It was a long time coming, but after months upon months of speculation, there was very little surprise when Apple finally announced that it had indeed been working on an 11.6in laptop. It’s important to remember, of course, that the 11in MacBook Air is decidedly not a netbook. If the price tag doesn’t give that away, then using one will. It may not be a comfort to those excluded from buying a MacBook Air by budget, but this is a seriously nice machine.
The industrial design of the 11in MacBook Air, if nothing else, confirms that this system is playing, not just in a different league to netbooks, but a different game to them entirely. Shrinking the aluminium unibody design of the 13in MacBook Air into a system measuring 300mm x 192mm x 17mm (Apple’s 3mm to 17mm height dimension is somewhat misleading, as the system is only 3mm thick at the very edge) hasn’t made it look any less fantastic, and more importantly hasn’t made it feel any less premium. At 1.06kg it’s reassuringly heavy, but still light enough to use on your lap for extended periods. Put simply: the 11in MacBook Air isn’t just a system that feels like it could survive daily use, it’s a system that you will want to use daily.
Obviously such a premium feel doesn’t come without cost, and at £849 for the entry level system the MacBook air is definitely costly. That money buys you a 1.4GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of flash storage and an nVidia 320M graphics chip. £999 will get you that same spec, but with 128GB of storage. The flash storage aside, which is a great addition, the components are nothing spectacular, but are definitely acceptable – you certainly don’t need anything faster or more powerful for a portable machine.
As with the MacBook Air 13in, the memory is hardwired in, so if you suspect you’ll want 4GB, be prepared to stump up a further £80. The criminally wealthy or insane can opt for a 1.6GHz processor, likewise for £80, as long as they want to add it to the already expensive 128GB system. Far be it for us to dictate how you use your laptop, but we really can’t see why anyone would upgrade anything but the RAM in an 11in MacBook Air – and even that improvement isn’t likely to be needed by most users.
Because it uses the same components, it’s unsurprising to find that the 11in MacBook Air performs no differently to the 13in system. All of the tasks a MacBook Air user is likely to want to carry out ran smoothly without any issues, from watching HD trailers on YouTube, to encoding video footage, pulled from an iPhone, in iMovie. The small screen size is likely to preclude you from multitasking before the speed of the system does.