Connectivity as limited as ever
No great surprise to find the brushed aluminium chassis that has made the name of previous generations of MacBook Air. This shell resists scratching, is not subject to finger marks and looks very smart indeed. No issues with the finish!
The keyboard with separated backlit keys (15 x 15 mm) is very nice to use. Supple and relatively quiet, it offers comfortable keying. A pleasure for word processing!
The multitouch touchpad is still just as wide and comfortable to use. The glide is fluid and precise. For those who've never used a Mac touchpad, you put one finger down on it and click with another for the right click. For more information on usage, you can consult the explanatory video on the Apple site.
All the detail on the combinations of movements for Mac OS X Lion is also there, a real advance in terms of ease-of-use.
The webcam (1280 x 720 pixels) was disappointing. The image flickers and lacks detail. The dark zones lack any differentiation in tone and blacken rapidly. It's not hard to find better.
In spite of having a larger chassis than the 11.6-inch model, the connectivity hasn't progressed a great deal. In addition to the USB 2.0 port, the headphones socket and the thunderbolt socket, there's just an SD card reader on top. This does however put it on a level with the Samsung Series 9, its main competitor.
In terms of noise and heat, it behaves exactly like the MacBook Air 11.6-inch. Its fan is so quiet that you sometimes wonder if it's actually running at all. Temperatures get up above 50 °C in some places when you push it hard. If Apple intends to up the power on its next generation - something it's no doubt intending to do - it will have to have to revisit the cooling because it could start to become an issue.
The MacBook Air's temperature readings when you push the components hard
Readings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
Power supply, USB 2.0, headphones/mic
Thunderbolt 2.0 port, USB 2.0 port and SD card reader
Processor power: good performance
Like with the 11.6-inch, Apple has gone for a low consumption Core i5 for this 13.3-inch model. With the bigger screen, there has been a concomitant increase in power. It still won't match up to the Core i3-2310M, but it does at least move in front of the Samsung Series 9 and its Intel Core i5-2537M (processor index 78), with an index of 86 here.
This doesn't mean it can do a great deal more, but in the long run the time gained may make a difference, especially if you're intending to do a lot of work with intensive applications. On average, across our bank of tests including video editing and encoding, 3D modelling and file compression, it's 10% faster than the high end Samsung ultra.
The OS starts up in 23 seconds and it takes under 6 seconds to turn off.
Like last year, the SSD makes for reduced times for software installation, copying to an external hard drive and overall machine responsiveness. It's also of course much more resistant to shocks than a standard hard drive.
High definition video playback, whether 1080p or 720p, poses no problem. As with the 11.6-inch version, the graphics card, a drain on the battery, has been removed and Apple is counting on the capacities of the Intel HD 3000 chipset to do everything on its own, at moderate energy consumption levels.