MacBook Air review

Grabbing a MacBook Air now fetches you faster storage

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The 13-inch MacBook Air is more interesting than the 11-inch model due to housing flash storage twice as fast as its predecessor – or so Apple claims. It's available in two configurations starting at £849 ($999, AUS$1,399) for a 1.8GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz) Core i5 CPU, 128GB of flash memory and 8GB of RAM.

We reviewed the top-spec early 2015 model, starting at £999 ($1,199/AUS$1,699) and netting you a 1.6GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz) CPU, 4GB of RAM and 256GB of flash memory. Our unit had been further configured to ship with 8GB of RAM which, at the time added £80 (around $124, or AUS$170) to the total cost.

That price makes the 13-inch MacBook Air more expensive than the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (early 2015), which also starts at £999 ($1,199/AUS$1,699). Price is no longer a differentiator, so which one you go for depends on a few factors that will be explored in this review.

Apple 13 inch MacBook Air early 2015

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000
  • RAM: 8GB 1600MHz DDR3
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, LED-backlit glossy widescreen display (1440 x 900)
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe-based flash storage (configurable to 512GB flash storage)
  • Optical Drive: Not included
  • Ports: Two USB 3.0 ports (up to 5Gbps); Thunderbolt 2 port (up to 20Gbps); MagSafe 2 power port; SDXC card slot
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible; Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
  • Weight: 1.35kg (2.96 pounds)
  • Size: 32.5 x 22.7 x 1.7 cm (W x D x H)

One advantage of the MacBook Air versus the 12-inch MacBook is its wider selection of ports. On the left-hand side is a MagSafe 2 connector for power, one USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack. On the right is a Thunderbolt 2 port, another USB 3.0 port and a full-sized SDcard slot. The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro doubles the number of Thunderbolt ports compared to the Air, and adds HDMI.

Ports right

macOS Sierra is the version currently shipping with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air. It doesn’t divert too much from the visual style of its predecessor, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, but it does introduce a range of new features such as Siri, Continuity between your Mac and iOS devices and Apple Pay for expediting online purchases.

Sierra has since been succeeded by macOS 10.13 High Sierra, though it doesn’t come with it out of the box – you have to download and install it yourself, for free. There aren’t many significant improvements by way of macOS High Sierra, save for better security, VR support down the road and refinements to the Photos app. 

That said, given that you don’t have to pay for it, macOS High Sierra is probably worth the 4.8GB hit to your data cap for the also-new Apple File System (APFS) alone. The new 64-bit file system brings native encryption and faster metadata operations to the table, making the MacBook Air quicker to use as a result.

Bundled software

For now, macOS Sierra ships with Apple's own iWork and iLife apps, including a modernized look for Garageband.

Photos app

These inlcude:

  • Movie
  • Garageband
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • FaceTime

Yosemite

In addition to:

  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Notes
  • App Store
  • iTunes
  • iBooks
  • Maps
  • Photo Booth
  • Time Machine
  • Spotlight