If last month, someone had told me that I would be compiling a ten page report of the MacBook Air on my MacBook Air while using OS X Lion, I would have told them they were dreaming. Things change though and there were just too many things that attracted me to this release to keep me away any longer. While I still stand by the fact that pound for pound, the Intel Ultra may be more affordable, the MacBook Air displays a number of superior qualities and it’s starting prices of $999 and $1199 comes very close to that of many Ultra buys.
With our initial order, definite pluses were the fact that it took only ten days to arrive from China with free shipping and there were plenty of configurations available when deciding on exactly what we needed. With this came something many never bargain for and that is that the MBA is, for the most part, upgradeable only at the time of purchase. If you want 8GB RAM, vice 4GB, it is integrated into the board to keep the units size very small and there is no upgrading after the fact. As well, migrating a system to a larger SSD after the fact would be like pulling teeth given the proprietary nature of OS X.
As much as the 1440×900 HD resolution, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt, SD card slot, MagSafe 2, and a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion on release are huge benefits, I am wondering how I am going to be connecting this to my big screen via HDMI as there is no port present, something that I definitely found a great deal of use in with my Ultras. A similar concern may be expressed by those upgrading who have also learned that, although an adapter is available for older MagSafe power adapters, the adapter for this version of Mac is not directly compatible with the older releases.
Although we haven’t done any timed testing of battery life, we can confirm that the MBA, in normal surfing and e-mail patterns, easily bypasses the six hour mark and, as well, sound quality is among the best we have heard from any Ultra with stereo speakers well hidden in the keyboard. This sound is complemented by HD quality video when watching movies or simply talking on Face Time which has 1280×720 resolution.
That brings us to our opinion of Apple’s proprietary nature which is the biggest turnoff of them all. Yes, it works to their advantage but what happens if we want to ‘simply’ migrate to a larger SSD or if our OS fails and needs to be replaced? As a reviewer, I have spent the last two days chatting back and forth with our friends over at Other World Computing, only to find out that we cannot test the OWC Mercury Aura Pro MBA mSATA SSD as it is not physically compatible with this mid-2012 release of Apple products and, more importantly, a simple migration does not exist with OSX Lion. It seems that the operating system is so proprietary that migration could be accomplished but only at the expensive of a final loss of data on the original SSD.
Last but not least, we should speak on SSD performance which, for the most part, is excellent. We know that, in purchasing an MBA, the buyer has no idea whether they are getting the Samsung PM830 SSD installed or the Toshiba branded ‘LSI SandForce Driven’ option and this still bothers us a great deal. Identification only makes sense as the upgrade to an SSD is the most visible upgrade one will observe in their system purchase, trumping that of even the CPU and RAM. On the other hand, unlike other Ultra releases that resulted in serious customer concerns, Apple has followed the high road and both SSD choices are top tier SSDs that we could spend weeks arguing over which is the better. Big Plus here Apple!