10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

The New 2012 Macbook Air - Is there a better competitor?

Apple last week unveiled its new line-up of laptops including the latest revision to the Macbook Air. With prices staring at £849 for the 11-inch model, there's no doubt it's one of the more expensive laptops around but is there anything better on the market for it's specs and features?
Source: Apple.com

The Macbook Air competes with the latest line of ultrabooks - high-spec, low weight laptops running Microsoft Windows.

Below is a comparison of the Macbook Air and a few other ultra books - for the purpose of this comparison we'll be using the baseline 13-inch Air.

2012 Macbook Air 13-inch:
Price: £999
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge 1.8GHz - Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
Notes: Available from £859 for students. 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 thunderbolt port, 1 SD card slot. Weights 1.3kg, 720p FaceTime camera, OS X Lion and iLife Suite included, 7 hours battery life, no built in ethernet port (adaptor available at extra charge), can upgrade to 8GB RAM for extra cost, backlit keyboard
Buy it now

Dell XPS 13:

Price: £949
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
Notes: Weighs 1.4kg, claims 8 hours battery life, ethernet port, Microsoft Office Starter edition included (word and excel with ads), 2 USB 2.0 ports, runs Windows 7 64-bit, has a tapered design like the Air.

Buy it now
Verdict: A strong competitor, almost identical to the Macbook Air, with slightly better battery life (at the cost of an extra 100g of weight) but slightly slower graphics and processor. Also no USB 3.0. If you prefer Windows over OS X, buy this. If you're a student, the Macbook Air is cheaper via the educational store though.

HP Folio 13-1020EA:
Price: £669.95
Screen: 13-inch
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz - Turbo Boost up to 2.3GHz
Hard Drive: 128GB SSD
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Notes: Up to 9.5 hours battery life, weighs 1.5kg, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, memory card reader (multi-format), 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port (so only 1 USB 2.0 device can be used at once!), Microsoft Office Starter edition included (word and excel with ads), no built in ethernet connection, finger print reader, backlit keyboard
Verdict: The battery life is astounding and could be worth it for the extra 200g of weight. The price is £330 cheaper than a Macbook Air making this a bargain in comparison - if you can deal with the fact there is only 1 USB 2.0 port and no ethernet connection! The aluminium finish and backlit keyboard are usually associated with premium notebooks so are nice to find on a much cheaper machine. If on a budget this is the one to go for!

Final verdict: At just £670 the HP Folio is a bargain for all its features. If you can deal with the fact it only has 1 USB 2.0 port (although this may not be a problem in the future it certainly is now due to the lack of 3.0 devices - combined ports like on the mac would make more sense).

If you live in the Apple ecosystem the Macbook Air makes sense, in particular with the upgrade to Mountain Lion meaning it will have further iCloud support, airplay mirroring and integration with all the Apple services. It does come, however, at a price premium.


Now some differences between PC and Mac in general: the PC will be loaded with crapware but comes with the reduced-functionality versions of Word and Office, the Mac does not come with any office program and these must be purchased separately. The Mac does however include iLife. On Mac you'll get an upgrade to Mountain Lion, on Windows it's an upgrade to Windows 8 (a major revision!)

Yes, I've only found two comparable ultra books at the moment but the line-up is sure to expand over the coming months. if you find something better post it below in the comments!

Disneyland Paris - Club Actionnaires Meeting - 31 May 2012

The latest Disneyland Paris Club Actionnaires (Shareholder's Club) meeting was held a few days ago on 31st May 2012 and offered members of the club an opportunity to ask questions about how the resort is favouring. This is particularly import in this pivotal 20th anniversary year with massive investments having been made. Below is what emerged from the meeting:

Villages Nature:
  • Construction agreements are being negotiated.
  • They are preparing the marketing for the real-estate there - it ill first be targetted at "Ecological forward-looking countries" such as Scandinavia, Germany, Netherlands, France, ... initially, before marketing them globally.
  • There will be roughly three levels of "comfort", but prices have not yet been finalised. 
  • The target customer will be families staying for an average of one week. 
  • P. Gas hopes to attract some of these families to the theme parks, but there won't be a central reservation system to avoid cannibalising resort hotel room sales (and vice versa)
  • Different offers and packages are being considered, including local residents who would enjoy the facilities. They are investigating what will work.

My view: A one week stay seems excessive for the scale of the project, this could be another example of the company making overly-ambitious plans, such as when all the hotels opened so quickly at the start of Eurodisney. It could be that the prices are affordable though.

Convention Centre:
  • Still going ahead but in the longer term as it requires working in cooperation with the government.
  • The principle is the same as the Palais des Congres in Paris, with the possibility of holding concerts / shows to fill the space (and attract visitors that the Resort would not come to the Resort)
Val d'Europe:
  • Ségécé (mall designers) had two plans for the future of the center. One of the two projects was not liked at all by EuroDisney because of its lack of image / atmosphere (story telling). 
  • The other plan is well suited for the center, but there's no detail either. Looking at 2015 at the earliest for implementation of this plan. ED is involved on the future of the centre.
  • P.Gas confirmed that Ratatouille was in progress, as he says in any case it was an open secret.
  • Planned opening in 2014. 
  • The attraction will be accompanied by a new restaurant concept of a new, more upscale table service. P.Gas cited a single menu concept, as the restaurant "L'entrecote" in Paris where the only thing to choose is how you want your steak cooked. Except Gas says here it won't be steak... they want to be innovative.
Background research on "L'entrecote" restaurant: "When you dine with us, there is no menu - simply tell your waitress how you would like your steak cooked.  After your salad starter, your steak is brought to you in two stages, with one half held back to keep warm, so you can enjoy it at its best and is accompanied with more freshly prepared frites. "

California Grill: 
  • A new chef arrived a few weeks ago, he can do whatever he wants and has been told to make the restaurant more "gourmet."

World of Disney & Disney Village:
  • The current Disney Store will be transformed into one of the "imagination park" stores such as those in London or Madrid for example. 
  • It opened the question of the future of the Disney Village, Disney Store, and aged appearance of the Village. 
  • The opening of non-Disney stores is what is anticipated. 
  • There is also the question of how to attract people to the end of the Village, although the Earl of Sandwich is satisfied with its result.
  • There is a need to think about the storyline of the Village as it now makes no sense.
Walt Disney Studios :
  • Park development will focus on the Studios until at least around 2017-2018. 
  • The future of Studios - there is a serious need for change and a change of theme is considered, there's two ways it can go about: 
    • Progressive: By adding things that have nothing to do with the original theme, we come to forget it and one day the theme will be changed as Disney has no other options 
    • Voluntary: Disney change the theme overnight (Gas:"and not just the name") after considering the case.
  • The second method is favoured because the change can be more easily communicated to guests, but it also requires a high investment. 
  • The disrepair of the Tower of Terror was also mentioned - The investigation is ongoing, but it is long because it involves insurance, experts, who is responsible, ... and all that before actually doing anything about it. 
  • A hotel at the park entrance is envisaged. A brand new hotel or an extension of the DLH which is in high demand.
20th Anniversary so far:
  • Reservations are up 6% to 7% over the same period last year. 
  • The satisfaction rate has jumped more than 10% in one month with the launch the 20th anniversary.
  • The 20th anniversary got 5 times the media coverage of the 15th anniversary. 
  • 3% increase in attendance compared to April 2011, despite bad weather.

  • High-end hotels and budget hotels are the most requested. 
  • "The rich continue to come to DLH", people who were want an intermediate hotel often downsize to the Santa Fe or Cheyenne.
  • The satisfaction rate of renovated lodges at the Ranch is the same satisfaction as at the DLH. 
  • The renovations of hotels will continue in 2-year plans, ( currently 500 rooms a year in Sequoia). 
  • 3.5 years left until all the hotels are refurbished
Dreams and restaurants: 
  • The satisfaction rate of Dreams is very incredible: 98%. 
  • People remain in near the hub and spend more than before between 20:00 and 22:00 until Dreams. 
  • Families with small children have a slightly lower satisfaction rate because the show is at 11:00 p.m. It should increase when the show takes place around 20:30 when it gets dark earlier. 
  • Also, they are trying to solve the problem of restaurants closing early. This should be fixed for the summer season. They blame some of the early closures on the fact that the fireworks close off a lot of fantasyland (I think: this however doesn't explain erstaurants in Frontierland closing early... )
  • They are also planned to develop an "evening" ticket to enable locals to come and attend Dreams, and a package including "evening park entry + evening meal + VIP Dreams positioning"
Shareholder's Club:
  • Someone asked about a Gold shareholder card that would offer 25% discount in restaurants instead of 15%. It is in fact planned for there to be two levels of the shareholders club in the future, these are not yet defined and they would offer different services. 
Annual Passports and the Website:
  • The "Super-Dream" passport is once again confirmed P. Gas said "I swear it will happen." 
  • A loyalty/reward system will also be introduced, and perhaps not only with the new passport. 
  • Someone mentioned the mess in the management of annual passports, they say they are well aware that this exists and are working on solving these problems, but it takes time to change an outdated computer system. 
  • Ditto for the website will be completely redone to be more intuitive, even Philippe Gas said that it is hard to find what you are looking for.

Thanks to Mikes at the DisneyGazette forums for providing this information in French. Further research has been done into some issues by myself.