MacBook Air 11-inch review

Has the MacBook Air finally come of age with this new 11-inch version?

MacBook Air 11-inch (2010)
Are their brains behind the MacBook Airs beauty?

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The MacBook Air we're reviewing here is the more expensive of the two 11-inch models, costing £999. Like all MacBook Airs, it has no optical drive, but you can share a computer's hard drive over a network using Remote Disc or invest in an optional USB SuperDrive.

This generation of MacBook Air supplies its system software and applications on a read-only USB flash drive, so you don't need an optical drive to reinstall it.

Like all new MacBook Airs, this 128GB 11-inch model uses flash storage. Instead of encasing the chips in a 2.5-inch SATA enclosure, they're mounted on a card resembling a RAM stick. It uses an mSATA connection, and without the drive casing, is around 90 per cent smaller and lighter.

The saved space has been used to enhance the battery capacity, giving the 11-inch model up to five hours' use from a single charge.

The 11-inch MacBook Air's 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor could be seen as a backwards step. A Core-i series chip was never on the cards. A legal dispute prevents Nvidia graphics chipsets being integrated into Intel's new processor family, and a there's no room on the logic board for a discrete GPU. As a result, Apple had to stick with the Core 2 Duo.

Even so, the previous generation of MacBook Airs offered 1.86GHz and 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duos off the shelf, making this 1.4GHz CPU look underpowered. The graphics chipset has received a boost, though. All the new MacBook Airs use an Nvidia GeForce 320M, the most powerful integrated graphics chipset currently available.

Like the rest of the range, this particular MacBook Air has 2GB of RAM, expandable to 4GB if you buy online and use the custom options.

Its 11.6-inch glossy widescreen LED-backlit display has a pixel resolution of 1,366 x 768. The unibody production process has been brought to the display housing, which is now milled from a single piece of aluminium, just like the main body of the notebook. It uses 48 per cent fewer parts, allowing for a thinner yet stronger MacBook Air.

The new MacBook Air now boasts stereo audio, and has two USB ports instead of the previous generation's one. The USB ports are mounted on either side of the notebook. There's no FireWire connectivity, and unlike the 13-inch models, this 11-inch MacBook Air doesn't offer an SD card reader.