Fall '16 update
In October 2016, Apple updated its laptop portfolio, delivering an overdue refresh of its. Considerably slimmer and lighter than their predecessors, the new MacBooks come equipped with larger Force Touch trackpads and Apple's new, dynamic Touch Bar with Touch ID. A was also announced. The new models cost more than their Pro predecessors, too.
For now, the Apple laptop portfolio includes the , the and the older MacBook Air (reviewed below) in addition to and models, which remain on sale on Apple's website. The is now available to only the educational market; to buy one, you'll need to be associated with a school or university or find one online somewhere.
Not sure which one is right for you? Consult CNET's full head-to-head comparison of the entire lineup of MacBooks, including the Pro and Air models, as well as Apple's new MacBook lineup: What you need to know.
Editors' note: The review of Apple's 2015 13-inch MacBook Air, originally published in May of that year, follows.
For the past several years, Apple's flagship MacBook Air has dutifully added the latest generation of Intel processors, and sometimes tweaked the included ports or the type of solid state memory inside, but those changes have felt very minor. Especially so when compared to the groundbreaking new-for-2015, which is amazingly thin and stylish, or the -- redesigned in -- which has a great higher-res display and plenty of high-end configuration options.
But that doesn't mean we're writing the MacBook Air off. It remains one of the most universally useful laptops you can buy, thanks to a still-slim design, excellent keyboard and touchpad, generally fast performance and great battery life. That the Air is the least-expensive MacBook, starting at $999 (£849 or AU$1,099) for the 13-inch model, means it's within reach for many shoppers who might not want to go up to the $1,299 or more being asked for the latest ultraportables from Apple, Samsung and others. (A model with an 11.6-inch screen and otherwise very similar specs is available for even less.)
While other laptops continue to catch up to the Air, and even move past it in terms of design, the Air stubbornly holds onto its claim as having the longest-lasting mainstream laptop battery. That's because of a minor upgrade for 2015 to Intel's, previously known by the codename Broadwell. The performance boost, as in most Broadwell systems, is slim to negligible, but the greater power efficiency of those new chips pays a significant dividend.
Along with a new CPU, you get the associated improved integrated graphics that are included with the Broadwell platform, as well as a speed bump from Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 2 in the data/video port. The built-in flash storage, which switched to the faster PCIe interface last cycle, now also gets faster throughput, although in everyday use, you're unlikely to notice any of these incremental improvements.
The 2015 version of the MacBook Air ran for 18 hours on our video playback battery drain test, blowing past its previous versions, as well as the non-Apple competition. Even if more challenging tasks or heavy online streaming cut that number by 40 percent or so, you're still looking at no-compromise all-day battery life.
If not for the continued battery-life dominance and the relatively low starting price, it would be easy to ease the MacBook Air aside and suggest the Pro or 12-inch MacBook instead. Instead, you have three distinct products, each with strengths and weaknesses, and each best-suited for a different audience. I suspect that, for some time to come, the Air will remain the best choice for students and casual coffee shop websurfers.
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
|Price as reviewed||$999, £849, AU$1,099|
|Display size/resolution||13.3-inch 1,440x900 screen|
|PC CPU||Intel Core i5-5250U|
|PC Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||1536MB Intel HD Iris Graphics 6000|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Apple OS X Yosemite 10.10.2|
Design and features
The MacBook Air has an almost universally recognized silhouette at this point, largely unchanged since 2010 and still substantially similar to the. From the outside, the smooth aluminum still looks modern and minimalist, and it's a look since copied by others, including , which we sometimes refer to as the DellBook Air.
At 2.92 pounds (without the power cable; about 1.3kg), this MacBook Air is unchanged from, and sits right in the middle of the current MacBook lineup. The 12-inch MacBook is nearly one-third lighter, at 2.04 pounds, and the 13-inch Pro is a heftier 3.46 pounds (just under 1kg and 1.6kg, respectively).
Opening up the clamshell shows just how old this design is. Most modern laptops now include touch displays, something that's still off the table for now for a MacBook, but touch or not, newer laptops also have slimmer screen bezels with an edge-to-edge glass overlay. That gives the interior a cleaner look, and you'll find it on both the MacBook Pro and and new 12-inch MacBook.