13-inch Macbook Air review

29 Apr 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT
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We'd have liked a higher resolution screen, but with great battery life and a lower price, the Macbook Air is the best thin-and-light laptop


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, 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 means that this year's model is better than last year's. 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. So, even though it has the same capacity battery as last year's model, the 2013 MacBook Air lasts a lot longer.

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 incredibly 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.

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