Apple MacBook Air (11in, late 2010)
Apple MacBook Air 2010 review: Apple's revamped ultraportable MacBook Air features flash-based storage and a full-size keyboard and trackpad
- Superb industrial design, full size keyboard and trackpad, excellent display, snappy performance, good battery life
- Small storage capacity, no backlit keyboard, limited specifications, limited ports, can't be upgraded
Apple's MacBook Air isn't for everyone; its modest specifications, limited ports and relatively small storage will disappoint some. However, those after a light, functional and superbly built ultraportable notebook with excellent battery life won't be disappointed. The MacBook Air's full-size keyboard and trackpad, along with an excellent screen, are enough to make this an excellent option for those users for whom mobility is a key concern.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
Apple's previous MacBook Air, an ultraportable laptop designed primarily for travelling, was widely criticised for its high price and lack of features. Apple has responded with an upgraded version of the MacBook Air; like most Apple products, it once again features a superb design that is marvellously thin and light, but it now comes with fast, flash-based storage, a full size keyboard and trackpad, and a claimed standby battery life of up to 30 hours.
The Apple MacBook Air is a superb piece of industrial design. Like the MacBook Pro, the Air is made from a "precision aluminium unibody enclosure" crafted from a single block of aluminium. The result is a lightweight notebook that feels superbly built despite its tiny footprint. Particularly impressive is the screen, which exhibits surprisingly little flex when pressed, and the hinge, which is sturdy and well constructed.
The MacBook Air is just 0.3cm thin at the front edge when closed, and just 1.7cm at the rear. The downside to the ultra-thin design is the lack of ports; the MacBook Air has just two USB ports (an improvement over the original's single USB port), a MagSafe power connector, a mini Display Port jack and a stereo headphone jack. Among the ports missing are an Ethernet port, and an SD card reader — the latter is only included on the 13in model. The MacBook Air also lacks built-in 3G connectivity — a feature that's creeping into many competing ultraportable notebooks — and there's also no IR sensor for remote control capability, or a sleep notification LED.
Apple rightly deserves some flak for the lack of ports, but it also deserves plenty of credit for the MacBook Air's keyboard, trackpad and display. Unlike most compact netbooks, the Air has a full size keyboard and trackpad and a high-resolution display that aids usability. To put it into perspective, the keyboard and trackpad are almost the same size of the entire MacBook Pro range (with the exception of the top row of F keys, which are slightly smaller), while the screen resolution of 1366x768 makes most netbooks look primitive in comparison. Tellingly, we didn't feel cramped or limited in the slightest while using the MacBook Air despite the small 11in screen, though the lack of keyboard backlight is a major disappointment.
The MacBook Air's screen is LED backlit, which makes it more power efficient than a standard notebook display. Under florescent office lighting the glossy screen can be distracting, and viewing it from off-centre results in a harsh yellow colour shift, but the silver bezel is not troublingly reflective. The MacBook Air also has a built-in iSight webcam above the display.
The Apple MacBook Air has modest specifications; the base 11in model is powered by a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, just 2GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor. However, performance is aided by the Air's 64GB SSD (which can be upgraded to a maximum of 256GB). While this is a small amount of storage, it does fit the target market; the MacBook Air is likely to be used as a secondary computer for travelling. It also makes the Air a speedy machine, with Apple's "instant on" feature particularly impressive. While it is not exactly instant, the Air wakes up from sleep in less than three seconds, and boots up from power-off in just over 10, giving it immense appeal as a grab-and-go computing device.
The Apple MacBook Air delivered reasonable but not outstanding performance in our tests. It took 1min 48sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. We also benchmarked the MacBook Air using Geekbench; it scored 2045, which is predictably well below the faster and more expensive MacBook Pro range. Despite the low benchmark results, using the MacBook Air didn't involve any frustrating delays. While it isn't as quick as the MacBook Pro for more intensive tasks (such as image editing), the Air has no trouble running multiple applications; in many cases, its flash-based storage makes it both snappy and efficient for basic computing tasks like word processing and Web browsing.
Various reports on the Web have detailed an issue with Wi-Fi connectivity after waking the MacBook Air from sleep mode, but we didn't experience this issue during testing. The MacBook Air connected to multiple wireless networks without any problems, and also worked effortlessly when connected via Bluetooth to an iPhone 4 for Internet tethering.
Because the MacBook Air lacks an optical drive and also has minimal hard drive storage, Apple has included a USB drive for reinstalling software. The 8GB USB drive contains Snow Leopard and iLife '11 software. The iLife software package inclusion is notable for an ultraportable (it includes iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand apps) but like the MacBook Pro range, Apple doesn't include its iWork productivity suite. The MacBook Air includes surprisingly adept speakers; they are completely hidden underneath the rear cover, which is held on by 10 Torx-style screws. The MacBook Air isn't designed to be opened, so users wanting to upgrade RAM or hard drive modules will be left disappointed. Technically, the MacBook Air case can be opened, but doing so will void the Apple warranty.
Apple claims that the MacBook Air's battery life is five hours; it lasted 4 hours and 27 minutes in our battery rundown test, where we looped an XviD file in full screen mode. Just like the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air has a non-removable lithium-polymer battery.
Become a fan of PC World Australia on Facebook
Follow PC World Australia on Twitter: @PCWorldAu
Stay up to date with the latest news, reviews and features. Sign up to PC World’s newsletters
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- 2 Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- 3 Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- 4 LG G6 phone: full, in-depth review
- 5 Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 phone: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Windows 10's power-throttling feature will benefit battery-hungry laptops
- Microsoft's next Surface may be a Chromebook competitor for schools
- US says laptop ban may expand to more airports
- Intel's Cannonlake PC chip shipments may slip into next year
- Razer’s updated Blade Pro is the first ever THX-certified laptop
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.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- CCSAP CRM Functional AnalystVIC
- FTSolution ArchitectVIC
- TPEducation TechnologistNSW
- TPBusiness AnalystNSW
- CCTibco Integration Specialist l Port MacquarieNSW
- TPTrim Helpdesk AnalystVIC
- CCCitrix SpecialistVIC
- FTSenior ICT Project ManagerNSW
- CCFull Stack Developers x4!QLD
- CCFirewall EngineerNSW
- FTTest Analyst - HCMSNSW
- CCVDI EngineerACT
- TPService Desk OperatorQLD
- CCFirewall EngineerNSW
- FTTest Analyst - Application TestingACT
- FTProject Manager- RiskSA
- CCDesktop Support/ Field Services EngineerQLD
- CCSenior Project OfficerNSW
- FTSystems Development Assistant Team LeadNSW
- FTAudio Visual / Video Solution Architect | $100 p/hrVIC
- CCDigital Solution ArchitectNSW
- TPIT Service ManagerNSW
- FTSAP Solution ArchitectsACT
- TPRegional Level 2/3 Desktop Support AnalystVIC