back to article Apple's 13-incher will STILL cost you a bomb: MacBook Air 2015

Well, it looks as though the writing is on the wall for the MacBook Air. It’s still one of the slimmest and lightest laptops around, with impressive 10-12 hour battery life. But that 1440x900 resolution is dead in the water these days – especially at Apple price levels – while the chunky metal bezel around the screen is the tech …

  1. jason 7

    Low res?

    Well yes and no.

    I'd still like 1440x900 as a res option in the Windows world when 98% of the choice is 1366x768.

    Plus really at 11/12" are those mega res screens really that worthwhile/useful? I would have thought 1080p would be more than useful at that size.

    Let's have some serious debate about useful resolution to screen size maybe?

    Hmm never thought I'd find myself defending an Apple product.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Low res?

      Ingredients in that debate should include the hit on battery life that hi results screens bring, from the extra light output required to the gpu to drive them.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Low res?

        My mobile has more resolution, less battery and lasts for long.

        No excuse for a low res laptop at that price.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Low res?

      The 1280x800 on my 2009 MacBook Pro is normally fine for me when travelling. 4GB is generally enough memory but I do have a lot of stuff on the disk. But it could be lighter...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low res?

        " But it could be lighter..."

        Seriously? Laptops weigh less than a pint of beer these days. Man up!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Low res? @Boltar

          "Seriously? Laptops weigh less than a pint of beer these days. Man up!"

          Depends on the weight of the glass, but if you literally mean a pint of beer I would like to see your approx. 550g laptop. OTOH my huge desktop replacement probably does weigh less that one of those German steins with all the pewter.

        2. jason 7

          Re: Low res?

          I remember carrying around my old Compaq R4000 laptop (ran a full AMD64 desktop CPU in it) which had a power supply the size of a brick (yes not far off). I think just the laptop and PSU in the laptop bag came to just over 3KG.

          Kids today...

          1. Efros

            Re: Low res?

            The Osborne 1 was the first "portable computer" I used, it came in at 24 pounds.

            1. jason 7

              Re: Low res?

              I had a 'travel bag' for the original Mac back in the late 80's.

              Yes...a travel bag. As per post #278


              As for the rest of your gear I think you had to travel light.

          2. Hellcat

            Re: Low res?

            I think just the laptop and PSU in the laptop bag came to just over 3KG


            Former Sony Vaio VGN-A217M lugger. 3.9Kg excluding the PSU and port replicator! Was a hell of a screen though.

          3. A. H. O. Thabeth

            Re: Low res?


            When I were lad I had to carry round on of these; .

            Seriously I did carry around one of these.

            Tell the kids today and they won't believe you!

          4. Tcat

            Re: Low res?

            Jason, thank you.

            I laughed, many times.

            One of those laughs was *almost* becoming an article in the Amtrak magazine, late spring, 1980.

            I would carry 20 pound Osborne 01 complete with a 5 inch/50 character green screen,

            on the train between Seattle and Portland. I'd plug into the vacuum service outlet in the car...

            The Ozzie came with Word Star, so I would write research and/or news articles for 4 hours instead of driving 20% of the way to PDX just to get to the SEA airport.

            The hardest part was not smashing folks carrying a 'sewing machine' down a narrow isle.

            Certainly it sounds insane today.

            And it will be another 8 years before the Seattle paper comments how a cell phone for the car has gotten so small and cheap, you can now put one in a VW Beetle.

            Wild, huh?

        3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Low res?

          Seriously? Laptops weigh less than a pint of beer these days. Man up!

          Mine weighs about 2 kg and I sometimes have to carry two. If I was travelling a lot I'd definitely be looking for something lighter.

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Low res?

      High resolution in laptops is vastly overrated. The higher DPI is something that most desktop software hasn't been written to cope with so the OS upscales the windows. Upscaling usually makes the window look blurry too. Some apps that do claim to be high DPI aware still suffer from fiddly little buttons or other issues. So the OS and GPU is doing more work and consuming more memory without substantially improving the experience.

      It probably explains why more laptops haven't bothered, although it'd be nice if they offered at least 1920x1080 displays for 14" and 15" models.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Low res?

        For most that's all we are asking for...1080p IPS screens.

        However, I doubt by this time next year it will be any different.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Low res?

        High resolution in laptops is vastly overrated.

        No, it's got to be he higher number. I don't care if I can't use or even see the extra pixels, I must have them. If I don't have them some Samsunovo laptop will have more than me and I will suffer low self esteem.

        My car has 7 wheels you see. And soon I will have that special ligament relaxing surgery.

        More. Higher. Top Trumps.

      3. ThomH

        Re: Low res? @DrXym

        Most Mac software takes full advantage of the extra pixels. It's been a couple of years since the devices started shipping and even having just one Apple device with a high-DPI screen creates a substantial audience relative to the Mac whole.

        Text remains the main improvement. Even if I were buying only a Chromebook, I'd be more comfortable on the high DPI than the regular.

      4. Innocent-Bystander*

        What The Hell?

        "it'd be nice if they offered at least 1920x1080 displays for 14" and 15" models."

        1080P on a 15" screen makes everything appear tiny at 100% scaling. I'd love to see a 15" laptop with 1600x900 so I wouldn't go blind looking at the damned thing.

        I think 1440x900 on a 13" screen Is perfectly serviceable.

      5. Richard Taylor 2

        Re: Low res?

        "High resolution in laptops is vastly overrated. The higher DPI is something that most desktop software hasn't been written to cope with so the OS upscales the windows. "

        Well I use a Macbook Pro 15" Retina as my main machine - generally on a desktop, and find the high resolution/screen real estate extremely useful and comfortable. Apps (primarily homegrown or development) cope very well. Travelling on the train I do switch down the resolution.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Hang on a sec

    So class leading battery life in a form factor that is still one of the nicest around is somehow entry level?

    I'm willing to bet if you do the rounds you wont find something with identical specs at a lower price point.

    Looking at the significant compromises in the the new Macbook. I think the MBA has a couple of years life left in it yet for those of us who want to balance power, performance, battery life and looks.

    Ok I've drunk the koolaid on this one a bit - but for real world uses the MBA (especially the 11") is still pretty well balanced.

    1. jason 7

      Re: Hang on a sec

      Yeah I think the main criticisim you could level at it is maybe its looking a little dated in the bezel side of things and maybe a bump to 1080p as a minimum would help with its price difference over most similar specced laptops. Also maybe offer 8GB ram as the minimum entry.

      Compared to the dongle fest that the new Macbook will bring, I think it's the one I'd get...if I'd had a rich uncle leave me some money etc. etc.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Hang on a sec

        If you find yourself sticking loads of dongles in the new Macbook on a regular basis, then you have bought the wrong machine.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Hang on a sec

          Oh I agree but that won't stop others will it...

          Time to buy stock in Dongle Futures.

    2. imaginarynumber

      Re: Hang on a sec

      The Vaio Pro 13 had similar (and better) specs and cost the same as the MBA but weighed significantly less.

      It did have a shorter battery life , unless you added the sheet battery which resulted in it weighing as much as the Air, added a few mm, cost a bit more but did result in a longer battery life than the Air.

      Oh and it had a full HD touchscreen.

  3. David Lawton

    The Macbook Air is still my favourite laptop ever.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The 11" MBA is my current favourite laptop. I use my laptop for: Office work, browsing, some light programming and email, and I much prefer long battery life for the road, than higher resolution, since I'm not working at an advertisement company.

    In fact, I cannot understand the race to increase resolution at the cost of battery life. Who needs anything more than the current MBA-resolution, except for the ones who work with CAD and graphics, in which case, the MBA is not the platform for you anyway?

    I just hope that Apple will lower the price of the MBA, when all the hype people go for the new MB and a tool belt of dongles. I'll happily keep my MBA for many years to come.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I use a mid 2011 MBA to edit graphics and I've used it for 2D CAD (floor plans, details etc.) and, while not idea, it copes surprisingly well. They are robust little units...

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      I don't want "retina" resolution, mostly because I'm too old to be able to view things at ~30cm or less like the kids of today seem to do :(

      What I do want to see is more vertical scale, since 1080 lines is OK for a 15" screen and bloody well ought to be the norm for 14"+ anyway. Apple are one of the few how offer 16:10 aspect which is better for practically everything but DVD viewing than 16:9

      But 1080 "HD" becomes pants when you get to 24" or more. Really, I want a 42" 4k monitor at an affordable price, but that is not going to be a portable set-up no matter what...

  5. Harman Mogul

    My 11-in MBA is four years old I think, and still a pleasure to use. But the battery life is nothing like four hours now, and the cost of replacement no doubt will compel its retirement. Seven hours battery life is a strong argument.

  6. Efros

    I have a 13" MBA, while it is fast and actually effective at what I use it for, browsing, email etc. I still prefer a windows machine.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge


      1. Efros

        Re Bootcamp.

        Unfortunately school property and consequently the firmware password is not available to me.

  7. James 51

    It's just too expensive for what it is. Apple need to bring it down to at least £500 or over some serious upgrades.

    1. Wibble

      It's not expensive

      As has been said, look at the MBA with other laptops on a like-for-like basis and you're unlikely to find anything cheaper. And you don't have to put up with that Windows mess.

      Oh, and don't forget to add your "anti virus" subscriptions and an asbestos mat to protect your lap from the gnad-cooking Windows laptop...

      Arrgghhh, you've got me going now... Why is it that all windows laptops try to look like Apple laptops, but fail in virtually ever way: nasty plastic cases that flex and creak, massive power bricks, washed-out screens that are utter shite, pathetic letter-box format aspect ratios which prevent you from working, keyboards that have useless keypads so your hands are permanently offset to the left, pathetic piddly little trackpads that don't work, loaded with crapware that's nigh-on impossible to remove, stickers all over the keyboard proclaiming it's a lemon or intel or something, a CPU running at max chat so the fan is permanently on, and that filthy horrible Windows mess that is ridiculously difficult to use...

      Now I'm going to have a cold shower...

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: It's not expensive

        I would just like somebody to make one of these lightweight laptops with a colour memory LCD screen.

        Then my summer working outside in the sunshine is a reality.

        1. Lusty

          Re: It's not expensive

          "Then my summer working outside in the sunshine is a reality."

          +1, someone needs to make a machine which works nicely in the sunshine. Perhaps instead of a black plastic case that bakes in the sunshine, a solar panel would be a good option. I'd happily buy a second laptop purely for garden use. For work the screen doesn't even have to be fast at updating, Word docs are still Word docs with a bit of lag :)

          This machine also has to be tested against beer, gin, tonic and ketchup of course :)

      2. James 51

        Re: It's not expensive

        4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD are entry level specs but £800 is not an entry level price. The battery life is excellent but then I carried an extra battery for my netbook and get something similar. It is a good machine but it's not good value for money and the price of the RAM and SSD upgrades show Apple's contempt for their customers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not expensive


          Can we all just agree that you are talking shit?


          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Re: It's not expensive

            Have you noticed that site, like most, tells you bugger-all about the screen resolution unless you click on technical details for each one in turn?

            WTF is the reason why screen resolution is not a searchable/choice option for selection?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not gone the way of the Norwegian Blue!

    It's like megapixels in cameras. There are 'enough.'

    My wife's latest MBP retina looks a bit better, but it hardly matters. It's light weight and battery life are fantastic. I have unnatural feelings for my MBA.

  9. Ian Michael Gumby

    Mac vs Windows laptops?

    Have you ever tried to develop software on a windows machine vs a Mac?

    Sure, both can run eclipse and both can pull maven objects but because the Mac's OS is more Linux like, its easier. (Note: Mach is not Linux and at that level, you're splitting hairs, and no, it wasn't derived from Linux. Mach actually predates Linux, just ask Avi T. and some folks at CMU... ;-)

    [No. Seriously... remember NeXTStep? ]

    But I digress. The point is that for those of us who develop software, especially in the Big Data world, the Mac has the advantage.

    I'm no fanboi, but I prefer to work with tools are easy to work with. Lets face it. Window 8.1? The UI sucks and I say this as I'm am building two new machines for my wife's office.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Mac vs Windows laptops?

      Have you ever tried to develop software on a windows machine vs a Mac?

      If it's Windows software you are developing then the Mac generally sucks.

      1. Wibble

        Re: Mac vs Windows laptops?

        > If it's Windows software you are developing then the Mac generally sucks.

        Yeah, right. You put the Windows in a VM and develop on that. You can have several VMs for different scenarios (like all the poxy IEs). All the development VMs can be copied from a single installation which you remove all the Windows shite. Even Microsoft ships pre-built VMs for testing IEs on websites (I downloaded the set of three the other day: IE9, 10, 11 on Win7. And as the Windows isn't going to be used for anything other than development, you don't need all the AV shite, orofice, or any of the other CPU-hogging cack that comes with Windows.

        If, as *I* inferred from the OP, you are developing Java or J2EE, then a Mac makes for a really nice environment. Eclipse works well along with Maven and all the other development tools which are ported to a Mac environment. OK, there's no Tortoise port, so you end up using Versions or suchlike.

        It's as simple as this: the majority of all "enterprise" developers I know use Macs. Admittedly I happen to know a lot of freelancers, consultants and contractors, but the fact stands.

        So what's the alternative to a Mac... A horrid plastic laptop with letterbox-sized washed out screen running Windos. Haven't you got any pride in yourself man? A plumber's toolkit costs many times more than a Mac...

      2. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Mac vs Windows laptops?

        Sorry, I meant real software.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Mac vs Windows laptops?

      Have you ever tried to develop software on a windows machine vs a Mac?

      It depends very much on the kind of software you're trying to develop. For anything vaguely posixy then a unix environment is likely to be preferable as the command line in Windows is pretty awful due to the sabotaged keybindings. For GUI apps then native nearly always wins.

      Never got into Eclipse myself, but Python isn't really its strong suit.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Mac vs Windows laptops?

        Yeah, but on the Mac, you have Python.

        Windows? meh

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple Macbooks are basically pointless to steal.

    One of the more hidden advantages of the inability to upgrade the machines is that they make theft pointless as it is simply impossible to reformat the machine.

    Setting a boot password means the machine needs the right password to boot off alternative media, and as the internal media is soldered in you won't be able to swap that for a blank one so you can use the machine again. It makes a stolen unit impossible to sell, and thus less attractive to steal in the first place.

    All you now need is a "finders fee" notice on the bottom (not in sight, or they may nick it for the finders fee alone :).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple Macbooks are basically pointless to steal.

      1. The internal media isn't soldered, it's on a PCIe daughter card. However there are no third party upgrades as of yet.

      2. No need to set a firmware password anymore, Find My Mac - part of OS X, will prevent booting from other media - it just displays the lost notice form the original owner.

      3. You could set a "Finders Fee" notice in Find My Mac too.

      1. Jan 0

        Re: Apple Macbooks are basically pointless to steal.

        > However there are no third party upgrades as of yet.

        Curious - I must have dreamed that I installed 1 TB of storage in my 11" Air. Do you mean that I have to give up my other dream of putting new batteries in it?

        To be fair, I know of no simple way to add memory or upgrade the CPU, let alone improve the graphics processor. So the answer is to buy an AIr with maximum memory and best CPU power in the first place. Let's face it, we've long left those heady times when CPU speeds leapt ahead every year. I expect I'll be able to install 2 or more TB of storage next year.

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Apple Macbooks are basically pointless to steal.

        1. The internal media isn't soldered, it's on a PCIe daughter card. However there are no third party upgrades as of yet.

        Hmm. So you could use a second Mac to access it by swapping the board. I know you can repartition the disk once you have it in terminal mode, but it's at least not for the casual thief. Now you have me thinking of super glue..

        2. No need to set a firmware password anymore, Find My Mac - part of OS X, will prevent booting from other media - it just displays the lost notice form the original owner.

        You can also set a login message, but that is not used if you use Filevault. Duh. However, "Find my Mac" creates possible tracking risks - not everyone's favourite.

        3. You could set a "Finders Fee" notice in Find My Mac too.

        As per 2 - not always of use, and I suspect it needs a network first before it will display that. I can see this of use to some people, but I'm personally not a great fan of electronic stalking. You never know just who is using that data and for what.

    2. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Pointless? No.

      AC1: "Setting a boot password..."

      How many people are bothered to set a boot password, or even know it is an option? Very few, I'd say.

      Also, the storage is not soldered in as mentioned by the other AC.

      AC2: "No need to set a firmware password anymore, Find My Mac..."

      AFAIK, clearing the NVRAM and reinstalling the OS will disable the Find My Mac feature 100%. Not setting the firmware password will surely help the thief.

  11. Stork Silver badge

    I am also not convinced of the HiRez idea. I have a MBP 2010, my wife a late one with Retina display. For my ageing eyes (model 1967) nice enough, but not decisive.

    I actually consider replacing the battery in my MBP, as it just works.

  12. disorder

    I shopped for a ultrabook last in late 2013. Given the MBA basically invented the category of course I considered it, with much respect. The trouble then, was it both didn't have 1080p as an option and the no-touchscreen was at least a negative point (that seems to be philosophical and/or more realistically, about market segmentation.. ). And that bezel /is/ starting to look particularly oversize. For the price point I picked something else. I don't particularly regret it.

    Notwithstanding the incremental intel chip improvements everyone gets, the MBA is a standing target. I find its life cycle quite interesting (from 2008's quirky high end, down to the defacto budget runt-of-litter) but as far ahead as it was, (and if you're OS agnostic - ) others have caught up, even if it retains some outstanding features of its own. Though PC makers can definitely be charged with fluffing useless specs, what I'm /looking at/ in use, is not one of those.

    I wish they'd changed that, at least, because the 'new macbook' doesn't push my butterfly buttons so if I were shopping, which I'm not - the 2015 MBA still wouldn't be it, anymore than the 2013 one - the platform as-is still seems like it needs a half-refresh and I don't think it's a stretch to say the same for plenty of people. If it doesn't for you, that's just fine.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      It also rather depends what you buy it for. If you want to run OSX (which is really the point of that machine), it's not like you have many options. If you plan to run Windows or Linux I would indeed wonder why you'd buy a MacBook - there are some impressive alternatives out there.

  13. Sr. Handle

    Windows sucks

    I compared my MBA with a lot of Windows laptops and none of them have the combination of CPU/GPU power the lightnest, the battery life and the price of my MBA besides the style of it.

    There's no cheap ultrabooks outside most of them are made of plastic and even worst use Windows as OS.

  14. joejack

    How to bring the sexy back

    For the 13.3" model, maintain the form factor, but trim the bezel to make room for a 14.1" 1680x1050 screen.

    That is all.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Fink-Nottle

    Gorilla Knuckles

    My main criticism is I find it difficult to use the MBA keyboard. Unlike other Apple laptops, there's not much space above the top row of keys. Consequently, I find my knuckles continually brushing against the screen which I find distracting. Perhaps I just have the wrong kind of hands ...

  17. nedge2k

    Re: Your phone works on electricity

    Until I got the new QHD XPS 13, I thought high-res screens on 11-13" laptops was a waste of time, along with touch. I only bought the QHD because the 1080p display wasn't yet available to UK punters and supposedly wouldn't be for "a long time". A month later, Apple announce their stuff and low and behold, FHD screen is now an option...

    I still mostly stand by that POV but the QHD screen on the XPS is bloody gorgeous, even if I have had to take a hit on the battery - but i'm plugged in 90% of the time so it doesn't really matter to me anyway. Windows scaling in W10 does a good job too.

  18. wolfmeister

    You try telling that to the kids today!

    All this endless drivel about the resolution! It looks fine, and what possible use would such a high res be on a 13" screen, you'd have to use a magnifying glass to use the damned thing! The Air is hands-down un-bloody-beatable! It's light as a feather making every other laptop look like a breeze-block; the backlit keys are a total joy, it sleeps for weeks and wakes up in about 2 seconds with plenty of battery life should you not charge it... for portable recording work it runs logic pro x fine giving plenty of plugins (25/26 Evans stress test) and is fast as lightning for everyday tasks; and i mean VERY noticeably nippier than my old mac pro 8 core... on top of that, plug it into a huge TV via HDMI and it'll deliver full HD movies all day as a media playback unit. Just add a usb3 external drive (which for 80 quid gives speed & space like my old 1000 quid e-sata rack) and what more do you want? Kids today! Cha! I've still got an old dell lappy with 16mb ram! Try waiting 30 seconds for a simple .txt file to open, lol... Jog on with your ridiculous 'But that 1440x900 resolution is dead in the water these days"

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