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13-inch Apple MacBook Air Review

Est. $1,000 and up
Reviewed
November 2014
by ConsumerSearch
13-inch Apple MacBook Air Review

Best laptop

Pros
  • Great battery life
  • Fast, responsive performance
  • Iconic thin, light design
  • Lower price than last year
Cons
  • Lower-res screen than rivals
  • No optical drive, Ethernet or HDMI port
Where to Buy
 

Bottom line

Amazing battery life -- yes, you can web-surf for more than 12 hours straight -- makes the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air tough to beat. It keeps everything good about the previous Air and drops the price tag. Experts can scarcely find anything to criticize, wholeheartedly recommending it over and over.

Breaking it down

Performance

All-day battery life. Apple says that the 13-inch Air will deliver "up to 12 hours" of Wi-Fi web surfing or movie playback, but professional reviewers regularly squeeze out even more -- nearly 16 hours in PCMag.com's trials, easily outdistancing top Windows ultraportable competitors. "While those other laptops may take you through your workday, the MacBook Air can also take you through your morning commute, your lunch hour, and your evening," Brian Westover says. The price cut helps makes the Air a good value considering its hardware lineup, including 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 processor (4th generation), 4 GB of memory, a 128 GB flash drive, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000. Upgrades are possible, but pricey, and can only be done at the time of purchase. But even in the base configuration, there's plenty of power for everyday tasks and even casual but still satisfying gaming.

Ergonomics

Travels light, feels great. Its ergonomics are largely unchanged, but critics rave about the 13-inch MacBook Air's backlit keyboard and glass trackpad, and at about less than .7 inches thick (maximum, tapering down to just .11 inches) 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, while the inclusion of an SDXC memory card reader -- missing on the 11-inch MacBook Air (Est. $900 and up) -- rates a thumbs up. There's no touch screen, because Mac OS X doesn't use touch. For those who run Windows 8 on this laptop, the large, responsive trackpad makes the omission less of an issue than it might seem.

Design

Same as it ever was. Almost every ultraportable on Earth takes its cues from the MacBook Air, which remains largely unchanged from previous versions. That leads some reviewers, such as CNET, to chide the MacBook Air's design as being "static," and missing some bells and whistles such as edge-to-edge glass and higher resolution screens. Indeed, the Air keeps its 13-inch screen at just 1,440 by 900 pixels, which is somewhat low-resolution compared to its rivals, including the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Est. $1,300 and up). Some competitors are slightly slimmer and lighter as well, but so slightly that Westover calls the differences "almost imperceptible." Laptop magazine finds the design to still be "svelte and elegant"

Support and 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 one-year warranty includes just 90 days of phone help. Laptop's Mark Spoonauer calls the current edition of the Air "sturdy," then adds: "We've used another 13-inch Air for a few years in a row without so much as a dent or worn-down key."

Where To Buy
Apple MacBook Air MD760LL/B 13.3-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION)

 
Buy new: $999.00   38 Used & new from $789.00

In Stock.

 

Our Sources

1. Laptop Magazine

Laptop Magazine gives the MacBook Air 13 an Editors' Choice award. "A faster processor, even longer battery life and a lower price solidify the 13-inch MacBook Air as the best ultraportable laptop value," Mark Spoonauer says. Elsewhere on the site, Avram Piltch names it the best laptop overall.

Review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2014) Review, Mark Spoonauer, May 19, 2014

2. PCMag.com

PCMag.com is also impressed enough to award an Editors' Choice to the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air. "The latest 13-inch Apple MacBook Air updates one of the best ultraportables around making it faster and more powerful, while proving that some things don't need to change at all," Brian Westover says.

Review: Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch (2014), Brian Westover, May 10, 2014

3. CNET

Dan Ackerman gives the 13-inch MacBook Air a 4-star rating. He says that if you already have a MacBook Air, there's no compelling reason to upgrade. For everyone else, the performance upgrade and price cut make the Air more attractive than ever.

Review: Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, April 2014) review, Dan Ackerman, June 27, 2014

4. Macworld

Macworld test three configurations of the MacBook Air in this review, two with 11-inch screens, and the 13-inch version with a 256 GB flash drive. He recommends opting for versions with the larger drive (the base versions have 128 GB drives) as his testing shows that they perform faster. Otherwise, "the MacBook Air is a great portable system," .Jim Galbraith says, and he awards it 4.5 "mice" (out of 5).

Review: MacBook Air review: A little faster, a little slower, a little more affordable, Jim Galbraith, May 20, 2014

5. ConsumerReports.org

The latest version of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air is reviewed by ConsumerReports.org. Testers look at performance, battery life, ergonomics, versatility, portability and more. Ratings are issued and similar-sized laptops are ranked.

Review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch MD760LL/B, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated

6. BestBuy.com

More than 2,300 mostly happy owners post reviews of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air at BestBuy.com. It earns a 4.8 rating with 99 percent saying they would recommend the laptop to a friend.

Review: Apple - MacBook Air (Latest Model) - 13.3" Display - Intel Core i5 - 4GB Memory - 128GB Flash Storage, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2014

7. Amazon.com

Amazon.com has far fewer reviews of the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air than BestBuy.com, and what it does have is grouped with other configurations including ones with upgraded hard drives and/or smaller, 11.6-inch screens. Be that as it may, overall, the MacBook Air in its various configurations earns a score of 4.6 stars following more than 250 reviews. Most owners are thrilled, but a handful receive a broken laptop, have issues with features they expected but are not present, or prefer their former Windows laptop.

Review: Apple MacBook Air MD760LL/B 13.3-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2014

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