After the big excitement of the Retina display turning up on a MacBook Pro, we had hoped that the MacBook Air would have at least received a tiny screen-quality upgrade.
- USB 3.0: 2
- USB 2.0: 0
- Optical: None
- Video: Thunderbolt
- Ethernet: none
- Wireless: dual-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
It wasn't to be — what we got was a third generation Core processor, USB 3.0 ports, a new MagSafe connector and an updated webcam, but the form factor stays the same, as does the use of a 1440x900 TN-based screen. It also doesn't help that the default storage levels are small, particularly on the 11-inch version, which still starts with a 64GB SSD. The 13 starts at 128GB SSD, which is a bit better by today's standards. It's possible to upgrade to a 256GB or 512GB SSD, but this will add considerably to the price. Considering the ever-dropping price of flash memory, it seems Apple's a little behind the curve here.
That's not to say that the MacBook Air isn't excellent — it most certainly is, it's just that, more than ever before, it's feeling the heat from the Windows competition. Samsung's Series 9, with a 1600x900 PLS screen is the perfect example. When Windows 8 happens, with its rash of IPS-based laptops and whether they be convertible or not, Apple's lead will be diminished, yet again.
It's still the same svelte, aluminium unibody construction, one that's been carved from years of refinement — although this means it misses the "wow" factor of years past, it's not a bad thing, as the design simply feels natural to carry around. Interestingly, an effect we noticed with previous models, where your fingers "buzzed" if you ran it over the wrist rest while the laptop was charging, is now gone. Apple's industry leading touchpad is still just that, and the backlit keyboard is lovely to work with.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
- 346Apple MacBook Air 13 Mid 2012 (Core i7 3667U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 443Apple MacBook Air 11 Mid 2012 (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)