The Bottom Line
Jun 25 2012 - Apple's 2012 refresh of the MacBook Air 11 brings with it some significant improvements from the past base $999 model but this isn't the huge revision many had hoped for. The chassis is still the same extremely thin and light platform as before making it the smallest of the 11-inch laptops on the market. The changes instead are all internal with a newer Core i5 processor that gives a slight performance improvement and better graphics, 4GB of memory instead of 2GB and USB 3.0 ports. This makes it a great secondary laptop for those wanting an extremely small and portable laptop rather than a tablet for traveling. The same downsides still exist here as before included just 64GB of storage space, relatively low battery life and no ability to upgrade the internal memory or storage.
- Extremely Small And Light
- Excellent Display
- USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt Ports
- Limited Storage
- Below Average Battery Life
- No Aftermarket Upgrades
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3
- 64GB Solid State Drive
- 11.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, Thunderbolt
- 11.8" x 7.6" x .7" @ 2.4 lbs.
- Mac OS X 10.7
Review - Apple 2012 MacBook Air 11-inch
Jun 25 2012 - With Intel's release of the Ivy Bridge processors, it was no surprise that Apple was going to upgrade its MacBook Air lineup. The refresh for 2012 externally brings no major changes to this ultrathin design. In fact, the biggest disappointment is the lack of a retina display that many had hoped for. Frankly, the base MacBook Air 11-inch was never going to get it as such a display would have pushed the price over $1000 and likely reduced the overall battery life.
For the processor, the MacBook Air 11-inch now comes with the Intel Core i5-3317U dual core processor. This is an upgrade to the system in several ways. First, the processor is more efficient than the past Sandy Bridge processor. This should help extend the battery life somewhat. Second, it does give a slight performance boost over the past model. The major performance boost is actually the result of the memory being upgraded from a paltry 2GB to 4GB. While this is still small for many modern laptops, the Mac OS X software does an excellent job with memory management such that it offers a smooth overall experience. As with all the MacBook Air designed, the memory is factory installed and can't be upgraded at all after the purchase of the system.
Storage capacity has also remained the same on the base MacBook Air 11 with a fairly small 64GB solid state drive. This makes the system much better suited as a secondary PC than as a primary one as digital media can quickly eat up the limited space. Performance from the drive is a bit improved over the past model but for the most part buyers probably wouldn't see much of a difference. If you do need more storage space, than the $1099 version of the MacBook Air 11 offers the same exact setup but with a 128GB drive. External storage options have improved with the updated system as well. In addition to the Thunderbolt port that can be used with high speed external storage, the USB ports have both been upgraded to USB 3.0 for added flexibility. Sadly, there is no SD card slot still due to the ultrathin profile.
As previously mentioned, the MacBook Air 11 did not receive the retina upgrade. Instead, it uses the same 11.6-inch display found in past models. This is still one of the best overall displays available in the 11-inch screen size with excellent color, contrast and viewing angles. There is the downside of the glossy coating but this is common to most consumer laptops these days. The graphics subsystem has been upgraded from the previous Intel HD Graphics 3000 to the HD Graphics 4000 built into the new Core i5 processor. This does give a significant boost to the 3D performance such that it can be used for some 3D applications like games which the past model could not. Resolutions and detail levels will still be somewhat limited.
The ultrathin dimensions of the MacBook Air 11 have always restricted the size of the battery to a 35WHr capacity. Apple kept the battery life claims at five hours for mixed web browsing as they did in the past model. In my video playback test, it was able to run for just three and a half hours before going into standby mode. This is a fifteen minute improvement over last year's model but not a major improvement. While this puts it on par with many larger traditional laptops, it does mean that the running time falls short of many other ultraportables that have slightly larger dimensions.
Apple's MacBook Air 11 is still the thinnest and lightest overall 11-inch laptop available on the market today. This is likely to change as more and more companies release the second generation of ultrabooks to the market. In fact, Gigabyte has already announced their X11 ultrabook that is built from carbon fiber that will be roughly a quarter pound lighter than the air. Of course, you also have competition from the tablet market as well but if you don't want to sacrifice your computing experience with one of the mobile operating systems, this is still the best overall choice for someone looking at extreme portability.