MacBook Air laptops, however, promise to go the distance with all-day battery life. Announced at Apple's WWDC conference earlier this month, the new laptops don't look any different from the outside, but on the inside they have been given complete makeovers with Intel's latest Haswell processors. They also now pack more storage for the price; the 11-inch model with 128 GB of storage, which previously only had 64 GB, starts at $999.
No, the new Airs aren't drastically different -- at least not to the
naked eye -- but the small changes go a long way. Quite literally.
A Familiar, But Loved Design
The new MacBook Airs could be put on a police lineup with the old
MacBook Airs and not even the best detective would be able to tell them
apart. The exteriors of the laptops are indistinguishable from the
previous versions. But that's not
necessarily a bad thing. As every
other company in the industry continues to ape the ultrathin, unibody
aluminum aesthetic with their own slender ultrabooks, Apple's
four-year-old design still leads.
The 11.6-inch version, which I have been testing for the last two weeks,
is, well, adorable. The small 0.11-inch to 0.68-inch thick laptop can
easily be held in one hand and easily fits in an averaged sized purse.
The 13.3-inch version, however, while not as compact, has a higher
1440x900-resolution screen, a few extra ports (including an SD card
reader) and longer battery life -- a point I'll come back to soon.
Still, with both the new Airs, you don't get the ultra crisp screens found on Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina Display models or Google's Chromebook Pixel. While it would be nice if there was a higher-resolution display offered, it would also likely drive up the price.
Forget the Charger at Home
You won't notice the Air's real changes until you hit the power button
and start to use the machine. The insides of the system have been
freshened up with Intel's latest Haswell or 4th generation processors,
which promise a graphics boost and the "biggest battery-life increase in
Intel history," according to the chipmaker.
The performance increase isn't as obvious as the battery boost -- but
again, that's not a bad thing. In comparison to the last generation Air
from 2012, this year's version feels just as peppy in terms of everyday
computing tasks. It boots up in 18 seconds, resumes from sleep almost
instantly, and there's no wait when opening up applications.
Writing this review in Pages while simultaneously streaming music,
running Tweetdeck and Safari with more than 10 tabs open didn't make the
1.3GHz Core i5 processor, 128 GB solid state drive and 4 GB of RAM
break a sweat. Adding a 1080p video into the mix didn't slow down
But the promise of the new Air is not that you can do those things
faster -- it's that you can do them for longer without interruption.
Apple claims that the 11-inch Air lasts nine hours on a charge, up from
the previous versions five hours. In my regular usage I got closer to
eight hours of non-stop usage on a single charge. However, on my video
playback test, which loops an HD clip at 65 percent brightness until the
battery is dead, the machine lasted nine hours and eight minutes. That
will allow you to watch about four full-length movies on the machine
before having to find an outlet. Even better is getting off a flight
from San Francisco to New York City and having three hours left.
Compare that with similarly-sized netbooks from three years ago, which
required giant battery humps to achieve half that battery life with half
the power, and you can appreciate just how far we've come in the last
few years. And, if you're hoping for even more battery life, the 13-inch
Air lasts just about 12 hours on a single charge, according to reviews
from The Verge and Laptop Magazine. It just costs more, with the entry level model starting at $1,099.
For the last two years, whenever a friend or family member has asked me
what laptop to buy, I have recommended the MacBook Air. It's not that
there aren't great Windows ultrabooks and laptops out there, but the Air
has consistently provided the best blend of performance and ergonomics
in a truly mobile package. With the new version, there is just another
reason to recommend the laptop.
While most people don't care to know about what processor is inside
their laptop, the one inside the new Air enables battery life that's on
par with a tablet or a smartphone. If you require more power, it's best
to wait for the new series of laptops based on the same new Intel
processor family that will be coming out soon from various PC makers.
But there's no doubt about it: the Air is the laptop to buy if you want
the chargers to stop following you around.