. please get rid of them.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Try it now and let me know how it works for ya!

      • Obone

        That fixed it, thanks!

        Sent from my iPad

  • Om

    hold on, you can clone Lion, i am a MAcOSX noob, and bought my wife a late 2011 MBP13″, i migrated the installed OS , quite seamlessly using carbon cloner, it was so beautiful and trouble free, i just hated being a PC user, oh..if you found facetime (which we incidentally found out 1 week ago) amazing check out the time machine backup system…sheesh… an apple update launched recently, upset the OSX, 1.45 later the machine had used the latest time machine backup, from an aged netgear nasduo, and restored the entire thing, 0 user input in one hour 32 min….

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Thanks OM. The difficulty lies in getting the recovery partition to clone as well which I dont think you can do. Am I right? Is it partition only and not entire disk? I have a dual boot I would LOVE to migrate!

  • Obone

    Nice write-up. I have been a Mac user since 1985, only in the past 4-5 years have I seriously been able to use them in business. They are great and have been easy to use with the iCloud this year. This really has made it worth having a Mac Pro, iPad, iPhone and I have been waiting for 3 weeks for the retina display Macbook Pro. I hope that the flash drive (768 GB) is just as good. Thanks for the review.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Thank you especially for letting me know about the screen issue. Don’t like losing potential readers!

  • John Ratsey

    You write about the rubber strip around the edge of the lid as if it is a unique Apple feature. Take a closer look at the edge of the display on your Samsung Series 9.

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      You are right John. They have done similar in the new S9 release of less than a month but, IMHO, the key here is to ensue that rubber completely surrounds the screen and, in fact, the most wear I see in laptops and ultras always seems to be along the bottom ledge closest to the hinges.

  • Nox

    Thank you for your review. I’m looking forward to your review of the
    Toshiba SandForce Driven SSD and a comparison with the Samsung one. Apparently, of all the models of the new MBA that I’ve checked in person across various apple premium retailer stores in my current country of residence(India), it seems that only the 11 inch i5 models(64GB/128GB) and the base 13 inch i5 model (128GB SSD) have a Toshiba SSD and only the 256GB 13 inch seem to have the Samsung SSD. I hope that you’ll have your review published before or at least just in time when the “Back to School” discounts roll out here, to help me decide if it’s worth opting for the base 13 inch model(My first Mac) or opt for an Ultrabook instead. Whatever I choose, I still plan to keep Win7 as my main OS.

    Personally, I hate the “lottery” concept propagated by Apple-The idea of getting a “better performing” SSD/TFT for the same price as the one with mediocre performance(in comparison, as evident in the 2011 MBA’s) but advertised as “calibrated” & living up to a certain minimum performance, as decided by the company beforehand, without the customer finding out what he has paid for until he opens the packing & boots the machine and leaving the rest to sheer “luck”!

    • http://www.thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Good news! The article is complete and should be up by days end.

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