The Intel i5 2012 11-inch MacBook Air model used for this review didn't exactly set the world on fire with its raw benchmarking scores, with results of around a third of what we recorded for the new MacBook Pro models, but they did record a significant improvement on the 2011 MacBook Air.
General day-to-day performance is great, with all of the popular apps and programs that we tested - iPhoto, Preview, iTunes, QuickTime and Safari - running with a smoothness akin to a much more powerful computer. So, despite the benchmark results, as an everyday notebook for what we'd call the 'usual' tasks, it's not likely to let you down.
You still won't be able to seamlessly play the latest gaming titles, quickly edit HD movies or anything else too demanding - because of the lack of discrete graphics - but that's not exactly the MacBook Air's reason for being.
It's designed to be a laptop that is easy to chuck in your bag and up to the task for anything you want to throw at it when you're out and about. As a work-based computer it excels with its instant-on feature and its 30-day standby life-span, and as an entertainment hub it thrives, with photos and HD movies looking great on its 1,366 x 768 display (1,440 x 900 for the 13-inch model).
It's the same glossy LED-backlit display as before, with the same slight shortcomings when it comes to viewing angles, but overall it's a fantastic display that holds up well under bright lights. The thin display seamlessly merges into the lid, making a combined height of 1.7cm (0.68 inches).
Cinebench 11 for Mac: 2.4pts
Unigine Heaven 3D: 340
And despite its puny demeanor, it's actually pretty tough, with the hinges and flex proving more than capable of withstanding the odd stretch or knock.
Audio is surprisingly good, if somewhat tinny, for such a small machine. It's no audio dock replacement, that's for sure, but for video watching or the odd bit of background music streaming while you're web surfing or working, it does the job nicely. Of course, you can always plug some external speakers or some headphones in, or even make use of Apple AirPlay through iTunes for a much richer audio experience.
Using the MacBook Air is a real pleasure, with the isolated backlit keyboard still being about the best in the business. Travel is minimal, but there is still enough bounce and response to invoke confidence while typing, and the intelligent backlight is great for when the sun starts to set.
Don't worry about the backlights running the battery down when it's light enough that they are not needed - the system is clever enough to switch them off when your environment is well lit.
The multi-touch gesture-tastic trackpad is also a delight to use, although fans of older Mac OS versions may have to do a bit of tweaking to get it performing like it did in the old days. We find the two-finger scrolling, three-finger swiping and four-finger pinching an incredibly intuitive way of controlling the system, though. iPad owners, in particular, will feel right at home.
Booted up, you'll find the MacBook Air running Mac OS X 10.7.4 Lion - although an upgrade to 10.8 Mountain Lion will be available to download in July, free for new Mac owners.