The latest thin and light MacBook Air remains a worthwhile purchase, especially for mobile workers. You can run any applications you'll need for business use, and you'll get double the battery life and storage space at the original 2011 price tag.
Lightweight, sleek design, nippy performance, long battery life, good value
Not shipping with Mac OS Mavericks yet, no Retina screen
Model: MacBook Air 11in (2013 model)
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.3GHz
RAM: 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 memory
Storage: 128GB or 256GB
Display: 11.6in 1366x768 LED-backlit widescreen
Connectivity: 802.11ac WiFi, 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports: 2x USB 3 ports, Thunderbolt port, MagSafe 2 power port, dual microphones, headphone jack
Battery: integral 38Whr lithium polymer battery
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.
Next: Display, ports, storage