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Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2011 review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2011

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The Good Beautifully slim design; sturdy unibody chassis; greatly improved performance.

The Bad Expensive; very few ports.

The Bottom Line Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Air offers the same super-slim and sturdy design as its predecessor, but packs in a more powerful processor. It's a fantastic choice for the super-wealthy traveller.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall

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Apple's MacBook Air divided opinion when it launched in 2008. Some were charmed by the machine's razor-thin design and light weight. Others were repulsed by its high price and merely average performance.

The latest iteration of the Air aims to win over the critics by sporting the same super-slim dimensions and aluminium unibody construction as the 2010 model, but adding more powerful components and the latest version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, 10.7 Lion.

The 13-inch model we tested, with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 chip and 256GB of flash storage, can be yours for £1,350. You can add a 1.8GHz Core i7 chip for an extra £100. You can also get the 13-inch model with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 chip and 128GB of flash storage for £1,100. The 11-inch models start at £850.

Thin end of the wedge

The design of the Air hasn't changed since last year's model. It's as beautifully thin as ever. At the thickest end of the wedge, the Air measures 17mm, and tapers down to only 3mm. It's so thin that we were afraid it would slice through our delicate, pasty skin.

If you fondle the Air, the chances are that you'll later find dribble all over your shirt.

The aluminium unibody design makes the Air feel incredibly well built and look incredibly stylish. We were unable to find flex in this guy no matter where we shoved our meaty sausage fingers.

The Air is one of the few pieces of tech we get in the office that causes the whole team to gather around and coo in wonder. It's beautifully constructed.

At 1.35kg, the Air isn't the lightest machine around, but that extra weight does help it to feel robust. You could also see this as a security feature -- if it were too light, you wouldn't know if it had been stolen out of your bag until you got home and broke down in tears.

Lift the lid and you'll be met with the classic Apple keyboard. The new Air sees the triumphant return of the backlit keyboard.

We were pretty disappointed to see the backlit keyboard disappear from the previous version of the Air, as it made stalking people on Facebook at 5am much more difficult. Getting up to turn on the light is the sort of sickening physical excess we should all have left behind in the Middle Ages.

The keys are the same size as before and offer the same comfortable typing experience. We're glad to see Apple hasn't messed with a good thing. Apple also hasn't messed with the trackpad. It's large and offers the same slick finger-sliding experience that MacBook users have come to know and love. It supports those all-important multi-touch gestures too.

The 13-inch screen is as gorgeous as the rest of the Air. It has an impressive 1,440x900-pixel native resolution and is almost as bright as the sun. Reading small text on Web pages is perfectly pleasant and sitting back in a comfortable armchair to watch high-definition video is a total joy. Add a warm cup of tea and some kittens to the mix and you've pretty much got our ideal night in.

The new Air is pretty similar to the old one in terms of its ports. There's a multi-format card reader, two USB 2.0 ports and a headphone jack. There's also a Thunderbolt port, which performs the duties of a mini DisplayPort but can transfer video and data at super-fast speeds too. Still, there aren't many peripherals that use Thunderbolt at the moment.

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