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MacBook Air 11" vs 13": my take!

Well, there seemed to be two camps debating loudly over the Internet as to which is the better choice - a MacBook Air (MBA) 11" or 13". These are my thoughts.

Some background. I come from using a Windows notebook for years, notably the Lenovo ThinkPad. A few years ago, I used a T400, a 14" power horse that runs at a resolution of 1440xsomething. It was a pretty good machine. But I hated it. The reason I hate it was its weight and size. It's not a big monster, mind you. 14" at that time was state of the art. The weight, though, is a killer.

I decided to ask for a change. My company changed it to a X200. The X200 is noticeably lighter but I have one reservation. I am not sure if I could accept the smaller screen and smaller screen real estate. The X200 has a resolution of 1280x800. I use Excel a lot. Can I see my whole spreadsheet?

When I finally got the X200, I thought it was the best ThinkPad I ever had! Best ever! It was so light at 1.5kg. The 12" didn't bother me at all. The smaller 1280x800 resolution didn't reduce my productivity. I love it that I could carry it around as I move from meeting rooms to meeting rooms.

So, when I decided to consider a MBA, my first choice was 11". Light and small is my mantra now. In reality, it is actually 11.6". What's more, during the CNY red day sale, it just cost RM2,788. Cheap right? I placed my order online. Then as I was waiting for it to ship, fate had it that I stopped by machines and saw the MBA 13". Hmm, I thought to myself then. 13" seems to be nicer. Yes, it is heavier and it feels bulkier compare to the MBA 11" but I get more screen real estate. Not only that, you get longer battery life (MBA 11" has 5 hours while MBA 13" has 7 hours). Isn't 13" a better choice? Did I just made a mistake?

For days I researched the Net. I read articles and articles and visited forums (MacRumors). I found that this question was what's troubling many potential MBA buyers. In forums poll, though, the results are pretty even. Maybe the MBA 13" leads by a mere 1%-2% but it is still a very small lead.

I struggled with this question. I could still cancel my order. I still have time. Should I do it?

Finally I found peace.

I went back to basic. Why did I order 11" in the first place? It was the price. The lowest MBA 11" was RM2788. But I can't settle for a 2GB machine and 64GB storage, so I have already forced myself to bear the additional cost of RM600 for the upgrades. It is beyond my budget already. I can't see myself plonking an additional RM300 for another 13" and 2 hour battery life. So, it was the price that was the main factor, I reminded myself.

The second thing is portability. Yes, 13" gives a more screen real estate. But 13", when you clam it shut and carry it around, feels like carrying a A3-size folio paper. It does. When you compare carrying the 11" and the 13", 13" is gigantic. And this reminds me of my T400. How I hated carrying that monster around! The 11" though is just right. It feels like carrying an iPad. You could easily hold it between your arm pit while you carry your coffee or while peeing (LOL!) So yeah, the size worked for me.

What about the screen real estate? You know, the 11" has more screen real estate than my X200. Excel was able to show me 3 more columns compared to when I opened it in X200. How did they do it? The MBA has very high res screen.. and there in lies a problem though. The fonts are tiny! I had to do 150% zoom in Excel to see comfortably. The font are crisps and sharp - so is the display.. but they are just too tiny for my middle age bespectacled eyes.

Aha... you said. 13" is better then! Actually, it is not. The 13" is physically bigger but remember that it has higher resolution as well. So it is still the high res screen. The font is still tiny but you get to see more windows.

So, as many people in the Net will end up advising you, it's really up to personal preference. Do you want portability (size) vs  lugging a A3 folio? Do you move about a lot? Is price a factor? Remember, you are choosing the Air and not the Pro and not other laptop for one very good reason. You wanted light and portability.. that's why you are considering an Air, right? So, why not choose the lightest of them all?

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