MacBook Air 13-inch
A refresh, but should Apple have done more with the 11-inch’s ‘big brother’?
We actually found a couple of areas where this model has regressed compared to last year’s model
From £849 Manufacturer Apple, apple.com/uk
Processor 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Memory 4GB Storage 128GB, 256GB
With Intel’s latest chips promising big improvements in battery life rather than performance, and delivering them in the case of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, we had high hopes that the large Air was about to become an almost inexhaustible work machine. Capable enough to use for pretty much any non-resource-intensive work and already beating the ninehour mark in our battery tests, we figured it would cement its place as the ultimate road warrior’s machine. It has, but only really by default.
To the core
As with the 11-inch MacBook Air, you’ve got a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, which is a minor update over its predecessor, along with an updated graphics chip (with full 4K external monitor support) to match. The SSD is the other notable change, promising much faster read and write speeds – an unlike our 11-inch model, here we really got it. With both read and write speeds of well over 1,000 megabytes per second, this Air contains storage that is truly top of the line. This is Mac Pro-level stuff, and even if few will really use it to that level, it’s lovely to see. The processor is also improved, albeit to a smaller degree, finishing our video encoding test just shy of 10% faster than 2014’s model.
Disappointingly, we actually found a couple of areas where this model has actually regressed compared to last year’s in our benchmarks. Running Batman: Arkham City, its performance was notably lower than last year’s model when we tested it – possibly a driver issue that will be ironed out, but it’s still disappointing.
It’s a similar story with the battery life. It lasted a fantastic nine hours and four minutes in our tests – 30% better than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display! But it’s actually lower than what last year’s model achieved: nine hours 25 minutes. You’ll be using it differently in real life to the prolonged intense task we give it for the test, so that dip likely won’t make much difference (you could argue it’s within a margin for error), but we had hoped for an improvement over last year.
However, the 13-inch Air has the best battery life of Apple’s range, it’s powerful enough for almost all home and office use, and it won’t acquit itself badly for milder creative endeavours, such as iMovie. Like the 11-inch Air, its low price compared to Retina models is obvious in the screen, which is comparably lacking not just in detail, but richness in its colours, and offers weaker viewing angles. But it’s still a pleasant screen, in a very portable, well-made and nippy machine. For most people, we’d still point to the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro as the best all-round option. Matt Bolton
It’s odd that it’s a year on and we see some regressions in the overall performance of the 13-inch Air. Time for the 12-inch MacBook to shine instead?
The 13-inch MacBook Air still outlasts the MacBook Pro when it comes to using for all-day working.