MacBook Air 13″ Ivy Bridge (mid-2012) MBA Ultrabook Review and SSD Performance Analysis

SPECIAL NOTE – QUICK START GUIDE

The MacBook Air Quick Start is deserving of special mention as it is 10 pages of information yet only two single sided pages are needed to get the system up and running.  The rest is done on screen without any effort whatsoever.

The remainder of the guide covers such things as exterior features, accessories, multi-touch gestures as well as OSX software utilities such as Launchpad, Mission Control, Safara web browser, Mail, iTunes, iCal, FaceTime, iPhoto, iMovie, the Mac App Store and iCloud. Trust me when I say we will get into more detail on a few of these before report’s end.

SPECIFICATIONS

The MacBook Air Ivy Bridge is a new release as of Jun 2012 and available in 11″ and 13″ models with prices starting at $949 and $1189, respectively.  Our review model contains a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-3667u Ivy Bridge processor that can reach 3.2GHz in turbo mode, 8GB DDR3-1600 RAM, a 256GB SSD and it runs Intel HD4000 graphics very well through its 1440×900 pixel gloss display.

It’s OS is OS X Lion 10.7.4 however, not mentioned within the package and not published very well by Apple, is the ability to upgrade to Mountain Lion on release in July absolutely free for those buying Apple systems after June 11, 2012.  This is, in fact, one of the reasons why I wanted to get a head start on my OSX education as Mountain Lion will contain features such as Dictation which allows speech recognition and eliminates the need for keyboard use.  Apple is even hinting that Dictation is so user friendly that it will work in other software such as Office. Add to that other things such as Facebook integration, Game Center and Power Nap where your Mac updates even while asleep and Mountain Lion is sure to be a hit.

MACBOOK AIR BUILD

Having had just about every Ultra available in my hands at one time or another along with a number sitting behind me that are in constant use, I have to say that the build of the MacBook Air is, by far, the best Ultra experience yet.  At 2.9lbs, 0.68″ at it’s thickest point and 12.8×8.94″, it is heavier, thicker and wider than my much favored Toshiba Z830 that has seen the world with me over the last several months.  It is the collective of all of the little things, however, that make the MacBook Air’s build what it is.

To start, the MBA is machined like no other Ultra we have felt yet.  First off, the build is very solid with all edging very smooth and the lid, although being firm, opens perfectly and succeeds in the ‘One Finger Top Lift Test’. Unlike the Samsung and a few other ultras, one does not see fingerprint residue as the exterior casing is an aluminum and of a satin style finish which has a great grip.

We mentioned the MagSafe 2 which is found on the left side along with a USB 3.0 port, and headphone jack.  On the right is a SD card, another USB 3.0 port and the new Thunderbolt port.  As much as it is nice to see Thunderbolt, it is refreshing to see a build using only USB 3.0 as so many ultras still use USB 2.0 as well.

27 comments

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

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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….

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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”!

  11. I sell all kinds of laptops, please contact me for new laptop or used at : audiomatches@gmail.com

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