13-inch Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2011) review
A new processor and Thunderbolt connectivity brings the MacBook Air bang up to date; now that performance is in line with the rest of the industry, there’s no question that it is ultimate ultra-portable.
Review Date: 21 Jul 2011
Price when reviewed: £1,349
Reviewed By: Tom Morgan
When it first launched in 2008, the MacBook Air was something of a revelation; the incredibly light laptop had a pencil-thin chassis that was smaller than anything before it, without sacrificing performance for portability. Last year’s refreshed model was even more impressive, with its lightning-fast flash storage and increased battery life, spawning many competitors, such as the excellent Samsung Series 9.
With the recent launch of OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple is back retake its crown as the manufacturer of the world's best ultra-portable with a brand new MacBook Air. We've got the 13-inch version here and we've reviewed the 11-inch MacBook Air separately.
On a first look it’s difficult to see what’s changed from the last MacBook Air; it uses the same unibody aluminium chassis that’s just as stunning to look at but still incredibly sturdy for such a thin laptop that weights just 1.4kg.
Most of the ports are identical too; the MagSafe power adaptor, two USB ports, SDXC memory card reader and single headphone audio jack are unchanged, but the mini DisplayPort has been replaced with Apple’s proprietary Thunderbolt interface.
The ultra-fast I/O port, designed in cooperation with Intel, can send video signals to an external display while simultaneously sending data to a storage device; currently there are very few Thunderbolt enabled storage products and the ones that exist are very expensive. However, the file transfer demonstrations we’ve seen are incredibly impressive.
Is it April 1st?
£1,349, for a 13 inch laptop, with merely an i5 processor (a slow one at that), internal graphics and a maximum of 4GB memory, with viewing angle issues? And you give it 5 stars... seriously?
That's the equivalent of a £500 PC based laptop. How is that "in line with the rest of the industry"? It's sub-standard tech in a thin case, nothing more. I mean, what's the point of having a 64-bit OS, when the machine itself is crippled by the memory limitations of a 32-bit OS? Where's the IPS screen that should come on something costing that much?
Reviews like this seriously cast credibility doubts on these so called "expert" reviews.
By LeeC22 on 25 Jul 2011
In terms of ultra-portable laptops, there's simply nothing as thin or light as the MacBook Air; it might have the same performance as a Windows-based laptop that costs half the price, but its battery life and portability are almost impossible to beat.
Ultra-portables rarely top the performance charts, but people don't buy them for their processing power. Apple isn't alone in using mid-range components in its mobile laptops; Lenovo, Sony, Samsung and Asus are all guilty of this practice, so we fel that stating the Air is "in line with the rest of the industry" is justified.
Currently, our closest comparison is Sony's recently refreshed Z-series; it costs even more than a top-spec 13in Air, but still only uses a Core i5 processor and integrated graphics - unless you count the £450 additional media drive. The review should be going online in the next few days, so you'll be able to see for yourself.
We think the high price will put a lot of people off the Air, which is why we gave it an Ultimate award; if price is no concern, the Air is unquestionably the best ultra-portable laptop around today.
By TomMorgan on 25 Jul 2011
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