The New 2012 Macbook Air - Is there a better competitor?

Apple last week unveiled its new line-up of laptops including the latest revision to the Macbook Air. With prices staring at £849 for the 11-inch model, there's no doubt it's one of the more expensive laptops around but is there anything better on the market for it's specs and features?
Source: Apple.com

The Macbook Air competes with the latest line of ultrabooks - high-spec, low weight laptops running Microsoft Windows.

Below is a comparison of the Macbook Air and a few other ultra books - for the purpose of this comparison we'll be using the baseline 13-inch Air.


2012 Macbook Air 13-inch:
Price: £999
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge 1.8GHz - Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
RAM: 4GB
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
Notes: Available from £859 for students. 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 thunderbolt port, 1 SD card slot. Weights 1.3kg, 720p FaceTime camera, OS X Lion and iLife Suite included, 7 hours battery life, no built in ethernet port (adaptor available at extra charge), can upgrade to 8GB RAM for extra cost, backlit keyboard
Buy it now

Dell XPS 13:

Price: £949
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
RAM: 4GB
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
Notes: Weighs 1.4kg, claims 8 hours battery life, ethernet port, Microsoft Office Starter edition included (word and excel with ads), 2 USB 2.0 ports, runs Windows 7 64-bit, has a tapered design like the Air.

Buy it now
Verdict: A strong competitor, almost identical to the Macbook Air, with slightly better battery life (at the cost of an extra 100g of weight) but slightly slower graphics and processor. Also no USB 3.0. If you prefer Windows over OS X, buy this. If you're a student, the Macbook Air is cheaper via the educational store though.


HP Folio 13-1020EA:
Price: £669.95
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz - Turbo Boost up to 2.3GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
RAM: 4GB 
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Notes: Up to 9.5 hours battery life, weighs 1.5kg, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, memory card reader (multi-format), 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port (so only 1 USB 2.0 device can be used at once!), Microsoft Office Starter edition included (word and excel with ads), no built in ethernet connection, finger print reader, backlit keyboard
Verdict: The battery life is astounding and could be worth it for the extra 200g of weight. The price is £330 cheaper than a Macbook Air making this a bargain in comparison - if you can deal with the fact there is only 1 USB 2.0 port and no ethernet connection! The aluminium finish and backlit keyboard are usually associated with premium notebooks so are nice to find on a much cheaper machine. If on a budget this is the one to go for!



Final verdict: At just £670 the HP Folio is a bargain for all its features. If you can deal with the fact it only has 1 USB 2.0 port (although this may not be a problem in the future it certainly is now due to the lack of 3.0 devices - combined ports like on the mac would make more sense).

If you live in the Apple ecosystem the Macbook Air makes sense, in particular with the upgrade to Mountain Lion meaning it will have further iCloud support, airplay mirroring and integration with all the Apple services. It does come, however, at a price premium.

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Now some differences between PC and Mac in general: the PC will be loaded with crapware but comes with the reduced-functionality versions of Word and Office, the Mac does not come with any office program and these must be purchased separately. The Mac does however include iLife. On Mac you'll get an upgrade to Mountain Lion, on Windows it's an upgrade to Windows 8 (a major revision!)

Yes, I've only found two comparable ultra books at the moment but the line-up is sure to expand over the coming months. if you find something better post it below in the comments!
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About Giovanni Costa

Radio journalist, newspaper editor, travel writier, tour guide and Disney Cast Member. These are just some of the things Gio has done in the past few years. He loves visiting new destintions, trying new food and wants you to come along for the ride!
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