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What are all the differences between the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models? Which is the best choice for my needs?
In many ways, the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models -- the stock configurations of which are the MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.7 11-Inch and MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.8 13-Inch -- are more similar in capability than previous models offered at the same time. However, in addition to the obvious difference in display size and corresponding physical dimensions there still are notable external and internal differences that can be worthwhile to evaluate.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Left - 11" MacBook Air, Right - 13" MacBook Air)
Both "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models use "wedge shaped" razor thin aluminum cases. Both are 0.11 of an inch at the front and taper to 0.68 of an inch at the rear, but the 11-Inch model is 11.8 inches by 7.56 inches when closed whereas the 13-Inch model is 12.8 inches by 8.94 inches when closed to accommodate the larger display. The 11-Inch model weighs 2.38 pounds and the 13-Inch model weighs 2.96 pounds. Both models have displays that are relatively high-resolution for their physical dimensions -- an 11.6" 1366x768 display for the 11-Inch model and a 13.3" 1440x900 display for the 13-Inch model.
Each has a full-size "chiclet-style" backlit keyboard, although the 11-Inch model also has smaller function keys with the power key integrated into the same row to save space, as well as glass "no button" trackpads with "inertial scrolling" support. Both likewise have integrated stereo speakers and an integrated 720p FaceTime HD webcam.
Connectivity between the "Mid-2012" models is the same with notable exception. Both models have 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a single "Thunderbolt" port, dual USB 3.0 ports, an analog audio out port (that also supports the Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphone), and a side mounted internal microphone. Both models also have a new "MagSafe 2" power connector that is thinner and wider than the original MagSafe power connector provided with earlier MacBook Air models.
However, the 13-Inch model additionally has an integrated SDXC-capable SD Card slot, whereas the 11-Inch model does not. Neither has Firewire, optical audio in/out, or Ethernet, although an external Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter is offered for US$29. Neither model supports a remote via IR, either.
The "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models have unique model numbers -- specifically A1465 for the 11-Inch and A1466 for the 13-Inch. At the time this Q&A was written (see top), it is possible to externally identify these models by model number alone. However, as future models likely will share the same model number, the EMC numbers -- 2558 and 2559, for the 11-Inch and 13-Inch models, respectively, will be better for long-term identification. EveryMac.com has painstakingly hand documented these details for your convenience.
Finally, EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature additionally can uniquely identify the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models by the last four characters of their serial numbers.
Internally, these systems are quite similar and effectively have identical architectures. Both the 11-Inch and 13-Inch models are equipped with dual core "Ivy Bridge" Core i5 processors with 3 MB of level 3 cache and can be custom configured with dual core 2.0 GHz Core i7 processors with 4 MB of level 3 cache.
Both lines have 4 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3L SDRAM soldered onboard (either can be upgraded to 8 GB of RAM for an extra US$100, but only at the time of purchase) and have "integrated" Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics processors that share system memory (and cannot be upgraded at all). Flash memory storage is not intended to be upgraded after purchase, but it is mounted on a removable module. Batteries likewise are not intended to be removed, and provide an estimate of 5 hours of runtime for the 11-Inch model and 7 hours of runtime for the 13-Inch model.
By default, the 11-Inch model is provided with either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage and the 13-Inch model is provided with either 128 GB or 256 GB of storage. However, the higher-end MD224LL/A 11-Inch configuration can be equipped with 256 GB or 512 GB of storage at the time of purchase for an additional US$300 or US$800, respectively, and the higher-end MD232LL/A 13-Inch configuration can be equipped with 512 GB of storage at the time of purchase for an additional US$500. The SSD module can be upgraded after purchase with third-party options, too.
The differences between the stock "Mid-2012" MacBook Air -- size, display size, connectivity, battery life, processor, architecture and configuration -- are summarized below:
|Processor Speed:||1.7 GHz*||1.8 GHz**|
|Processor Type:||Core i5 (I5-3317U)*||Core i5 (I5-3427U)**|
|Shared L3 Cache:||3 MB||3 MB|
|Direct Media Interface:||5 GT/s||5 GT/s|
|Standard RAM:||4 GB||4 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||8 GB†||8 GB†|
|Internal Storage:||64 GB, 128 GB††||128 GB, 256 GB††|
|Graphics Processor:||HD Graphics 4000||HD Graphics 4000|
|Display Size:||11.6" Widescreen||13.3" Widescreen|
|Battery Life:||5 Hours||7 Hours|
|SDXC Card Slot:||No||Yes|
|Dimensions:||.11-.68 x 11.8 x 7.56||.11-.68 x 12.8 x 8.94|
|Weight:||2.38 Pounds||2.96 Pounds|
|Order Numbers:||MD223LL/A, MD224LL/A||MD231LL/A, MD232LL/A|
|Intro Price:||US$999, US$1099||US$1199, US$1499|
* A 2.0 GHz Core i7 (I7-3667U) processor also is available via custom order for the 11-Inch MD224LL/A configuration (which has 128 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$150 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.
** A 2.0 GHz Core i7 (I7-3667U) processor also is available via custom order for the 13-Inch MD232LL/A configuration (which has 256 GB of flash storage by default) as a US$100 upgrade. EveryMac.com also has documented this BTO/CTO configuration as its own model.
† Both models can be upgraded to 8 GB of RAM as a US$100 option, but only at the time of purchase. RAM in all models is soldered in place and cannot be upgraded after purchase.
†† The higher-end MD224LL/A 11-Inch configuration can be equipped with 256 GB or 512 GB of storage at the time of purchase for an additional US$300 or US$800, respectively, and the higher-end MD232LL/A 13-Inch configuration can be equipped with 512 GB of storage at the time of purchase for an additional US$500. The SSD module can be upgraded after purchase with third-party options, too.
So, which "Mid-2012" MacBook Air is the best choice for my needs?
As always, the MacBook Air line is intended for those who place greatest importance on size and weight rather than performance, connectivity, or expansion. However, as is the case with all computers, each MacBook Air line has become faster and better connected than its predecessor and the line certainly has come a long way since its debut in 2008.
Consequently, performance is unlikely to be an issue for most consumers who tend to not do demanding tasks while on the go (like high-end video editing and encoding). With two USB 3.0 ports, connectivity also is unlikely to be an issue for most consumers. Expansion, however, remains essentially nonexistent (unofficially, the storage likely can be upgraded, but other components cannot). Most consumers tend to care little about future upgrades or repairs. Nevertheless, if higher performance, additional connectivity, and/or expansion are important to you, you would be better off considering a MacBook Pro.
If size and weight are the most important purchasing criteria to you, you find the performance and connectivity acceptable, and you do not care about future upgrades -- a MacBook Air could be a great choice.
In general, should you decide that a "Mid-2012" MacBook Air is right for you, EveryMac.com would encourage you to spend the extra US$100 to upgrade the RAM to 8 GB at the time of purchase. As the RAM cannot be upgraded later, the standard 4 GB of RAM will shorten the usable life of the computer. It is expensive compared to upgrading the RAM yourself on a MacBook Pro that can be upgraded, and no doubt many would say overpriced. Nevertheless, spending an extra US$100 to upgrade the RAM to 8 GB would be money well spent in the long-run. 4 GB of RAM will be inadequate for most users in two years if not sooner.
Also, in general, the 11-Inch display -- although relatively high-resolution for its physical size -- still is rather limiting and most who do more than basic multitasking likely would prefer a 13-Inch model. The difference between the two in size and weight is unlikely to be enough to be critical for most. The 13-Inch model also is a bit faster (around 8%) and the 13-Inch model has better battery life and the SDXC Card slot could be useful as well.
Nevertheless, for those who only do simple tasks on the go -- word processing, e-mail, web browsing, listening to music, and basic photo editing, for example -- or who are looking for a small portable notebook to complement a desktop Mac, the 11-Inch model could be perfect. If price is important, the 11-Inch model is less expensive as well (although a used MacBook or MacBook Air would be cheaper, still).
Please refer to EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any MacBook Air model to any other G3 or later Mac.