Apple MacBook Air 2015 review: Only better with time
The MacBook Air is as functional as it is a pleasure to take it on the road
- Comfortable and well backlit keyboard, along with an accurate and responsive trackpad
- Good battery life
- Strong portfolio of connectivity options
- Bulkier than its rivals
- Screen has a low resolution and narrow viewing angles
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
Seven years have gone by and the design of the MacBook Air remains largely unchanged. That’s an eternity for an electronic, and although its once cutting-edge looks are beginning to age, the feat warrants respect.
The design of the MacBook remains relevant because it is as ordinary as a white sheet of paper. There is no flash to the cut of its keyboard, no flamboyant lines or experimental shapes marking its body.
Charm is sourced from the use of premium materials. Most of its body is forged from a single block of aluminium. No doubt the insides of the computer are protected by the metallic exterior — the base scarcely flexes under exerted pressure.
It’s the width of the notebook that reveals the MacBook’s age. Thick bezels were a fixture of all notebooks seven years ago. The updated flagships from rivals now have sleek and slender frames, such as the Dell XPS 13, Acer Aspire S7 and Lenovo X1 Carbon.
The MacBook Air being reviewed is the 13.3-inch model. Like the design, the display has its strengths and its weaknesses. Colours are vibrant and brightness is commendable. Tilting the screen forward reveals weak horizontal viewing angles and the 1440x900 resolution lingers behind the competition.
Redeeming the MacBook Air is a keyboard and a trackpad that remains at the forefront of the industry. Keys are large, contoured and provide plenty of travel for a notebook so thin. It is as easy working on the Air when out-and-about as it is sitting behind a desk for hours on end.
Earlier this year we reviewed the MacBook, which now sets Apple’s standard in mobile computing. The shallow depth of travel characterising the MacBook’s keyboard deemed it suitable for people who would spend more time travelling and less time working. The Air differs by achieving a fine balance between the two.
Most notebook companies treat the trackpad only as a means to control a cursor. Apple goes one further as its capacitive trackpad is fluent in the language of touch gestures found in iPhones and iPads. The accuracy of the MacBook Air’s trackpad deems the need for a touchscreen redundant.
Sophisticated gestures are programmed into Apple’s OS X operating system. Learning the lingo makes using the computer easier and quicker.
The small notebook maintains a strong repertoire of connectivity technologies. It supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, has Bluetooth 4.0 and an SDXC card slot. There’s a Thunderbolt 2.0 port for rapid data transfers and support for high resolution 4K displays, while each side has its own USB 3.0 port for use with external storage drives and other devices.
People torn between the Air and the new MacBook should consider the different ways each one approaches connectivity. The smaller MacBook has two ports only — a 3.5mm audio input and a USB-C port — and this means an adaptor will be needed for it to work with a USB drive or an external display.
Powering the MacBook Air is a fifth generation Intel core i5 processor that is clocked at 1.6GHz and can be turbo boosted to 2.7GHz. Stock models ship with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 128GB of PCIe-based flash storage. This is the model being reviewed by Good Gear Guide and it retails for $1,399.
Retail stores offer a model with a larger 256GB PCIe-based storage drive and it retails for $1699.
Configuring the MacBook Air is possible if it is ordered from Apple’s online store. Equipping it with a core i7 processor clocked at 2.2GHz (turbo boosted to 3.2GHz), 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 512GB PCIe-based flash storage drive will be priced at $2479.
The core i5 processor in our review model performed well over two months of testing. It proves ideal for everyday office tasks, such as drafting Word documents and sending emails, and is adept at handling multimedia, the likes of importing photos, or movie and music playback.
Strong results in a Blender 3D test indicates the core i5 CPU in the MacBook Air outperforms its similarly specced rivals. It rendered an image in 35 seconds, which is quicker than the 40 second result of a core i7 Dell XPS 13 and the 46 seconds result of a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
The PCIe-based flash storage used in the MacBook Air maxed out Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test with a 623MB/s write speed and a 1401MB/s read speed.
Sealed behind torx screws is a 54-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. Testing the battery life involved looping the playback of a Full HD movie, with brightness set to max, Bluetooth switched on and Wi-Fi enabled.
The results impressed. PCWorld found the MacBook Air would run for 9 hours and 20 minutes before the battery needed recharging.
The Apple MacBook Air is a rare case where time has worked in a notebook’s favour. Each rendition has seen its technology mature, and even its sore points are somehow redeemed, like how the low resolution of its screen is offset by excellent battery life.
Standards today deem the Air not the thinnest, nor lightest notebook on the market. But if you want a notebook that can go distance of a nine hour work day, whether that's on the road or behind a desk, then Apple's MacBook Air fits the bill just fine.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Huawei Mate 9
Acer Swift 7
Google Daydream VR headset
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Lexar® Portable SSD
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 HTC U Ultra phone full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Venom Blackbook Zero 14 laptop review
Latest News Articles
- Epson launches new high-speed Enterprise inkjet printer
- Russia will strike US elections again, FBI warns
- ASIC to offer blockchain guidance to businesses
- Qantas to back startups in innovation push
- BlackBerry readies a more secure version of the Samsung Galaxy S7
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- First look at the Formula 1 2017 pit lane in Melbourne, Australia
- LG 2017 OLED and Super LED UHD 4K TVs: Hands-on review
- Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- FTFull Stack Web Developer .NET or JAVANSW
- CCJava DeveloperVIC
- TPDevOps ManagerVIC
- TPBusiness AnalystNSW
- FTICT Business Development Manager - Technical Products/SolutionsQLD
- FTSenior IT Business AnalystNSW
- CCCloud Infrastructure SpecialistNSW
- TPIteration ManagerNSW
- CCTSM SpecialistNSW
- CCSolution ArchitectNSW
- TPService Desk AnalystVIC
- CCJava/ Guidewire DeveloperQLD
- TPBusiness AnalystNSW
- FTDatabase DeveloperQLD
- FTAssociate Consultant - IT Project ServicesVIC
- CCLevel 1 IT Support OfficerACT
- TPSolution Architect - Real-Time Tracking SystemVIC
- TPGIS Officer | Map InfoQLD
- CCBusiness Analyst- Data GovernanceNSW
- FTJunior DevOps Developer - TelcoVIC
- FTProduct Manager / Business Analyst Clinical Solutions (Lorenzo)QLD
- CCSolution ArchitectQLD
- TPJunior Software DeveloperQLD
- CCOrganisational Change Analyst - Banking/Financial ServicesNSW