Apple 11-inch MacBook Air (2012) review
As one of the thinnest laptops ever produced, the original MacBook Air was a revelation. The competition may have heated up with the launch of Intel’s Ultrabook programme, but 11in models are still thin on the ground with only the Asus ZenBook UX21 in direct competition.
Despite this, Apple hasn’t been resting on its laurels – this sixth iteration might be more evolution than revolution, but it’s the best MacBook Air yet.
The 2012 Air has the same aluminium chassis as last year's model, and looks almost identical. The only clue is the slightly thinner MagSafe power connector, which has been redesigned for a more secure hold. Otherwise, the two USB ports, single Thunderbolt port and 3.5mm audio jack look identical to the old system.
Apple has made some major changes internally, starting with an upgrade to the USB ports. They now both support the faster USB3 standard, although, unlike the USB3 ports on most Windows PCs and laptops, they're not blue. The Air's SSD storage has been upgraded to support SATA3, improving data transfer speeds by as much as 40% in certain applications.
The major upgrade is the processor, which has made the jump from a 2nd generation Core i5 to the latest 3rd generation Ivy Bridge models. Despite Apple’s signature secrecy surrounding its component choices, the specifications match a low-voltage Intel Core i5-3317U running at 1.7GHz. The processor can Turbo Boost to 2.6GHz when operating below its thermal ceiling for extra performance.
This certainly showed in our multimedia benchmarks, where the Air scored a very respectable 60 overall. It definitely has enough power to run almost any everyday application, and it's quicker than any Ultrabook we've seen - but we'll have to wait for our first Ivy Bridge Ultrabook to make a real comparison.
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