Review: MacBook Air: Fast, impossibly thin and undeniably beautiful

Price: £999 (11 inch model, 128GB)

Rating: 4 Star Rating

Unpacking any new Apple product is always a joy, and even with its minimalist eco-friendly packaging the new 11-inch MacBook Air is no exception.

It’s the lightest Apple laptop so far. The flyweight computer might more correctly be called a netbook, rather than a laptop, because it has shed a number of components to make the weight.

There’s no CD/DVD drive, and the battery is a non-removable component tucked away inside the Air’s svelte body.

The impossibly thin MacBook Air is another beautifully-made Apple product

The impossibly thin MacBook Air is another beautifully-made Apple product

The Air is an undeniably beautiful object, as virtually every Apple product released in the Steve Jobs era has been. It’s fast too.

The 1.4GHz Intel processor within the wafer-thin computer makes short work of even the most demanding tests and the use of solid-state flash storage to replace the hard disk means that programs spring to life within seconds of being asked.

Once apps are running, they look lovely. The Air’s 11” 1366 pixel-wide screen is amazingly sharp, proving to be especially flattering on video playback. Watching a movie on the Air’s screen is almost being in a cinema, albeit a very long way from the screen.

Of course these features come at a price. The MacBook Air is two or even three times more expensive than non-Apple netbooks, although perhaps that’s not a fair comparison as there really isn’t a non-Apple product out there with the power or style to rival it.

The real competition comes, ironically enough, from Apple themselves.

Although the Air is an astoundingly powerful machine for its size, the limited size of the screen means it will probably only be used by most buyers for word processing on the move, email, social networking and web browsing.

All tasks that an iPad teamed with a portable keyboard could do with equal elegance, and a markedly lower price tag.

The iPad, too, can conceal a mini 3G SIM card within its body. There are two USB ports on the Air, but one of them is so close to the Magsafe power connector that larger USB devices, such as 3G dongles, won’t fit into the Air’s left-hand USB port if the machine’s running off the mains. By no means a major problem but equally, not ideal.

That’s a limitation dictated by space-saving, as is the use of an internal battery.

Because battery life on the machine is so impressive – often exceeding the advertised 5 hours, carrying a spare battery is not such a necessity.

However, once you have got used to the LED battery charge ‘ladder’ on older Mac laptops, it seems a backward step to have to switch the machine on to check how much battery is left.

Space savings, too, dictate a more compact keyboard than you might be used to.

It’s still perfectly big enough to type on, but the Air’s unlikely to be your only computer and adjusting for the size difference between the two can lead annoying errors such as to Caps Lock being engaged when you were typing an ‘a’, or vice versa.

Much of the new MacBook Air’s incredible power will probably go untapped by most users. Its elegance can be rivalled by Apple’s own tablet and for the better part of £1,000 potential buyers would have myriad other choices.

I still want one more than words can say.

 

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