New Apple MacBook Air review

The smaller MacBook Air is now just 0.3cm thick at its thinnest edge and there’s an 11.6-inch model arriving to sit alongside the re-engineered 13.3-inch baby.

We took one of the 13.3-inch versions with us and here are our first impressions of the diminutive lappy.

The new 13.3-inch Air features a 1440×900, LED-backlit screen which is stunningly bright. Apple promises you can have the new MacBook Air on standby for up to a month, though we note in the small print that you’d need to have the screen at 50 per cent brightness to do this.

The basic look is similar to the old Air, but there are some notable improvements – most importantly Flash storage – 128GB in this model, 64GB in the 11-inch.

But it is super, super thin – it’s difficult to convey just how small the thinnest edge actually is. It’s hardly thick at the hinge end either – just 1.7cm.

The bad news is that there are no user upgradeable parts but then, are you surprised?

As well as additions such as the Nvidia GeForce 320M dripped down from the MacBook Pro – adding to the graphics power of the unit – there’s also Apple’s multi-touch gesture-supporting trackpad.

This is the left-hand side – there are now USB ports on either side of the laptop. Whoop, we hear you cry. Interestingly, the headphone socket supports the Apple headphones with remote for video calling – a nice touch.

On the right side, as well as a Mini DisplayPort connector, there’s another USB port as well as an SD card slot – only Apple could make a big thing out of adding an SD card slot! The slot is sadly absent from the 11-inch MacBook Air though – space is at a premium in the smaller model
The iSight camera has been replaced by a FaceTime camera. It’s the same thing, but you can now call iPhone 4s and new iPod touches using your Mac and some beta software.

While our first impressions of the MacBook Air are decidedly favourable – this is a superb feat of craftsmanship and technology – there is one small problem. And it was the same problem with the original. It’s just so expensive. £1,100 for this 13-inch variant with 128GB of flash storage, and £1,350 for the 256GB version. The 11-inch starts at £849, but still it’s a lot of money.

There’s also the question of power. The Airs retain a Core 2 Duo processor from Intel rather than one of the company’s newer Core i3 or i5 variants.

Why? Because Intel developed a flat version of the Core 2 Duo especially for the MacBook Air originally and presumably the Core i3 can’t sit within the same thermal envelope – the processor is passively cooled remember, there’s no fan. That’s not to say the MacBook Air isn’t powerful.

It certainly zipped through apps when we looked at it today, but remember we’re using a brand new machine – not one loaded with third-party software or one trying to run Photoshop.

We remain sceptical of its ability to perform at high levels – especially for things like video editing. But if you want that, then you’re looking at the wrong Mac.

It’s certainly a whole lot more polished and powerful than a netbook, but you sure pay through the nose for it.

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