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Friday, 22 November 2013


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Hi Mike:

It all depends on what you want to do with the MacBook Air.

The MBA version that you linked to is severely underpowered both in RAM and storage but could be fine for surfing the web or email. It would not be suitable for photo work except on the most rudimentary level.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Take this with a grain of salt.

Looks like a basic configuration saving you $124 not incl.

If you're not DIY averse, you can take the $124 contact OWC, and add a 8 GB RAM kit. You might consider upgrading that 128 GB SSD for a 240 0r 256 GB SSD depending on your needs, or just opt for the 256 GB SSD model out the gate.

Really depends on how you will use it.

Dear Mike,

No, not for you, it only has 4 GB of RAM, and that's not user-upgradable.

That's simply not enough for your needs.

pax / Ctein


TLM: Too Little Memory — only 4GB.
Since you can't upgrade later, you must order the 8GB configuration.

TLS: Too Little Storage — only 128GB.
Ditto. Go for 256GB.

You'll need every bit of memory and storage you can get on the Air. It's underspecified as it is. (You'll thank me for taking this advice in years to come.)

That appears to be the best price for that configuration, given no sales tax and free shipping.

The Apple Store has the same model refurbished with 1yr full warranty, but comes out to the same after 5% local sales tax.

Hey, Mike

It doesn't look like it's to bad of a price. Compared to what apple is selling the refurbished ones for. If you don't need it right away you might wait as the silly season is coming up and Apple does do sales promos during this time.

Rob M

Seems like about a $120 discount for this base configuration, so yes, a good deal if that's what you want.

Yup, it's a good deal. That's the current model MacBook Air for about $120 less than buying direct from Apple. The MacBook Air is currently mid-product cycle, so I wouldn't expect any product updates for a few months at least.

The question is though, is it enough of a computer for you? Two things stick out that you may want to consider: 128GB of storage is pretty small and certainly not enough for a library of digital photos, music, etc, so you'll have to have an external drive attached. Secondly, 4GB RAM is, in my opinion, just not enough to run the current OS along with [insert your photo editor of choice]. Nowadays, I'd consider 8GB RAM to be the minimum. I'm pretty sure that the RAM in the MacBook Air is NOT user upgradable (it's soldered to the motherboard), so seriously consider buying up front with 8GB installed.

Refurbs directly from Apple have the same warranty, about 15% off. From personal experience with about 10 machines over about as many years, I can say that they are 100% just like new and in perfect condition every time. The only drawback is that you can't customize.


The problem is it has to compete with their own iPad. Do you want the additional features of a laptop – with a small screen?

Looks like B&H is discounting the unit because it was stocked before the release of Mavericks.

Still current generation hardware, so it is a good deal at $45 less than a refurbished unit.

Caveat emptor, memory cannot be upgraded on these so it's 4GB for the life of the unit.

As a new unit, not bad. New ones have some advantages over refurbs whech were seen at this price previously: They come with the latest software including the OS which is free, but a massive download and an hour-long installation for most users of older hard disk based computers (the Air is a solid state "disk" and thus *much* faster than hard disks). Also, new system buyers can download iLife and iWork for free, if not already installed on their system. Appleinsider.com maintains a list of current new and refurb prices.

With computers, You always have to ask for what use.
It's a wonderful light portable machine for many purposes, -even occasional image editing. It's a great SECOND machine for travel (even around TOP World HQ) but for more serious use as an image editing machine I think you would find it lacking.
It has no retina display, which once you've used one you will miss, Ram is fixed at 4GB, and it features an integrated graphics card which while improved from earlier ones is no powerhouse for graphics or driving an external display.
If it's a true second machine, most of these concerns are lessened, but personally, I would want at least the Retina display model.
This is the one 'built down' to the 'Under 1k ' price.
It's still a marvel of design and engineering, but personally, I would find it lacking

Pretty good , same as the best buy price.

If that's going to be your main computer, I can't imagine running only 4 gig of ram though.

Haswell means it will run all day on a charge and Thunderbolt means there are all sorts of ways to add external storage and displays.

Not quite as good a deal as here though


Not really a computer maven, but specs look superficially the same as the low-end default configuration for a 13-inch air that goes for about $1100 on the apple web store.

Possible concern is that, last I checked (not recently, to be fair), things like RAM and storage are not really owner-upgradeable on the air - so you need to be sure you're at peace with having 4gb of RAM.

Looks like a $125 discount from normal price. It is the new model Air.

It is a good price, but it may not be a good value. The memory and storage are non-upgradeable. 4/128 is enough for some, not others.


I’m inclined to agree that it’s not enough RAM, but Mavericks has a new memory management system that’s reportedly very effective, so it really depends on what you plan on using it for. As a primary machine, I'd pass.


It's a good computer. I bought the exact same one for my daughter and borrowed it for a week last month during a photo trip. I used Lightroom. It handled editing easily, and I impressed everyone (or irritated them) by keeping the same charge for 5 days and just flipping the lid up to start uploading while they waited forever for older laptops to start. For myself and photo work, though, I'd put another $500 bucks into the only slightly heavier new Macbook Pro, 13 inch retina screen, 256 gigs storage, 8 gigs ram, faster processor.

To supplement my previous comment, I agree that a 13.3 inch screen, low GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage do not an ideal photo processing workstation make. But that was not your question - you asked if that configuration at $975 was reasonably priced.

If we are talking about your blogging machine, especially if supplemented by a nice large screen most of the time (you will need a cable adapter to do that), this is more than fine.

On the other hand, the Retina Display at 15 inches is a minimum requirement, IMHO, 2GHz or more of Haswell-generation CPU, a robust graphics processor, a reasonable amount of RAM (8GB) and 256GB of SSD are all needed for a main photo work station. Add to that a sizable external hard disk for recent or "working" image storage and another one for archival storage purposes.

As others here have said - it all depends on what you are going to do with the system.

I use a similar machine (late 2010 13" MBA 4GB RAM, 250GB SSD) for everything I do - writing, surfing, programming, graphic design and photo editing. But I'm a small is beautiful kinda guy and refrain from the latest, greatest (most power hungry) tools; I use GIMP, LR2 and still run Snow Leopard. Perhaps 4GB is underpowered these days. I find the my 250GB drive to be a bigger restriction, read: too many photos. A tiny 500GB external drive solves that problem though, and provides for backups.

Current price listings of all apple products from various resellers: http://appleinsider.com/mac_price_guide

you won't be happy with 128gb storage.
you won't be happy with 4gb ram.
Its not a retina screen.

Good enough to do TOP publishing on the road, but not good enough to do imaging work.

Listen to Ctein and the others.

I've always found the following to be a good resource:

It shows prices from a number of different retailers for all of the various Mac configurations.

Cheap Apple - isn't that an oxymoron?

I agree it may or may not work for you. I would not recommend it as the main computer for a photographer either in this or the larger +$375 configuration.

But it is a good price for an excellent truly portable laptop. Last summer I got rid of my big heavy 15" laptop and got the Air and a Mini. The two computers together cost me less than another high-powered laptop. I have redundancy, no need to disconnect/reconnect, and a wonderfully light and plenty capable portable system for the road. I carry a laptop far more often when traveling now. The cheaper 4/128 configuration runs LR4 just fine for my taste, and it lets me feel virtuous for my thrift while forking over $1000.

One more question, what peripherals do you intend to use with it. When I went to buy a macbook, one of folks in the apple store recommended that I go with the MBP, for the connectivity. And I do agree about the ram, you need at least 8 GB with lightroom and the D800.


Display is not as good as the rMBP.


I can't argue against the claim that it is somewhat underpowered for heavy image editing, but as for the comment about the "small screen", I have a 2011 13" MBA and find the screen fine. Obviously not as much real estate as larger screens, but it is high quality and with multiple desktops, very workable.

The storage is most definitely upgradable, and very easily. (http://eshop.macsales.com/installvideos/macbook_air_2010_ssd_m/) The RAM, however, is not.

This is a great little laptop for many things, but it's underpowered and under-RAMmed for photography. But for other things...

I have the 2011 version of this. I use it every day to write software user guides, and that includes installing and running various software in both Windows and Mac OS, running various authoring tools and screen-grab/image editing tools, I always have 15-20 tabs open in two or three different web browsers, plus productivity tools, etc. etc. and it never lets me down.

But I probably wouldn't use it for photo work. (I use my highly-spec'ed Mac Mini for that.)

Not a good deal. Any piece of hardware that has these words attached: APPLE COMPUTER is not a good deal.

This message written from a Samsung laptop with a giant screen, and tons of ram (upgrade-able) and a big disk (replaceable), with ethernet jack, Windows 8 (oh the horror) and other goodies that apple people aren't allowed to want, all purchased for much, much less than $975, last year.

My wife has this configuration.

The 13" MB Air is really thin and light. It has a great keyboard. The battery lasts forever and charges quickly. The screen quality makes a difference too.

I also have a fully loaded 13" MB Air with the 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM and the 256 B SSD. This machine is also a back up for client photo processing (LR, PS 6, NIK Suite) in case my desktop system fails.

As many wrote before me, the memory and SSD storage capacities mean the MB Pro you describe will be suitable for writing and browsing. As far as photography goes, it is and not meant for anything but viewing and photo editing (as in image selection, evaluation and comparisons as opposed to involved rendering, processing and adjusting) photos. It would also be useful for storing images during travel or anytime you are away from home. WIth a decent quality thumbnail drive you could easily make photo back ups as well.

External USB-3 drives are small, fast and cheap so the 128 GB SSD capacity is not that limiting.

And you can run Flash!

This is a good deal for the general purpose use because you have a full warranty. I too have had nothing but great experiences with refurbished products from the Apple Store .

The main weakness of this machine is the 128GB SSD and the relatively slow processor.

I use the 1.7Ghz i7 version of this machine but with a 256GB SSD for all of my personal and photo work and it is perfectly fine. The screen is a tiny bit small for Lightroom but *performance* is not an issue. I even run a VMWare virtual machine inside this laptop for my astrophotography.

You can probably do better than this by trolling for Apple refurbs.

That's a superb price for a poor configuration.

I don't know why it's being blown out, MBA's from Apple are still arriving with Mountain Lion loaded (got min last week).

You REALLY want the 8GB upgrade. OS X likes its RAM, image processing likes its RAM and RAM is not upgradable on the Air (or on the Retina MacBook Pro).

The SSD is not currently upgradeable (the upgrades linked to are for the last-generation unit, they changed the SSD type on the 2013 Air's). They will be in the fullness of time and Apple wants FAR too much for the 256GB SSD, better to carry a 2.5" USB HDD for now and get a larger one next year when they're available. With the Retina MacBook Pro's now using the same SSD type as the new Air's its just a matter of time before they become available are reasonable (for an SSD) pricing.

I recently received my new Air, it's the 13" model upgraded to 8GB and with the 128GB SSD. Battery life is insane after upgrading to Mavericks. It handles Lightroom fine, not super-fast, but I'm not stuck waiting for it (of course, using Lightroom for more than Import/selection eats battery as it does on all laptops). The Display is good but not Superb.

@bt: Your Samsung is no doubt a rather nice machine and a good value proposition when compared to the standard MacBook Pro (which btw has upgradeable RAM and HDD and a nice 13" screen, for $1099). But it is not comparable to the MacBook Air, which is an ultralight take-anywhere machine weighing a hair over 3lbs and with 14+ hours of battery life. The only comparable machine is one of Sony's Ultrabooks, which offers a nicer display and slightly lower battery life, at pretty much exactly the same price (It's an 8GB/256GB config base for the same price as the 256GB MBA, so the Sony's a slightly better deal, but offers less battery life). No other machine with a full-on i5 CPU and decent GPU can even come close on battery life.

One other thing to note: the SSD machines are a HUGE speed upgrade over spinning disks. My Air is routinely faster at starting things like iTunes, Safari, iPhoto and so on than my newer iMac that has a beefier CPU and much much more memory. All of that difference is associated with the SSD.

Buying an iMac with only a spinning disk was probably my biggest purchasing mistake of the last 10 years.

Mike: as other's have said, this is a good computer but it is the basic model. We currently have an upgraded version running in the Santa Workshop with more RAM, a larger hard drive, 2 2TB G-Drives, and an Apple 27 inch Cinema Display hanging off it. With this setup it runs Aperture teathered to a Nikon D5100 & prints to the Epson 1430 via Pages. It doesn't hang or bog down. The nice thing is that since it is an Air it can be unplugged at night & taken home if needed. So, if you want to travel with your computer an Air is great 'cause you can plug everything in & it becomes a desktop unit. If you don't need it for travel there is always the iMac or Mini.

Had I not actually used an Air with a mere 4 Gig of RAM, I would have agreed with the other comments.
I have a mid 2011 Air with just 4 Gig of RAM, and I can run Lightroom and Photoshop at the same time with huge files and it does not stumble. I have 16 Gig of RAM on my main machine, but for road work, 4 Gig works well enough for me. Those who say 4 is not enough, are either Ctein, who probably needs 32 Gig, or those who really are guessing and assume 4Gig of RAM will crash. I works quite adequately, and better than people think.
Regarding storage, I find 128 enough. I use a small portable external drive which can give me a 1.5T. Why pay for 256 when what we all need is even more. So just go external.

@Adam Maas:

you are mostly right and I appreciate the even tone of your reply to my snarky remark.

As a formerly devoted Apple user, I still have a chip on my shoulder about apple, always charging more, always limiting choices.

The whole "if steve doesn't need it, neither should you" schtick is ultimately a self-defeating behavior. they never seem to want to really get beyond selling high-style high-cost items to the well-off.

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