Subjectively, the MacBook Air we tested, which had ‘only’ 2GB of RAM had no problem running Office 2011, playing HD videos in VLC and on YouTube, or even playing games including Portal and Eve Online. It is worth noting, however, that the fan which otherwise remains inaudible gets pretty loud when the system is under particularly heavy load, to the point of being annoyingly intrusive.
It’s the start-up speed that’s really breath-taking, though. Even after installing a load of programs, we still clocked the MacBook Air booting from cold in a little under 25 seconds. Even more impressive is its sleep-resumption, which is literally instant. That’s especially remarkable as the MacBook Air’s battery will last for some 30 days in standby, thanks to a deeper sleep state the system enters after an hour of 'normal' sleep - a sort of laptop REM cycle if you will.
Battery life in operation is impressive as well. Apple claims seven hours of longevity, and unlike many manufacturers has actually been realistic in that estimate. We managed to get six hours 20 minutes of use casually web browsing (including watching a few YouTube and TED talk videos), typing this review in Word 2011 and playing music via iTunes in the background, with the screen on full brightness and Wi-Fi on. With more conservative use, therefore, seven hours of use is easily achievable.
An unplugged gaming session left the Air out of power after a mere hour and a half. However, we’d be extremely unfair to criticise an ultraportable for not letting you game away from the mains for hours on end. Couple the great battery life with with how incredibly quickly the MacBook Air wakes from sleep, and it’s hard to deny that Apple has produced a brilliantly portable system that still has enough power that you could conceivably use it as your sole system.
Importantly, for this generation those looking for an even more portable system can find one in the form of the 11in MacBook Air. We’ll leave debating the relative merits of that system to its own review, but suffice to say it’s a compelling option.
Back to the 13in MacBook Air we’re left with the same issue as ever: it’s an expensive system. The chassis improvements go some way to justifying the price and the increased screen resolution goes even further. Throw in the great battery life and impressive performance and you have a system that just about justifies its high price tag. It’s not a laptop for everyone, but we’re rather jealous of those that can afford one.
Apple’s MacBook Air used to be a divisive system, but the new one is much less so. Its performance, battery life, screen res and, of course, gorgeous design mean that while expensive, the 13in MacBook Air offers reasonable value for money. And face it, even if it didn’t you’d buy one if you could afford it anyway.