The original MacBook Air established itself as the benchmark for thin and light laptops, and with its upgrade to Intel Core chips in 2011, it got the performance boost to match its sleek design and build.
The latest 13in model launched by Apple in June is 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 – 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 1.3GHz 13in 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 13in MacBook Air doesn't quite meet its 11in little sibling's feather-light credentials, but it's still one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around, partly thanks to its inclusion of flash storage.
It measures in at 325x227x17mm and weighs only 1.35kg, adding just under 300g compared with the 11in 1.08kg model, and expanding by just 25mm in width and 33mm in depth. Even with the rise of ultrabooks since Apple first released this hardware a few years ago, PC manufacturers have struggled to drive down weight and size, while retaining decent performance and battery life at a reasonable cost.
Even though the 13in MacBook Air is stick-thin and lightweight, build quality is superb and extremely sturdy, while the unibody design gives the laptop a sleek, high-end look. Apple has included a 79-key island backlit keyboard that is well proportioned into this 13in model, with 12 function keys and four arrow keys laid out in a user-friendly format. The keys have a short travel distance, meaning only a light touch is needed when typing.
Another key area where the MacBook Air surpasses the majority of its Windows-based counterparts is the trackpad. The trackpad itself is huge, and more than adequate to carry out swiping and pitching gestures comfortably, making it a breeze to scroll up, down and around the screen. But be warned – once you've got used to the trackpad, you'll find it difficult to downgrade back to a normal mouse experience.
It's easy to tailor the trackpad to work in the way you want it, with options for one, two and three finger clicks, right clicking, as well as dragging up or down the trackpad. The only real downside we've found is that the trackpad can get glitchy – for example with the right-click functionality – once you've had your MacBook Air for a couple of years or more.
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