Mix-and-match ultrabook
November 21, 2011 6:04 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about your experiences running Windows 7 on a MacBook Air.

I'm looking at replacing my ancient ThinkPad with a MacBook Air, primarily for the portability. Sticking with Windows 7, since I like it and know it well and have no reason to switch.

What is this configuration like in practice? I've seen this article but would like more personal anecdata. Specific things I'm wondering about:

- can you do a smooth 2-finger scroll like in OS X? How smoothly does the trackpad function in general under Windows 7? (this is my #1 concern)
- can you remap the keyboard to have convenient Delete, PageDown, and PageUp keys (that don't require pressing Fn in combination)? if so, where do you put them?
- any problems with power management/battery life/overheating/etc.?
- any comments on Lenovo's new ThinkPad U300s as a possible alternative?

Lastly, is there any way I can actually try out this configuration in person before buying the laptop? I'm in the Boston area.
posted by danceswithlight to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are other reviews similar to that article. These reviews are mostly of the previous generation MacBook Air (Core2 Duo versus Sandy Bridge).

There is an alternative touchpad driver for Windows7 which claims to offer a better experience than the BootCamp supplied driver.

Power management claims to be pretty much identical. I've seen no claims of any issues.

I can't help with any of the other questions, sorry. Good luck
posted by blob at 6:24 AM on November 21, 2011

XP on the original Macbook Air runs just fine using VMware Fusion (I own this.) Win 7 under VMware's ESX, ditto. I've seen Win7 on the new Powerbooks, it flies. But I haven't seen your combo. Alas, I can't give you the exact test, which is the current MacBook Air (1.6 or 1.7GHz Core i5, or 1.8GHz core i7.)

Supposedly, there are going to be Sandy Bridge based MBAs, and an ultra-think 15" MacBook, but these are rumors.

The biggest performance issue will be graphic performance -- the MBAs do not have big-name 3D graphic accelerators, because that's not what they're built for. So, gaming could be an issue.

I don't blame you for wanting to know before you buy, at all.

You're other questions:

Key remap. Possible, see This for one utility. It explicitly mentions PgUp/PgDn and the Backspace/Delete combo.

Power Management: Excellent in MacOS and with XP under Fusion. However, the MBAs are *lightweight* first and foremost, and batteries are not. If you anticipate needing long battery life, ultralights are problematic. That said, with the right airline adapter, I've never found an issue with them, and I've run 4 hours on battery on my MBA repeatedly.
posted by eriko at 7:00 AM on November 21, 2011

Since you want a ultrabook with Windpws 7, why not just buy one of the ones that Asus or Toshiba is making? No point in paying an Apple premium if you're not going to use the Apple software.
posted by Vhanudux at 8:20 AM on November 21, 2011

I regularly use Windows 7 via Bootcamp on my 11" Air with and without the Thunderbolt display. Everything works as expected. Power management seems similar to running OS X and scrolling hasn't been a problem (except for Lion using the reversed scrolling by default while Windows, of course, doesn't.

As for the keyboard, there are a number of apps that can remap keys easily, and Autohotkey can help create macros (e.g. for making a key-combo for page down, etc.)

Generally the reviews of conventional Windows ultrabooks have been lacking and they remain quite expensive, so I'd recommend getting the Air. Because of its popularity you'll have better access to answers and support, and there will be many more accessories for it compared to less-popular ultrabooks.

All that being said, if I couldn't use my Air, I'd get a Lenovo.

Don't forget to factor in the cost of a Window license when looking at Apple computers, too.
posted by phaedrus441 at 8:47 AM on November 21, 2011

Well, my go-to site for tech reviews is the extremely thorough AnandTech, and I was actually just reading their recent review today for Macbook Airs since I was looking into getting a new one.

There's a section on Windows 7 performance which might be helpful, though it doesn't answer all your questions. It does discuss your question of battery life in the section following my link.

Although they don't mention touchpad performance, if there were egregious issues they almost certainly would mention them in that section.

Also, if you're looking for the MBA form factor in a Windows machine, consider checking out their review of the ASUS Zenbook.
posted by losvedir at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2011

Late on this, sorry...

I'd wait. Why buy a Mac to run Windows? The u300s is out soon and is going to kick the laptop market into touch.

Wait a while and go for a PC
posted by 0bvious at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2011

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