Print 39 comment(s) - last by ritualm.. on Jul 30 at 4:43 PM

4K display seems less likely, but bump to Surface 3 Pro-like "Retina" resolution seems likely

When it comes to the battle of ultraportables Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) 12-inch, $799 USD Surface Pro 3 (2160x1440 pixels) stacks up reasonably well against Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) current 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air notebooks, which start at $899 and $999 USD, respectively. The smaller 11-inch Macbook Air features a low-resolution 1,366x768 pixel display, while the larger model features a 1,440x900 pixel display (to their credit, they do offer twice the storage as the base Surface -- 128 GB of flash -- in their base SKUs).

That could soon change, as Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is reportedly working on a pricier 12-inch MacBook Air which will feature a "Retina display".  According to 9to5 Mac, the new notebook will be thin and lighter and feature a slightly modified aluminum unibody.  

More likely the new screen will be close to that of the Surface Pro 3, as the Retina display in the second-generation 7.9-inch iPad Mini is 2048×1536 pixels (326 PPI) (QXGA).  The 9.7-inch iPad Air is also QXGA (2048×1536 pixels (264 PPI)) and the smallest laptop with Retina display -- the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro -- is 2,560x1,600 pixels (227 ppi).

Assuming Apple goes the same route as it did with previous MacBook Retina displays, the 12" Retina MacBook Air could feature a 2880x1800 display.  The new laptops are expected to launch in time for the holiday season, shortly after the release of Yosemite in Q4.  OS X 10.10 "Yosemite" -- currently in Beta – will launch in final form this October.  9to5 Mac claims the new model will be billed "as a selling point for OS X Yosemite."
It's not surprising, psychologically speaking, that Apple might want to launch a 12-inch product to directly via with Surface Pro 3.  In recent months Microsoft has offered customers up to $650 USD to abandon their MacBook Air for a Surface 3 Pro and a number of customers have taken them up on that offer.

According to 9to5 Mac, Apple is also reportedly going to launch a product with a 4K display. It is not known the new product will be a 4K iMac, or a 4K Thunderbolt Display (or perhaps both).

Source: 9to5 Mac

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No comparison
By aurareturn on 7/24/2014 12:34:58 PM , Rating: 1
There's no comparison between an Air and a Surface. I use a 2013 Macbook Air professionally at work and so do many of my colleagues. I will never use the Surface as my only computer. The Air is a full-fledged computer. The Surface is not there yet.

RE: No comparison
By xenol on 7/24/2014 12:49:47 PM , Rating: 1
What is a "full fledged computer"?

I could claim the Macbook Air isn't a "full fledged computer" because nobody at work uses it and instead use desktops with hexacore Xeon processors to do "real" work.

RE: No comparison
By jlasoreilly on 7/24/2014 1:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
Well to start you have to pay an extra $150 just to have a keyboard. So their entry line is $799 + $150 just to have the same function as a macbook air. Then there is the fact that the keyboard is rather flimsy by comparison and the touchpad is small. Then of course there is the fact that you need a stand on the back to keep the screen up, whereas on a normal laptop it keeps itself up.

So really pick a reason any would justify such a statement.

RE: No comparison
By Willis2000k on 7/24/2014 2:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
One.source worth looking into is i P r o T a b l et -- which offers a new 12" Android tablet, the Ramos i 12 ($299) which features an Intel processor and HD display with excellent performance and you can add a Case-keyboard ($50). They also offer the Ramos i10 Pro for $399, which is the first Windows - Android Hybrid on the market and makes it easy to use both Windows software and Android Apps on the same device, and features a high performance Intel Bay Trail processor and 10" Full HD display.

RE: No comparison
By tayb on 7/24/2014 3:22:04 PM , Rating: 2
The Surface Pro 3 also has a pen digitizer for drawing, a capacitive screen for finger input, superior resolution, ability to be used as a tablet, and superior portability.

The keyboard is flimsy, it is detachable, and the kickstand is more annoying to use on your lap than a traditional notebook hinge. Still, given the benefits I would prefer a Macbook Air. I can get over the keyboard in exchange for all of the things listed above.

Anyway, the keyboard situation doesn't make it any less of a functional computer. It has just as much horsepower and is running a full desktop OS.

RE: No comparison
By corduroygt on 7/24/2014 5:42:31 PM , Rating: 2
A real computer has a real keyboard, end of story.
I like the Surface Pro, but they should have a keyboard that makes it as robust as a traditional laptop for most people to take it seriously.

RE: No comparison
By TEAMSWITCHER on 7/25/2014 9:12:00 AM , Rating: 2
I agree the TypeCover doesn't provide the best typing experience. It's too far bouncy in it's angled position and the whole device is too unstable to use on your lap - Microsoft down-right lied about it's "Lapability." Surface Pro 3 is exactly what people have been wrongly calling MacBooks for's a fashion statement.

RE: No comparison
By Samus on 7/25/2014 1:53:49 AM , Rating: 4
Two points:

The Surface, with or without the keyboard, is lighter than the Air.

The Surface has a touch screen, something no Apple PC's have. This allows the Surface to effectively act as an iPad and a MacBook.

So your argument that the Surface is as expensive as the MacBook Air after adding the keyboard is irrelevant. Especially after you consider the kicker: no real work happens in OSX. Every single one of my clients is forced to Bootcamp or Parallel Windows 7 on their MacBook to do "real" work. There is no QuickBooks, Office:Mac is still a joke, and domain support in Mac OS is still at the NT 4.0 level; you can't push updates, images, software, printers, and Hyper-V support is absent.

So I guess depending on how low-level your business is (very small, simple business) Mac OS might work, but in the real corporate world, Mac OS is about as useful as Chrome OS.

My point is, add $150 for a Windows license onto the MacBook Air, something the Surface already includes.

RE: No comparison
By robinthakur on 7/25/2014 5:57:20 AM , Rating: 2
It largely depends on the nature of your business, and it is fairly common these days to see the MBA in companies especially due to its 12 hour battery life and the proliferation of BYOD. It is widely thought to be the best Windows laptop once you put Windows on it (albeit with a reduction in function and battery life) For web design, most people use Macs in my experience, mainly because it is easier to admin drupal and the MAMP stack using it.

Whilst I really want a Surface Pro 3 for the pen, handwriting ability and the cool factor, it is pretty expensive for the 8GB ram models I would need ($2797 in the UK) and all the situations I can think of me using it in would involve having it balanced on my lap, which just wouldn't work as well as my Macbook. Whenever I tried it in stores, the keyboard wobbles when you type on it in the raised position, which would drive me mad. I think I'll wait until the Keyboard accessory becomes more than a pretty gimmick, and hopefully they also make the trackpad on it approach the functionality and brilliance of the one Apple has been using for many years

RE: No comparison
By atechfan on 7/25/2014 12:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone actually use the touchpad on any laptop unless they either forgot their mouse or have no room to use it? Even in this case, the Surface has a touchscreen, which is far easier to use than a touchpad.

I'd place the inclusion of an OS that actually has the software I run as a bigger plus than the inability to stand without a kickstand as a negative.

RE: No comparison
By daar on 7/27/2014 10:50:22 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure a lot of people do for business, that being said, I have to write rather long reports often and the complaints about the keyboard are over the top.

The SP3 keyboard might not have a great tactile response, but it doesn't hinder my typing speed by a significant amount to be a problem, and if it was I'd just use a wireless keyboard. I don't own an SP3 to get defensive of it either.

RE: No comparison
By docroc67 on 7/24/2014 2:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
The Mac is a full-fledged computer because it can run the wide gamut of applications that most people use to get work done. Obviously, not all applications in the world, but a huge number.

RE: No comparison
By Digimonkey on 7/24/2014 3:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
They're talking about the Surface 3 Pro which comes with Windows 8.1, not RT.

RE: No comparison
By Digimonkey on 7/24/2014 3:50:20 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry nevermind, I just now read the comment you responded to. Though the original comment was ancedotal, he wasn't actually saying Macbook air wasn't a full fledged computer.

RE: No comparison
By moremilk on 7/24/2014 1:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
not sure why you would say that, but the new surface has slightly better specs than the macbook air and comes with windows natively, which is what most companies use and is the de-facto business operating system outside niche design companies.

the input devices are better on the mac, but let's face it, anybody who is spending a lot of time typing and has the space to do so will choose a real keyboard and mouse in a professional environment (not to mention a separate screen).

RE: No comparison
By docroc67 on 7/24/2014 2:12:55 PM , Rating: 2
WIndows 8.x is not the de facto operating system standard.

RE: No comparison
By Solandri on 7/24/2014 4:31:40 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft knew exactly who they were gunning for with the Surface 3. It's got a 12" 2160x1440 display with digitizer (so you can use a pen) and covers 97% of sRGB. The MBA is 11.6" 1366x768, isn't even a touchscreen, and only covers about 65% of sRGB.

The MBA is unsuitable for graphics professionals wanting a small and light portable computer. Apple was relying on that to channel those people into buying the higher-priced Macbook Pro. The features I just listed for the Surface 3 target those graphics professionals specifically.

Apple is either gonna have to release a retina MBA with near-100% sRGB, and cannibalize their 13" MBP sales in the process. Or they're can stick with the current MBA, maybe update the screen to retina resolution but remaining at 65% sRGB, and lose MBA/MBP customers to the Surface 3.

but let's face it, anybody who is spending a lot of time typing and has the space to do so will choose a real keyboard and mouse in a professional environment

The laptop form factor keyboard is actually a detriment to graphics professionals wanting to use the computer as a drawing pad. Right now these people are springing for a Cintiq, but you can see the attraction of just having a single tablet/laptop which does it all.

It's pretty amazing that the Surface 3 is just about the same size and weight as a big graphics tablet from 10 years ago.

RE: No comparison
By corduroygt on 7/24/2014 5:45:49 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone who needs to use a stylus is a niche market by definition. Real work means mouse/touchpad and keyboard to the vast majority of people. And that's where the Surface pro comes up short.

RE: No comparison
By atechfan on 7/25/2014 12:35:46 PM , Rating: 2
Then those people get a Windows based laptop and Microsoft still wins. If they need to do "real work" they are probably not using MacOS.

RE: No comparison
By Dadofamunky on 7/25/2014 2:05:02 AM , Rating: 1
I have never seen a graphics professional ever use anything other than a Mac. I've worked in Silicon Valley for 20 years, so I think I have a reasonable sample size. Not a single one - I challenge anyone to come up with a real graphics professional who does (note: I use Adobe constantly as a professional, but I'm not a graphics specialist) - will ever use Windows 8 for this purpose. Stupidest interface ever. Finally - Surface Pro 3 is a good unit. But graphics work on a tablet? Please. Really? No one worth their salt would ever do anything serious even on an MBA, even with a retina screen. They simply don't scale.

RE: No comparison
By ritualm on 7/24/2014 3:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
There's no comparison between an Air and a Surface.

If you're talking about the vanilla Surface, sure. Otherwise that statement is wrong.

The one big thing I hate about the MBA as it currently stands is the display - there has been zero upgrades to it since its introduction. It's the same TN 768p / 900v as its previous years, and it isn't cheap; you can buy 2-3 new iPads with greatly improved display quality for the price of an MBA, and it's ridiculous.

RE: No comparison
By Dadofamunky on 7/25/2014 2:06:51 AM , Rating: 2
Agree. That is a long overdue upgrade. I love the MBA but that is the biggest reason I've never bought one.

RE: No comparison
By TomMariner on 7/25/2014 8:31:21 AM , Rating: 2
The Mac and the Windows families of devices are two different, but both competent.

But, I am writing this on a Surface Pro 3, and it is the best full-fledged computer I have owned. In fact, once you get used to the speed and power, everything else seems slow and old-fashioned.

Wow are you not going to like this -- one of the big steps forward is Windows 8.1 -- it has definitely improved my productivity. I have everything I need loaded on the start icons and just shut the keyboard, walk and open it to start working within a second!

What an odd world to live in...
By CaedenV on 7/24/2014 12:33:11 PM , Rating: 2
When Apple starts taking design cues from MS then you know that something is horribly wrong in Cupertino.

I find the Surface 3 to be such an odd product. Granted I am a bit biased towards a traditional laptop form factor, but the Surface 3 seems so strange. I mean distribution is just getting under way and in just a few short months we will start seeing Broadwell chips hit the market which should allow for designs like the Surface 3... but without any fans at all. I wonder if MS just knows something about Broadwell availability or specs that we don't in that maybe it won't be as good as expected, or if MS already had the Pro3 in the production pipeline when they got ahold of their first reference Broadwell chips to work with. Either way I expect to see a fanless Surface Pro 4 within the next 6 months that will truly give a real tablet experience.

RE: What an odd world to live in...
By aurareturn on 7/24/2014 12:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
What design cues did Apple take from the Surface Pro 3?

RE: What an odd world to live in...
By FITCamaro on 7/24/2014 1:21:56 PM , Rating: 2
12" display and UHD display.

What reason other than competing with the Surface Pro would they have for releasing a 12" Macbook Air when they already have an 11" and a 13" one?

RE: What an odd world to live in...
By jlasoreilly on 7/24/2014 1:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
A self supported 12 inch display isn't exactly "taking design" tips from MS's stand supported touchscreen. That's a display size that they've used on prior macbooks.

RE: What an odd world to live in...
By atechfan on 7/25/2014 12:45:30 PM , Rating: 3
Apple fans can't have it both ways. If round corner rectangles are Apple's innovation, then 12 inch screen are Microsoft's.

By captainBOB on 7/25/2014 1:03:16 PM , Rating: 3
Good thing you jokers aren't running the US patent office.

By captainBOB on 7/25/2014 1:15:00 PM , Rating: 2
I really doubt that is why they are switching to 12", it could be a possibility that they are somehow threatened by the Surface but I doubt that is why they are going to 12".

Its more likely to be one of two things:

The 11" size when pixel doubled ended up being some awkward resolution.


They need a way to differentiate between a Macbook Air and a 13" Macbook Pro in a visible way.

I'm inclined to believe the latter, the 13" MBP is essentially an MBA with beefier hardware and more ports, narrowing the differences to just some ports and beefier hardware calls into question its existence in their product lineup.

By dagamer34 on 7/24/2014 1:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
You'll see designs like the Surface Pro 3 with Broadwell, but not with the same level of performance. You aren't going to suddenly get a 15W TDP chip into 8W TDP where you don't need fans anymore, you are going to get the lowest end Core chip into a SDP where you don't need fans. The 22nm-14nm die shrink isn't that magical. This is the mistake most of the tech press is making because they don't know any better.

Broadwell's release schedule also seems pretty nebulous at the moment, it doesn't seem like we are going to get any volume shipment of chips until early next year, so they were right to release it now with Haswell (and as AnandTech has reported, likely specially-binned lower leakage Haswell chips straight from Intel), so the gains in power efficiency aren't going to be as great compared to your standard Haswell ULV part.

It also makes no sense that the Surface Pro 3/4 would have no fans; if they knew Broadwell was going to give them a fanless tablet, they wouldn't have put a ton of engineering effort into making the Surface Pro 3 with fans. Since space is at such a premium inside a design like that, there's no way they were able to turn on a dime to go from a fanless design to one with fans. This was already in the works for a while and they've mentioned they spent 3 years working on that fan design in a video from launch day on YouTube.

Expect the Surface Pro 4 to have Broadwell, longer battery life, and hopefully an integrated LTE SKU now that the Intel XMM 7260 LTE chip is shipping to partners.

By atechfan on 7/25/2014 12:40:10 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft can't wait for Intel to finally launch Broadwell. Intel is running into problems transitioning to 14nm and it appears that Broadwell may not appear in volume until 2015. There will always be something better on the horizon, but OEMs have to work with what is available.

MSFT Astroturfing Much?
By bteeter on 7/24/2014 1:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
Wow the Microsoft astroturfing is strong in this article and comment stream. The Surface Pro 3 is no match for a Macbook Air on usability or functionality. Not to mention that in order to get a comparable piece of hardware you need to add on a $150 (really??) keyboard to the Surface.

Also, the article talks about the 12" MBA as a reaction to the Surface Pro. Please. Look at the rumor sites for Macs. There has been a 12" MBA in the works for at least a year. There have been several leaks.

The fact of the matter is the MBA now is still the best ultra portable on the market. There is no equal. I've got coworkers with Win 8 Ultrabooks and while they are nice, are still larger, heavier, and saddled with the disaster that is Win 8.

RE: MSFT Astroturfing Much?
By atechfan on 7/25/2014 12:43:26 PM , Rating: 2
Lets see, better screen by far, stylus, touch, more software. How is it not more than a match for a MacBook Air? For that matter, many UltraBooks have left MacBook Air in the dust as well. Apple is selling a "premium" laptop with a budget laptop screen. You can get the equivalent on a $300 Acer.

RE: MSFT Astroturfing Much?
By ritualm on 7/30/2014 4:43:29 PM , Rating: 2
The MBA might be what you think is the best in the Ultrabook world. Well, guess what? Its display flat out sucks. 1st-gen Surface RT beats that even.

Also, Windows 8.x isn't the "disaster" you keep claiming it is.

price v. surface pro 3.
By jlasoreilly on 7/24/2014 1:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
The price comparison to the surface is not accurate. Macbook Air comes with a keyboard. A basic function for any laptop. To get that for the surface costs an extra $150.

By Lord 666 on 7/24/2014 2:27:10 PM , Rating: 2
If so, count me in.

"A number of customers"
By trespasser on 7/24/2014 3:04:38 PM , Rating: 2
What number? How do you know? If you can't report even Microsoft's numbers (and treat them with a grain of salt), then general statements like this are just weak writing. It makes it sound like Jason couldn't figure out how to end the sentence.

I think the comparison of the future 12" retina Air (if and when released) to the then-current Surface Pro will be an interesting one. I think rumors of future products are interesting, too. But your speculations (like the 2880x1800 resolution and Apple's motivations) are not contributing anything unless they're based on technical information (such as the dpi of available LCD panels).

By CZroe on 7/26/2014 5:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
If the 12" iPad Pro rumors are true, I expect the same (or similar) display resolution. If the iPad Pro is 16:9 instead of 4:3 then I expect the exact same panel, even. Heck, Apple could even surprise us with a return to 4:3 notebook displays with some spin about how it maximizes display size and portability. ;)

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