Apple MacBook Air 13-inch review: Sleek 13-inch MacBook Air gets a big battery boost

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 24 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Superb battery life; Slim, sleek design; Bright and vivid screen; Plenty of power for everyday tasks.

The Bad Processing power hasn't seen much improvement; Neither has the screen; Pricey.

The Bottom Line The new 13-inch Apple MacBook Air is as thin and stunningly designed as ever, but it's now packing the latest Intel Haswell processor, giving a significant boost to battery life. Overall performance hasn't really improved though and the retina display is still absent.

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Few companies generate anything like the buzz that Apple does for its new products, with rumours flying around months before an official announcement is made. Apple's keynote event at the Worldwide Developer Conference put the wagging tongues around the new MacBook Airs to rest as it unveiled the latest revisions to its range of sleek and stylish laptops.

The 13-inch model I had in for review might not look any different on the outside, but it's packing some new treats within. The base 13-inch configuration featured here comes with a dual-core 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor, from the new Haswell family of chips. A 128GB SSD drive is on board too, along with 4GB of RAM. It'll set you back £949.

Opt for the top configured model with a 1.7GHz Core i7 chip, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and you'll be shelling out 1,580 pounds.

Spicy prices indeed -- so is the new MacBook Air worth the money? Read on to find out.

Should I buy the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air?

If you regularly find yourself working on the move, the Air is an excellent choice. It remains one of the skinniest laptops around, making it a joy to slide in and out of a backpack or briefcase. Its metal construction helps it put up with knocks too.

The 2013 model is equipped with Intel's latest Haswell processors. Performance for everyday tasks hasn't been noticeably improved, but battery life has had a significant boost. We were able to squeeze 14 hours out of it in our tests, making it the ideal laptop if you often find yourself working away from a plug.

It's not seen any change in its design though, and Apple surprisingly hasn't equipped it with a retina display like its MacBook Pro brethren. Acer's Aspire S7 is a similarly slim machine with good looks, high performance and a Full HD touch-enabled display. If you're not fussed about Windows or OS X, Acer's option is worth considering.

Design

If you were desperately hoping for a fresh-faced Air with an exciting new design, you won't be too chuffed. Apple hasn't given the Air any physical changes from the last few generations.

The Air is already a sleek and arguably stunning piece of kit though, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. Other ultrabooks -- like the gorgeous Acer Aspire S7 -- are bringing similar proportions and new styles to the table though, so Apple might want to consider new designs before long.

It keeps the same svelte dimensions -- 325mm wide by 227mm deep -- so it will slide perfectly into your existing neoprene sleeve or fancy leather carrying bag. It's still 3mm at its front edge, which expands to 17mm at its fattest point at the back.

If you want to save some room in your bag, you can always opt for the 11-inch model. It's only 299mm wide and 192mm deep, so it's particularly well-suited for those economy class flights when you're trapped between two portly gentlemen for five hours.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch lid
It's the same old gorgeous piece of aluminium.

The aluminium unibody construction is still in use too, meaning the entire chassis is carved out of a single piece of metal. This makes the whole thing much more sturdy and resistant to knocks and bumps than machines bolted together out of various segments. There's no flex offered at all in the body or screen. It's definitely up to a life on the road -- just try not to scuff the metal.

Around the edges you'll find a 3.5mm headphone port, a slimmer MagSafe 2 power port (your existing MagSafe plug won't work with the new design), a Thunderbolt DisplayPort, an SD card slot and two USB 3.0 ports. The only change you'll see is the two tiny holes on the left -- that's for the updated stereo microphone for better voice clarity with FaceTime calls.

Keyboard and trackpad

As is the case with the chassis, both the keyboard and trackpad have remained untouched. Again, this is certainly not a problem as the keyboard is extremely comfortable and the large glass trackpad is the best in the business, offering a superbly responsive experience, particularly with those all-important multi-touch gestures.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch keyboard
The keyboard is as comfortable as ever.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1440 x 900 ( WXGA+ )
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Weight 1.35 kg
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