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13-inch MacBook Air review

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Apple’s ultra-portable laptop, often copied but never bettered, puts out a strong performance with the mid-2013 MacBook Air.

Although it offers significant improvements in solid state storage speed and graphical power as well as wireless capabilities, the processor’s clock speeds take a step back. We’ll see that the MacBook Air 2013 is comparable or better than its predecessor in most real-world applications.

  • All we know about the Retina MacBook Air

 

The mid-2013 update brings four new models, two with 11-inch screens, and two with 13 inch displays. The new models all feature Haswell 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 dual core processors and the latest version Intel’s integrated graphic chipset, Intel HD Graphics 5000. All of them also run the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion OS system. However, this will be replaced by OS X Mavericks as soon as it becomes available.

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Each model has 128GB solid state storage. The more expensive models have 256GB. All models offer 4GB RAM.

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  • 11-inch MacBook Air review

This is the highest-specced 256GB 13 inch MacBook Air. It costs PS1,129 / US$1,299 / AU$1,449. For US$1,099 / AU$1,249., the lower-specced 128GB 13 inch model is available for PS949 / US$1,099 / AU$1,249.

 

The 11-inch MacBook Airs cost PS849 / US$999 / AU$1,099 to buy the 128GB model and PS1,029 / US$1,199 / AU$1,349 to get the 256GB model.

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Although the MacBook Air’s quality is excellent, not everyone can afford to spend that much on a lightweight notebook. Chromebooks are a good option for those with limited budgets, provided they meet your requirements.

These devices run web-based apps and are much cheaper than OS X, Windows or Linux. The Samsung Chromebook was priced at just PS230 / US$330 / AU$320 when it launched.

There are also more expensive Chrome-powered notebooks. Google’s Chromebookpixel notebook is a stunning high-end model that costs PS1,050/US$1,300. This is more than the two 11-inch MacBook Airs, but shows that cloud computers can still be stylish and attractive as Apple notebooks.

The Windows 8 ultraportable notebook is the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D. It has an Intel Core i5 CPU, a 13-inch display, and 128GB flash storage, just like the MacBook Air. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 carbon Touch is a lightweight and thin Windows 8 netbook that can be used as an alternative to the MacBook Air.

A MacBook Pro, or an iMac might be more suitable for those who need a Mac, but not a lot of power. The MacBook Air is great for daily computing and for regular commuters.

Table of Contents

Specifications

The 2013 13-inch MacBook Airs feature Intel’s latest Haswell processors. This is the latest Core range. They are dual-core 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 chip.

The Hyper-Threading feature allows each core to run two threads simultaneously. This makes it possible for four virtual cores. In times of extreme need, underused resources can also be used to Turbo Boost their speeds up to 2.6GHz.

The Haswell series processors offer a better performance than the predecessor, which was powered by a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 from the stock.

The integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 of Haswell processors is a significant upgrade to the 2012 MacBook Airs. It offers up to 40% more graphical power. Flash storage is also faster in the new MacBook Airs. It can be used up to 45% faster than the previous generation and nine times faster that a standard hard drive.

The new MacBook Airs offer 802.11ac wireless internet. Wi-Fi speeds are also faster. If your router supports ac protocol, this is three times faster than wireless n. It also provides a greater range. Beam-forming technology directs the signal onto the ac devices to ensure a more stable connection.

The battery life is where the Haswell processors really shine. Apple claims that the 13-inch MacBook Air can last up to 12 hours on one charge and 10 hours of movie playback via iTunes.

As with all new MacBook Airs, it goes into Standby Mode when you close your lid. This ultra-low-energy state can last up to 30 days on a fully charged battery. It turns on immediately after you close the lid, but it has fast solid state storage so it can boot very fast even when it is off.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air features a second microphone that reduces background noise for features like FaceTime and Dictation. This mid-2013 model has a second microphone hole on its left-hand side. The chassis is identical.

The much-anticipated Retina screen didn’t actually materialize. Retina screens are packed in such high resolution that it is difficult to distinguish individual pixels at normal viewing distance. They have proved very popular on the latest MacBook Pro and iPad models. We didn’t receive one for the 2013 MacBook Airs. This was even though it was an option available to those who ordered through the Apple online store. It could have taken too much toll on the battery.

Performance

The 2013 13-inch MacBook Air’s new Haswell processors consume very little power. This gives it a remarkable battery life. The laptop lasted nine hours when we streamed live BBC News on iPlayer over a wireless connection. This is significantly more than the MacBook Air 11-inch’s 7 hours 15 minute time, and a significant improvement over the MacBook Air 2012’s 5.5 hour time.

The MacBook Air’s excellent battery life has been a hallmark of solid state storage since the late 2010 update. It’s stunning now that the Haswell processors are in place. Finally, your notebook can be used all day on one charge.

Benchmarks

Xbench: 357.50

Cinebench 10 Single core: 4242

Cinebench 10 Multi-core: 8636

iTunes encoding (USB SuperDrive): 452 seconds

Movie encoding (iMovie): 242.6 seconds

Doom 3 : 68.9fps

Call of Duty 4 67.8fps

Battery life: 9 hours

Novabench, Total: 589

Novabench, Graphics: 44

Although processors are slower than previous generations, overall performance improvements make up for the slow clock speed.

The Haswell processors’ faster graphics meant that the Call of Duty 4 testing resulted in the 2013 MacBook Air running the game at 67.8 frames/second, compared with 59.5fps for 2012’s 13-inch dual-core Intel Core i5 model.

However, the Doom 3 was less able than the Intel HD 5000 Graphics. It ran at 68.9fps with the 2013 Air and 83.0fps with the model last year.

The faster storage of the new MacBook Air gave it a clear advantage in our Xbench test. This was set up to evaluate both the CPU’s and storage performance. The score of 357.50, 5.4% higher than last year’s model, was the result.

But the swings-and-roundabouts improvement offered by the new MacBook Air is clearly demonstrated by our Cinebench test, where graphical and processing power is assessed first using a single core and then with every core available (on these dual-core, Hyper-Threading chips, that’s four cores). The 2013 MacBook Air scored 4242 using only one core. However, with all cores active, the faster clock speed of the 2012 MacBook Air results in a 1.8% decrease in score.

It takes around 40 seconds to encode our five-minute test movie in iPod format with iMovie.

The display on the laptop has not changed. It is still a 13.3-inch, 1440 x900 resolution, LED-backlit glossy widescreen LCD display with rich, deep colors and good viewing angles.

The new MacBook Airs can be carried in a similar fashion to their predecessors. They have a tapered height (0.3-1.7cm) of 0.011-0.68 inches, a width (32.5cm 912.8inches), and a depth (22.7cm/8.94 inches). It weighs in at 1.35kg (2.96lbs). The MacBook Air is the perfect solution if you are tired of carrying around a heavy notebook.

 

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