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Apple MacBook Air 11 (mid-2012) review: Apple MacBook Air 11 (mid-2012)

The MacBook Air 11 continues to be a wonderfully portable laptop, suiting travel or those who are constantly on the move. While an IPS screen would be nice and the default storage sizes need to be raised, this is a lovely piece of engineering that has well and truly carved its niche.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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The MacBook Air 11 exists in a bit of a rarefied space. Most vendors that have played with this screen size have since abandoned it (not to mention that Asus never got its UX21A out to Australia), leaving the Air as the de facto choice for those who want small, yet usable.

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8.5

Apple MacBook Air 11 (mid-2012)

The Good

Incredibly light, yet well built. Class-leading keyboard and touch pad.

The Bad

The TN-based screen is getting a bit long in the tooth. Default storage size is too small.

The Bottom Line

The MacBook Air 11 continues to be a wonderfully portable laptop, suiting travel or those who are constantly on the move. While an IPS screen would be nice and the default storage sizes need to be raised, this is a lovely piece of engineering that has well and truly carved its niche.

It's just as well that it's such a good solution, then; the Air 11 continues to be incredibly portable, very well built and quite powerful for its size. The TN-based screen is starting to show its age (especially in terms of viewing angles), but for a throw-around, highly portable laptop, it's quite hard to beat.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • USB 2.0: 0
  • Thunderbolt: 1
  • Optical: none
  • Video: Thunderbolt
  • Ethernet: none
  • Wireless: dual-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

Just like the MacBook Air 13, upgrades are minimal from the previous generation: a third-generation Core processor, USB 3.0 ports, a new MagSafe connector and an updated webcam. The only port you sacrifice when going down from a 13-inch to an 11-inch screen is the dedicated SD card reader, although you'll also take a hit in terms of resolution; while the Air 13 runs at 1440x900, the 11 has a 1366x768 screen. The laptop is otherwise equipped with a Thunderbolt port, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Apple still makes an incredibly solid-feeling laptop at this size, with only Lenovo's ThinkPads offering a similar feeling of rigidity and sturdiness. The backlit keyboard is still excellent, as is the oversized touch pad.

The 11's biggest weakness is its storage; the base AU$1099 model comes with a frustratingly small 64GB SSD, which nearly cripples the machine considering the size of today's programs. Spend AU$1249, and you'll get a 128GB SSD, along with the options to upgrade to 256GB (AU$360) and 512GB (AU$960). Going for the higher tier also allows you to upgrade the 1.7GHz Core i5 processor inside to a 2.0GHz Core i7 for AU$180. To upgrade the RAM in both SKUs from 4GB to 8GB will cost you AU$110.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia


The MacBook Air 11 performs almost in line with Windows laptops with the same processor, oddly losing out only in the iTunes test. We're not sure whether this is a storage thing, but it's unusual for Apple to not do well on its own turf.

Battery life


Despite its smaller size, the Air 11 keeps pace with the similarly specced HP Envy Spectre XT and Sony Vaio T in terms of battery life. You can get better battery life by getting a physically larger laptop, but for the size it does reasonably well.

Conclusion

The MacBook Air 11 continues to be a wonderfully portable laptop, suiting travel or those who are constantly on the move. While an IPS screen would be nice and the default storage sizes need to be raised, this is a lovely piece of engineering that has well and truly carved its niche.

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