MacBook Air 11-inch review

Has the MacBook Air finally come of age with this new 11-inch version?

TODO alt text

The MacBook Air we're reviewing here is the more expensive of the two 11-inch models, costing £999. Like all MacBook Airs, it has no optical drive, but you can share a computer's hard drive over a network using Remote Disc or invest in an optional USB SuperDrive.

This generation of MacBook Air supplies its system software and applications on a read-only USB flash drive, so you don't need an optical drive to reinstall it.

Like all new MacBook Airs, this 128GB 11-inch model uses flash storage. Instead of encasing the chips in a 2.5-inch SATA enclosure, they're mounted on a card resembling a RAM stick. It uses an mSATA connection, and without the drive casing, is around 90 per cent smaller and lighter.

The saved space has been used to enhance the battery capacity, giving the 11-inch model up to five hours' use from a single charge.

The 11-inch MacBook Air's 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor could be seen as a backwards step. A Core-i series chip was never on the cards. A legal dispute prevents Nvidia graphics chipsets being integrated into Intel's new processor family, and a there's no room on the logic board for a discrete GPU. As a result, Apple had to stick with the Core 2 Duo.

Even so, the previous generation of MacBook Airs offered 1.86GHz and 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duos off the shelf, making this 1.4GHz CPU look underpowered. The graphics chipset has received a boost, though. All the new MacBook Airs use an Nvidia GeForce 320M, the most powerful integrated graphics chipset currently available.

Like the rest of the range, this particular MacBook Air has 2GB of RAM, expandable to 4GB if you buy online and use the custom options.

Its 11.6-inch glossy widescreen LED-backlit display has a pixel resolution of 1,366 x 768. The unibody production process has been brought to the display housing, which is now milled from a single piece of aluminium, just like the main body of the notebook. It uses 48 per cent fewer parts, allowing for a thinner yet stronger MacBook Air.

The new MacBook Air now boasts stereo audio, and has two USB ports instead of the previous generation's one. The USB ports are mounted on either side of the notebook. There's no FireWire connectivity, and unlike the 13-inch models, this 11-inch MacBook Air doesn't offer an SD card reader.

Tech Specs

Product TypeNotebook
Green CompliantYes
Hard Drive CapacityNo
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerNVIDIA
Graphics Controller ModelGeForce 320M
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time5 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity128 GB
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
DisplayPortYes
Product FamilyMacBook Air
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
Brand NameApple
Processor Speed1.40 GHz
Processor TypeCore 2 Duo
Screen Size29.5 cm (11.6")
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Standard Memory2 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.04 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR, EPEAT Gold
64-bit ProcessingYes
Graphics Memory CapacityUp to 256 MB
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 2.1
Total Number of USB Ports2
Memory StandardDDR3-1066/PC3-8500
Height17.3 mm
Width299.7 mm
Depth192 mm
Screen ModeWXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMC506B/A
Product NameMacBook Air MC506B/A Notebook
Pointing Device TypeTrack Pad
Product LineMacBook Air
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberMC506B/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

We learned a lot from iPad. The new MacBook Air is proof. It's designed around all-flash storage for better responsiveness and reliability. It features a trackpad with full Multi-Touch support. And though it's incredibly thin and light, its large battery gives you portable power that lasts for hours.

Maximum Memory4 GB
Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • MacBook Air MC506B/A Notebook
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Power Cord
  • AC Wall Plug
  • Software Reinstall Drive
  • MagSafe Power Adapter
  • Printed and Electronic Documentation
Limited Warranty1 Year
Bus Speed800 MHz