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Apple MacBook Air Notebook Computer

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3/31/2014 11:51:29 AM

Apple reinvented the notebook computer with the incredibly slim Air. Available at 13in or ultra-portable 11in sizes, it’s still the most desirable of all laptops and - with improved performance and battery life as long as 12 hours - a superbly usable companion.

Features

Total portability is the Air's primary selling point. It hasn’t changed visibly since its introduction in 2010, but updates like USB 3 and 802.11ac are significant, and more recently it’s seen a leap from five to nine hours’ battery life for the 11in, while the 13in claims a staggering 12 hours, beating even the iPad. A 9% increase in battery capacity accounts for only a small part of that: it’s Intel’s Haswell processor architecture that’s made all the difference. We didn’t quite manage the full times quoted by Apple in our own battery tests, but not far off.

Macbook Air 11in

Pros and cons

The 11in Air is really easy to slip into a bag and could change the way you use a Mac, being a real go-anywhere, always-on, never-run-out-of-battery companion. Do consider, though, whether the 169 screen might be too cramped. At 1366 x 768 there are enough pixels for almost any single task, and OS X makes it feel natural to flip between apps in full-screen mode rather than arrange them in multiple windows. But jobs like comparing two documents side by side could be a struggle. The 1440 x 900 13in looks crisper than the 1280 X 800 MacBook Pro and is comfortable for text editing and creative apps.

Performance

You wouldn’t expect an ultra-slim, ultra-light machine with ultra-long battery life to major on performance, but the Intel HD 5000 graphics in all the Air models gives them a boost compared to say, the Mac mini. The weak point is the 1.3GHz dual-core CPU, which is below the requirement for many games, although older and less demanding titles will run fine. Expect to turn down settings and resolution before big new titles have a chance of running. Gaming may not be what you have in mind, but it's an indication that the Air isn’t a good choice for serious creative work either. (The $197.94 1.7GHz option will help a little.) As an everyday Mac, it’s brilliant. That’s partly thanks to its flash storage, which is far quicker than a hard disk (we got a median of 624.4MB/ sec reading 181.1MB/ sec writing on the 13in, 6012MB/ sec and 290.6MB/sec respectively on the 11in) and makes general operation feel impressively snappy.

Dimensions

At its front edge, the Air is just 3mm thick. It tapers to 1.1011 at its broadest. The 13in model measures 325 x 227cm and weighs 1.35kg, while the 11in is 30 x 19.2cm and 1.08kg, almost beating the proverbial bag of sugar

Inputs/outputs

The FaceTime HD camera in the centre of the top bezel is complemented by dual microphones, visible as pinpricks on the left-hand side, which OS X uses to zero in on your voice and cut background noise. Stereo speakers are also built in Even the 11in Air has a full-size backlit keyboard as well as a glass multi-touch trackpad. One external monitor can be driven at up to 2560 x 1600 at the same time as the Air's own screen

Macbook Air seen from the right side

Connections

There's not much room for sockets in a machine 1an thick, but you get one Thunderbolt and two USB 3. 802.11ac wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 are also built in, but if you need a wired network connection, choose carefully. Apple's $41.24 Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adaptor will take up your only Thunderbolt port, leaving no way of connecting an external monitor or Thunderbolt peripherals while it's in use The USB version would make more sense, but it's USB 2 and limited to 100 Mbit/sec. A third- party USB 3 to Gigabit Ethernet adaptor, such as Startech’s, will be faster and slightly cheaper.

MacBook Air seen from the left side

Upgrading

Your Air's initial spec is baked in; nothing can be changed later. 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage may be adequate for a general purpose notebook, but if this will be your sole Mac, or you want to keep things like photos and videos on it, think seriously about opting for a bigger SSD, and if you plan to do more than text editing and web browsing, or keep lots of apps on the go at once, consider paying the extra $131.96 for 8GB of RAM.

 

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