New MacBook Air: The best ever

Apple's spectacularly responsive new MacBook Air is the best Air yet -- and might be the best MacBook, period

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I ran some sequential streaming read/write tests and consistently saw read speeds of over 160MBps and write speeds of over 145MBps while working with 1GB files. In comparison, the previous SSD-based Air clocked in at 35MBps writes and 97MBps reads on the same tests, though it should be noted that the SSD in the Air has seen plenty of action over the past year, which may have influenced those numbers.

But make no mistake: The storage juice in this Air makes everything faster, even versus the same CPUs as the last generation. If the 4GB of 1,067MHz DDR3 RAM is eclipsed and the system goes into swap, the speed and responsiveness of the flash storage makes swap far less noticeable than on any form of disk-based storage.

Speaking of RAM, the new option of 4GB of RAM in the Air is long, long overdue. It was my single greatest complaint about the previous versions -- 2GB simply is not enough RAM for this day and age. I'd have really liked to see an 8GB option, but 4GB is the max, and as with the previous models, it's not upgradable.

The new Air also has no power light at all, unlike all the other MacBooks in existence. I suppose this is because Apple doesn't want you thinking about the concept of on versus off, since the batteries last so long in standby mode. The iPad and iPhone don't have power lights, and the Air is clearly borrowing from those devices.

As far as battery life goes, with full brightness, Wi-Fi enabled, and general usage (that is, no extremely heavy CPU- or storage-intensive tasks), the claimed 7 hours is more or less accurate. With normal use -- Web browsing, watching some Flash video, writing, a pile of X terminal sessions, some RDP clients, mail, IM, and whatnot -- I got 6.5 hours of battery life. Dropping the screen brightness naturally increases runtime. I obviously haven't had the opportunity to test the claims of 30-day standby time. I did note that the new Air charges from flat to full in well under 2 hours, and even 5 minutes of charging added about 20 minutes of runtime, which is good news for the traveler.

Migration Assistant: From old Air to new Air with no sweat 
I always feel that it's important to note how Apple makes system migrations so simple. Those who haven't experienced upgrading from one Mac to another are generally shocked at how smooth and easy the process is. In the case of my Air-to-Air migration, I simply connected them with the $29 USB Ethernet adapters and a length of Cat5e cable, booted the new Air for the first time, and started the Migration Assistant on the old one.

It took about 2 hours to migrate 100GB of data from one to the other over the 100Mbps Ethernet dongles. Following that, I was immediately able to log into a session on the new Air that was completely identical to the old Air, with all my preferences, applications, documents, and settings already there and waiting for me. Needless to say, it would take far, far longer than 2 hours -- and cause significant frustration and stress -- to replicate all of those settings, reinstall all of those applications, and copy all of those files manually.

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