For people like me who have been debating between the 11″ and 13″ MacBook Air, the decision was made harder by Apple with the most recent update of these laptops. Both can now be equipped with a 256 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM the 1.8 Ghz i7 processor. The pros of each machine come down to:

11-inch Air:

  • Lighter (~20% or 0.6 lbs)
  • Smaller (~20% by footprint)
  • Slightly cheaper

13-inch Air:

  • Larger screen (1366×768 vs. 1440×900; see image below)
  • SD slot
  • Better battery life

The cost difference isn’t that great. The 11-inch is slightly cheaper while some would argue you get more “bang for the buck” for the 13-inch.

While the SSD slot is nice, it’s not a killer feature. Unless you are planning to frequently load photos, one could easily toss a small USB-SD adapter in with the Air.

Everyone wants a smaller and lighter laptop; the question here is whether the tradeoff in screen real estate is worth it. Here’s what the difference looks like (the white rectangle represents the 11-inch Air resolution while the starscape represents the extra space the 13-inch supplies.

Aircompare

I’ve found the higher resolution (which I have in my current MacBook Pro) has been helpful, particularly for reading PDF documents. The vertical resolution of the 11-inch model is a particular challenge, but may not be a big deal for those using this largely as a travel computer for writing and email. For me, however, the extra resolution is worth the tradeoff in weight and size. Given that the extra battery life may allow for leaving the power adapter behind, the weight difference is further minimized.

What’s still unclear is how much performance boost the $100 upgrade to the i7 offers, and what battery life penalty it incurs.

3 thoughts on “11″ vs. 13″ MacBook Air

  1. I agree with your comment; resolution is primarily why I went with the 13″. However, the larger trackpad is also a significant advantage, IMO. Maybe I’d get used to the shallower one on the 11″, but my initial impression is that it’s not as fun to use.

    Still, now that the 11″ CPU is up to snuff, it’s worth considering (last year’s 1.4/1.6 GHz C2D ran some apps noticeably slower than the 1.86/2.13 GHz C2D in the 13″).

    BTW, you have a typo: SSD instead of SD.

  2. Thanks for pointing out the typo. It’s been fixed. You make a good point about the trackpad. The wrist area is also a bit shallow on the 11. However, the weight difference is not insignificant, especially if it allows for a smaller bag. For some people, this may trump the comforts of the 13. Interestingly, Apple almost universally shows the 13 on their pages about the Air. Though the bezels are the same thickness, they look proportionally bigger on the 11, so the 13 ends up looking better.

  3. Thanks for pointing out the typo. It’s been fixed. You make a good point about the trackpad.  The wrist area is also a bit shallow on the 11. However, the weight difference is not insignificant, especially if it allows for a smaller bag. For some people, this may trump the comforts of the 13.
     Interestingly, Apple almost universally shows the 13 on their pages about the Air. Though the bezels are the same thickness, they look proportionally bigger on the 11, so the 13 ends up looking better.

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