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

By Hugo Jobling



Our Score:


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.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7


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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