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SoftwareMedia Blog | July 25, 2014

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Product Review - The 2013 Macbook Air 11" Laptop

Product Review – The 2013 Macbook Air 11″ Laptop

Introduction.

Thin enough to fit in a large envelope, light enough to post in the mail. The advertising campaign that signaled the beginning of the era of the new MacBook several years ago highlighted the two features that have come to define the ultra-portable laptop market. However, the latest model in the MacBook Air 11” series has taken these two core attributes and refined and built upon them in it’s 2013 edition.

Design and Ergonomics.

In terms of design modifications, there is little that distinguishes the 2013 model of the 11” Air apart from its 2012 predecessor. If you were to place the two side by side it is unlikely that anyone would be able to tell the difference at first glance, with even the weight being within a couple of grams of the earlier model.

The upside of this is that the smooth finish and aluminum cased exterior of the MacBook series have been retained, and rightly so.

With a 1.7cm thickness and a 1.08 kg total weight, there is no questions that this machine is designed to reside comfortably in the corner of your bag, on your lap on the couch or on the tray table of a plane. The back-lit keyboard and multi-touch trackpad that sits underneath it are still in place, ensuring that users who upgrade are presented with a familiar feeling system to their previous model. All in all, the portability is still unmatched, and the lines and design are a testament to the adage ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t try and fix it’. The incentives to upgrade are contained inside the new system.

Technical Specifications.

The unchanged outer body of the 2013 11” MacBook Air is a handy piece of misdirection about the changes that have occurred inside the laptop itself. The headline upgrade is the move to a 4th generation Intel i5 processor, which brings this year’s model into the leading pack of laptop upgrades. The primary advantage this brings about is the improvement in the depth and quality of the graphics in 3D images, video and gaming. Built on the new Haswell architecture by Intel, the change places the internal workings of the Air at the cutting edge of the pack. The new processor is complemented by the internal flash storage space, which is doubled in size to 128GB.

There is also an upgrade to the more common dual band Wi-Fi receptive ports, which receive all 802.11ac signals, an important move to bring the system into line with what is becoming the dominant technical specification for wireless devices of this kind.

On the negative side, there is still a lack of external ports, with the most commonly asked for, a SD card reader, not featuring in this model, an absence that has frustrated many. Although this is easily overcome with the use of cables, the ability to easily transfer files without the need for these has been a need that the 11” Air has yet to satisfy. Similarly, the need to utilise an Ethernet or HDMI cable will require the separate purchase of an adapter to make it work.

Performance.

Undoubtedly the measure most laptop users look for most keenly when considering a new platform is the battery life, and on this measure the MacBook 11” delivers in spades. While the official Apple numbers differ from the output times of many user tests, the consensus estimate for battery life is at a staggering 9 hours plus, which leaves it’s rivals in the rear view mirror while earning comparisons to the marathon-like running times capable on tablet devices.

The i5 internal processor is totally at ease with day-to-day encountered by the vast majority of users, with multiple desktops, editing and viewing all dealt with easily. However, there are noticeable stumbles when the system is asked to deal with more complex tasks such as full high definition video editing or more advanced Photoshop tasks. The better-equipped MacBook Pro is the platform of choice if these activities form a substantial part of your time on your laptop.

The inclusion of a dual microphone outlet on the side of the Air also improves the performance of audio dictation and Face time video calls and could be a signal that Siri will soon be available on MacBooks.

The retention of the 1366 x 678 resolution screen means that 720p is the optimum format to view video files in, which has left some users disappointed about the lack of improvement in that measure. Apple’s key consideration in not doing so is likely to be not forcing the price point of the 11” model too close to the larger 13” model which does boast a higher resolution display at 1440 x 900.

Suppliers.

The best place to buy a MacBook air is from Apple themselves. There are plenty of Apple stores and the techies at the Genius bar will happily configure any new hardware for you, offering advice if you are a newbie.

There are various third party vendors that sell Apple hardware, but for me, I would always go straight to the source.

For business users, if you are looking to introduce a number of new Apple machines to the network then I would suggest contacting a Mac support specialist that specializes in applying macs in a business environment. See this example of a Mac support specialist, be sure to check the regional  results pages on Google for local Mac specialists.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sizeable upgrades to the internal workings from the 2012 model, including a new innovative processor and a doubling of internal flash storage.
  • Outstanding battery life – at 9 hours or more easily enough to account for a full days work without the need for a top-up charge.
  • Retention of the strong design features that MacBook users have come to expect.

cons

  • No SD card reader, Ethernet port or HDMI cable port accessible without the use of an adaptor or cables
  • Lack of an upgrade to a higher resolution screen that many expected.
  • Incremental upgrades to an existing model rather than a revolutionary or substantial overhaul

Conclusion

Weighing the relative merits and drawbacks of the 2013 MacBook Air 11”, the advantages overwhelmingly outweigh the disadvantages. Suitable for the vast majority of laptop users who want a lightweight, portable and highly functional laptop, which delivers strongly on the applications and programs that they will utilize most.

The battery life and the slick portability are the standout features, and more than compensate for the minor inconveniences of needing to source cables / adapters when required. A great laptop for first time MacBook buyers, but users of the 2012 model should not rush to buy this iteration, as the improvements as applied to everyday tasks would not justify the upgrade.

David has worked in the IT Support sector for over 11 years. David has a keen interest in all things Apple, with a key emphasis on MacPro workstations and OSX server.  David reviews new Apple hardware in his spare time. 

Comments

  1. Andy

    This is a very good laptop indeed, but I would personally opt for the 13″ Mac Book pro with retina display because it is thin (though not quite as thin as the air) and the screen resolution has to be seen to be believed. Once you have used Retina you will never go back.

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