Apple's MacBook Air has established itself as the benchmark for thin and light laptops in recent years, and with its upgrade to Intel Core chips in 2011, it got the performance boost to match its sleek design and build.
The latest 11in and 13in models launched by Apple in June are pretty much the same on the outside as the 2011 edition, aside from the addition of dual microphones on the left-hand side. Meanwhile, OS X Lion has been updated to Mountain Lion – although you'll have to wait until the autumn to get hold of a MacBook Air running the latest Mavericks version, but Apple has made some tweaks to the battery to get more juice out of the machine.
We've been trying out the Core i5 11in version with 4GB of RAM to see if Apple's battery promises live up to expectation, helped on by the inclusion of a processor from Intel's latest Haswell processor architecture rather than the previous Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge versions.
Build and design
The MacBook Air is one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around, with dimensions of 300x192x17mm and a weight of 1.08kg. Even with the rise of ultrabooks since Apple first released this hardware a few years ago, PC manufacturers have yet to find a way to drive down weight and size, while retaining decent performance and battery life at a reasonable cost.
Even though the MacBook Air is stick-thin and feather-light, build quality is superb, making it extremely sturdy. It's very impressive that Apple has managed to pack in a 79-key island keyboard that is well proportioned into this 11in model, and other manufacturers should take note.
Another key area where the MacBook Air surpasses the majority of its Windows-based counterparts is the keyboard and trackpad. The trackpad itself is huge, and more than adequate to carry out swiping and pitching gestures comfortably.
The only real downside is the click-anywhere feature, which can be a little bit inconsistent. We've also found that the trackpad can get glitchy once you've had your MacBook Air for a couple of years or more, so it's not the longest-lasting laptop around.
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