Mac­Book Air 13-inch

A re­fresh, but should Ap­ple have done more with the 11-inch’s ‘big brother’?

Mac Format - - RATED | KIT -

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.

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