Mac Musings

The June 2009 MacBook Air Value Equation

Dan Knight - 2009.06.11 - Tip Jar

In addition to introducing a 13" MacBook Pro (replacing the Unibody MacBook) and updated 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models, Apple also improved MacBook Air performance - while at the same time slashing its price.

The new MacBook Air comes in two base models: 1.86 GHz with a 120 GB hard drive for US$1,499 and 2.13 GHz with a 128 GB solid state drive (SSD) for US$1,799. Other than CPU speed, specs appear to be identical to the models introduced in October 2008.

The MacBook Air gains the same powerful GeForce 9400M graphics processor as the MacBook White and the MacBook Pro line. It also adds a video port and has more storage - 120 GB on the hard drive version, 128 GB for the solid state drive (SSD).

Here are new and close-out prices from today's MacBook Air price tracker:

  • 1.6 GHz, 80 GB HD, $1,049 shipped
  • 1.6 GHz, 120 GB HD, $1,349 shipped
  • 1.86 GHz, 120 GB HD, $1,439 shipped
  • 1.86 GHz, 128 GB SSD, $1,649 shipped
  • 2.13 GHz, 128 GB SSD, $1,729 shipped

If you have minimal storage needs, the 1.6 GHz model with the 80 GB hard drive is the way to go. Graphics aren't up to snuff compared with GeForce 9400M, but adequate for most field work.

For more demanding work, the 120 GB hard drive models are the way to go, as they have GeForce graphics. The new model is about 16% faster than the older one, and with a less than 7% difference in price, I'd suggest that the new 1.86 GHz model is the way to go.

If you really feel the need for SSD, which is more rugged but doesn't appear to be significantly faster at present, the reduced prices on the SSD models make them far more attractive than before. The 2.13 GHz model is approximately 14.5% faster than the 1.86 GHz one, yet the difference in price is less than 5%.

New vs. Refurbished

Apple has a few refurbished MacBook Air models listed today:

  • 1.6 GHz 120 GB, $1,199, Apple
  • 1.8 GHz 64 GB SSD, $1,299, Apple
  • 1.86 GHz 128 SSD, $1,449, Apple

At these prices, the 1.6 GHz hard drive model is hot - $150 less than close-out pricing and $240 less than the new 1.86 GHz model. I would hesitate to recommend the 1.8 GHz MBA with the 64 GB SSD primarly because it's an older technology drive. The 1.86 GHz with SSD can save you $200 over close-out pricing and is within a few dollars of the price of the new 1.86 GHz hard drive model - probably the best way to get a MacBook Air with SSD.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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