There is nothing on the outside to distinguish the 2013 MacBook Air from the earlier versions. The same super stylish thin design with the aluminum clad exterior. They may look the same as last year’s model but the 2013 versions leave their predecessors in the dust..these new models are Hot!
The base models of the 11″ and 13″ models are powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache..Intel’s much vaunted Haswell chip combined with Intel HD 5000 Integrated Graphics a high performance combination that is easy on the new battery that while is the same size and weight as last year’s model packs more oomph. Combine all of that with the new PCIe based SSD drive and you have one heck of a powerful machine that is still light as a feather.
The impact of all this on battery life is spectacular…more like a tablet than a laptop. Apple promises up go 9 hours general use from the 11′ model and a spectacular 12 hours for the 13″ model. Finally a notebook you can run all day. Demanding jobs such as playing 1080p video use more power but you should be able to get a transcontinental flight out of it if you watch the brightness. I was quite impressed with the performance of the 13″ model I tested. Look at this after an hour of writing outdoors with the screen brightness up to about 70%…I couldn’t believe my eyes.
That was with the i5 processor, you can upgrade to a faster i7 but frankly I don’t think the performance difference would be worth the estimated 20% reduction in battery life. In any case the superfast PCIe based SSD makes all the important things happen so quickly you don’t really need the faster CPU. A cold start takes 10 seconds, start from sleep is instantaneous and apps open in a blink. If you like benchmarks take a look at this SSD speed comparison with a mid 2012 MacBook Air and the current model.
The only disappointment I had was the new and supposedly superfast 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking copying files on an afp connection to a Mac Mini with a gigabit connection to a mid 2013 Apple Time Capsule, I saw a transfer speed of only 18.5MBps (148mbps) compared to 13.3MBps (106.4mbps) on a mid-2012 MacBook Air..a not too impressive 39% increase, nowhere near the advertised 3x faster! Things improved a bit when I tried a download from the Time Capsule hard drive, a transfer speed of 31.4MBps (251mbps) compared to 19.1MBps (152mbps) on last year’s model, only a 65% increase.
It seems this performance could be an issue in the OS x networking stack according to tests conducted by AnandTech which shows that while the Air is theoretically capable of higher WiFi performance real world performance is limited by this software issue.
That said, the Apple MacBook Air 13″ is a great notebook computer arguably the best Ultrabook style notebook you can buy. It is blazingly fast, and even the crippled WiFi is plenty fast for most users who probably won’t be accessing a 802.11ac router all that often anyway. If you are looking for a lightweight well built fast notebook that can take a beating this is the one to buy.
The Apple Macbook Air is available from Apple or authorized resellers starting at $999 for the 11″ base model and $1099 for the 13″ base model I tested. University students can benefit from a discount price as well as a $100 gift card to be spent on accessories and software. The base price by the way is $100 less than last year.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]In Canada Best Buy and Future Shop have the 11″ model on sale for $899.99 until August 22. Best Buy in the US is currently selling all models at $100 off[/box]