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13-inch MacBook Air

Est. $1,100 and up
Reviewed
July 2013
by ConsumerSearch
13-inch 128 GB MacBook Air

Best Apple laptop

Pros
  • Longest battery life
  • Fast, responsive performance
  • Iconic thin, light design sets the standard
  • Lower price than last year
Cons
  • Lower- res screen than rivals
  • No optical drive, Ethernet or HDMI port

Bottom line

Amazing battery life -- yes, you can web-surf for more than 12 hours straight -- makes the latest 13-inch MacBook Air tough to beat. It keeps everything good about the previous Air and drops the price tag by $100. Experts can scarcely find anything to criticize, wholeheartedly recommending it over and over. As TheVerge.com's Nilay Patel says, "If you're a normal person shopping for a laptop, you should buy a MacBook Air."

Performance

"Insane" battery life. Apple says its new 13-inch Air will deliver "up to 12 hours" of Wi-Fi web surfing, but professional reviewers regularly squeeze out even more. TheVerge.com gets 13.5 hours, which Patel calls "insane." And that's with an honest-to-goodness Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, not some underpowered Atom chip. This is "a fully functional ultraportable laptop" that just doesn't need a power outlet all day long, PCMag.com marvels. It feels quick, experts say, and new integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 even provide satisfying oomph for casual gaming; Patel plays "Portal 2" and "Half-Life 2: Episode 2" with no problem.

Ergonomics

Travels light, feels great. Critics rave about the 13-inch MacBook Air's backlit keyboard and glass trackpad, and at about 0.6 inch thick and less than 3 pounds, you'll barely notice it when you carry it around. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities help on the road, but you'll need a separate adapter if you want an Ethernet connection. The lack of an optical drive and HDMI port annoy some reviewers, but only mildly.

Design

"A modern classic." Almost every Ultrabook on Earth struggles to look like the MacBook Air, but experts say the original is still the best. It strikes a perfect balance, TheVerge.com says: "The Air's blend of size, weight, stiffness and durability continues to set the standard." Laptop Magazine calls it "a modern classic."

The Air keeps its 13-inch screen at just 1,440 by 900 pixels, which is somewhat low-resolution compared to its rivals and especially the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Est. $1,500 and up). The Air's screen probably saves both battery life and cost, reviewers point out, and it's still fantastic, with vivid colors and wide viewing angles. The speakers sound rich and loud.

Support & reliability

The gold standard. Year after year, Apple's rock-solid reliability leaves other laptop brands in the dust in PCMag.com's reader survey. Users say Apple products rarely break down, and if they do, the company's support staff is friendly and helpful. Tech support is just as outstanding. Laptop Magazine staffers hit Apple with anonymous questions and get great help via phone and web. Any Mac owner can bring a laptop in for free help at a Genius Bar with a reservation, but the 1-year warranty includes just 90 days of phone help.

Value

"The best on the market." There's a reason why experts recommend the 13-inch MacBook Air more often than any other laptop: It's "one of the most universally useful laptops you can buy," says Dan Ackerman at CNET. You get plenty of power, that ergonomically and physically elegant design, and now just about double the battery life of other ultraportables, all for $100 less than last year. Laptop Magazine's Mark Spoonauer calls it "the best ultraportable value on the market."

If every ounce counts, the 11-inch MacBook Air (Est. $1,000 and up) delivers roughly the same performance for $100 and a half-pound less. For more power, features and an eye-popping screen, consider stepping up to the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

Where To Buy
Apple Macbook Air MD231ll/A 13.3-inch Laptop (OLD VERSION)

 
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Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

"Astonishing" 15.5-hour battery life in PCMag.com's test -- three to four times as much as most rivals -- helps make the latest 13-inch MacBook Air an easy Editors' Choice here. It's not as fast as a MacBook Pro, but it certainly holds its own in benchmark tests.

Review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid 2013), Joel Santo Domingo, June 14, 2013

2. Laptop Magazine

Mark Spoonauer names the 13-inch MacBook Air an Editors' Choice and "the best ultraportable value on the market." It performs well in benchmark tests, even gaming, and delivers 11-plus hours of Wi-Fi web surfing.

Review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2013) Review, Mark Spoonauer, June 11, 2013

3. CNET

"One of the most universally useful laptops you can buy," Dan Ackerman says of the new MacBook Air. Its battery delivers a whopping 14.5 hours of video playback, with much better graphics for casual gaming than before, and a lower starting price.

Review: Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, June 2013) Review: A Familiar MacBook Air, with an All-day Battery, Dan Ackerman, June 14, 2013

4. The Verge

At 13.5 hours of web surfing, the new 13-inch MacBook Air breaks TheVerge.com's battery life record for laptops. Benchmark and real-world performance, mild gaming, familiar quality and design all get a thumbs-up.

Review: MacBook Air Review (13-inch, 2013), Nilay Patel, June 17, 2013

5. Laptop Magazine

Apple offers nearly unparalleled tech support, finishing in second place behind Sony in this test but only by the barest of margins. Staffers ask anonymous questions and get great help from Apple's web and phone support, and Apple provides free help at in-person Genius Bars nationwide. The lack of social media support is the only negative mark, and it's a minor one.

Review: Tech Support Showdown 2013: Winners and Losers, Mark Spoonauer, Oct. 21, 2013

6. PCMag.com

Year after year, Apple runs away with first place in PCMag.com's laptop owner satisfaction survey. Tech support, reliability, overall satisfaction -- it sweeps the whole category.

Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013

7. Amazon.com

With more than 200 user reviews posted, the 13.3-inch MacBook Air earns 4.5 out of 5 stars, making it one of the better-rated laptops at Amazon.com. Several owners say it's faster, runs cooler and lasts much longer on a charge than their MacBook Air laptops from a couple of years ago.

Review: Apple MacBook Air MD760LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop (Newest Version), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2013

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