Macbook Air 11 Inch – The Ultimate Notebook Computer for Writers

A zoomed shot of the Macbook Air 11 inch keyboard from Apple.

[Page updated: 20 January 2018]

I bit the bullet and grabbed the 11-inch MacBook Air yesterday in Bangkok at a store that looked a lot like an official Apple store, but that was called iStudio. They appear to be an authorized reseller – so we’ll see if there are any issues later. At the moment, I’m having no problems and the computer is humming along fast and furious.

If you are a writer, I don’t know that there is a better device for you to write books on, articles, whatever it is – than this small MacBook Air. There is a price to pay – this one was about $1,300 with tax. For any amount of money, I cannot seem to find a better experience. The MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina is a better experience, at a higher cost and another pound plus of weight. Either way, I think you will love the MacBook series of computers to write on. I couldn’t imagine going to anything else. Try one and you’ll end up buying one of their line. I know that’s a rather bold prediction, but I’ve come to believe it after using them so much in the stores, and now in my lap.

I’ve used PCs (personal computers) since my first IBM Thinkpad notebook computer in 1993 I think it was. It weighed 6+ lbs as I remember. The IT world has changed remarkably and today we have what I have to call the ultimate computer experience. Using a MacBook is similar to using Windows-based computers, Android-based tablets, whatever operating system you are familiar with. I have always thought it was a stupid phrase, “It just works.” If you don’t know, this is one of Apple’s key phrases about their computers and software. I have to say now, having used this computer for the last 240 minutes – it seems to apply. It just seems ready to do the things I need to do. Figuring out how to do them with the Mac operating system is not a chore at all – I have found it quite intuitive.

I am typing this article in WordPress – some of you are familiar with this blogging platform. The text on this 11-inch computer was a bit small as I typed, so I hit the Command key, and the + key, and it cranked up the magnification, giving me a much better font size. Yes, you can use Control + to crank it up on your Windows-based computer too – it’s just good to know I have that feature on the Mac. It was one thing I wondered about – and it works. Cool. That one can be rather essential because when I write I need to see the text loud and clear, not 8 pt text, 11 or 12 is best. To shrink the screen back down on the Air, just do a Command minus (-) and you can shrink the window back down to normal. Hint – this works with any website you are viewing in your browser, whether using Google’s Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

Macbook Air 11 inch – amazing!

I’ll go over the positives of using the MacBook Air 11-inch below…

1. Typing Experience is first rate. I have made less mistakes on this notebook than I typically make on any of my other three notebook computers. That’s saying something, because I make many. The keyboard from the A key to the ; key is exactly the same width as the keyboard on the 13″ MacBook Air – I measured. I think the MacBook Pros are also – exactly the same size. In the past I bought 13-14″ computers because I needed the keyboard to be a certain size. PC keyboards vary in size substantially. My hands are slightly bigger than average, and I have no problem at all on this 11-inch computer. Having the right size keyboard is crucial for writers, so try it out at the store before you decide to buy one. I mean, try it out extensively.

2. Key Travel. Key travel is a bit shallow. That said, it is easy to get used to and it gives a great feel as you type – you know when you hit a key, there is no question. It is nothing like the deep drops on my Lenovo E125 or any of the Lenovo keyboards that I’ve tried (I’ve tried many). The keys drop a little less than the Asus UX31A. I think the Air has the ideal keyboard the more I use it.

3. Backlit Keyboard. There are sixteen levels of brightness to choose from, but you only get to choose when the ambient light is low. If your keyboard backlight is turned on in the dark, and you move into a bright room – the keyboard goes dark. Smart, and so far I don’t have any issues with this auto level chooser. Update – I just found the location to change the defaults, so I can turn the keyboard backlighting on any time I choose – regardless of ambient light.

4. Display Size. I used to think I needed a 13″ or larger display to see things clearly. The resolution on the 11″ Air is quite satisfactory. Everything is razor sharp, and though it isn’t a Retina display – it is sharper than my other 3 notebooks, and my wife’s – so I have not complaints at all. I don’t think a Retina 11″ could be much clearer than this screen – it is actually a higher resolution than the 13″ Air when looked at by pixels-per-inch density.

5. Display Brightness and Glare. Like the backlit keyboard, you have 16 levels of brightness to choose from. At the highest brightness it is exceptionally bright. I don’t have sunlight today, but it must be readable for text in bright sunlight. The display is slightly glossy, but only from the sides. What I mean is, typing at the computer and looking straight at it – there is no glare whatsoever. None. Turning the display at an angle – as if there were 2-3 people watching a video, there might be more glare for those that are looking at angles not directly in front of the screen. Note – there are two different displays you might get on your MacBook Air. Apple appears to have calibrated them differently. So, if you have the Samsung display, you’re good to go. If you have the LG display you might want to change the color profile to make it more contrasty and easy to see the text you type on the screen. I changed mine ten minutes ago and I have to say, at full brightness the blacks retain their deep black nature, and the white is super white. When I switch back to my old color profile, the colors look washed out. Here is the page to help you find out if you have the LG or Samsung screen. You can download their free color profile change too.

LG vs Samsung MacBook Air Display Info >

6. Touchpad. It is purely amazing. I’m not exaggerating at all. It’s absolutely like magic. If you haven’t yet used the Macbook touchpads, you owe it to yourself to go to the Apple store and play with one for an hour or so. Ask the sales dudes to help you with the gestures. Once you realize how easy it is to two-finger scroll, two-finger right click, and scroll between applications – I think you’ll be hooked. The touchpad is ultra-responsive and accurate. The mouse doesn’t jump around. It just works. Ha!

7. Weight. It weighs about 2.4 lbs. Very light and it feels very solid. The frame is machined from a solid block of aluminum. The lid is ultra-thin and yet feels strong. Update – my wife pushed a box onto a high shelf she couldn’t see. She pushed my 11-inch MacBook Air right off it. It fell 5 feet onto the very hard tile floor and bounced around a bit. I screamed from the porch but after the fact. Result? Works fine and there are two barely perceptible indentations on the aluminum frame. I mean you would have to study the computer for minutes to find them. I am flat-out amazed. Your mileage may vary. I’ve heard other horror stories that the screens break easily.

The sound is passable. Battery life was recently upgraded to 9+ hours with the addition of the Haswell chip. You get over 9 hours of battery on the small 11-inch and over 12 hours with the 13-inch. The 13 and 11 are comparable in the ports department, except the 13 has the SD card slot. One other sort of magic bit is the feel of the MacBook Air. I have owned dozens of notebook computers over the years and not one of them was this different. I’ve almost always used some flavor of Windows. I have been raging at Windows since 1993, so I thought I’d see if Mac is any better than what it was in 2002 when I bought a 17″ MacBook Pro online for over $3,000. It is. It’s WAY better. It’s not only usable but, I’d say it is by far the superior operating system. Sure there are things I’d choose to make differently, but overall there are rays of sunshine beaming from my nether region. I made the right choice, and I’m so glad I did.

UPDATE 9/2013
It has been almost a year since I’ve had my MacBook Air 11 inch. I still absolutely love it, but, I’ve been checking out the MacBook Pro 13 inch with Retina displays, and I have to say – if they lighten that thing up some more (it’s currently at 3.57 lbs.), I will buy it immediately. There is probably going to be a ‘refresh’ of the MacBook Pro Retina line in September 2013. They will, in all likelihood at least change the processors – which will give heaps more battery life. Currently, the 13-inch Retina MacBook is getting about 7 hours. It will likely jump to 10 hours or more with this upgrade. So, if you haven’t bought a notebook computer yet – hold off until this new MacBook Pro Retina 13″ computers are released. They have a screen that is ridiculously good, perfect for writers. The quality of the text on the screen is supreme. If you can afford it, you should get it. The MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina is, without cost or weight as a consideration, the ultimate writers’ notebook for about $1,500 USD. The entry-level MacBook Air 11-inch now has a 128GB SSD drive and starts at just $999.


Click the computer to see it live

I’ll be doing some Youtube videos to cover some more about the MacBook Air 11″ and what I like about it – and what I didn’t like.

Video: Why the MacBook Air is Great for Writers

Do you have a MacBook Air or Pro? Are you enjoying it? Would you call it the ultimate writers’ notebook computer? Why – why not?