Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2010) review

Is Apple's latest 13in MacBook Air the best ultra-portable laptop ever? Read our review to find out.

Reviews
16 Nov, 2010
4
Price 
£1,148
ex VAT
Verdict 
The latest 13in MacBook Air isn't perfect. It's pricy, although cheaper variants with smaller SSDs are available, and it should really come with 4GB of RAM as standard at such a high price. Despite these flaws it's the best ultra-portable laptop we've seen thanks to its sturdy yet slender and lightweight design, excellent battery life, bright, high-resolution screen and large, comfortable keyboard and touchpad. If you can afford it and can live with its limitations, it's a great buy.

The MacBook Air is Apple's lightest and thinnest laptop, but the company made some controversial compromises to achieve this in the original model. The first Air only had one USB port, with no memory card reader, Ethernet port or any other connectivity besides wireless networking and Bluetooth. Most disappointingly of all, the first Air had battery life of less than four hours which is far from ideal for an ultra-portable laptop designed for travelling.

A new, smaller 11.6in version of the Air has been introduced, but in this review we concentrate on the dramatically improved 13.3in model. This new Air is still very light, weighing just 1.33kg, so it's easy to carry around all day. It's also very thin – the tapered design is just 15mm thick at its chunkiest point and a mere 4mm thick at its thinnest point – so it's immediately eye-catching. Despite its slender, lightweight build it feels robust and very well-made thanks to its aluminium construction.

The most immediately noticeable improvement is the number and variety of ports. There are now two USB2 ports and a SDXC memory card reader in comparison to the single USB2 port on the original Air. There's still no built-in Ethernet or optical drive, although Apple sells a portable USB DVD writer and a USB-to-10/100Mbit/s Ethernet adapter separately. More disappointingly, there's still no built-in 3G.

Battery life has been dramatically improved. We recreated our Windows light usage battery test, where the computer is set to scroll through a series of webpages until the battery depletes, under MacOS X. The Air lasted an astonishing 13 hours and 40 minutes before the battery ran out. This is the longest battery life we've seen in any ultra-portable laptop so far and is long enough to last all but the most epic journeys. The battery isn't designed to be user-replaceable though. Unlike other MacBooks, there aren't any sLED lights indicating sleep status and the level of battery charge. Apple claims these aren't necessary since the battery can hold a charge for 30 days before completely depleting, although we didn't have time to test this.

Specifications 

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400, 1.86GHz

Memory: 2GB 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated

Hard disk: 256GB solid state disk

Display: 13.3in 1,440 x 900 pixels, LED-backlit screen

Features: 0.3 megapixel camera, microphone, stereo speakers

Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

Ports: 2 x USB2, Mini DisplayPort output, 3.5mm combo headphone and microphone audio socket

Dimensions: 325x228x15mm (WxDxH)

Weight: 1.33kg

Warranty: 1yr C&R or customer carry-in warranty

OS: Mac OS X 10.6

Part code: MC504B/A

BENCHMARKS

Image editing 79

Video encoding 52

Multiple apps 68

Overall 62

Light usage battery life 13h40m

POWER CONSUMPTION

Idle 10W

Active 46W

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