11-inch MacBook Air 2011 review

Can this 1.8GHz Core i7 marvel justify its asking price?

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  • Brilliant new processors
  • Backlit keyboard returns
  • Beautiful screen
  • Thunderbolt port
  • Very portable


  • Mediocre sound
  • Expensive
  • No optical drive
  • Few Thunderbolt peripherals available
  • Might be more powerful than you need

The 2011 MacBook Air refresh retains the form factor introduced with 2010's line of ultraportables, but makes significant improvements to the core technologies. Apple has switched the ageing Core 2 Duo chips for new Sandy Bridge processors, the Mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a versatile and powerful Thunderbolt port and the backlit keyboard makes a welcome return too.

The new MacBook Air range (check out our 13-inch MacBook Air review) contains four off-the-shelf versions. The cheapest offers an 11-inch screen, 64GB of flash storage and 2GB of memory for £849. The next in line, also an 11-inch model, has a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM for £999. A similarly spec'd 13-inch MacBook Air costs £100 more, while for £1349 you can get a 256GB flash drive.

You can check out a video review of the MacBook Air below:

All four MacBook Airs have dual-core Intel Core i5 processors (1.6GHz for the 11-inch models, 1.7GHz for the 13-inch notebooks), with Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics. Each has two USB 2.0 ports, usefully positioned with one on each side of the notebook, and a Thunderbolt port. The 13-inch model also has an SD card reader. All the Airs also have a FaceTime camera that supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 x 1600 pixels on an external display.

The MacBook Air we're reviewing here is the more expensive of the two 11-inch models, but enhanced by the optional customisations available when ordering at the Apple online store. The processor has been beefed up to a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 and the flash storage drive has been doubled in size to 256GB. Naturally, these enhancements take their toll on the price.

This custom-built MacBook Air costs £1,399, which is more expensive than the priciest off-the-shelf model. But is it worth the extra money, and do you really need all that power in an 11-inch MacBook Air?