macbook air 11-inch

The late 2010 MacBook Air represents a radical overhaul for Apple's ultra-thin notebook, not least because of the introduction of a new 11-inch model. The Intel Core 2 Duo processors are nothing special, but they combine with the Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics chipset and solid state storage to give the new Airs a much better performance than you might expect.

We liked

The Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics chipset is the most powerful integrated solution currently available. Switching to solid state storage and installing the chips and controller on a RAM stick-like circuit board instead of enclosing them in a 2.5-inch casing the same size as a hard disk drive is a masterstroke. Not only is it much lighter, but it frees up room for extra battery power.

Standby Mode, where an Air in Sleep Mode for an hour enters a deep hibernation state, means you can leave the MacBook Air switched on closed for up to 30 days, but have it instantly accessible as soon as you open it again. It's great to have two USB ports and stereo speakers too.

We disliked

There isn't much to dislike about the late 2010 release of the MacBook Air, but we do miss the backlit keyboard. It's a real shame this useful and popular feature had to go, but if you use your computer in the dark, maybe in bed, it's back to switching on your bedside lamp or tilting the screen forward to illuminate the keyboard.

Some will bemoan the lack of integrated 3G internet access, but we're not too bothered. You can always connect through a 3G dongle or a MiFi unit. It's a pity there's no SD card reader in this 11-inch model too, but we accept it had to go for the sake of space.

Verdict

With the late 2010 release, the MacBook Air leaves behind its novelty image and becomes a genuine rival to the entry-level MacBook and MacBook Pro. It has a power that belies its on-paper clock speed, a gorgeous screen and with its new battery and energy-saving technology, instant-on convenience.

We miss the backlit keyboard, though, and hope it returns in the next generation of MacBook Airs. It's still pretty expensive too, with the range starting at £849 and this particular model costing £999.

It might not be a notebook for everybody, but if you want something that's powerful, convenient and portable, it just might be the notebook for you.

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