Macbook Air

The Macbook Air is a phenomenal success on every level. Despite predating Intel's 'Ultrabook' push by several years, the Air is the epitome of what Intel wants Windows laptop makers to create. It's a thin-and-light, powerful but portable full-spec PC. It looks like something you want to own, and it performs like a workhorse. But you know that - you're reading a story outlining the best place to buy a Macbook Air, after all.

Here we look at some of the options you have when shopping for a Macbook Air, new or old. We asses the strengths and weaknesses of the best places to buy a Macbook Air. (For further reading, see our general laptops buying advice.)

Best place to buy Macbook Air: Apple Store

Love them or loathe them, there is no more lucrative square metre of space than Apple's shops. There's a reason for that, and it's not just Apple's popular range of products. The Apple Store should be your first port of call when buying a Macbook.

Whether you are in the physical shop or surfing at Apple.com/uk, supply is rarely an issue at the Apple Store. You'll find every Macbook Air model available, so you can buy exactly the laptop you want rather then being upsold to a more profitable model. Indeed, by going to the Apple Store, as well as the regular models you'll also find the other build-to-order options (eg, 2.0GHz Intel Core i7, 512GB SSD) which you're unlikely to find from other retailers.

You know that Apple is trustworthy vendor with good returns policies and excellent aftersales support - albeit with Apple's customary one-year warranty (if you can get a two- or three-year warranty for free elsewhere it is worth considering). Apple does offer 90 days of free telephone support, post purchase.

In the physical Apple Stores you'll find great sales support: the staff in Apple Stores love and know well Apple products. The chances are you can try out the model you want in the company of an expert.

Of course, you won't grab a bargain in an Apple Store. Apple sets a price for its products via which it can make a profit... and that's it. You rarely see discounted Apple products, and never in the Apple Store.

If cost-cutting is your thing you could grab a bargain in the the Apple Refurb Store, however. Right now, for instance, you can pick up a refurbished 2011 11in Macbook Air for £719 inc VAT, which is cheap indeed. Obviously you need to know what you are looking for but all refurbished products come with a comprehensive one-year warranty, so this is a good way of purchasing an older Macbook Air at a lower price.

Pros: every model, unsurpassed pre- and aftersales support
Cons: you won't grab a bargain unless you are prepared to go for a refurb, warranties last only one year

See also: Sony vs Apple laptops: which is best? and MacBook or iPad: What should you buy?

Best place to buy Macbook Air: Amazon

If you are shopping for anything you should check out Amazon - it's the biggest online tech retailer in the UK, and as much as you may not approve of its record as a tax payer, there's not a lot you can't find on Amazon.

The Macbook Air is a good case in point. Run a quick search and you'll find lots of good-looking offers on new and used Macbook Airs. Amazon is a reliable retailer offering good terms and conditions for things such as returns, and unsurpassed delivery options.

But with that great variety of products comes a risk of you being swamped in choice. Before you head on to Amazon it is important to know what model you want so you can be sure purchase the right laptops: there are lots of older models on Amazon (and you won't find every model Apple offers direct).

There is nothing wrong with this variety, of course, but you might think you have a bargain when you have a laptop with outdated specs.

The other thing with Amazon is it is not always clear from whom you are you buying. Only some of the deals are direct from Amazon.co.uk - most listings for Macbook Air you find will be fulfilled by third-party retailers on Amazon's marketplace. There's nothing wrong with this either, but you may find it affects warranty provision and delivery options. Expect free warranties to be basic if you buy from an Amazon Marketplace retailer. And wouldn't you rather buy from a name you know?

Pros: whatever you want to buy, you'll probably find it on Amazon. And you can usually get it delivered next day
Cons: there's almost too much choice, and you don't always know from whom you are buying

Best place to buy Macbook Air: shop around online

Indeed, if you are shopping in the Amazon Marketplace, you may as well have a quick scout around online. On the open internet you'll find many offers for many Macbook Air models. If you are prepared to shop for an older model, you may even save some money as a reputable online retailer sells off older stock.

As always when shopping online, it's critical you make sure you know from whom you are buying. Look for stores that have a street address, and check out that address on Google Earth. Use a credit card so that if something goes wrong you can make it the bank's momney that has gone.

Keep all receipts and correspondance, and make sure you know exactly what you are buying so that you can check your purchase when it arrives (some online retailers are not above selling you a laptop with expensive components and sending you one with much cheaper specs). Look out for surchages such as credit card and delivery fees.

Using price comparison to shop online you could potentially spot a bargain Macbook Air, but unless the vendor is losing money on the sale there will be a reason for the bargain. Keep your wits about you.

Pros: choosing from a variety of sources means you could grab a bargain
Cons: if it looks too good to be true it probably is

Best place to buy Macbook Air: Dixons, PC World, Currys

As Amazon is to the internet, so is Dixons Stores Group to the high street. Actually, by 'high street' we mean 'out of town retail park' - but the point remains. Dixons, PC World and Currys are a country mile bigger than any comparable technology retail chain in the UK. As a consequence you can be confident that it will have some - but not all - Macbook Air models in stock, and it will fulfil your order without anything dodgy happening both in store and online. You can also reserve online to pick up in store, which may save you some weekend down time.

You get a decent basic guarantee when shopping from DSG - although you will likely be cajoled to buy further post-purchase support. And the returns policy is good, as you might expect from a retail giant. Shop in store and you can also try before you buy and take your Macbook Air back for repair - although you may be charged for this, too. And don't expect the sales support to be akin to being in the Apple Store - lots of unfair things are said about PC World sales staff, but Apple Store Geniuses they are not.

Finally, on a new model DSG stores will charge the same as Apple does direct. You may find something cheaper, but the chances are it will be last year's model.

Pros: you can buy with confidence from a large-scale retailer, and try before you buy
Cons: limited range of models, you're unlikely to grab a bargain, beware the upsell

NEXT PAGE: buy a Macbook Air from Apple Premium Resellers, department stores, and second hand on eBay >> CLICK HERE >>

See also: Sony vs Apple laptops: which is best? and MacBook or iPad: What should you buy?

We look at more options you have when shopping for a Macbook Air, including department stores and eBay.

Best place to buy Macbook Air: Apple Premium Resellers

'It seems to us that the Apple Store is the best place to buy a Macbook Air', I hear you say. 'But there is no Apple Store in our town', you complain. Fear not. Another option is to check out your local third-party Apple reseller. In the town in which I live there is a reseller called 'iStore'. A quick straw poll of Team PC Advisor dug out 'Stormfront', in another home town. Both iStore and Stormfront are Apple Premium Resellers - licensed by Apple to sell the whole range of Apple products in a retail store environment. Other Apple Premium Resellers are available.

You can expect staff to be knowledgeable, and the retail environment to be pleasant. You should be able to try before you buy. And the prices should be identical to buying direct from Apple -  you won't be able to beat the system but you can experience something approaching the benefits of the Apple Store (the same is usually true online, although there is little incentive to shop from a Premium Reseller's site when you could just go to Apple.com/uk).

Apple Premium Resellers can sell any and all Apple products, but you may have to wait for them to order you a particular model.

Pros: something approaching the Apple Store experience
Cons: not the place to grab a bargain, and you may have to wait for a particular model

Best place to buy Macbook Air: department stores

Apple laptops are unlikely to turn up in your local supermarket any time soon. But head to a high-end department store such as John Lewis and you will find various models of the Macbook Air. You won't save any money on Apple prices, and you won't be able to specify your own model or shop from the whole range. But John Lewis in particular offers a significant benefit over buying direct from Apple: its two-year warranty. As you would expect returns and refund policy is as good as there is, too.

Pros: great after sales support
Cons: Limited range, unlikely to grab a bargain

Best place to buy Macbook Air: ebay/second-hand

The modern eBay is as much reseller market place as it is the flea market of old. As such many of the same plus points and caveats of shopping in the Amazon Marketplace apply.

But you can, of course, also find a second-hand Macbook Air. A quick search turns up around 250 pages of listings for the term 'Macbook Air', so there are plenty of options! Shopping for second-hand goods on eBay can be fun and rewarding but you have to have your wits about you. There are whole books written about this stuff, so we won't go into too much detail. Suffice to say that you can get a bargain if you are happy to risk a second hand device and forgoe warranty support. Make sure you are certain of what you are buying: that the specification and condition of the laptop are clearly stated, and that you are getting all the required accessories. If you are not sure don't bid - or ask the vendor for details. And be sure to check out the vendor closely, as well as asking for documentation that proves the Macbook Air was not stolen.

Pros: you could grab a great second-hand bargain...
Cons: ...but you could end up with a clapped out or stolen laptop. Buyer beware

For further reading, see our laptops buying advice. See also: Sony vs Apple laptops: which is best? and MacBook or iPad: What should you buy?

Macbook Air