One of the few Macs we haven’t reviewed in a while, it’s time to check out Apple’s baby of the bunch before what we expect will be a 2016 overhaul.
Apple’s MacBook Air will probably be one of the next computers to get an update, so before the company pulls a new idea out of air — literally — we’re checking out one students can get familiar with: the 11 inch Air.
The current model is not quite a year old, but still due for an update, and that’s because this edition relies on an Intel Core i5 dual-core processor from Intel’s fifth generation of processors, referred to by many as “Broadwell”.
We’re up to sixth-gen in the current Intel spectrum, but that only happened at the end of last year, meaning Apple’s current MacBook Air and Pro range are out of date, but not by as much as you think.
So it’s not that bad, and this “not that bad” situation is paired with 4GB RAM, either 128 or 256GB storage, and a relatively premium set of other specs, including 802.11ac WiFi (compatible with 802.11b/g/n), two USB 3.0 ports, one Thunderbolt 2 port, and support for Bluetooth 4.0.
Stereo speakers can be found on the unit, as can a microphone and FaceTime HD camera sitting above the frame.
And all of this sits under an 11.6 inch display, coming with a native HD only resolution of 1366×768 that utilises one of the older panels from Apple, a screen type that has been around for few years now.
If there’s one area Apple is pretty much known for, it’s in design, and here in the 11 inch Air, you’re getting crystal clear design.
As such, you’ll still find the sleek and slightly angular metal body provided to you, and just like we’ve seen in the 13 inch variant, it is just as lovely and sexy here, too.
Apple’s insistence on aluminium also means this body is very sturdy, with a design that feels strong enough to survive your backpack, even if we wouldn’t recommend dropping it.
It’s not that the body is fragile, but rather that it won’t be friendly to falls. That being said, the unibody aluminium piece makes it feel stronger than other plastic machines, and since the majority of laptops out there are made from plastic — particularly those under the 13 inch space — this is a big deal.
Thin and light machines aren’t always the be-all end-all in regards to performance, and really they don’t need to be.
What they do need to do, however, is be good in a pinch. The last thing you’d want is to take that laptop out from your luggage only to find its battery hasn’t quite survived your daily life and workload.
That being said, if it can run your productivity apps without making you grit your teeth in anger, that would be a bonus, too.
With the MacBook Air 11, you’ll find a dual-core variant of the Intel Core i5 processor inside the machine, clocked on this body to 1.6GHz and paired with 4GB RAM.
For Mac OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”, this combination of specs appears to be plenty, with the system rarely struggling, and usually only throwing problems back your way when you decide to overload the machine, say with too many tabs (you know who you are) or if you get some gaming on.
Do the regular productivity schtick, though, and you’ll be fine, and we found we could make good use of the 11 inch MacBook Air and its hardware provided we were surfing the web, writing and working, and generally using the slimline box.
That’s the thing about the MacBook Air: technically, it’s a slightly more capable MacBook, but you get actual usable USB ports and yet a weaker screen. Because of the chip difference, you can do a little more, like open up more tabs and get a little bit of design or graphics work done.
But make no mistake: this isn’t a Mac for graphics work, and if you’re thinking of plonking down cash on the cheapest Mac for that reason — maybe for a son or daughter — the approach is wrong.
Rather, this is a dual-core system made for people who like to take their work on the go, because that’s what this machine can do.