The 11.6” Samsung display panel in my Air evaluation unit is actually the same one I had on my last MacBook Air, though the one before that had an LG panel. This is all based on the panel supply lottery, and while it’s been alleged that the Samsung is a superior quality panel in terms of contrast and viewing angles, I honestly can’t say there’s too much of a difference overall between the two. I’ve never had them side-by-side, and color calibration can certainly skew visual perception significantly, so let’s just say that your mileage may vary. If you don’t like the panel you get, take it back and try another one—Apple Stores seem to cater to discerning customers (or they have with me).

Pixel Density Comparison Obviously, given our familiarity with the Air 11”, there’s nothing surprising here with the 2013 edition. It’s roughly the same as the last few we’ve had, beyond standard panel to panel variations. Contrast ratio and color reproduction are pretty decent, as they were before, and viewing angles are solid by the standards of TN panels. This is still the best 11.6” TN panel I think I’ve come across, but it’s been eclipsed many times over by the 1080p IPS 11.6” panels that are shipping in basically any higher-end 11.6” Ultrabook these days.

LCD Analysis—Contrast

LCD Analysis—White

LCD Analysis—Black This is probably the biggest issue that I have with the 11” Air. The 11.6” 1366x768 TN panel was industry standard when the first Air 11” hit the market, and the panel quality was actually pretty decent. The display size, pixel density, and aspect ratio each specifically aren’t bad on their own, but the combination results in a pretty unsatisfying viewing experience in this day and age. I’ve never liked the 1366x768 resolution for notebook displays, regardless of panel size; the lack of vertical pixels just kills it for me. Even 1280x800 in the 13” MacBook Pro (non-Retina) is better. I don’t mind 16:9 as an aspect ratio, even at this size, but I just want more pixels. That’s really the biggest part of what makes the 13” so much more usable, the 1440x900 display in that also won’t blow you away in terms of dot pitch or even visually when compared to the Retina MacBook Pro or a modern Ultrabook, but it offers a much more pleasant experience than this 11.6” panel.

CPU Performance The iPad Question
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  • KPOM - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Maybe. We need to see the design. The current Surface Pro is too big to be a good tablet, and too small to be a good notebook. 10.6" 16x9 is a bit cramped, even more so than the 11.6" screen on the MacBook Air. At the same time, 2lbs is bulky for casual tablet use. An iPad Mini or Nexus 7 with an 11" MacBook Air or 13" Ultrabook may be a better combination than any attempt at an all-in-one. But if the Surface Pro can lose 0.5 lbs while improving battery life, it might have a shot.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Meh, it'll still be too small as a laptop and too big as a tablet... Convergence just isn't that big a deal to mospeople, unless you travel or move around constantly and you always find yourselflpacking both laptop and tablet.
  • flyingpants1 - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    What is the best-case scenario idle battery life? Brightness at 0%, no wifi, CPU idle with the screen ON all day. Think it would top 20 hours?
  • solipsism - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    What would be the usefulness of such a test?
  • seapeople - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Playing solitaire in the car at night on a long road trip. Seriously, I've done this quite a bit. When it's dark in the car, no need to run 200 nits, or have wireless on, and you're effectively not using the CPU. The hardest part is still paying attention to the road. (Just kidding on the last one)
  • nerd1 - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Yet another MBA review? Come on, there are tons of new interesting laptops around (vaio duo 13, Clevo 230ST, MSI gs70, lenovo 15.6" with 760M SLI ETC) and we're seeing boring MBA review ever and ever and ever?
  • KPOM - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    The 11" MacBook Air is one of the few 11" notebooks out there. For whatever reason, apart from hybrid tablets, the Windows market has largely ignored this form factor. Therefore, for someone looking for a "real computer" the size of a tablet it is one of the few options out there.
  • nerd1 - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    You are missing the fact that MBA has HUGE bezel so it actually has smaller screen than its size. Many other oems (samsung, sony, LG etc) are putting 12.5" or 13.3" screen to similarly sized and weighted laptop as MBA 11.
  • KPOM - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    There are a few, but most of the 12.5" or 13.3" Ultrabooks are still physically bigger than the 11.6" MacBook Air.
  • fhmuffman - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Vivek, did it occur to you to attempt to drive a 4k display? I have been trying to find info on this. Anandtech as been very helpful in the past but anything relating to the Thunderbolt ports (page 11 of the June '12 rMBP review) has been missing in the last two MBA reviews. Does the MBA use a half Redwood Ridge solution like the previous models did with Cactus Ridge, and therefore can't drive a 4k display?

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