Apple MacBook Air review: Apple MacBook Air

While the 80GB hard drive included in the base $1,799 model may be smaller than you're used to, the only other option is a 64GB solid state hard drive. With no moving parts, and advantages in heat, power consumption, and reliability, SSD hard drives are certainly the way of the future. The future may have to wait a few years for prices to come down; however, swapping the 80GB platter drive for the 64GB SSD drive is a whopping $999 upgrade. The only other internal hardware option is a CPU uptick, from 1.6GHz to 1.8GHz for $300. With the upgraded CPU and SSD drive, the $1,799 MacBook Air suddenly becomes a $3,098 laptop.

We are pleased to see that the MacBook Air comes standard with 2GB of RAM, but with a processor that runs at a much slower clockspeed than the standard MacBook (2.0GHz or 2.2GHz), plus a 4,200rpm 1.8-inch hard drive (as opposed to the standard 5,400rpm), it's not surprising that the MacBook Air is not as fast a performer as the $1,649 MacBook we reviewed in December 2007. Do note that the baseline $1,099 MacBook features a slower processor and half the memory of our MacBook review unit.

And as we often point out, any modern dual-core CPU is going to be more than adequate for Web surfing, multimedia playback, and productivity tasks, and we were able to surf the Web, play videos, and work on a document at the same time with absolutely no slowdown or stuttering. We're currently conducting additional benchmark tests and will update this review with new results as they're available.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the MacBook Air is the lack of a user-replaceable battery. While most laptops will be obsolete before their batteries wear out, we are sensitive to the desire to occasionally carry an extra battery for extended field use. We're still conducting our standard DVD battery drain test on the system, and will report those scores shortly, but in anecdotal testing, the Air lasted for nearly 4 hours of mixed use, including video playback, software installation, Web surfing, and productivity tasks. That's reasonably close to Apple's 5-hour claims, but may not be enough for a full day of off-site use.

We're still not fans of Apple's nearly obligatory extended warranty upsell (so much so that we've simply copied this complaint from our last MacBook review). The default warranty for the MacBook is one year of coverage for parts and labor, but toll-free telephone support is limited to a mere 90 days--well short of what you'd typically find on the PC side--unless you purchase the $249 AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends phone support and repair coverage to three years.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Apple MacBook Air - 1.6GHz
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 80GB Samsung 4,200rpm

Sony Vaio TZ150
Windows Vista Business Edition; 1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7500; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 64MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 100GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

Toshiba Portege R500
Windows Vista Business Edition; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7600; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 120GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo - 2.2GHz / 13.3 inch
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 160GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Apple MacBook Air

Part Number: MB003LL/A Released: Feb. 8, 2008

MSRP: $1,799.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb. 8, 2008
  • Resolution 1280 x 800 ( WXGA )
  • Operating System Apple MacOS X 10.5
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Weight 3 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel GMA X3100
  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz