back to article Apple MacBook Air 11in 2012

The 11in MacBook Air took top spot in El Reg's recent round-up of the best Ultrabooks – even though, strictly speaking, it isn’t actually an Ultrabook, according to Intel’s proprietary definition of the term. This 2012 model doesn’t tamper with the winning formula, but it does provide a respectable update that should keep it at …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Summary-very nice but pricey

    The trackpad on these has to be used to be believed. I can't imagine going back to anything else.

    The more interesting bit is what they're clearing out as refurbs to make way for this-two years ago I never could have imagined that these things would ever reach £639 new with warranty.

    1. Jason Hindle Silver badge

      Re: Summary-very nice but pricey

      Indeed, the best way put me into full, gushing fanboi mode (with the requisite ElReg down votes ) is to get me started on on my 2011 13" MBA. My main system at home and also a great travel companion but bloody expensive (but not much more than comparable "Ultra Books" on sale at the time).

      It looks like Apple is giving the MBA range a nice update without the added expense of a retina display. I do think a bigger SD option is needed for the 11" though - that would make it a perfect photographers' field laptop.

      1. Michael Jennings

        Re: Summary-very nice but pricey

        You can buy the 13 inch base model from last year (4Gb/128GB/1.7GHz) for £789 from Apple refurb store right now. This is probably just them selling excess stock of the old model due to there being a new one. I have this model, too, and it's just lovely.

    2. larokus

      Re: Summary-very nice but pricey

      Are you kidding me ? I would NEVER consider a trackpad that requires two fingers an UPGRADE. In the world of body mechanics, using MORE energy and akwardness to accomplish a task is not better just because it is different. I will take a PC trackpad with the side page scroll incorporated into the trackpad any day over apples iteration. Unless of course carpal tunnel is your flavour.

  2. Silverburn
    Facepalm

    Dammit, and I just bought the "old" version last month for the wife.

    Someone plase stamp "muppet" on my forehead please.

    1. Pessable
      Angel

      > Dammit, and I just bought the "old" version last month for the wife.

      I bought my MBA just before the previous version was announced last year. Because it was within 28 days, the Apple shop were quite happy to exchange (i.e. no charge) for the newer model. I was astounded to be honest, so impressed I even paid the difference to get the i7 model.

      I love my MBA, but I don't like the OSX interface. But I hate the decaying performance of Windows so I shall have to put up with OSX until MS abandons the registry model, which seems to be the root of the problem. I wish Windows 7 "just worked".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Same here

      I've hardly used my Air since I got it on sale in December. The one feature i'd want from the new one is USB3 - I want a Thunderport or Firewire 3 CF card reader - can't find a reasonably prices one. No USB3 -> Thunderport adapters either.

    3. macfan95

      buyers guide

      Macrumors runs a buyer's guide that recommends when/when not to buy a mac based on how long it's been since an update for a given model. It can be helpful to avoid this situation although sometimes one just can't wait any longer for an update.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. jai

    ethernet

    I've had my 11" since it's release in 2010 and i can tell you exactly how many times i've needed to plug an ethernet cable into it - that number is one less than the times i've wished to do so, which was once when it would have saved me walking from the lounge to the other room to use my iMac to check the network.

    Sure i can see that you might prefer an ethernet connection if using it in an office every day for work, but then in that case, you surely should be using a MacBookPro instead.

    1. dz-015

      Re: ethernet

      "you surely should be using a MacBookPro instead"

      Why "should" you be using a MacBook Pro just because you're in an office?

      Also, the new MacBook Pro doesn't have an Ethernet port either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ethernet

        I happily use an 'Air' in the office - the USB to ethernet adapter is literally tiny and weighs 20g maybe - no deal at all. Most of the time I use wifi - but if I need to go 'wired' (for some reason) it's trivial. Really don't know why people make an issue out of it - probably Mac haters as it's the only fault they can find in an 'almost perfect' ultra-notebook.

        If you carry your laptop around a lot / cycle / walk to work you will certainly appreciate it's 1kg weight yet being fast enough to use as a desktop.

        1. I_am_Chris
          Gimp

          Re: ethernet

          I also happily use a 2011 13" Air as my main office 'desktop' computer. I never bought the ethernet to usb adapter thinking I could get one if I needed it. 10 months down the line and I've still not got one.

          Connected to a 30" 2560x1600 monitor makes it the perfect workhorse for enterprise with the additional bonus of great protability (weight and battery life).

          It isn't used exclusively for 'office' tasks but for the analysis of scientific 'big data' in academia. Having access to a 500 core HPC cluster an ssh command away does help, though :)

        2. Penti

          Re: ethernet

          @Anon Coward

          Apple sells a 29 USD / 25 British Pound Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter now, so you get the full 1 Gigabit Ethernet speed without going for a third party USB 3 to Ethernet adapter. As easy as the USB Adapter, not included but at the same price as the slower adapter and it doesn't need that 49 GBP Thunderbolt cable :) PC Ultrabooks have it tougher as USB 3 to Ethernet adapters aren't as common. They aren't included either. The option of Gigabit ethernet for 25 GBP is really a pretty good one here. At a desk you would probably prefer it connected to a Apple Thunderbolt display for convenience (it only got one Thunderbolt/Displayport port) or through those adapters that will come in September.

          Belkin will be 399 dollars for the Thunderbolt Express Dock though. The Belkin is designed to also be compatible with Thunderbolt-enabled PC's too though, so it will be certified and have drivers for everything. Something the Thunderbolt Display won't. However if you want to dock it (or them) you can, it's only a modest hike over a ~250 USD docking station and those are usually for 1500 USD laptops. Plus there is always the possibility of doing it the cheap way with a screen that takes DP input (or any other input with cheap cables), and a USB-to-ethernet adapter if you need screen, ethernet, keyboard etc connected at once. Ultrabooks and other light ultraportables have enough power for most. The only thing you really can fault them for is lack of discrete graphics, though that is a fault for most notebooks if you actually like to have any power there.

      2. MagicBoy

        Re: ethernet

        The 2012 does, just not the retina display model.

  4. Kebablog

    "So if you bought a spare power supply for a previous MacBook Air you won’t be able to use it with this one"

    The converter is available from Apple for £10

  5. Bodhi

    Lack of a dedicated ethernet port is a bit of a fail in my boox, as Wireless is the work of Satan and anything which encourages its use is a bad thing (TM). It's OK for occasional browsing ona smartphone, anything else.....ugh.

    1. NogginTheNog

      No Ethernet

      Apple make consumer devices. Consumers use wireless over wired something like 98% of the time. So it's hardly a surprise is it?

      1. Spiracle
        Coat

        Re: No Ethernet

        "Apple make consumer devices... "

        What are the chances of them renaming the MacBook Pro the MacBook Con?

        1. Jeebus

          Re: No Ethernet

          Renaming it to "Overpriced metal sheened wireless deelie for mugs" would be better, and far more accurate without calling iTards what they actually are.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No Ethernet

            It's funny, because so many professional musicians use Mac laptops. Even Kraftwerk who aren't "tards" by any stretch of the imagination.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No Ethernet

              It's funny, because so many professional musicians use Mac laptops. Even Kraftwerk who aren't "tards" by any stretch of the imagination.

              No sensible reason why a lot of musicians use Apple computers over other brands - the mid to high end software is available for both OS-X and Windows, and in my experience it is as stable on both platforms. For studio use, I'd much rather have a non-Apple system since I have a lot more choices with regard to things like RAID controllers, the latest SSDs, etc. For live use, most bands using laptops are simply streaming backing tracks from them, which can be accomplished from something as simple as an audio player that supports WAV or FLAC (one band I recently supported even used a mobile phone's media player, with the phone switched to flight mode!).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Kraftwerk

              Is that what they use now? I know they've used modified Vaios in the past on tour a lot.

            3. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: No Ethernet

              Musicians do. Using the ASIO protocol (instead of Windows Sound Mapper) for external sound cards is a pain in the whatsit on Windows, it keeps reverting to WSM and other weirdness. Not only that, but your soundcard won't even work if your FireWire card is made by the wrong company. Win7 won't allow you to change your default MIDI device to a softsynth without some buggering about in the registry... its all a mess, really.

              Macs just work, and are quieter than most PCs out there. And multitouch iDevices have some obvious uses in a Digital Audio Workstation setting.

              (happy PC CAD user)

          2. Tom 79

            Re: No Ethernet

            >Renaming it to "Overpriced metal sheened wireless deelie for mugs" would be better, and far more accurate without calling iTards what they actually are.

            Does posting dumb shit like that make you feel better about your miserable self?

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: No Ethernet

              > Renaming it to "Overpriced metal sheened wireless deelie for mugs" would be better, and far more accurate without calling iTards what they actually are.

              Strange how tossers like you can't support their overpriced claim with links to where one can find a comparable PC for half the price of a Mac. Put up or shut up, please.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Ethernet

        No big deal - Starbucks doesn't offer wired ethernet

  6. Alex Walsh

    I read these have a 300 charge life on the batteries? On El Reg I think. Doesn't that mean you'll need the battery replaced in under a year?

    1. Chris Sanderson

      I checked mine the other day out of interest... well over the 300 charge mark, nearly at 400, no degredation on the battery at all. Works like a charm

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Apple quote 1000 cycles til 80% capacity

      ...and whilst those are their figures, I've seen Mac Book Pros that have been left plugged in almost constantly, yet still have usable battery life after several years- more can be said for some other laptops.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Battery Cycles

      1000 http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1519

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah why not post 50 charge cycles or other complete cr@p - do the research - it's at least 1000 'full' charge cycles and then only to 80% capacity - so you could basically do a full charge / recharge 1000 times (about 3 years) and only have lost 20% capacity.

      The realistic 'life' of the battery is probably around 1500-2000 cycles and thats 'full' 0-100% cycles - not just topping off after 20% used etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC

        Calm down dear, it's only the internet!

      2. Alex Walsh

        You're right, I was thinking of the Retina displayed Macbook Pro. Said to hold about 80 percent of its charge after 300 recharges.

  7. ajgraham
    Meh

    Have a look at the MacBook Air lineup and it's surprising how little difference there is between the 4 models. There's a £400 difference between top and bottom but only the cpu (tiny difference) and hdd is different. Normally Apple would at least put in some silly downgrades/upgrades to make more of a separation between the top and bottom models.

    Good to see the default RAM is now 4Gb, could never understand paying ~£800 for a computer with 2Gb

  8. SlOrbA
    Unhappy

    No mobile broadband

    This formfactor is useless with out pervasive connectivity to networks and Apple still doesn't provide mobile broadband on it's laptops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No mobile broadband

      Mifi, job done. You can even plug the Mifi in and use it as a USB modem.

      Whatever mobile broadband module they would fit would be the wrong one for some people. So buy the correct one for you in your country.

      1. Michael Jennings

        Re: No mobile broadband

        The trouble with putting mobile broadband in a laptop is that the upgrade cycle for mobile broadband is much faster than that for laptops. Every year's mobile broadband modems and mobile phones support faster data than the last year's, and every now and then we go on a bit upgrade like the one from HSDPA to LTE that is forthcoming. Average life for a laptop is something like four years, and by the end of that you will be using a very old and slow standard for your mobile broadband. This is bad for you, and the networks don't like it either, as old standards use their spectrum less efficiently than do new standards. (I have a mobile broadband contract with Three, and they encourage me to upgrade my hardware quite frequently, sometimes by offering me a new modem completely free with no obligations. This is much less of a problem with smartphones and their upgrade cycle of 18 months or so. We are waiting to see whether this will be a problem with tablets, as I am not sure anyone knows what the typical upgrade cycle length will be there yet).

        So once your laptop is a couple of years old, you shouldn't be using internal mobile broadband hardware even if you have it. People will, though, which is why it is best for it not to be installed in the laptop in the first place.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No mobile broadband

          "Every year's mobile broadband modems and mobile phones support faster data than the last year's,"

          Doesn't seem like it in the UK unfortunately. Last time I tried using mobile data the rate was still pitiful. I'll have to do some more speedtests for precise figures, but it's not good.

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: No mobile broadband

      Strange. Apple seem to be having no trouble at all selling these, despite their being so "useless".

      Your name is Larry Page and I claim my £5.

    3. Toxteth O'Gravy
      Thumb Down

      Re: No mobile broadband

      Eh? Why pay extra to have a 3G modem built in when you have a perfectly decent one in your smartphone you can connect to over Wi-Fi?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No mobile broadband

      iPhone on 3G network + Tethering = mobile broadband (connected via either Bluetooth or WiFi)

  9. gerryg
    Flame

    link says it all

    http://9to5mac.com/2012/06/13/ifixit-tears-down-the-new-retina-macbook-pro-calls-it-least-repairable-laptop-ever/

    I have no view on others finding Apple desirable. My test market of three relatively sensible teenagers/young adults tells me that all of their Apple laptops have suffered component failure (it's how I found out about iFixit) and each of them have "consumed" at least two iPods.

    The changing nature of the power supply connector is in marked contrast to, e.g., most mobes

    http://www.reghardware.com/2011/02/09/ec_common_phone_charger/

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/09/miniusbs_and_common_connectors/

    You don't have to be a Greenpeace nutter to wonder if this is great.

    Looking forward to using the flames for the govt's renewable heat initiative.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: link says it all

      I didn't flame you, but want to point out that whilst it would be nice for Apple to use MicroUSB, there are a lot of iDevice chargers and cables out there, and docks and car systems. Sensibly, their charger is a generic USB charger supplied with a cable.

      Nokia, on the other hand USED to be a de facto standard- every house in the land had a Nokia charger - buy a Nokia phone and you'll never run out of juice. Then they went small, and now they sport Mini and Micro USB sockets but won't bloody charge from them!

      As regards Greenpeace, I have seen a lot of Macs outlive their PC brothers - if only because someone has got fed up with Windows slowing down and just bought a new PC.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: link says it all

      Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason for no ethernet port is that it's simply too thin. I have the previous generation one and the bottom part (not screen) is barely thick enough for a USB port let alone a relatively chunky ethernet port.

    I used the USB to ethernet adapter if I had to have 'wired' ethernet (very rare these days) - so a thunderbolt version will be good and it's such a minor issue to have to leave one in my laptop case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have the i7 2011 'Air and I have the USB to Ethernet adapter which I bought 'just in case'.

      I've used it twice - both times in hotel rooms.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "iTards"

    I do wish there was some sort of filter for this crap.

    Yes, Apple make expensive consumer-centric products which are annoying locked down (Retina MBP battery gluing and RAM-soldering are 2012's idiotic ideas it seems). Yes, they attract zealots. My experience is that a Macs allows me to get more work done with less faffing around - people time is more expensive than kit.

    At out small software development services company we started using Macs to do iOS development only, but now we're replacing the Windows boxes with Macs as they reach end of life. I tried a couple of flavours of GNU/Linux a couple of years back but it was too painful on laptops - wireless, 3G, suspend/resume issues, audio and printer driver issues. With Macs we get all the handy command line tooling (out of the box and with Macports) without the GNU/Linux laptop pain or the Windows cygwin pain.

    YMMV, buy what makes you happy. TBH I miss my old Thinkpads, before Lenovo started making them out of cheese.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: "iTards"

      I second the motion for an iHater filter. They can be allowed back in when they back up their claims with evidence.

      They are especially irritating because the rest of us would like to talk rationality about the future of the kit that we use, and new ideas and standards often pop up on Apple kit. I'm a PC user. Take the ThunderBolt interface for instance - that has the potential to blur the distinction between desktop and laptop, offering as it does the ability to offload a discrete graphics card into a docking station, as Sony have used it for on the equally pricey Vaio Z (along with fast external storage and a monitor to boot). Exciting stuff, in so far as tech goes.

      That's high end kit at the moment, but give it a year or two. This stuff will affect us more than one manufacturer deciding now that many of its users don't use Ethernet enough to warrant a dedicated socket. Shit, one relative of mine bought a new laptop purely because her old Toshiba didn't have a caps-lock light or a SD Card slot...

      Viva la difference.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "iTards"

        Thunderbolt is, of course, a copper wire implementation of Intel's LightPeak technology which is fibre optic. Sony vaio Z uses LightPeak which is why it's got the bandwidth for the GPU. Eventually I expect apple will get around to putting LightPeak proper in its laptops but at the moment even the connector hasn't been standardised. The Sony vaio z uses a modified USB interface containing both a fibre connection and a wired connection for USB.

        The brilliant thing about thunderbolt/LightPeak is that it's just a fast data channel and any protocol can run over it. I expect to be able to wire my gaff up for fibre optic in the next few years and then I'll have a single fast data bus running around it with all my computers, tvs, monitors, projectors, etc, hanging off it and no more need for shitty wifi, power Ethernet adapters, etc., etc. Please sort out the connector standard intel, ta!

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: "iTards"

          This isn't accurate. Originally, Thunderbolt was an optical technology with a marketing name of 'LightPeak', but they found they were able to get 10Gb/s out of copper and at the same time provide 10W of power, whilst the interfaces and cables are also cheaper.

          Having dropped the optical aspect of the technology, it needed a new name.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "iTards"

            I don't think it's inaccurate but congratulations on having skimmed the Wikipedia page on Thunderbolt. It's a pity you didn't read the whole thing. Fibre optic is still being worked on and is what I'm waiting for ideally. One single cabling system for a property is what the industry should be working towards.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Air vs Surface

    Interesting to see head to head comparison with MS Surface Pro. Also pricing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Air vs Surface

      To do that the Surface would have to actually be shipping.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple spinning their wheels

    So the new Macbook Air is here, and nothing important has changed - except the price. The base 11" model still has a 1366x768 TN screen and a miserable 64 GB SSD, despite SSD prices continuing to go down. But the price went from 979 euros to 1099 euros.

    When the new Zenbooks were introduced, with their 1080p IPS displays and improved (and backlit!) keyboards and trackpad, the argument was to wait and see, the new Macbook Air would retake their design lead. Well, the new Macbook Airs are here and the only thing that's changed is they are overpriced compared to the 2011 Airs.

    Apple is just spinning their wheels and protecting their profit margins when they should be worried about a competitor that suddenly seems to be listening to customer feedback and then actually does something to fix the complaints.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Apple spinning their wheels

      "So the new Macbook Air is here, and nothing important has changed"

      You might not care, but a large number of people care about performance. The new models are faster in all aspects than the previous generation. Faster chipset, faster RAM, faster SSD, faster USB, faster graphics.

      "Apple is just spinning their wheels and protecting their profit margins when they should be worried about a competitor that suddenly seems to be listening to customer feedback and then actually does something to fix the complaints."

      ...what 'complaints' would those be..?

      1. Mikko

        Re: Apple spinning their wheels

        "...what 'complaints' would those be..?"

        Lack of keyboard backlight, keyboard feel, touchpad feel, display quality and resolution, like said above.. I am of course talking about the last Zenbook generation. What impresses me is that Asus is addressing the complaints and even exceeding expectations. If they continue doing this - removing pain points and delighting their users - Apple will have a real battle on their hands. After all, they are used to the competition just making incremental improvements - a faster chipset, faster RAM, faster SSD, faster USB, faster graphics between generations - something that just improves a few benchmark scores, basically. So from that perspective Apple is just keeping up with general technological progress with the 2012 Airs.

        Why this particular case is annoying me is that Apple is overpricing their new Macbook Airs. Not against some nebulous PC competition which you can always dismiss, but against the very, very similar 2011 Macbook Airs. The base model euro price increased by 120 euros, for example.

        In any case, this is the same crap AMD and Nvidia have been pulling for a couple of generations - a new generation card will cost a bit more and draw a little less power than the similarly-performing older model. And just look at what the hard drive producers are getting away with. Are these the first signs of Moore's law really breaking down - instead of getting more for less you get more for more? Or is this just a sign of a company or an oligopoly with pricing power just jacking up prices because they can?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apple spinning their wheels

          "In any case, this is the same crap AMD and Nvidia have been pulling for a couple of generations - a new generation card will cost a bit more and draw a little less power than the similarly-performing older model. And just look at what the hard drive producers are getting away with. Are these the first signs of Moore's law really breaking down - instead of getting more for less you get more for more? Or is this just a sign of a company or an oligopoly with pricing power just jacking up prices because they can?"

          ...so how do you explain that like the Air, they bumped the specs for the MacBook Pros but they are both $100 less than the previous generation?

    2. Joe Foster

      Re: Apple spinning their wheels

      Arn't the zenbooks by the same people who managed to make a tablet with a non-functional GPS due to design, and never really properly fixed it?

  14. larokus

    Nice but..

    Most people that buy a Macbook Air won't have a clue where Ivy Bridge 'is' ..... <== cute right

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