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Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013 - Keyboard, Touchpad, Heat & Noise and Verdict

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013 - Keyboard & Touchpad

Like its body, the keyboard and touchpad on the 2013 Apple MacBook Air are just as they were before - i.e. very good indeed. The keyboard is nicely laid out and is backlit. Keys have a crisp, clean and light action, albeit on the shallow side. It's a great keyboard to type on, no matter how long the session.

The touchpad, meanwhile, is as close to perfection as we can imagine. Its glass surface is silky smooth and the 'clickpad' action, whereby the whole pad acts as the button, is effortless. Its size and Apple's mastery of gestures within Mac OS renders any complaints about the lack of a touchscreen null and void.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013 - Heat & Noise

Heat and noise is just important an issue as battery life in small thin and light laptops. During typical, light use (i.e. word processing and web browsing), the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch is the personification of cool and calm. You could use it for hours with nary a peep from its built-in fans.

It's not immune to getting hot and bothered, however. Once you start really taxing the processor or graphics, the fans will kick in eventually. How loud they are depends on what you're doing. Regular multitasking is no cause for irritation, but video editing and games generate a mildly distracting amount of noise.

When it gets going, the warmest part of the laptop is around the back near the screen's hinge. It rarely gets warm enough to cause discomfort, however, particularly during the kind of tasks you'll perform when actually using the MacBook on your lap.

Other things to consider

While the physical connectivity remains basic, Apple earns much kudos for including a new, faster 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi module. 802.11ac is around three times faster than 802.11n, hitting maximums in the 30MBps range, but it improves range and performance at range markedly, too. The upshot is the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013 is nicely future proofed, a fact helped by Bluetooth 4.0 and Apple's 'daisy chaining' Thunderbolt 2 I/O, too.

Another pleasant surprise are the speakers on the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013. Hi-Fi they're not, but they have more mid-range warmth than a laptop this size has any right to have. They're loud enough and clear enough to enjoy a TV episode or even some music, albeit casually. Just avoid anything with too many explosions.

Finally, one further tweak to the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013 is dual microphones. This adds the same active noise cancelling as on the iPhone 5, which is good news as the call quality on an iPhone 5 is top-notch. It's another small but significant upgrade, particularly if you're a regular voice chatter. The HD webcam is outstanding, too.

Should I buy the Apple MacBook Pro 2013 13-inch?

If you're after a light, slim yet capable laptop, we can't think of any reason not to. Indeed, once again the MacBook Air leads its Windows-based Ultrabook rivals by quite a distance.

It's the battery life that really swings things, but the reduced price helps a lot, too. At present, it has no equal in quality at the same price. Contenders may arise as more rivals launch with Intel's new Haswell processors, but it'll take a lot to knock the MacBook Air off its perch - Samsung's newly announced ATIV Book 9 range is one to look out for.

Those with particularly demanding needs should consider the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display, which is almost as portable but more powerful - an Air is no use for video editing or serious graphics work. Beyond that, though, the Apple Macbook Air 13-inch 2013 is enough for anyone's regular use. If ever there was a time for existing owners to upgrade, this is it, unless you want a better screen, that is.

Verdict

The Apple Macbook Air 13-inch 2013 is a fantastic update to an already excellent product. It’s a great time for existing owners to upgrade, and it sets the standard for all rivals to try to match.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 10
  • Build Quality 10
  • Design 10
  • Heat & Noise 9
  • Keyboard 9
  • Performance 8
  • Screen Quality 8
  • Touchpad 10
  • Value 9

It's not me!

June 21, 2013, 6:00 pm

I don't think its Thunderbolt 2......

Guest

June 21, 2013, 7:18 pm

No surprises. I can wait until the next iteration.

Thanong

June 21, 2013, 9:50 pm

Decreasing clock speed from 1.7 GHz to 1.3 GHz means 23.5% decrease in clock speed !! not 15% decrease as shown in this article.

DigitalFury

June 22, 2013, 8:25 am

"Apple sets the standard once again"

Not really, you need to actually test the new Sony Vaio Pro 13.

I'm a MacBook Pro Retina 2013 user myself, but no way I would buy this new Air over the Pro 13.

andyvan

June 22, 2013, 9:59 pm

You're totally right. I'm better at words than maths it appears.

Hamish Campbell

June 24, 2013, 1:26 pm

Don't want to give an indication on what areas it wins up against this?

andyvan

June 25, 2013, 1:30 pm

We've got the Pro 13 in at the moment, so we'll have a review soon. I'm not reviewing it, but there are a few key differences. It uses the slower Intel HD 4400 graphics and doesn't have 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and I don't personally think the design or build quality is anything like the same. However, it's got a 1080p screen and some other things the MacBook doesn't.

Alejandro Gonzalez

June 26, 2013, 1:56 pm

i think that the pros you are describing are not enougth, the vaio have less weigth, better resolution, better performance options despite the graphic card(u wont game in this laptop and for office stuff no more power is required) in a bolity laptop o ultrabook the key points are size and weigth nothin else matters most

imaginarynumber

July 1, 2013, 5:52 am

Yes the Pro has got the slower HD4400 but it does allocate more RAM to graphics than the Air, resulting in a comparable performance.

802.11ac, a nice touch but how many people have a suitable router?

Design/build quality? By and large a matter of opinion.
Other things the MacBook doesn't have- Touchscreen, HDMI, NFC, smaller footprint, 30% lighter, longer battery life when using the sheet battery, WIFI router built into the charger (to allow Ethernet use), cheaper (but still expensive), faster charge and boot times.

So the Mac is better in 2 marginal respects but inferior in the rest?

And if you want 15 hours battery life look at the Vaio Duo 13

andyvan

July 1, 2013, 8:32 am

Our review will be live very soon.

Rory Quinn

July 9, 2013, 8:30 am

Should a RAM upgrade be considered?

Elijah Kurk

July 16, 2013, 9:10 pm

The pro is not cheaper, it is $150 more expensive... The sheet battery doesn't weigh a lot, but it is very bulky. There is a point of diminishing return when concerning weight, the carbon fiber ultrabooks are lighter, but they flex more, and 3 pounds is already very light. I'd rather have thunderbolt over hdmi, that way I can use my 1440p screen at full resolution, since ultrabooks sure as hell don't have dual link dvi. Hdmi 1.3 and up support higher res, but not many monitors have that support.

Andrew Pennebaker

July 23, 2013, 4:53 pm

Was this review for the completely standard, i5 model? Were any upgrades included in the model reviewed?

imaginarynumber

July 26, 2013, 4:23 pm

In the uk the pro is much cheaper than the air, at all price points. The difference gets greater as you increase the spec, in part because apple charge so much more for the same components, eg sony charge £40 for 4gb extra ram, apple charge £80 for the same ram...

imaginarynumber

July 26, 2013, 4:25 pm

To date i have only connected my laptop screen to a larger monitor when working with Flash or very large excel files.

Natito

July 28, 2013, 1:52 pm

It doesn't have a touch screen. How can a laptop with no touch screen be 9/10 unless a touch screen is of no value? I don't particularly care about touch screens myself but a lot of people do. You are obviously and Apple fan and just can't see beyond that.

Matt Burns

August 31, 2013, 12:12 pm

Ultimately even though the PC show better specs, they just dont work like Macs. SSD logic technology delivers higher speeds in caparison, and even with the reduction in clock speed, the benchmark test came out 3% difference for double the amount of battery. Ultimately though...OS-X will not clog up, slow down and die like my Sony Vaio I7 work laptop has.... a few times now (its like a cart and horse to a rockaet as my PC loving friend told me when he used my Mac)! Oh and when i do to sell in a couple of years, i will get a lot more for the Mac than the PC. These are just facts.

Nikhil

September 22, 2013, 12:06 pm

OS X is not made for touch screen unlike Windows 8. So what is the point of the Mac having a touch screen? Just because it doesn't have a touch screen it doesn't mean the rating needs to be lower.

Nikhil

September 22, 2013, 12:16 pm

Have you looked at the user reviews of the Pro 13? A lot of users have complained of wi-fi issues. Many have said connection is very unstable and keeps getting disconnected while using the internet. Sony to date still haven't solved the problem.

Performance tests between the air and pro 13 are virtually identical, and that is because of the better/quicker SSD on the Air. The only + side to the pro 13 is the 1080p display and that is it. But it is a no brainer to see why apple stuck with the 1440x900 display. They wanted to build a laptop with a long battery life.

Nikhil

September 22, 2013, 12:23 pm

Yes and if you want to get the battery sheet, it costs.

Battery life without the sheet is around 6-7 hours which is nearly half of what the Mac Air provides.

The base model of the pro 13 is £859 but that is without the touch screen. Touch screen is an additional £80.

Alterity

November 1, 2013, 3:38 am

very nice machine; I just got one. In reality, the battery life, SSD hard disk and portability are really really nice things to have.

Henk

December 2, 2013, 9:22 pm

I'm also inclined to think the Macbook Air doesn't have Thunderbolt 2.

Apple doesn't say anything about Thunderbolt 2 in the Macbook Air on Apple.com, and its not the kind of company to shy away from boasting about tech advancements (even if they're not all that advanced). On the Macbook Pro site Thunderbolt 2 is portrayed gloriously among the MBP's features. "the most advanced I/O gets 2x faster", in proper Apple-style.

Would be great if you rectified this (if of course we turn out to be right), otherwise people might be disappointed after buying the machine, and that would be a shame.

Otherwise, good review. Thanks.

Ruck_n_Maul

February 18, 2014, 1:27 pm

Im a MacBook Air owner - and have consulted widely with others - I would not recommend - it has shocking wifi - always network time out issues - disconnects for no reason and will reconnect - even with reboot - no solutions to this problem - happens everywhere - all wifi locations

nathan

November 7, 2015, 9:27 pm

bad wifi signal?! you mad i connect with signals that others can't and an all round beautiful system!

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