The new 11-in MacBook air is definitely one of the cutest and sexiest laptops ever. The weight and size savings over even the new 13.3in model will definitely attract the lightweight brigade and, I suspect, will be just a another nail in the coffin of the compromised netbook genre. Steve Jobs once said Apple would never produce a netbook, just as he said he would never introduce a seven-inch iPad, but the new Air is the nearest thing to a netbook imaginable. True to convictions, though, the Air retains the Apple full-size keyboard and touch pad which means that it is going to have the feel and utility of all MacBooks.
Above: The new Airs with 11.6in or 13.3in screens
At £849, including VAT here in the UK, the base 11-inch with 64GB of flash memory and 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor represents good value for money. At only £150 more than the top-range iPad (also with 64GB), the price is right on the button. For the ultimate 11-in Air, though, canny buyers will want to spend an extra £80 on the faster 1.6GHz processor, a further £80 on 4GB of RAM and opt for the 128GB model (which costs £150 extra). Even with these enhancements the price is reasonable at £1,159. Compare this with the £2,200 I paid for my original Air with 64GB SSD drive.
The processor and RAM upgrades (especially the memory upgrade from 2 to 4GB) will speed up operation vastly. Nowadays 8GB of RAM is almost the norm for laptops and 2GB is just too compromising. And while the 64GB base flash memory is just about doable with OS X, I would certainly recommend 128GB. My 64GB Air has a pared down version of OS X (in particular losing most languages and printer drivers) and even so there is relatively little space left for applications and data. Definitely I'd go for 128GB, especially since it is only £80 more.
I have no doubt that the smaller Air will be a success and I think it will be an attractive alternative to an iPad. The iPad (and iPhone) have their limitations, not least of which is needing a mothership for synchronisation and storage of backups. Currently, also, iOS4 is limited in terms of file handling and fast text input. The new Air has everything, including a fully-size keyboard and a rather spartan set of ports, but it is a complete solution and, significantly, can be a mothership for your iPhone or iPad.