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MacBook Air 13in (Late 2010) - MacBook Air 13in (Late 2010)

By Hugo Jobling



Our Score:


The big improvement that the new 13in MacBook Air offers over its predecessor is the display, which now has a resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels. As we remarked of the Lenovo ThinkPad X300l, which had the same resolution, the extra pixels come in incredibly handy, not just making things look sharper, but also giving you more desktop to play with. Viewing angles only deteriorate quickly when vertically out-of line with the display, but are acceptable, if not amazing, to the left and right. Colour reproduction is good enough for desktop work, and light touching up of films and picures in iMovie and iPhoto, but you’ll still want a decent external display if you need to do some proper Photoshop work, or similar.

One strange quirk we noticed with the backlight was the how reducing it doesn’t give a consistent drop of in brightness over the whole screen. Rather, the effect is that of a shadow stretching inwards from the edges of the display. This didn’t hamper our use of the MacBook Air in any way, but it’s worth noting.

A positive improvement over the previous MacBook Air is the glossy coating on the new one’s screen. While this still picks up reflections in some situations (generally when watching dark scenes in films), it’s nothing like as bad as the previous model was for glaring light into your eyes. Overall, though, the display doesn't quite live up to those of the full size MacBook's, which is a bit disappointing.

Internally the MacBook Air offers exactly the same processors as previously. As standard Apple offers a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, which can be upgraded to a 2.13GHz chip. We’re not sure we could recommend anyone make that switch-up (especially at the prices Apple charges), as the MacBook air is more than nippy enough with the standard processor.

Whether intentionally, or as a by-product of slimming down the MacBook Air’s chassis, the RAM is not user upgradeable. This makes the default 2GB (a 4GB upgrade will cost you £80) all the more lamentable, as although that’s enough currently, if you do end up needing more you’ll have to upgrade your entire system.

Similarly, the storage in the MacBook Air is ostensibly fixed, as Apple is using a proprietary circuit board and connector for its flash memory. Fortunately this isn’t a major concern as for the target audience 128GB will be more than enough – which is lucky because the 256GB-fitted system has a base price of £1,349, or as we prefer to phrase it “ludicrously expensive.”

The nVidia GeForce 320M is a much faster chip then the old 9400M, but not to the extent that you’ll be playing games on anything other than ‘low’ settings, especially as the resolution increase puts extra stress on the chip.

Although the use of a mini-DisplayPort makes it harder to connect a MacBook Air to a TV than laptops featuring HDMI ports, it has the advantage of letting you connect the Air to a high resolution display, such as the Apple 27in Cinema Display or the 30in 3007WFP Dell 3007WFP we tested it with.


November 5, 2010, 3:50 pm

"Whether intentionally, or as a by-product of slimming down the MacBook Air’s chassis, the RAM is not user upgradeable. This makes the default 2GB all the more lamentable, as although that’s enough currently, if you do end up needing more you’ll have to upgrade your entire system"

Or you could go for the 4GB RAM Option when ordering for an extra £80, which if you can afford the laptop in first place is probably a good idea.

Still not sure to go for the 13" Air or wait to see what they do with the 13" Pro which is due for an upgrade in the near future I believe.


November 5, 2010, 4:32 pm

Oops, I thought I'd mentioned a 4GB option was available (not in-stores though oddly enough) - I've now added that, cheers for the spot.

And I agree, if this resolution were available on the 13in Pro I'd be very tempted.


November 5, 2010, 6:16 pm

Got to play with one of these while killing time in Bath last weekend and it really is a lovely system. Yes, it's expensive, but I struggle to think of any other laptop that looks so good and feels so solid. Performance was more than adequete for daily use, the keyboard and trackpad were comfortable and the 11" model causes your brain to go into loops as you try to figure out where the rest of it is. If I hadn't transitioned to an iPad for my day to day computing this (well, the 11" version anyway) would have been right at the top of my list.

Hubert Richard

November 5, 2010, 7:40 pm

Amazing!!! I enjoy my iPad immensely, however had I not bought it, I would be running to the store to buy myself my first and full MAC! That too the MBA..... A missed opportunity... Nah!

Written on an Ipad


November 5, 2010, 7:45 pm

I'd love the 11" but the accountant in me just can't get over the price.

For the size 5 hours of battery life is great but in reality it's not quite enough for me.

Just saw a guy at lunch sitting next to me with one and it really was spectacular.

A Pro just seems so much more sensible and not exactly a bad option.


November 5, 2010, 9:00 pm

That review made sense, so by comparison it makes further mockery of the overpriced, under-connected vileness you *also* rated 8/10 last September.

Irritating to see the backlight go as forcing higher screen brightness will drain the battery quicker, plus this Jobsian vision for all future laptops still hinges upon the falling price of flash storage and how quickly we can live without discs (I can't yet). But good improvement Apple - this is certainly closer to a logical proposition this time around since it's £1099 compared to a 2.4GHz 4GB RAM Pro with an equivalent 128GB SSD for £1279, finally adhering to a simple principle - You Want Less, You PAY Less.


November 5, 2010, 10:50 pm

Fair, thorough review. Thank you!

I though about an Air 13" for a while, but will wait to see if the smallest Mac Pro gets updated. I wouldn't mind at all if they got rid of the DVD drive to make room for a basic discreet GPU - it would certainly sidestep Intel/nVidia's chipset licensing quarrel. Oh yes, as a comment said above: would love this high-res screen in the small mbp as well.


November 6, 2010, 4:32 am

I've just purchased the 11"Mac Book Air. As well as the Apple Cinema Display, it's also possible to connect the new MBA to the iMac's 27" display.

I seriously considered the iPad, but with it's productivity focus; these are my work tools, I felt the new MBA would better compliment my iMac. I travel frequently and with space at a premium I'm only taking two devices. For me that's an iPhone and now a 11" MBA, which replaces an aging 12" Powerbook G4.


December 15, 2010, 10:56 am

I have been reading several review of the MBA and most of them tell about how expensive it is. But take a Windows ultra-portable notebook with a 256GB SSD, you pay $3,500 to $4,000 easy. I admit you would have more processor grunt than the MBA offers but it's all about individual choice isn't it?

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