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Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2010 review: Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2010

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The Good Extremely slim and portable; well built and elegantly designed; fun to use; good display.

The Bad Poor port selection; mediocre performance; expensive.

The Bottom Line The 11-inch Apple MacBook Air is remarkably thin and really enjoyable to use. But its paltry port selection and lack of real grunt mean it won't appeal to everyone.

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8.3 Overall

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Thinner is better. At least, that's what Apple seems to think, judging by the new MacBook Air. It's so thin you could use it to shave. In fact, the 11-inch version is the most portable laptop we've ever encountered, even taking netbooks into account. But can it possibly be worth its £870 price tag?

Model behaviour

The 11-inch version of the MacBook Air comes in two basic configurations. The cheapest model offers 64GB of flash storage, a dual-core 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics card. If you're willing to stump up £1,020, you can get a version with 128GB of flash storage. The RAM and processor options on both versions can be upgraded slightly, but it'll cost you.

Design is one of Apple's main strengths, and the 11-inch Air is another exemplary effort. It measures 300mm wide by 192mm deep. When closed, it tapers from 17mm tall at the back to a mere 3mm at the front. It can be hard to get your head around figures like that when you're not actually holding the machine, but take our word for it -- the Air is mind-warpingly thin.

Heavy metal

This computer will slide snugly into a bag -- and maybe even a large handbag -- with less fuss than any other laptop we've seen. But you might be surprised by its weight. The Air might look like a sheet of A4, but, at 1.06kg, it definitely feels like a computer. This machine is still lighter than just about every other laptop and netbook, though, so it's not going to shatter your bones or crush your children.

The Air is remarkably slim, but weightier than it looks.

Another thing to bear in mind when it comes to portability is that the Air's power cable is very long and the transformer is bulky. If you're planning to charge the Air up while you're out and about, you'll need to make extra space in your bag.

The computer's weight is largely down to its aluminium construction. While the Air would be a darn sight lighter if its chassis were plastic, its aluminium carcass makes it a sturdy chap, which is important when you're dealing with something thinner than an After Eight.

The aluminium chassis also lends this computer a classy feel. Slim, glossy and elegant, there's very little to criticise about the Air's design. Our only real gripe is that the aluminium bezel around the screen doesn't look as classy as the black glossy version on the MacBook Pro.

Track and feel

The Air is a pleasure to use. The keyboard is massive, running nearly to the edges of the chassis. Each key is large, and there's enough space between them to reduce the potential for typos. Rattling off emails at speed is definitely on the cards. Sadly, the keyboard has no backlight, unlike the MacBook Pro.

The trackpad is fantastic. Large, responsive and silky smooth, it's extremely satisfying to use, and you'll quickly get the hang of swooping through the Mac OS X interface using multi-touch gestures. 

It's the Air's ease of use that really blows the 11-inch competition out of the water. There are other machines of this size that look good and offer reasonably speedy performance, but none that come close in terms of usability. Creating a miniature computer that's a genuine pleasure to use is no mean feat.

A snifter of port

Previous versions of the Air received a merciless drubbing for having barely any connectivity options, sporting only one USB port, and lacking a FireWire socket, Ethernet jack and optical drive. The situation hasn't improved much on the new Air, although the notably absent ports are arguably less important than they used to be.

Down the left of the 11-inch Air, you'll find a USB port and a 3.5mm socket for plugging in your headphones. On the right-hand side, there's another USB port and a DisplayPort connection. That's your lot.

So what will you miss out on? Playing DVDs is out of the question, but arguably they're becoming less important to many computer users. The lack of an Ethernet port is a bitter pill to swallow, though -- if you want to get online, you'll have to rely on Wi-Fi. That's bound to prove massively inconvenient at some point. There's no SD card slot either, unlike on the 13-inch model. That could drive camera owners crazy.

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