An ultra-slim, attractive laptop, the Apple MacBook Air 13in is oozing with style. Its build quality, both in terms of the materials used and its construction, sets it apart from the competition. And for once, Apple doesn’t offer the most expensive laptop in our recent ultraportable laptops round-up. Updated 11 May 2011

This is the joint-lightest laptop on test, with both the MacBook Air and the Samsung NP900X3A tipping the scales at 1.32kg. It’s also the thinnest overall, and ideal for a life on the road at 325x227x17mm.

Our WorldBench 6 speed test works only in Windows, so we used Boot Camp to dual-boot Windows 7 with the native Mac OS X operating system. The ease with which this is possible is notable, affording you the ability to keep running your favourite programs if you’re upgrading from a Windows PC. Running Windows, its 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9400 CPU and 2GB of DDR3 RAM won it a respectable 94 points.

The process of installing Windows using Boot Camp is remarkably straightforward, and installing the correct drivers is a one-click process. The lack of dedicated Home and End keys may frustrate those who plan to use the MacBook Air with Windows (use Fn and cursor Left/Right keys). Right-click is available in the usual way on the pivoted trackpad, or you can tap with two fingers together.

But Mac OS X is an intuitive platform with some decent bundled software, including iLife, which covers most of your creative needs.

MacBook Air 13in

The 13.3in (1440x900-pixel) screen offers brilliant depth of colour and sharp, distinct visuals. It’s a glossy screen, although an anti-glare coating makes it more usable than most in bright light. 

A near-silent SSD is used in place of a traditional hard drive. Flash-based memory offers many advantages, including speedy data access, but it’s pricey. The trade-off here is that you have just 128GB of storage, whereas the hard-drive-based competition offer upwards of 250GB, with the Asus U36J supplying 500GB.

For graphics, the MacBook runs a close second to the Asus. Its nVidia GeForce 320M graphics chip with 256MB of video memory powered it to a 73fps average in Fear; four of the other laptops we looked at use integrated Intel graphics and scored between 19 and 34fps.

We recorded the MacBook Air’s battery life at 394 minutes, but you can expect it to last longer in its native Mac OS X environment.

Ben Camm-Jones


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