Archive for June, 2013

This Ax Is Really Scary And Then You Realize It Has A Slingshot Inside

This week Joerg invited some students from the Technical University of Munich to create general mayhem with him via a steel axe. But an axe by itself isn't menacing/relevant enough. It obviously has to double as a slingshot. And it does! The handle of the axe is hollow . . .

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Photo

Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

This Ax Is Really Scary And Then You Realize It Has A Slingshot Inside

This week Joerg invited some students from the Technical University of Munich to create general mayhem with him via a steel axe. But an axe by itself isn't menacing/relevant enough. It obviously has to double as a slingshot. And it does! The handle of the axe is hollow . . .

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Photo

Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

Anchor Is Sort Of Like Yammer But Pretty

Anchor Is Sort Of Like Yammer But Pretty

There are waaay too many social networks out there already, but people keep making them so what the hell, why not add one more. Anchor is social media for your office and is an easy way to keep all your coworkers' contact information available in one place. It also allows chatting and has ample room for overshares in the "company lobby," like 'went to the bathroom brb guys.'

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Photo

Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

Anchor Is Sort Of Like Yammer But Pretty

Anchor Is Sort Of Like Yammer But Pretty

There are waaay too many social networks out there already, but people keep making them so what the hell, why not add one more. Anchor is social media for your office and is an easy way to keep all your coworkers' contact information available in one place. It also allows chatting and has ample room for overshares in the "company lobby," like 'went to the bathroom brb guys.'

Read more...

    


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Photo

Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

The Plasticky BlackBerry Q5 Is Not The Mid-Tier Hero Handset BB10 Needs To Save It

blackberry-q5-

In some ways the Qwerty-packing Q5, with its throwback BlackBerry looks, is a far more important device for BlackBerry than its current flagship, the all-touch Z10. Or the premium-priced Qwerty-clad Q10. The mid-tier Q5 should be priced to shift — because that’s what BlackBerry needs to happen to start regaining the ground it lost when it was forced to pause and reboot its OS to play catch-up with rivals. That’s what the Q5 should do, but will it?

The problem for BlackBerry is it may already be too late to turn things around. BlackBerry’s latest results, out late last week, made grim reading as the company missed analyst expectations, and its share price took a battering. It shipped just 2.7 million BlackBerry 10 handsets in its Q1. But it has only had two BB10 devices to sell, one of which (the Q10) only made it to market in the U.S. earlier this month. Which makes the Q5 even more important: BlackBerry needs more handsets in its portfolio attacking different price points to have a chance of ramping up sales.

The problem is the Q5 doesn’t feel like a saviour. It feels closer to a kludge. Likely it isn’t going to be cheap enough to really hit Android where it hurts (it’s mid-tier, not budget after all). Nor does it feel like enough of a leap forward to convert a new generation of users to BlackBerry. BB10 is still Blackberry playing catch-up with competitors, rather than streaking ahead in the innovation stakes.

Of course many Blackberry loyalists and long-time users aren’t going to be unhappy with the Q5′s old school Qwerty form factor. But that staid staple means it necessarily offers a crimped OS experience versus the full-touch Z10. On the Q5 — as with the Q10 — the touchscreen has had to be squashed into a square to accommodate yesteryear’s physical Qwerty keys. Which is a problem because BlackBerry’s new platform needs room for the user to manoeuvre.

BB10 is built around gestures and layering content — and that whole “peek and flow” dynamic comes into its own on a full touchscreen. But on the Q5′s small square it’s inevitably constrained. Yet, despite this squeezed screen, the Q5 is surprisingly big for a Qwerty BlackBerry. Certainly compared to past generations of RIM hardware — those ever-so-popular Curves and Bolds it apparently succeeds.

As well as being constrained by having to make room for the keyboard, space has to be found to accommodate the bevels where BB10′s gestures have to start. This makes the overall front footprint a bit, well, hefty. It looks like an oversized, top-heavy BlackBerry, which will feel like a step backwards to those accustomed to BlackBerry’s traditionally highly pocketable handsets. And who else is this Qwerty-packer really trying to woo?

Android users have so much choice when it comes to keyboard software that even if they don’t get on with the stock Android virtual keyboard they can switch to Swype, or Swiftkey or any one of the growing number of Qwerty alternatives cooking up interesting new ways to type. The Q5′s immutable plastic keys feel terribly dumb phone in comparison.

Even the BlackBerry exec demoing the Q5 at the press event I attended to pick up a review device described the physical keyboard as “infamous”  (Freudian slip?). And said he found typing on it “a bit strange” because “I’m used to typing on the [full touchscreen] Z10.” That says it all really.

The Q5 is a deeply conservative device. It continues to look backwards to BlackBerry’s legacy keyboard-chained past — a compromise between old technology and new software. And like most compromises, it’s unlikely to entirely please anybody. It’s not that it’s terrible, it just doesn’t feel good enough to make an impact — and that means it’s not good enough because BlackBerry needs something remarkable to stand out in this crowded mid-tier segment.

Yet you can see exactly how and why BlackBerry has arrived here. In its current shrunken state, as its user base and revenues have diminished, the company has had to retrench. It can’t afford to lose any more users, yet it can’t afford to ramp up the number of devices in its portfolio quickly enough — making it super important that it retains its one remaining heartland: corporate users. Those are the last really sticky BlackBerry users, even as fickle consumers have wandered off elsewhere.

So BlackBerry can’t cut its ties with the past as it’s now even more dependent on its most conservative demographic. Its focus has to be on servicing that existing corporate user-base — because their loyalty is locked up far more than the average consumer. Some 90 percent of the Fortune 500 are BlackBerry customers, according to the company. And some 60 percent are apparently trialling BB10. BlackBerry needs those bulk-buyers to migrate to BB10 and continue pumping money into its coffers. If they abandon ship BlackBerry really will be an adrift ghost ship.

Selling mobile email to corporates is how BlackBerry built its original mobile empire. And selling to corporates is where BlackBerry has had to retrench to now. An army of cheap Androids is sweeping away its other former stronghold: teens. While free, over-the-top messaging apps like WhatsApp have eroded the appeal of BBM (BlackBerry’s licensing of BBM to Android and iOS this summer also feels like too little, too late). Now, with the mid-tier-priced Q5, BlackBerry is apparently hoping to woo those kids back. But the Q5 compromises on target demographic, too.

On the one hand BlackBerry says it’s aiming the Q5 at younger users. But it also cites SMEs and corporates as targets — flagging up the Balance feature that allows segmentation of work and personal content on the device. Little wonder then that, design-wise, the Q5 looks like it’s trying not to be too much of anything, so no one feels like disowning it. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be generic. Or plasticky. It’s as if it’s been deliberately left as blank as possible to be as inoffensive as possible — to try to appeal to as wide a group as possible. In other words: another compromise.

The other problem BlackBerry has is that corporates are famously conservative about technology upgrades, which explains why it has no plans to sunset BB 7 any time soon. Corporate investments in BES 7 “have to be protected,” as one BlackBerry spokesman put it. Which means the company has to keep supporting BB 7 and producing devices running that last-gen OS for the foreseeable future. Which stymies change, and hampers BB10′s progress as a portion of resources have to go on the old platform.

Plus, if BB 7 devices are still on offer, why should corporates risk the upheaval of upgrading to a device like the Q5? They’ll stick with what they know, and leave this compromise on the shelf. So while BlackBerry youth users are going — or have already gone — elsewhere to check out shinier hardware, its business users are foot-dragging and in no hurry to move on. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. No wonder turning this tanker is so hard.

Pricing will of course play a key role in whether the Q5 sits on shelves or not. The mid-tier is where the largest Android army roams. But carrier tariffs for the Q5 are going to need to be a lot lower than the early EE pricing of £26 a month to be competitive enough to win over consumers. That price is pitting the Q5 against iPhone 4S or Galaxy S3 tariff prices. Which makes BlackBerry’s mid-tier offering a tough sell, whichever tech camp you prefer to sit in.

Regardless of whether this middling handset ends up selling well or not, it may make little material difference to BlackBerry’s prospects. The perception that the mobile maker is now locked in a death spiral will only increase shareholder pressure on the management team, and make acquisition a more likely end. BlackBerry would need to sell an awful lot of Q5s to calm that spin.


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Photo

Natasha Lomas

June 30th

Gadgets

Mobile

Holographic TVs Are Getting Closer To Reality

Holographic TVs Are Getting Closer To Reality

New methods for producing color holographic video are here, and they could lead to cheaper, higher res and more energy efficient TVs. Daniel Smalley, a researcher at MIT, built a holographic display with about the same resolution as a standard-definition TV, which is able to depict motion because it updates its image 30 times a second. The display is run by an optical chip that Smalley made in his lab for about $10.

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Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

Holographic TVs Are Getting Closer To Reality

Holographic TVs Are Getting Closer To Reality

New methods for producing color holographic video are here, and they could lead to cheaper, higher res and more energy efficient TVs. Daniel Smalley, a researcher at MIT, built a holographic display with about the same resolution as a standard-definition TV, which is able to depict motion because it updates its image 30 times a second. The display is run by an optical chip that Smalley made in his lab for about $10.

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Comments Off on Holographic TVs Are Getting Closer To Reality

Photo

Lily Hay Newman

June 30th

Uncategorized

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

IMG_0139

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.

The Display:

IMG_0120

Despite the lack of a Retina display, the Macbook Air’s panel is still nothing to slouch at. The 2013 13-inch Macbook Air features the same exact display as its predecessor, which is a 1,440 x 900 resolution LCD panel. This comes out to 127 pixels per inch, which is far less than the 226ppi on the 13-inch Retina. In reality, however, numbers mean very little. Real-world usage is what matters.

Color reproduction on the Air is great and the screen is incredibly bright. Viewing angles were a tad disappointing, with the color quality dropping greatly when viewing it off-center. The Macbook Air doesn’t feature the same edge-to-edge glass design as the Macbook Pros do, which in some cases, is a good thing. The glare on the all glass designs can get horrible in the correct lighting, while the aluminum bezel around the Air greatly helps reduce that problem. Glare is obviously still there, but it’s nowhere near as bad as on the Macbook Pro.

Coming from using a Retina Macbook Pro for the past 8 months, there was a noticeable difference with the Air’s display. It’s nothing that you can’t get use to in a week’s time, but it’s there. Colors on the Air aren’t quite as realistic and stunning as on the Retina and the same can be said for the text. If you’re coming from almost anything other than a Retina panel, however, you most likely won’t notice any difference. By no means is the Macbook Air’s screen horrible. It’s great, it’s just not as good as the Macbook Pro with Retina, and for $500 less and much thinner, would you expect it to be?

The Design:

From afar, you wouldn’t be able to whether someone is using a 2012 Macbook Air or a 2013 Macbook Air, as the two are nearly identical in every visual aspect. The only change you’ll find is a second microphone on the left-hand side.

When Apple introduced the original Macbook Air in 2008, it was a praised extensively for its design, but fell short in nearly every other category. It was a classic example of form over function. Apple reintroduced the Air in 2010 with much better internals and a design that was just as slim and just as gorgeous. Three years later, that’s nearly the same design we’re still looking at here.

IMG_0124

The Macbook Air weighs in at just under 3 pounds, making it a breeze to carry in a backpack for extended periods of time. It has a wedge design, meaning that it tapers from back to front in terms of thickness. At its thickest point, the Air is .68-inches, while at its thinnest point, it’s .11-inches. Both of those numbers are incredible design feats, though nowadays, some Windows laptops have managed to be even thinner. But hey, they run Windows.

The keyboard and trackpad are also unchanged on the 2013 Air and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. The keyboard is absolutely a breeze to type on. The keys have good feel and are spaced out perfectly. At first, the keyboard seemed a bet squishy compared to other Macbooks, but that improved during the first few hours of use The keyboard is also backlit, which means working at the wee hours of the morning is no issue.

IMG_0117

The trackpad is still the best of any laptop on the market. The all-glass design makes it very smooth and easy to use for extended periods of time. You also can’t beat the multi-touch gestures it is capable of doing. While many other laptops have gone on to include touch screens, the gestures on OS X are easily just as useful as a touch screen.

The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” remains true with the 2013 Macbook Air’s design. It still caries the same wow-factor as it did three years ago and is arguably the most gorgeous laptop Apple has ever made.

Ports:

IMG_0128

The Macbook Air has never had a plethora of ports, and sadly, that remains true this time around. On the right-hand side, you’ll find a single Thunderbolt port, a single USB port, and an SD card slot (only found on the 13-inch model). The left-hand side is home to the MagSafe charging connector, another USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-microphones. We’d certainly like to see another USB port and another Thunderbolt port, but given the lack of space available on the sides, it’s quite obvious as to why Apple didn’t include any more. After all, the Air is meant to be a portable machine, not something you hook up to all your peripherals and monitors.

802.11ac:

The new Macbook Air also supports 802.11ac, a draft standard for the next generation of wireless connectivity. The technology promises download speeds of 1.3Gbps and overall more stable performance, though some people have been reporting issues with WiFi connectivity on the laptop.

Apple is also selling a new AirPort Extreme that supports 802.11ac for $199.

Haswell:

Earlier this year, Intel announced its latest line of chips, dubbed Haswell. They started appearing in PCs at the Computex conference in Taiwan earlier this year, many weren’t shipping until later this fall. This led most people to believe that Apple wouldn’t announce any Haswell-powered machines at WWDC. Apple always surprises, though, and sure enough, the 2013 Macbook Air is powered by Intel’s latest generation chips.

DiskSpeedTest

Retina Macbook Pro

DiskSpeedTestAir

Macbook Air

For this review, we used the base, 13-inch Macbook Air. Specs included a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost of 2.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and Intel HD 5000 graphics. The SSD on the new Air is PCI Express based, which means you shouldn’t experience any SATA slow-downs, which should greatly improve performance. Using the Blackmagic Design Speed Test benchmark, the 2013 Air pulled in write speeds of over 400MB/s and read speeds of over 700MB/s. The 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina, on the other hand, pulled in write speeds of just under 300MB/s and read speeds of about 430MB/s.

Using the GeekBench app, the Macbook Air received a score of a just over 6700, while the Retina Macbook Pro received a score of around 7300. The Retina Macbook Pro we are testing is the base 2.5GHz Core i5 model (3.1GHz Turbo Boost) with 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics.

In Cinebench, the Macbook Air pulled in about 23 frames per second, while the Macbook Pro with Retina pulled in roughly 20fps. The Air received a CPU score of 2.6pts, while the Retina was awarded 2.9pts.

Finally, in the UniGine Vally benchmark, which is a gaming simulation test, the Macbook Air blew away the Retina, coming in with 30fps and a score of 762, while the Retina managed just 19fps and a score of 535.

As you can tell, given the rather large difference in clock speed, there is not all that big of a difference in benchmarks between the 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina and 2013 Macbook Air. In fact, the Air outperformed the Retina in many aspects. As we mentioned before, however, numbers don’t mean all that much. It’s real world usage that matters.

The Macbook Air performs outstandingly compared to other laptops on the market. Swiping between desktops was smooth as butter, as was scrolling though graphics heavy websites such as The Verge. In our use, the Air even ran much smoother than the Retina Macbook Pro. When you think about it, it’s pretty said that Apple’s supposed laptop for professionals is getting outperformed by the entry-level Air. It’s obvious that the Haswell chips have some pretty big effects on performance, as do the new Intel HD 5000 graphics. We should also note that Apple will most likely unveil a new Macbook Pro with these internals sometime this year, so it’s a little unfair to compare a 2012 device to a 2013 device, even if it’s a late-2012 model.

Long story short, you shouldn’t have any issues running even things like Final Cut Pro X on the 2013 Macbook Air. We do recommend going up to 8GB of RAM if you plan on doing a lot of video editing, though. For day-to-day usage, however, the base $1099 Macbook Air is perfect for nearly every average consumer.

Battery Life:

The biggest selling point of the 2013 Macbook Air is obviously the battery life. Apple is promising 12-hours of usage on the 13-inch model and 9-hours on the 11-inch variant. While we can’t vouch for the latter, we can say that Apple is spot on with its claims for the 13-inch model.

We don’t have a specific process to test battery life, because more often than not, you’ll get artificial results that aren’t relatable to real-world usage. So, to test the battery life on the 2013 Air, we just used it. It’s as simple as that. We worked on it and we played on it. We started using it about 12PM and wrote, watched a few YouTube videos, checked Twitter with Tweetbot for Mac, and much more.

By about 1AM it was down to about 5% battery remaining and it died shortly there after. That equals out to a little over 13 hours, a tad above what Apple claimed. We had the screen set on 75% brightness and the keyboard backlight on towards the end of the day. Keep in mind this is real-word usage, so there were bits and pieces of time throughout the day when it wasn’t being used, as we had to do things like eat lunch, but for the better part of the day, there was at least Spotify streaming music.

Now, battery life performance will very from user-to-user and laptop-to-laptop. If you are doing things like editing video, using Photoshop, and streaming high-definition Netflix all day, then your battery life will not be anywhere near 12 hours. It really just depends on how you use the laptop. Also, Chrome has been a notorious battery hog on OS X, so that could also cut down on your battery life.

Wrap-Up:

IMG_0130

Apple has a truly wonderful computer in the 2013 Macbook Air. We have never seen a Mac laptop get over 12 hours of battery life; it’s just unheard of. Especially when you factor in that you are also getting excellent performance on top of that battery life.

Really, there’s not much to dislike about the new Macbook Air. It’d be nice if there were a few more ports, but that’s not a big deal since it’s a portable machine, not a desktop replacement. We were somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see a Retina display, but in order to get this kind of battery life, cuts had to be made somewhere, and you also have to remember that Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize sales of the 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro…yet. The 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro is, however still one of the best computers a true professional can buy.

If someone were to ask us what Mac they should get, we’d have an incredibly hard time not recommending the 13-inch Macbook Air. With new lower starting price, the $1099 base model is arguably one of the best computers Apple, or anyone, has ever made. If you are set on having a Retina display, however, we suggest that you wait until this fall when Apple will most likely introduce new models with Haswell chips and Intel HD 5000 graphics, because as the benchmarks show, those two things really affect performance, as well as improving battery life.


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Photo

Chance Miller

June 30th

Apple

Mac

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

IMG_0139

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  what 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.

The Display:

IMG_0120

Despite the lack of a Retina display, the Macbook Air’s panel is still nothing to slouch at. The 2013 13-inch Macbook Air features the same exact display as its predecessor, which is a 1,440 x 900 resolution LCD panel. This comes out to 127 pixels per inch, which is far less than the 226ppi on the 13-inch Retina. In reality, however, numbers mean very little. Real-world usage is what matters.

Color reproduction on the Air is great and the screen is incredibly bright. Viewing angles were a tad disappointing, with the color quality dropping greatly when viewing it off-center. The Macbook Air doesn’t feature the same edge-to-edge glass design as the Macbook Pros do, which in some cases, is a good thing. The glare on the all glass designs can get horrible in the correct lighting, while the aluminum bezel around the Air greatly helps reduce that problem. Glare is obviously still there, but it’s nowhere near as bad as on the Macbook Pro.

Coming from using a Retina Macbook Pro for the past 8 months, there was a noticeable difference with the Air’s display. It’s nothing that you can’t get use to in a week’s time, but it’s there. Colors on the Air aren’t quite as realistic and stunning as on the Retina and the same can be said for the text. If you’re coming from almost anything other than a Retina panel, however, you most likely won’t notice any difference. By no means is the Macbook Air’s screen horrible. It’s great, it’s just not as good as the Macbook Pro with Retina, and for $500 less and much thinner, would you expect it to be?

The Design:

From afar, you wouldn’t be able to whether someone is using a 2012 Macbook Air or a 2013 Macbook Air, as the two are nearly identical in every visual aspect. The only change you’ll find is a second microphone on the left-hand side.

When Apple introduced the original Macbook Air in 2008, it was a praised extensively for its design, but fell short in nearly every other category. It was a classic example of form over function. Apple reintroduced the Air in 2010 with much better internals and a design that was just as slim and just as gorgeous. Three years later, that’s nearly the same design we’re still looking at here.

IMG_0124

The Macbook Air weighs in at just under 3 pounds, making it a breeze to carry in a backpack for extended periods of time. It has a wedge design, meaning that it tapers from back to front in terms of thickness. At its thickest point, the Air is .68-inches, while at its thinnest point, it’s .11-inches. Both of those numbers are incredible design feats, though nowadays, some Windows laptops have managed to be even thinner. But hey, they run Windows.

The keyboard and trackpad are also unchanged on the 2013 Air and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. The keyboard is absolutely a breeze to type on. The keys have good feel and are spaced out perfectly. At first, the keyboard seemed a bet squishy compared to other Macbooks, but that improved during the first few hours of use The keyboard is also backlit, which means working at the wee hours of the morning is no issue.

IMG_0117

The trackpad is still the best of any laptop on the market. The all-glass design makes it very smooth and easy to use for extended periods of time. You also can’t beat the multi-touch gestures it is capable of doing. While many other laptops have gone on to include touch screens, the gestures on OS X are easily just as useful as a touch screen.

The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” remains true with the 2013 Macbook Air’s design. It still caries the same wow-factor as it did three years ago and is arguably the most gorgeous laptop Apple has ever made.

Ports:

IMG_0128

The Macbook Air has never had a plethora of ports, and sadly, that remains true this time around. On the right-hand side, you’ll find a single Thunderbolt port, a single USB port, and an SD card slot (only found on the 13-inch model). The left-hand side is home to the MagSafe charging connector, another USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-microphones. We’d certainly like to see another USB port and another Thunderbolt port, but given the lack of space available on the sides, it’s quite obvious as to why Apple didn’t include any more. After all, the Air is meant to be a portable machine, not something you hook up to all your peripherals and monitors.

802.11ac:

The new Macbook Air also supports 802.11ac, a draft standard for the next generation of wireless connectivity. The technology promises download speeds of 1.3Gbps and overall more stable performance, though some people have been reporting issues with WiFi connectivity on the laptop.

Apple is also selling a new AirPort Extreme that supports 802.11ac for $199.

Haswell:

Earlier this year, Intel announced its latest line of chips, dubbed Haswell. They started appearing in PCs at the Computex conference in Taiwan earlier this year, many weren’t shipping until later this fall. This led most people to believe that Apple wouldn’t announce any Haswell-powered machines at WWDC. Apple always surprises, though, and sure enough, the 2013 Macbook Pro is powered by Intel’s latest generation chips.

DiskSpeedTest

Retina Macbook Pro

DiskSpeedTestAir

Macbook Air

For this review, we used the base, 13-inch Macbook Air. Specs included a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost of 2.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and Intel HD 5000 graphics. The SSD on the new Air is PCI Express based, which means you shouldn’t experience any SATA slow-downs, which should greatly improve performance. Using the Blackmagic Design Speed Test benchmark, the 2013 Air pulled in write speeds of over 400MB/s and read speeds of over 700MB/s. The 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina, on the other hand, pulled in write speeds of just under 300MB/s and read speeds of about 430MB/s.

Using the GeekBench app, the Macbook Air received a score of a just over 6700, while the Retina Macbook Pro received a score of around 7300. The Retina Macbook Pro we are testing is the base 2.5GHz Core i5 model (3.1GHz Turbo Boost) with 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics.

In Cinebench, the Macbook Air pulled in about 23 frames per second, while the Macbook Pro with Retina pulled in roughly 20fps. The Air received a CPU score of 2.6pts, while the Retina was awarded 2.9pts.

Finally, in the UniGine Vally benchmark, which is a gaming simulation test, the Macbook Air blew away the Retina, coming in with 30fps and a score of 762, while the Retina managed just 19fps and a score of 535.

As you can tell, given the rather large difference in clock speed, there is not all that big of a difference in benchmarks between the 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina and 2013 Macbook Air. In fact, the Air outperformed the Retina in many aspects. As we mentioned before, however, numbers don’t mean all that much. It’s real world usage that matters.

The Macbook Air performs outstandingly compared to other laptops on the market. Swiping between desktops was smooth as butter, as was scrolling though graphics heavy websites such as The Verge. In our use, the Air even ran much smoother than the Retina Macbook Pro. When you think about it, it’s pretty said that Apple’s supposed laptop for professionals is getting outperformed by the entry-level Air. It’s obvious that the Haswell chips have some pretty big effects on performance, as do the new Intel HD 5000 graphics. We should also note that Apple will most likely unveil a new Macbook Pro with these internals sometime this year, so it’s a little unfair to compare a 2012 device to a 2013 device, even if it’s a late-2012 model.

Long story short, you shouldn’t have any issues running even things like Final Cut Pro X on the 2013 Macbook Air. We do recommend going up to 8GB of RAM if you plan on doing a lot of video editing, though. For day-to-day usage, however, the base $1099 Macbook Air is perfect for nearly every average consumer.

Battery Life:

The biggest selling point of the 2013 Macbook Air is obviously the battery life. Apple is promising 12-hours of usage on the 13-inch model and 9-hours on the 11-inch variant. While we can’t vouch for the latter, we can say that Apple is spot on with its claims for the 13-inch model.

We don’t have a specific process to test battery life, because more often than not, you’ll get artificial results that aren’t relatable to real-world usage. So, to test the battery life on the 2013 Air, we just used it. It’s as simple as that. We worked on it and we played on it. We started using it about 12PM and wrote, watched a few YouTube videos, checked Twitter with Tweetbot for Mac, and much more.

By about 1AM it was down to about 5% battery remaining and it died shortly there after. That equals out to a little over 13 hours, a tad above what Apple claimed. We had the screen set on 75% brightness and the keyboard backlight on towards the end of the day. Keep in mind this is real-word usage, so there were bits and pieces of time throughout the day when it wasn’t being used, as we had to do things like eat lunch, but for the better part of the day, there was at least Spotify streaming music.

Now, battery life performance will very from user-to-user and laptop-to-laptop. If you are doing things like editing video, using Photoshop, and streaming high-definition Netflix all day, then your battery life will not be anywhere near 12 hours. It really just depends on how you use the laptop. Also, Chrome has been a notorious battery hog on OS X, so that could also cut down on your battery life.

Wrap-Up:

IMG_0130

Apple has a truly wonderful computer in the 2013 Macbook Air. We have never seen a Mac laptop get over 12 hours of battery life; it’s just unheard of. Especially when you factor in that you are also getting excellent performance on top of that battery life.

Really, there’s not much to dislike about the new Macbook Air. It’d be nice if there were a few more ports, but that’s not a big deal since it’s a portable machine, not a desktop replacement. We were somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see a Retina display, but in order to get this kind of battery life, cuts had to be made somewhere, and you also have to remember that Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize sales of the 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro…yet. The 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro is, however still one of the best computers a true professional can buy.

If someone were to ask us what Mac they should get, we’d have an incredibly hard time not recommending the 13-inch Macbook Air. With new lower starting price, the $1099 base model is arguably one of the best computers Apple, or anyone, has ever made. If you are set on having a Retina display, however, we suggest that you wait until this fall when Apple will most likely introduce new models with Haswell chips and Intel HD 5000 graphics, because as the benchmarks show, those two things really affect performance, as well as improving battery life.


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Chance Miller

June 30th

Apple

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

IMG_0139

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  what 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.

The Display:

IMG_0120

Despite the lack of a Retina display, the Macbook Air’s panel is still nothing to slouch at. The 2013 13-inch Macbook Air features the same exact display as its predecessor, which is a 1,440 x 900 resolution LCD panel. This comes out to 127 pixels per inch, which is far less than the 226ppi on the 13-inch Retina. In reality, however, numbers mean very little. Real-world usage is what matters.

Color reproduction on the Air is great and the screen is incredibly bright. Viewing angles were a tad disappointing, with the color quality dropping greatly when viewing it off-center. The Macbook Air doesn’t feature the same edge-to-edge glass design as the Macbook Pros do, which in some cases, is a good thing. The glare on the all glass designs can get horrible in the correct lighting, while the aluminum bezel around the Air greatly helps reduce that problem. Glare is obviously still there, but it’s nowhere near as bad as on the Macbook Pro.

Coming from using a Retina Macbook Pro for the past 8 months, there was a noticeable difference with the Air’s display. It’s nothing that you can’t get use to in a week’s time, but it’s there. Colors on the Air aren’t quite as realistic and stunning as on the Retina and the same can be said for the text. If you’re coming from almost anything other than a Retina panel, however, you most likely won’t notice any difference. By no means is the Macbook Air’s screen horrible. It’s great, it’s just not as good as the Macbook Pro with Retina, and for $500 less and much thinner, would you expect it to be?

The Design:

From afar, you wouldn’t be able to whether someone is using a 2012 Macbook Air or a 2013 Macbook Air, as the two are nearly identical in every visual aspect. The only change you’ll find is a second microphone on the left-hand side.

When Apple introduced the original Macbook Air in 2008, it was a praised extensively for its design, but fell short in nearly every other category. It was a classic example of form over function. Apple reintroduced the Air in 2010 with much better internals and a design that was just as slim and just as gorgeous. Three years later, that’s nearly the same design we’re still looking at here.

IMG_0124

The Macbook Air weighs in at just under 3 pounds, making it a breeze to carry in a backpack for extended periods of time. It has a wedge design, meaning that it tapers from back to front in terms of thickness. At its thickest point, the Air is .68-inches, while at its thinnest point, it’s .11-inches. Both of those numbers are incredible design feats, though nowadays, some Windows laptops have managed to be even thinner. But hey, they run Windows.

The keyboard and trackpad are also unchanged on the 2013 Air and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. The keyboard is absolutely a breeze to type on. The keys have good feel and are spaced out perfectly. At first, the keyboard seemed a bet squishy compared to other Macbooks, but that improved during the first few hours of use The keyboard is also backlit, which means working at the wee hours of the morning is no issue.

IMG_0117

The trackpad is still the best of any laptop on the market. The all-glass design makes it very smooth and easy to use for extended periods of time. You also can’t beat the multi-touch gestures it is capable of doing. While many other laptops have gone on to include touch screens, the gestures on OS X are easily just as useful as a touch screen.

The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” remains true with the 2013 Macbook Air’s design. It still caries the same wow-factor as it did three years ago and is arguably the most gorgeous laptop Apple has ever made.

Ports:

IMG_0128

The Macbook Air has never had a plethora of ports, and sadly, that remains true this time around. On the right-hand side, you’ll find a single Thunderbolt port, a single USB port, and an SD card slot (only found on the 13-inch model). The left-hand side is home to the MagSafe charging connector, another USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-microphones. We’d certainly like to see another USB port and another Thunderbolt port, but given the lack of space available on the sides, it’s quite obvious as to why Apple didn’t include any more. After all, the Air is meant to be a portable machine, not something you hook up to all your peripherals and monitors.

802.11ac:

The new Macbook Air also supports 802.11ac, a draft standard for the next generation of wireless connectivity. The technology promises download speeds of 1.3Gbps and overall more stable performance, though some people have been reporting issues with WiFi connectivity on the laptop.

Apple is also selling a new AirPort Extreme that supports 802.11ac for $199.

Haswell:

Earlier this year, Intel announced its latest line of chips, dubbed Haswell. They started appearing in PCs at the Computex conference in Taiwan earlier this year, many weren’t shipping until later this fall. This led most people to believe that Apple wouldn’t announce any Haswell-powered machines at WWDC. Apple always surprises, though, and sure enough, the 2013 Macbook Pro is powered by Intel’s latest generation chips.

DiskSpeedTest

Retina Macbook Pro

DiskSpeedTestAir

Macbook Air

For this review, we used the base, 13-inch Macbook Air. Specs included a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost of 2.6GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and Intel HD 5000 graphics. The SSD on the new Air is PCI Express based, which means you shouldn’t experience any SATA slow-downs, which should greatly improve performance. Using the Blackmagic Design Speed Test benchmark, the 2013 Air pulled in write speeds of over 400MB/s and read speeds of over 700MB/s. The 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina, on the other hand, pulled in write speeds of just under 300MB/s and read speeds of about 430MB/s.

Using the GeekBench app, the Macbook Air received a score of a just over 6700, while the Retina Macbook Pro received a score of around 7300. The Retina Macbook Pro we are testing is the base 2.5GHz Core i5 model (3.1GHz Turbo Boost) with 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics.

In Cinebench, the Macbook Air pulled in about 23 frames per second, while the Macbook Pro with Retina pulled in roughly 20fps. The Air received a CPU score of 2.6pts, while the Retina was awarded 2.9pts.

Finally, in the UniGine Vally benchmark, which is a gaming simulation test, the Macbook Air blew away the Retina, coming in with 30fps and a score of 762, while the Retina managed just 19fps and a score of 535.

As you can tell, given the rather large difference in clock speed, there is not all that big of a difference in benchmarks between the 2012 Macbook Pro with Retina and 2013 Macbook Air. In fact, the Air outperformed the Retina in many aspects. As we mentioned before, however, numbers don’t mean all that much. It’s real world usage that matters.

The Macbook Air performs outstandingly compared to other laptops on the market. Swiping between desktops was smooth as butter, as was scrolling though graphics heavy websites such as The Verge. In our use, the Air even ran much smoother than the Retina Macbook Pro. When you think about it, it’s pretty said that Apple’s supposed laptop for professionals is getting outperformed by the entry-level Air. It’s obvious that the Haswell chips have some pretty big effects on performance, as do the new Intel HD 5000 graphics. We should also note that Apple will most likely unveil a new Macbook Pro with these internals sometime this year, so it’s a little unfair to compare a 2012 device to a 2013 device, even if it’s a late-2012 model.

Long story short, you shouldn’t have any issues running even things like Final Cut Pro X on the 2013 Macbook Air. We do recommend going up to 8GB of RAM if you plan on doing a lot of video editing, though. For day-to-day usage, however, the base $1099 Macbook Air is perfect for nearly every average consumer.

Battery Life:

The biggest selling point of the 2013 Macbook Air is obviously the battery life. Apple is promising 12-hours of usage on the 13-inch model and 9-hours on the 11-inch variant. While we can’t vouch for the latter, we can say that Apple is spot on with its claims for the 13-inch model.

We don’t have a specific process to test battery life, because more often than not, you’ll get artificial results that aren’t relatable to real-world usage. So, to test the battery life on the 2013 Air, we just used it. It’s as simple as that. We worked on it and we played on it. We started using it about 12PM and wrote, watched a few YouTube videos, checked Twitter with Tweetbot for Mac, and much more.

By about 1AM it was down to about 5% battery remaining and it died shortly there after. That equals out to a little over 13 hours, a tad above what Apple claimed. We had the screen set on 75% brightness and the keyboard backlight on towards the end of the day. Keep in mind this is real-word usage, so there were bits and pieces of time throughout the day when it wasn’t being used, as we had to do things like eat lunch, but for the better part of the day, there was at least Spotify streaming music.

Now, battery life performance will very from user-to-user and laptop-to-laptop. If you are doing things like editing video, using Photoshop, and streaming high-definition Netflix all day, then your battery life will not be anywhere near 12 hours. It really just depends on how you use the laptop. Also, Chrome has been a notorious battery hog on OS X, so that could also cut down on your battery life.

Wrap-Up:

IMG_0130

Apple has a truly wonderful computer in the 2013 Macbook Air. We have never seen a Mac laptop get over 12 hours of battery life; it’s just unheard of. Especially when you factor in that you are also getting excellent performance on top of that battery life.

Really, there’s not much to dislike about the new Macbook Air. It’d be nice if there were a few more ports, but that’s not a big deal since it’s a portable machine, not a desktop replacement. We were somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see a Retina display, but in order to get this kind of battery life, cuts had to be made somewhere, and you also have to remember that Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize sales of the 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro…yet. The 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro is, however still one of the best computers a true professional can buy.

If someone were to ask us what Mac they should get, we’d have an incredibly hard time not recommending the 13-inch Macbook Air. With new lower starting price, the $1099 base model is arguably one of the best computers Apple, or anyone, has ever made. If you are set on having a Retina display, however, we suggest that you wait until this fall when Apple will most likely introduce new models with Haswell chips and Intel HD 5000 graphics, because as the benchmarks show, those two things really affect performance, as well as improving battery life.


Continue reading more about AAPL Company, Reviews, and MacBook Air at 9to5Mac.

What do you think? Discuss "Review: 13-inch MacBook Air (mid-2013)" with our community.

Comments Off on Review: 13-inch MacBook Air (mid-2013)

Photo

Chance Miller

June 30th

Apple

Mac
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June 2013
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