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The mid-2011 MacBook Air refresh sees the range move to Intel's new Sandy Bridge Core i-series processors. The backlit keyboard makes a welcome return, while the Mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a Thunderbolt port.
The new Airs have the same form factor as the previous generation and also retain many of the features, such as the solid state drive and LED backlit widescreen display. The MacBook Air reviewed here is the more expensive of the two 11-inch models, augmented with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 256GB SSD, which are available as options when ordering on Apple's online store.
The new Sandy Bridge processors are awesome, with Hyper Threading and Turbo Boost features giving them a real advantage over the previous generation's Core 2 Duo chips. The backlit keyboard is a real boon and a feature that was sorely missed when dropped for the 2010 release. Meanwhile, the Thunderbolt port will prove its worth over time as more peripherals are released.
The Air's graphical abilities have stood still. Although far from poor, this area doesn't benefit from the same kind of great leap forward that processing power has enjoyed. The model reviewed here could struggle to find its niche too, proving too small to use as a main Mac and too expensive to be a convenient portable. It's a call only you as the end user can make, but an entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air might be more appropriate for your needs.
We have no hesitation in recommending the 2011 11-inch MacBook Air, but before spending £1,399 on this expensively customised model, you should ask yourself if you really need the extra power and storage. If you want your Air as a convenient portable Mac to supplement to your main machine, you might be better off with an entry-level model.
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