Review: 13-inch MacBook Air (mid-2013)

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When Apple announced the Retina Macbook Pro at the 2012 Worldwide Developer Conference, we noted how it seemed like the company was integrating the selling points from all of its devices into one, with the iPad and iPhone’s Retina display being the main point of interest. Fast forward a year and Apple has done something similar, but this time with the MacBook Air. One thing the iPad has always been praised for is its battery life. It almost always lives up to the expectations set by Apple and can often exceed the marks with lighter usage patterns.

With the mid-2013 Macbook Air, Apple has taken that amazing iPad battery life and stuck in a laptop. While it’s not the Retina Macbook Air many of us were hoping for and may look nearly identical from the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that matters. Assuming, of course, that it can live up to the hype. Keep reading for our full review of the mid-2013 Macbook Air. Read more

New MacBook Air software issue artificially limiting 802.11ac transfer speeds

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In its extensive review of the new 2013 MacBook Air, AnandTech notes an issue with the machine’s new 802.11ac WiFi capabilities that it says is limiting the faster Wi-Fi chip’s potential. While it was able to get an average of 533Mbps using the iPerf networking tool, Anand found real world file transfers would only get 21.2MB/s or 169.6Mbps:

I disabled all other wireless in my office. Still, no difference. I switched ethernet cables, I tried different Macs, I tried copying from a PC, I even tried copying smaller files – none of these changes did anything. At most, I only saw 21.2MB/s over 802.11ac. I double checked my iPerf data. 533Mbps. Something weird was going on. I plugged in Apple’s Thunderbolt Gigabit Ethernet adaptor and saw 906Mbps, clearly the source and the MacBook Air were both capable of high speed transfers. What I tried next gave me some insight into what was going on. I setup web and FTP servers on the MacBook Air and transferred files that way. I didn’t get 533Mbps, but I broke 300Mbps. For some reason, copying over AFP or SMB shares was limited to much lower performance. This was a protocol issue.

According to the review, the problem is likely with the OS X networking stack that is for some reason artificially limiting the capabilities of 802.11ac: Read more

MacBook Air refresh looks set for WWDC, potentially with faster Wi-Fi

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Apple appears set to release new versions of its MacBook Air notebook computer at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to information provided by a source. Earlier this week, we reported that Apple is planning to release four new Mac models at WWDC, and we narrowed this down to either new MacBook Pro with Retina display models or MacBook Air models.

Today, we have received specific pricing for the aforementioned SKUs, and the price-points correspond to Apple’s current pricing for the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models. We have yet to receive pricing information that points to the imminent availability of new MacBook Pros (as some had hoped), but perhaps the next refresh to Apple’s Pro portables will arrive in the coming months. Supply constraints to the Retina MacBook Pro line seems to imply that…

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WWDC 2013: Slimmer Retina MacBook Pro w/1080P camera and MacBook Air microphone improvements expected

specs_camera_2xIn a report this morning, one of the better Apple analysts, Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI securities listed his forecast for MacBook Pro and Air updates expected at WWDC. Apple’s annual developer-centric conference begins on June 10th with a keynote. The biggest change is Apple will move to Intel’s Haswell processors. These chips dramatically reduce power consumption, which in turn could allow Apple to need fewer batteries in the Retina MacBook Pros:

We expect the new MacBook, featuring an upgrade to Intel’s (US) Haswell processor, will be in the spotlight for Apple at the upcoming WWDC from June 10. Along with the new processor, we expect the following modifications to each product line:

Retina MacBook Pro to be slimmer slightly, along with a camera upgrade. We expect the 13” Retina MacBook Pro will have a slightly slimmer form factor for increasing its portability. Also, we think the camera spec will be upgraded from HD to full HD. This will improve Facetime and video conference quality in the high resolution Retina display.

The 1080P camera would match the capabilities of the rear-cameras in recent iOS hardware, but this would represent the first time in which Apple shipped a 1080p-capable front-facing sensor.

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If Apple does choose to keep the same batteries and size of the Retina MacBook Pro, the new Haswell chips could push battery life up over 10 hours – an outcome I’d personally prefer. Additionally, how can you make the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro any thinner?

It is so thin that the ports+ fan outlets barely fit now. It would also be an uncharacteristically short sub-1-year duration for the current design.

As for the MacBook Air, at least one improvement is expected by Kuo: Read more

ASUS launching a 4k 31.5-inch monitor – but don’t expect to hook it up to your Mac just yet …

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Update: Pricing has just been announced, at $3,799. Pricey, but actually not bad value in a market that had five-figure pricing not so long ago.

ASUS today revealed that it will launch a 31.5-inch 4k monitor late next month, its 3840×2160 pixels allowing four 1080p HD videos to display full-size on the same screen without overlap. A 4k monitor in such a small package is made possible by using an IGZO panel, whose smaller transistors enable greater pixel density, and is likely to be in the same league (and possibly from the same manufacturer) as the 32-inch Sharp panel we saw at CES.

However, don’t rush out to buy one just yet: it’s unlikely that even a top-spec Mac from today’s line-up would be able to drive the resolution at a decent frame-rate. But the next-generation of Haswell-powered Macs almost certainly will. Indeed, as we mentioned earlier, it’s even possible that a next-generation MacBook Air could do so … Read more

Review: LandingZone’s Secure MacBook Air dock – adds Kensington Lock, Ethernet, USB ports in seconds

I’ve been using the $99 LandingZone 2.0 LITE 13″ Secure Docking Station for the past couple weeks to dock my MacBook Air when I use it at my desk. Until now, when I got to my desk, I would manually plug in MagSafe power, USB hub and sometimes audio jacks – which isn’t a huge pain, but it did add time time and clutter to my workflow.

LandingZone, which started as a Kickstarter project but is now in full production, has a complete solution in a white plastic/steel dock that allows you to secure your MacBook Air, and within seconds, have Ethernet, a 4 port USB hub, power and MiniDisplay Port outs ready for use. Read more