The new 11-inch Macbook Air is one of Apple’s most interesting launches to date. Apple has so far famously refused to enter the netbook game, choosing instead to give users the MacBook Air, a thin and light system that still had a regular notebook’s screen and keyboard. This refresh now gives users a choice of screen sizes, and also marks Apple’s first small-screen offering since the much-loved 12-inch iBook and PowerBook models died in 2006.

Thin as air

The most interesting factor here is that the entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air costs the same amount as an entry-level Macbook. Apart from the obvious size and weight differences, the Air comes with a comparatively slower CPU, only 64 GB of solid-state storage, non-upgradeable RAM, no DVD drive, a metal body, no Ethernet port, and half the battery life. Both offer Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi N connectivity, and come with Mac OS X and the iLife suite as standard. Surprisingly, the Air’s 11.6-inch screen runs at a higher resolution of 1366×768 pixels than the MacBook’s 1280×800. Buyers will be divided over which one is the better choice for them.

Sleek as air

The 11-inch Air is 1.7 cm thick at its thickest point and weighs just a hair over 1 kg, making it easy to slip it into pretty much any backpack, sling, or even handbag. It will undoubtedly be popular with frequent fliers, road warriors, college students and anyone who’s ever suffered shoulder ache from carrying a heavy laptop around every day. It isn’t the most comfortable for extended use though—while Apple promises the keyboard is full sized, we found it a bit too shallow for comfort. The body is also so small that your wrists are likely to rest right against the device’s front edge, which isn’t comfortably rounded off.  The trackpad is typically oversized, but is centered to the Macbook’s body rather than to the keyboard, so your palms will drift across it quite often. Finally, the high-res screen is just a tiny bit too cramped.

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