MacBook Air review roundup

Love it or hate it, Apple has a way of winning lots of attention with its new product announcements. The new Macbook Air is no exception.

This new device has a few things going for it like price and an above average battery life.  Lack of efforts in improving the design seems to be the only major drawback here. Let us take a look at what the reviewers have to say.

 The Body:
While no one is complaining about the popular design which sturdy and smart, it seems to be dated. The new edition looks almost the same as its predecessor.

Mark Spoonauer from Laptop says:

“At this point, the MacBook Air is a modern classic. We still love the sturdy aluminum uni-body chassis, the swooping curves and the generously sized front lip for opening the lid. However, the overall look is almost too familiar now. Those hoping for a different color, different materials or an even more compact and lighter chassis will have to wait for at least another generation of Air.”

Larry Magid from Forbes explains the design in detail:
“At first glance, there is no visible difference between the 2012 and 2013 MacBook Air.  They look the same, weigh the same and have the same screens, keyboard, track pad and ports.  But there are a lot of differences that you can’t see, but can experience. Both are slim and light. The 11-inch model weighs 2.38 pounds and the 13-inch model I’m testing weighs 2.96 pounds.”

The Display

MacBook Air Display
MacBook Air Display

The resolution of the MacBook Air remains the same as the previous device. Spoonauer from Laptop comments:
“Perhaps to save battery life or keep the cost down, the 13-inch MacBook Air continues to feature a 1440 x 900-pixel resolution display. Meanwhile, other ultraportables sport full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) screens or even higher resolutions, such as the $1,599 Toshiba Kirabook (2560 x 1440 pixels). Apple has its own Retina 13-incher in the MacBook Pro (2560 x 1600), but it starts at $1,499.

Despite this resolution gap, we continue to enjoy the Air’s screen because it delivers superior contrast, wide viewing angles and vibrant colors. When watching the “Man of Steel” trailer, Russell Crowe’s skin tone looked warm, and we could easily make out the folds in his ornate jacket. And, unlike other Ultrabooks we’ve tested, details didn’t get lost in darker scenes.”

Stevens from Engadget confirms the lack of retina display but is satisfied with what the MacBook has to offer:
“It’s no Retina, a fact that can be confirmed with a quick glance. Still, this remains a great-looking LCD, making the most of its 1,440 x 900 resolution. Viewing angles are as good as ever and brightness does not disappoint. Color reproduction is spot-on and the LED backlighting is both good for your battery and the environment.”

Audio Sound

The sound quality may not be the best but it is loud and does the job.

“The Air’s built-in speakers are capable of getting impressively (and uncomfortably) loud if cranked all the way, so hearing a concall from across a room won’t be an issue. Still, it’s hardly an ideal machine for music playback, with flat, bass-free renditions of all your favorite music. It’ll certainly do in a pinch, but you’ll want to make use of that 3.5mm jack (or, indeed, a Bluetooth connection) to enable something with a bit more acoustic range.” Says Tim Stevens from Engadget

Spoonauer from Laptop listened to a couple of songs and also watched a trailer to test the sound. Here is what he has to say:

“Just like the previous version, the MacBook Air’s speakers reside underneath the keyboard, producing rich and loud audio. The somber piano in the “Man of Steel” trailer was piercing. We also played Rihanna’s “Stay,” and her breathy vocals resonated even across our hotel room. The driving guitar in Bad Religion’s “Social Suicide” balanced well with Greg Graffin’s gravelly voice, though the drums got a bit lost.”

Longest running Battery

Macbook air battery life
Macbook air battery life

Most reviewers are highly impressed by the battery of the new MacBook Air. It helps that Apple has incorporated the latest Intel’s new Haswell architecture into this device.

Spoonauer from Laptop praises the battery life and compares it to other devices:
“One of the chief benefits of Intel’s new Haswell architecture is longer battery life, and Apple squeezes every last drop out of this chip.When we ran the Laptop Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi) on our home Wi-Fi connection, the Air lasted 10 hours and 53 minutes. In our office, where we typically test notebooks, the Air lasted even longer, 11 hours and 40 minutes. That’s just 20 minutes shy of Apple’s claim, and more than double the ultraportable average of 5:56.

Other lightweight 13-inch notebooks don’t even come close to the Air’s endurance. For instance, the XPS 13, ATIV Book 9 and Acer Aspire S7 all last less than 6 hours. You need to add an awkward slice battery to the Acer to get 9:17. The VAIO Pro 13’s standard battery (7:20) also falls behind the Air, but its sheet battery bumps the runtime to 14:38.”


Spoonauer from Laptop played war of witchcraft and found that the device shot up to an uncomfortable temperature:
“After streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the Air’s touchpad measured 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the G and H keys were 85 degrees, and the middle of the underside was 86 degrees. All are well below 95 degrees, which is what we consider uncomfortable.

We then flew around the Dethecus realm in “World of Warcraft” for 15 minutes, and retested the temperature. The touchpad stayed the same, at 77 degrees, but the G and H keys rose to 90 degrees, and the middle of the underside was 94 degrees. That’s not bad, but the area on the bottom near the power plug rose to 100 degrees.”


Even though the new MacBook is good on battery, it does not compromise performance atleast when compared to the 2012 model.
“The new MacBook seems at least as peppy as the 2012 model despite its more energy efficient Haswell processor. The new processor actually has a slower “clock speed,” but there is no hit in system performance.  One reason is because the new Mac’s solid state drive has faster flash memory and a faster PCIe connection between the memory and the rest of the system. This not only means faster disk access but has an impact on overall performance including speedier memory caching if the system runs low on standard random access memory and needs to offload to the disk. That process can be painfully slow on standard disk drives but extremely quick on the new MacBook’s Air’s solid state drive.” says Magid from Forbes.

Spoonauer from Laptop spells out the details for you:
“Apple packed the latest MacBook Air with a 1.3-GHz Intel Haswell ULT processor, 4GB of RAM and new flash storage (based on PCI Express). Although the clock speed is ostensibly slower versus its predecessor (1.8 GHz), Haswell can get more work done per clock cycle. Plus, the new Air promises 45 percent faster flash memory and 40 percent greater graphics performance via the new Intel HD 5000 GPU.

The new Air makes a good first impression by booting into OS X Mountain Lion in just 10 seconds, or a couple seconds faster than the older Air. The latest Air also wakes from sleep about 2 seconds faster, which means you can get back to work immediately upon lifting the lid.

More impressive, the new flash storage breezed through our file copy test, duplicating 4.9GB worth of multimedia files in just 21 seconds. That equals a transfer rate of 242.4 MBps, compared with 159 Mbps for the last Air. The new also Air beats the Samsung ATIV Book 9 (154 MBps) and Kirabook (221 MBps). However, the Acer Aspire S7’s dual SSDs (318 MBps) and the VAIO Pro 13’s own PCIe flash memory (392 MBps) trump this Air.”

Rounding up

Though the battery life is above average, the new device does not bring many new things to the lap of the consumer. Stevens from Engadget sums it up well.
“So, is this a case of a great thing getting even greater, or an aged product getting the bare-minimum upgrade required to keep it relevant? The truth lies somewhere in between, but it goes without saying that the MacBook Air isn’t quite the straightforward “buy” that it has been in the past. While I/O performance and battery life definitely set it ahead of the crowd, and its overall design and keyboard / trackpad combo are as good as ever, that middling display resolution is evolving from an excusable omission to a proper handicap.

Still, it’s hard to knock the Air for what it is: a very thin laptop with incredible battery life and good performance for a minimum price that puts it ahead of its competition. If you want a portable Mac with a real focus on portability and can live without a Retina display then we’d say this is still the machine to get. But, if you’re not tied to the platform or are a stickler for pixel density, it might just be time to look elsewhere.”

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Wolston Lobo
Wolston Lobo
Wolston is a social media and SEO enthusiast. He has previously worked with brands like Gillette and Channel V. He is passionate about gadgets and loves the internet served with a hot cup of coffee.

Featured Story

How the CTO can Maintain Cloud Momentum Across the Enterprise

Embracing cloud is easy for some individuals. But embedding widespread cloud adoption at the enterprise level is...

Related Tech News

Get ITBusiness Delivered

Our experienced team of journalists brings you engaging content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured Tech Jobs