The MacBook Air is apparently the entry-level cheap subnotebook for Apple laptop users. Apparently, we say, because nobody seems to have told Apple that. With a starting price on release of £1,399 (now dropping to a still eye-watering £949), it was just £50 cheaper than the MacBook Pro, and it is still is a compromise in features for that slight saving.
Now that the device’s price has stabilised at £949 (the MacBook Pro now starts at £1,149), we take a look at whether the device is worth it for today’s users.
First things first; Apple’s build quality for its devices are second to none, and the longevity of the MacBook Air is practically assured. The device’s parts and cases are built to last, which is why we are a big fan of Apple computers. The screen is still a weak point of the device – which is why we recommend purchasing a MacBook Air 13.3” screen protector – but you can tell from its look and feel that it will last much longer than many other devices on the market.
The new MacBook Air still feels as thin as ever. Despite weighing around 100g lighter than the latest MacBook Pro, the machine feels sturdy, inflexible, and able to stand up to intensive use as an everyday laptop. The aluminium case also makes the device look sleek and gorgeous and provides the classic Apple product look.
Finally, the MacBook Air comes with the haptic trackpad, one of our favourite features of Apple devices. The large, smooth, glassy pad means that, instead of a bulky clicker, the subnotebook creates the feel and impression of a click without any of the moving parts or unattractive design. You can also vary the amount of feedback you get with each click of the mouse, a feature we have loved using for years.
The device is full of these small innovations. Touch ID fingerprint recognition is now available on the newest MacBook Airs, for example, to make logging in as simple as touching your laptop. We are also a big fan of how the Air stores fingerprint information in a secure enclave rather than on the cloud for extra security. In short, the design of the MacBook has its user in mind at every stage, and this is reflected in the final product.
The MacBook Air has an excellent in-built sound system, with high-quality speakers that come out louder and clearer than most of its rivals. The main reason for this is because the speakers are on the side of the MacBook Air, unlike most Windows laptops where the speakers are underneath the computer, muffling the audio. While the device is not near the quality of a proper external speaker, it is still extremely good at what it does, especially compared to what else is on the market. That said, at its current price point, if you spent a hundred pounds less on another laptop, you could easily buy an external speaker of better quality.
Likewise, the battery life of the MacBook Air is top-notch, lasting up to 12 hours of mixed use and 13 hours of video watching. You get enough out of this device comfortably for a long train journey or office use throughout the day, so we can heartily recommend the MacBook Air as a work device or for power users.
Ultimately though, when getting down to the raw computing power of the MacBook Air, it struggled to stack up against the MacBook Pro, even in 2013. Both use the Intel i5 microprocessor, for example, despite being more than five years apart, and while the MacBook Air’s can cache at a competent 1.8GHz, the 2013 MacBook Pro starts at 2.4GHz. The MacBook Pro’s 2013 GPU, in fact, outperforms the Air. The MacBook Air isn’t supposed to be a professional high-intensity device in the same way that the Pro was, but after five years of innovation and new generations of computer, we expected the MacBook Air to pack more into its small design, particularly for its price. The device is still powerful, but the MacBook Pro remains supreme when it comes to the sheer amount of computer you get for your pound.
The MacBook Air is a fantastic device, with excellent sound quality, style, and full of little innovations that make it a delight to use. However, at its price, it cannot help but be compared to the MacBook Pro – a more powerful, if slightly more cumbersome and more costly, device. In our view, the MacBook Air is ideal for those who don’t expect to be running their computer ragged but want it to be working correctly at all times without breaking or slowing down for years to come. For those who want a more powerful device, the MacBook Pro is always an option, but the MacBook Air is a great little machine for computer and Mac lovers.