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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Comparing MacBook Air models : 11-inch model or the larger 13-inch version

MacBook Air 11-inch vs. 13-inch: Which ultralight laptop should you get?

We've already compared MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, and you've decided that the svelte MacBook Air is right for you. Now you have to decide which MacBook Air is right for you - the smaller 11-inch model or the larger 13-inch version? Also, what configure to order options make the most sense? Let's have a look.

The 11-inch MacBook Air is Apple's least expensive laptop - its entry-level system,you get a system equipped with an 11.6-inch display (measured diagonally) that can display 1366 x 768 pixels natively. You also get 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash storage.the 13-inch MacBook Air's 13.3-inch display shows 1440 x 900 pixels natively, but under the hood it's very similar - 4 GB RAM and 128 GB flash storage. Like the 11-inch model, you can double storage capacity to 256 GB.

With their lids closed, both MacBook Air model rise barely more than half an inch above the table. Tapered from front to back, they're 0.11 inches at their lowest point and 0.68 at their highest. The 11-inch model is less than a foot wide (11.8 inches) and the 13-inch model is 12.8 inches wide. The 11-inch is lighter by slightly more than half a pound - 2.38 pounds, compared to the 13-inch's 2.96 pounds.
Both systems come equipped with 802.11ac networking and Bluetooth 4.0 support, and both come equipped with stereo speakers. Also, both sport backlit keyboards with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlighting brightness. And despite the 11-inch's diminutive proportions, the keyboard is the same size as its 13-inch cousin, so you make no compromise there, either.
All systems now come equipped with OS X 10.9 Mavericks along with iLife '13 and iWork '13 apps.
Let's start to compare systems and see what options makes sense.

Maximum portability vs. more screen real estate: How much difference does two inches make?

The 11-inch MacBook Air is a bit of an odd duck: it's the only laptop that Apple makes with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The 13-inch MacBook Air and every MacBook Pro sports a screen with a more conventional 16:10 aspect ratio instead.
This gives the 11-inch MacBook Air a decidedly more cinematic feel to it, despite the tiny size. That's the same form factor you'll find on your flat-screen HDTV, for example. The same aspect ratio used in movies. In practical use, this means that you see more width than you do height. So the 11-inch MacBook Pro generates wider, shorter windows than its 13-inch brother.
At 135 pixels per inch, the overall pixel density of the 11-inch MacBook Air is a bit higher than the 13-inch model's 128 PPI - measurable but not huge. The net result is that stuff looks just a smidge smaller on the 11-inch MacBook Air.
Some users love the wide screen; others hate it and claim that the screen is too small. It's very subjective, so my advice is to compare both to see what works best for you.
The resolution of the 13-inch MacBook Air is 1440 x 900. It's actually the same size as the 13-inch MacBook Pro sans Retina display, but with higher resolution. It's higher-res but not Retina - and that's an important distinction to make - Retina display is not an option on either MacBook Air model. That undoubtedly helps the MacBook Air with its amazing battery life, but it also puts it at a disadvantage for users looking for the best-quality graphics and text reproduction on their laptop.
Having said that, we survived for years without Retina display systems - if you don't have it, you may not miss it. And the 13-inch MacBook Air gives you a decent amount of screen real estate to do what you need. If the screen gets too cluttered, fire up Mission Control and create a second desktop space.

Who should buy the 11-inch MacBook Air?

If weight and size is your most overriding factor for your laptop, the 11-inch MacBook Air is your machine. It's barely larger than an iPad Air (albeit more than twice the weight), but it's a fully functional Mac computer that can do just about anything you need it to. The 11-inch MacBook Air is also a terrific computer for kids in school and college students looking for a lightweight, flexible system.
There are a couple of compromises you make with the 11-inch model - 20 percent less viewable area on its display than the 13-inch, and the absence of an SD card slot. But if neither of those are significant factors in what you're doing, the lightweight, tiny 11-inch MacBook Air may be your ideal traveling laptop.

Who should buy the 13-inch MacBook Air?

Of the two MacBook Air models, the 13-inch is the better value: its base configuration is only $100 more than the 11-inch, and it offers superior battery life, more screen real estate and SD card support. And before October's MacBook Pro refresh, the 13-inch MacBook Air provided nearly the perfect intersection in the Mac laptop line between light weight, performance and value.
But then Apple updated the MacBook Pro with Retina display and lowered the price. Now there's only a $200 difference between the 13-inch MacBook Air and the base-model 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. For that $200, you get a significant faster processor and better graphics performance, a much better screen, more memory and storage options (up to 16 GB RAM and 1 TB flash storage), and better expandability to boot thanks to two Thunderbolt 2 ports and an HDMI port. The MacBook Pro with Retina display is also heavier, by about half a pound.
Bottom line: If you're not willing or able to pay for the MacBook Pro with Retina display, or if you want to save weight and don't care about the differences in the two machines, the MacBook Air is a fantastic, lightweight laptop that will get the job done.
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