The Winner in the Epic Battle Between the MacBook Air 11″ vs 13″


A shared a week and some change ago that I was testing seriously an 11-inch MacBook Air to replace my 13-inch version. I explain in enough detail why this is a necessary move for me and why a change was warranted.

I took the notebook on a trip to DC to celebrate the Fourth of July so I could give it the full stress test that I can give it. Here’s my experience and where I ultimately landed.

1. Portability

Size matters so much these days and the difference between the 11 and 13 is noticeable. Fatigue in my hands while I carry it, grip, and even weight were obvious.

If you’re a road-warrior and every ounce counts, this is the machine for you. The 11-inch is a clear winner, hands down.

2. Screen Size

The biggest “wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” that I’ve gotten from people is the reduction in screen size and real estate. This isn’t that bad at all actually and I was able to work in my “cramped” environments with ease.

In fact, jumping back on my 13 after a week of use made the size feel ridiculously-large and unnecessary. How amazing perspective is when you get a fresh one in your path!

If I did have trouble at all with the clutter that many people experience I simply created a new desktop and silo’d applications according to function. This is natural, easy, and with a three-finger swipe I can navigate between them all as natural as breathing.

3. Speed

The speed of the new processors in the newest refresh of the line was awesome. I shared my thoughts here about that already.

Clearly the machine had no trouble dealing with what I was throwing at it. Note, I do not do heavy image editing nor do I perform any serious video editing. I don’t even recommend any of the Air line if you do those to begin with, so stay away from all of them if that’s what you do.

4. Form Factor

I’m already in love with the sleek and relevant form factor but the issue with my wrists was the biggest issue. Outcome? It performed as I knew it would and I experienced less cramping and less slicing-pain as I spent time on it.

This alone, outside of all the other things, made the choice very clear. For the amount of time that I spend on my notebook I cannot afford to being in any pain whatsoever.

5. All the Rest

All the rest of the issues that people bring up weren’t a problem for me. I am obviously biased already as I believe that the MacBook Air line is the best line of personal computing devices ever created by human hands.

As a result, I will be definitely purchasing an 11-inch MacBook Air customized to my needs and have already returned my “test” system to Apple. I can’t wait to get it, which, might be a few months from now as I’m so deep in development with Pressgram (and a software development configuration) that I don’t have time to spend “messing” with my flow right now.

I will be buying this config:



I don’t need the storage as I do most of my stuff via the Cloud and my home backup solution and my reduced Dropbox usage.

Thoughts? Have any questions that I can answer to help you make a purchasing decision?

  • Chris Langille

    Yo John,

    I currently have a 13″ MBPro and I’ve been contemplating getting a 15″ MBAir. I”m interested mostly in getting a bigger screen, but I’m worried about losing power/speed as I run a lot of Adobe programs(Illustrator, PS, After Effects), and also produce/render HD video occasionally

    I currently have 2.3GHz i5, w/8GB RAM on the MBPro.

    Whaddya think?

    • John Saddington

      don’t do any of the air lines then if you’re doing video.

      • Chris Langille

        Word. thanks bruh

        • John Saddington

          battery is amazing. and it’s getting better.

  • Adam Shields

    I like the idea of the 11. But I have been concerned about battery and screen real estate. I do a lot of data manipulation with big spreadsheets. Most of the time I have a dual monitor. But for the past two weeks I have been traveling an only using my 13 inch. And I need every bit of the screen. But I do wonder if I would get used to it.

    But how is the battery?

    • John Saddington

      the battery is advertised as being incredible… and getting better.

  • J Heath

    Thanks for your article! I too am trying to decide btw 11 and 13. Love the portability of the 11 but what steers me to the 13 is my iPad3 that I also have. The 11 looks like my iPad w/a keyboard, etc. I’m thinking it will take away the function of my iPad, which is mostly reading, surfing, and email. Do you also use an iPad and how does that enter your decision process on your size choice. Thanks!

    • John Saddington

      no. even with the 13″ i do not use an ipad. I have everything i need (and faster and more productive) on my notebook computer. with the 11″ that will converge even to a finer degree, which will be awesome!

      • J Heath

        Thx for the reply. Had the chance this week to try both when a friend and family brought both types with him while visiting our family. They are both awesome and I was in Apple heaven.

        • John Saddington

          LOL! did you make a decision?

          • J Heath

            Well, the fact that he had both available, his wife’s 13 and his 11 was unexpected so it caught me off guard. But he uses the iPad mini and has the 11. Comparing that 11 to my ipad3 was redundant looking screen wise for me. I’m thinking that since I also use the ipad3 as stated earlier I’m leaning to the 13. I do a lot of excel spreadsheets and with my eyes approaching 50 years old, I need to see a bigger view. I have to say both machines are incredible. And, as you stated, it also depends on the functions you need it for. Thanks for your insights. I’m going to be checking out your other articles etc. especially those pertaining to your hacking skills, HA!

            • John Saddington

              thanks dude!

              lmk what you land on!

  • David Welch

    Great review! From your review, it’s apparent that this 11″ Air is small, but powerful. I am definitely going to consider it with my next computer purchase.

    • John Saddington


  • Shane Mackintosh

    Great review John. I’ve had the new 11″ Air for just over a week now and loving it…and it’s my first ever mac! I got the 1.3 with 8GB and have found it to be plenty for general day to day computing. I love the portability of it and have adapted to the screen size rather quickly (and just learnt how to do multiple desktops so thanks for mentioning that). Do you plug into an external display much?

    • John Saddington


  • Dave Anthold

    For some time, I had a MBP Pro 15″ and an 11″ MBA. I specifically got the Air so that I could write on airplanes when I traveled. It worked great and mine didn’t have the beefy items you had. I loved it. I eventually sold it when I started using my iPad to do the bulk of my writing.

    Have you considered hooking it up to a larger screen for your work at home solution? I hook up my MBP and I love getting that extra little screen real estate.

    • John Saddington

      I’ve never liked an additional screen. I just go all out native and optimize that environment. less bulk = more productivity for me.

  • Matt Medeiros


    • John Saddington


  • paulhelmick

    Did the same on the last version they had. The 11″ ssd maxed out has just rocked it. Had two friends do the 13″ b/c of the preference for the larger screen – but in the end they felt they gave up the portability benefit. The diff between 13/11 on portability is amazing… And 90% of what I do portable is just fine on the small screen. Once and a while I hunger for a bit larger canvas with something like photoshop/toolbars, etc but in the end I feel that if I only had one device – the 11″ Air would be the choice for certain!

    • John Saddington


  • Chris McIntosh

    Was the 3 hours battery difference on the new MBA line much of a factor for you? Has this battery difference made you wince at all since you’ve had the 11?

    • John Saddington


      i don’t stray too far from a power cord.

  • Morten Andersen

    As a Windows user I am now considering to buy a MBA 11. The portability factors are very important for me. As a writer I think I will use Word 2011 much, and at present I am still using Word 2003 on an old Sony VAIO TZ (11,3 screen). I use this Word version because this was/is the latest that offers REAL FULL SCREEN, without that (for me) unacceptable and annoying ribbon and columns that occupy far too much of the real estate of the screen.

    I also find the Air 11 so beautiful when it comes to the rectangular form factor, and IMO the 13 does not match my “frame of mind” because of its too high screen.

    So to end this comment by thanking you so much for your very insightful and for me important article, I will ask for a comment (from you and/or somebody else who has experience with Word 2011 on the 11 Air) about how the possibility is for making a REAL full screen experience? Is it possible to create such a condition using Word 2011 on the Air 11? For me this is an important question that also touches the theme of productivity, and even creativity, for the visual field is so important in the writing process for me. I prefer so to speak to have a white and clear piece of paper in front of me, preferably without anything else – and a screen that can mimic that, is what I want and need.

    • John Saddington

      thanks morten! good luck with it!

  • Macdailyco

    I honestly will probably go this route when my 2012 MBAir dies. I like the idea of the 11 BUT at the same time it just goes back and forth to work with me. No real need in terms of traveling etc.

    • John Saddington

      word up.