Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 256GB Mid 2011

Reviews 28 Jul, 2011

Sleek, sexy and expensive. But enough about us, is the new MacBook Air still the best ultraportable laptop you can buy? Alan Lu takes a closer look in our review.

4
Price: 
£1,079
ex VAT
Verdict: 
It's a tad disappointing that Apple's latest MacBook Air didn't last quite as long in our battery test as its predecessor, but it's still more than good enough for all but the longest trips. It's still the best ultraportable laptop you can get thanks to other features such as it comfortable input devices, high-resolution screen and excellent build quality. Although cheaper, less generously specified versions are available, it is still unavoidably pricy but surprisingly it's still better value than the comparable competition which is something we never thought we'd see for a Mac. If you can afford it, the MacBook Air really is the best ultraportable laptop available.

Since its revamp last year the MacBook Air has been our favourite ultraportable laptop thanks to its sleek yet sturdy design and excellent battery life. The slender ultraportable has now been given a makeover and it's as good as ever. Almost.

The slender ultraportable has now been given a makeover and it's as good as ever. Almost.

Externally, almost nothing has changed. The new 13in MacBook Air looks identical to last year's version which is no bad thing – the robust yet ludicrously thin chassis feels great and weighs just 1.34kg so it's easy to carry around. The slim build does means some of the ports are packed in quite closely together, so it's possible a chunky cable or flash drive could foul an adjacent port.

The large and comfortable keyboard is now backlit, which should make it easier to work in the dark.

One new hardware feature that soon becomes apparent is the backlit keyboard which automatically lights up in dimly lit conditions, such as a lecture hall or airplane cabin. It was oddly missing from last year's model and its return is a welcome addition to a large, comfortable and responsive keyboard. The touchpad is as large as ever and the MacOS X Lion operating system includes extensive support for the pad's smooth and slick multitouch gestures. These work far better than the clunky, bolted-on gestures available on Windows laptops.

One of the other faults of last year's MacBook Air was the ageing and somewhat underpowered processor. Thankfully that's been remedied with the inclusion of a brand-new ultra low voltage 1.7GHz Core i5 processor from Intel. It's faster than the elderly Core 2 Duo used by its predecessor and should be more than capable enough for most tasks. There's also 4GB of RAM, up from the measly 2GB of the old model, but sadly you can't fit any more.

Specifications: 

SPECIFICATIONS

Processor: Intel Core i5 2557M, 1.7GHz

Memory: 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000

Hard disk: 256GB solid state disk

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

Features: 1.3 megapixel camera, microphone, stereo speakers

Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Ports: 2 x USB2, 1 x Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort, 1 x SDXC, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo audio socket

Dimensions: 325x238x11mm (WxDxH)

Weight: 1.34kg

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

OS: MacOS X 10.7 Lion

Part code: MC966B/A

BENCHMARK RESULTS

Image editing 61

Video encoding 41

Multiple apps 39

Overall 43

Light usage battery life – 9h52m

POWER CONSUMPTION

Sleep 1W

Idle 11W

Active 42W