It can't match the outstanding battery performance of its 13-inch counterpart, but the updated 11-inch version of the MacBook Air still provides a welcome improvement in battery life, as well as performance that bodes very well for the forthcoming generation of Haswell-based laptops. See all Ultraportable laptop reviews.
The basic design of the MacBook Air remains unchanged – which is hardly surprising as it set the template that legions of Wintel Ultrabooks have followed in recent years. See Apple MacBook Air 13in (Mid-2013) review.
The design and build quality are impeccable, thanks to the elegant-yet-sturdy ‘unibody' aluminium casing. And with a maximum thickness of 17 mm and a weight of just 1.08 kg the 11-inch MacBook Air remains one of the lightest and most portable laptops currently available. See also: The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
The 11.6-inch display may be a little too small for some people, but – speaking as a satisfied owner of the 2011 edition – it's the weight that really clinches the argument for me.
Having said that, we can't help thinking that the chunky 20 mm border around the edge of the screen – thicker than the MacBook Air itself – is now starting to look more than a bit dated. We have a sneaking suspicion that another update must be lurking at some point, maybe using edge-to-edge glass like the MacBook Pro.
But, of course, the focus for this particular update is the introduction of the fourth-generation Intel Core Series processor, codename Haswell. The price for the 11-inch model remains the same at £849, again with 4 GB of memory, although the 64 GB of flash storage provided with last year's model has been doubled to 128 GB.
What they weren't so eager to bring to your attention was the fact that the new Haswell i5-4250U runs at just 1.3 GHz, whereas last year's model had an Ivy Bridge Core i5 running at 1.7 GHz.
Even so, the Haswell Core i5 – backed up by faster overall storage drive in this model – performs surprisingly well.
Installing Windows 7 onto the MacBook Air and running the PCMark 7 benchtest produced a respectable score of 4080 points, which is very respectable score, suggesting this notebook can handle more than just web browsing and word processing.
Using the OS X version of Geekbench 2 produced a score of 6023 points, which is actually 4% higher than that of last year's model.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the gaming performance provided by the Haswell's new integrated HD Graphics 5000. Running Stalker: Call of Pripyat in Windows at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution with DirectX 11 and Medium detail graphics produced a playable score of 33 fps.
Just to prove that there are some decent Macintosh games available too, we also ran the native OS X version of Batman: Arkham City, which managed a similar 32 fps when set at the MacBook Air's native 1366 x 768 resolution, albeit on low graphics settings. Those scores won't have nVidia quaking in its boots, but they do suggest that Haswell's integrated graphics can finally handle some decent gaming action even at quite modest clock speeds.
Battery life is improved too – although not to the same extent as that of the 13-inch MacBook Air. We got exactly seven hours of streaming video in our tests – using the 802.11ac Wi-Fi – compared to five hours for last year's model.
In the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test, running in Windows 7, it lasted for just four minutes short of eight hours (476 mins).