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Laptops Reviews
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Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) review

£1432.61 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Not only is the revised Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) one of the fastest true ultraportables money can buy - it's also 30% cheaper than the previous model - UPDATED 27 AUGUST 2009.

Not only is the Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) one of the fastest true ultraportables money can buy - it's also 30% cheaper than the previous model - UPDATED 27 AUGUST 2009.

Judged from the outside, little would appear to have changed to Apple's much-imitated MacBook Air since it launched a little over 18 months ago. But two revisions later, the Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) is a far more potent proposition than the original 1.6/1.8GHz models.

There's always been two versions offered, and the current line asks you to choose between a 1.86GHz or 2.13GHz processor. The entry-level model is now £1149, and takes a 120GB 1.8in hard disk, while the faster Air we reviewed has 128GB SSD. Otherwise specs are identical.

And with that newfound power comes a more attractive price, tumbling from £2028 for the first top-spec 1.8GHz model, to a new low of £1349 for this new 2.13GHz iteration. Compared to the top 1.86GHz model we reviewed earlier this year, priced at £1761, the price has fallen around 30%.

So what else has changed? The Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) keeps its eerily low-reflective gloss screen, sporting a comfortable 1280x800 resolution. And the port count is as scant as ever, just one USB, a headphone jack and Mini DisplayPort video output.

But thanks to the new graphics processor, an nVidia GeForce 9400M introduced in the last revision, higher resolution screens can be connected to that port (up to 2560x1600), while the Air itself is quite happy playing modern 3D games, providing detail settings are kept down. Apple also recoded parts of Mac OS X operating system recently, so that the graphics processor takes care of more video decoding, leaving the CPU free for other tasks.

Read more Apple MacBook reviews

We measured 10fps (frames per second) in FEAR in all-out Maximum quality, rising to a playable 25+ fps by reducing those detail settings. And unlike most ultraportables that include processors little more capable than a netbook's dawdling Intel Atom, the Air keeps its highly aspirated Intel Core 2 Duo, here a 2.13GHz L9600 with 1066MHz front-side bus and 6MB of shared L2 cache. System RAM quota remains the same, 2GB of fast DDR3 memory soldered to the motherboard.

In our WorldBench 6 test, the Air romped home with 83 points, making it 8% faster than the already-quick previous flagship model with its 1.86GHz prcoessor, which scored 77 points in the same test. Both machines were tested in Windows Vista Ultimate running from a 60GB Boot Camp partition.

Just as well then that this performance doesn't come at the cost of excessive heat, noise or pitiful battery life. With a shock-proof SSD inside, the Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) is utterly silent in use, excepting a near-inaudible fan only when it's worked hard.

We couldn't test battery with MobileMark 2007, but in an idle run-out test in OS X with screen at half brightness and wireless off, the Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) lasted a stunning one minute shy of nine hours unplugged from the mains. In more realistic day-to-day use, we were still getting around five hours use before recharge time.

We did note the same long charge time, though, around four hours to completely recharge from the compact 45W power adapter, even with the Air shutdown.

NEXT PAGE: The Macworld US review >>

Click here for our expert verdict on the most recent MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) Expert Verdict »
Apple MacBook Air MC233B/A Scores 10.0 out of 10 based on 3 reviews
2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9600
1066MHz FSB
13.3in (1280x800) 16:10 gloss LCD display
Mac OS X 10.5.7
128GB SSD
2GB 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
nVidia GeForce 9400M with 256MB system RAM
Mini DisplayPort
1 x USB 2.0
802.11a/b/g/draft-n
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
headphone out
mono speaker
mic
webcam
backlit keyboard
multi-touch trackpad
325x227x4–19mm
1.36kg
  • Build Quality: We give this item 9 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

The previous generation MacBook Air was already well clear of the competition in its sleek design and uncompromised speed. With this latest 2009 update, not only has Apple made the Apple MacBook Air (Mid 2009) faster, but it’s over 30% cheaper. It comes with Mac OS X already installed, offering a virus-free and reliable platform for business or home. But for the buyer who can't forsake Microsoft Windows, a licensed copy of Windows 7 could be added to the cost, installed on the Air through Boot Camp, and you’d still have a cost-effective winner relative to other ultraportables notebooks.

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