Apple MacBook Air (2011) review

The 2011 13in MacBook Air is, as usual, a wonderfully designed ultraportable laptop

Apple's 2011 MacBook Air

Apple's 2011 MacBook Air

As usual, the new 2011 MacBook Air looks virtually the same as the previous model. However, it's faster than its predecessors, thanks to beefed-up CPU options.

The Apple MacBook Air once again has a wonderful design. It's lightweight and feels well built.

The notebook is just 0.3cm thick at the front edge when closed, and only 1.7cm at the rear. Unfortunately the compact design does not offer a wide range of ports: Two USB ports, a MagSafe power connector, a Thunderbolt port and a stereo headphone jack. The 13in model we reviewed also has an SD card reader; however, there isn't one on the 11in MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air's keyboard and touchpad are excellent, especially for an ultraportable laptop. The Air's keyboard and trackpad are almost the same size as those on the MacBook Pro notebooks, bar the slightly smaller function keys. A big plus is the keyboard's backlighting; this was a big omission on previous models.

The notebook's display is LED backlit and has a resolution of 1440x900 pixels. It's a glossy display, so using it under fluorescent lighting in an office can be a little distracting. We would love to see the option of buying the Air with a matte screen.

The standard 11in and 13in MacBook Air models come standard with Core i5 processors, but models can be built-to-order (BTO) with a 1.8GHz Core i7 processor for an extra $100.

Our review model was the top-of-the-range 13in model, which comes with 4GB RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. The SSD makes the Air a speedy machine, with Apple's "instant on" feature particularly impressive.

The Apple MacBook Air delivered excellent performance in our tests. It took just 57sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. We also benchmarked the MacBook Air using Geekbench; it scored 5443 — by comparison, the previous 11in model scored just 2045.

The MacBook Air has no trouble running multiple applications and felt fast and snappy throughout testing. The lack of serious graphics power means it will never be a gaming machine, but the MacBook Air has enough grunt for business users.

Apple claims that the MacBook Air's battery life is "up to seven" hours; it lasted almost six hours in our battery rundown test, where we looped an XviD file in full screen mode. Just like the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air has a non-removable lithium-polymer battery.

Rating: 4.25/5

Original review: Ross Catanzariti, GoodGearGuide.

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