The 2013 MacBook Air 11" has the same chassis as the 2012 version, with similar dimensions and weight.
It's just as thin (17 mm) and light (1.08 kg) as the 2012 mould, and you'd have trouble telling the two apart.
The keyboard boasts Apple's comfortable, well-spaced chiclet keys with adjustable white LED backlighting. The Function keys give you access to the shortcuts and the enjoyable, responsive multipoint touchpad is the same as on the previous models.
Same goes for the ports: two USB 3.0, one Thunderbolt and a headphone/microphone combo jack. Still no card reader, still no Ethernet. You can make up for the lack of RJ45 and video outputs with an adapter, but Apple sells them at a rather steep price (£25 on average).
The 2013 MacBook Air is one cool cat. The hottest spot we measured was 41.3°C (106°F) where the air vent is located, and that was when we stressed the components as much as possible. The air is expelled in the space between the screen and the chassis, so your lap doesn't get too hot when the computer's sitting on it. While running the most intensive tasks, the fan noise never got above 34 dB, so with just a little background noise, you won't notice it at all.
The screen is similar to the 2012 model. Apple keeps using a glossy TN display with 1366 x 768 resolution instead of IPS like Samsung and Asus use. We measured the contrast at 580:1, which limits the rating it can get for this section to four stars.
Grey colour temperature — default settings
Gamma curve — default settings
Delta E — default settings
This year's display has more faithful colours though, going from a Delta E of 6.1 in 2012 to a 4.3 in 2013. A Delta E of three and below means perfect fidelity, so Apple is inching closer to its goal. Unfortunately, as always with TN screens, the vertical viewing angles are quite narrow.
The speakers are very well integrated beneath the keyboard. Naturally, the sound quality isn't quite as good as on the MacBook Pros, but it's relatively clean and only starts to saturate at maximum volume.
The headphone output is decent, doesn't have too much background noise and has a tad more volume than competing laptops.
Configuration:The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-4250U processor, 4 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 5000 chipset and a 128 GB SSD. The observations above refer to all configurations of the Apple MacBook Air 11" (2013), whereas the comments below apply only to the model we tested (see inset below). Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.
The 11" MacBook Air has the same Core i5-4250U processor as the 13", with an HD Graphics 5000 chipset. It's slower than the 4200U found in the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and we personally think Apple curbs the processor to increase the battery life. But it still makes for fine processing power.
Note: in the results below, we used Cinema 4D for the video encoding test, not Windows Live Movie Maker. Either way, that's not the type of task the MacBook Air is designed for. We use it simply to show its overall capabilities.
The SSD allows the MacBook Air 11" to start up in 13 seconds and shut down in 20.
The Intel HD Graphics 5000 doesn't make the 11" MacBook Air any kind of hardcore gaming machine, but you can still run the odd title in the screen's native resolution, as long as you turn some of the settings down. The old precept that you can't play games on a Mac is officially debunked: games like League of Legends and Counter Strike Global Offensive run perfectly well via Steam. Then again, an 11-inch screen isn't necessarily the kind of display you want to play games on anyway.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
As usual with Apple's laptops, this one has battery life that few competing brands are able to rival. The 2012 model lasted 5 hours and 20 minutes in our test, which consists of continuous video playback with headphones plugged in, the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and the Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off. The 2013 model nearly doubles that figure, lasting 10 hours and 10 minutes in the same conditions.