13-inch Macbook Air review

The resolution hasn't changed, but with great battery life and a lower price, the Macbook Air is still a superb ultraportable

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Page 1 of 313-inch Macbook Air review


13.3 in 1,440x900 display, 1.4kg, 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U, 4.00GB RAM, 128GB disk, OS X 10.8

Line this year's 13-inch Macbook Air up with last year's model and you're going to struggle to see any differences. Before you start to think that's a bit disappointing though, this year's model has two key improvements: better battery life and a lower price.

These are the two most important things when buying an ultra-portable laptop and, to be fair to Apple, the rest of the laptop didn't really need to change. After all, when you've got a super-thin, all-aluminium laptop that weighs just 1.35kg and looks fantastic, what can you change?

Instead, focussing on what's important ensures that this year's model is an improvement over the outgoing model, without having to radically alter the formula. As we said, it is battery life that really makes the new Macbook Air stick out. Thanks to a 4th Generation Intel Core i5 'Haswell' processor, this laptop is far more power efficient than the chips used in last year's model, so even though it has the same capacity battery, the 2013 MacBook Air lasts a lot longer.

Apple 13in Macbook Air

This year's Macbook Air is the same size and has the same battery as last year's mode, but Intel's Haswell processor means it lasts a lot longer

In our light-use battery test, which simply scrolls through an HTML version of War and Peace, last year's model lasted almost 12h; this year's version lasted 18h 35m, which is a 50 per cent increase. This is largely down to Haswell CPUs having very low-power sleep modes, so when they don't have a lot of workload, they don't draw a lot of power.

To see how the laptop would cope when asked to do a bit more, we ran a new battery benchmark, which played a 10 minute video every 30 minutes. In other words, the Macbook Air would be busy for approximately one-third of its time. In this test, it lasted an incredible 9h 6m. That's simply incredible and shows that the laptop should live up to Apple's promise of all-day battery.

One trade-off is that the 1.3GHz Core i5-4250U CPU is very slightly slower than last year's model. We got an overall score of 45 for the 2013 MacBook Air 13-inch, while last year's model scored 53. It's not that big a difference and it's important to note that operating systems and applications haven't become more demanding. Besides, OS X still felt incredibly smooth and responsive, so we have no complaints.