As with the 13in MacBook Air the 11in system’s flash storage means that it boots up in record time and loads programs with almost alarming haste. Battery life is also excellent, with Apple’s claim of five hours falling short of the six we were able to squeeze out of the Air with the brightness turned down half way, and nothing more taxing than Word 2011 and Safari running. We think that’s a fair representation of how the average 11in MacBook Air will use their system.
Its display is another area where the 11in MacBook Air meets our expectations for a premium system of its size. The LED-backlit unit gives accurate, but vivid colour reproduction and its 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution provides plenty of desktop real estate, proving a definite improvement over those similarly sized, portable laptops that only offer a 1,280 x 600 pixel display. Lest we forget, however, Sony was pulling the same trick back in 2007 with its Vaio TZ (and was well ahead of the competition at the time), so Apple is hardly a pioneer in this area.
One aspect of the 11in MacBook Air we can unconditionally praise is its keyboard. Despite fitting into a confined area, the keys are surprisingly well sized and, like countless other MacBook keyboards before, give an excellent, crisp feedback. The only concession to the space restrictions we noticed was the shrinking of the arrow, power, escape, and F1-F12 keys, but we use those rarely enough that we never found it a problem.
To our delight, Apple’s now-ubiquitous multi-touch enabled touchpad has found its way into the 11in MacBook Air. Although noticeably smaller than the example in the 13in Air, and the rest of the MacBook range, it proves no less excellent an input device on this system. In fact, because of the lesser space in the 11in chassis, it’s possible that being able to eschew buttons was some help in finding enough space for the excellent keyboard. Regardless whether that is true or not, we're definitely fans of the numerous multi-touch gestures available to a MacBook Air user – they really do make navigating OS X and its programs so much easier.
What the 11in MacBook Air doesn’t do so well is connectivity. We’re happy to accept that there’s no disc drive, despite laptops smaller than this offering such features five years ago (the Vaio T1XP to be precise) – it’s an omission that seems to have become standard in this class of laptops. What we aren’t so pleased with is the inexplicable lack of an SD card slot on the 11in Air; there’s space for it, and it would clearly be useful, so we really don’t understand why it’s missing from the smaller of the Airs.