Feeds
Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013: Netbook with next-gen tech

Cupertino’s ultraportable continues to shine thanks to Intel’s Haswell chip

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Intel’s input

There’s more to Haswell than just its clock speed. Graphics performance also perks up quite a bit thanks to the new HD 5000 integrated graphics core. Running the Mac-native version of Diablo III at 1366 x 768, the 11-inch Air’s native resolution, produced a perfectly playable 35fps even with the graphics set to ‘high’ and a good number of zombies and demons crowding the screen - though, sadly, even Haswell can’t do much about the missing end-game.

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Slimline and very portable

The more detailed 3D graphics of Batman: Arkham City proved a sterner challenge, with the frame rate falling to 15fps with the graphics on ‘high’. However, turning the graphics settings down to ‘low’ did allow it to manage a playable 30fps. Bear in mind that this game reduces most laptops with Ivy Bridge graphics to single-digit frame rates, and it’s clear that Haswell really does make more-than-casual gaming a realistic proposition for integrated graphics at long last.

Haswell’s real strength, though, lies in its ability to improve battery life. Apple claims that the new 11-inch Air increases battery life from up to five hours to nine. When I set BBC iPlayer going, with the Air connected by 802.11ac, it ran for bang-on seven hours, compared to the five hours last year’s model managed to stay running for. Less demanding work such as word processing, intermittent emailing and web browsing, allowed me to stretch that to a few minutes short of eight hours, so it really does provide all-day computing now.

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Oh, for a higher res display - or even a 12-inch one in the same chassis...

Switch off Wi-Fi and dim the screen, and there’s no reason why you can’t keep it going for the best part of 12 hours. Tony’s review of the build-to-order Core i7-based 13-inch Air has more details on how Haswell helps here.

Lest you accuse me of being an uncritical fanboi, I would point out that the MacBook Air is by no means perfect. The 11.6-inch display remains extremely bright and attractive, with rich colours and wide viewing angle. However, the 1366 x 768 resolution on this model hasn’t changed in years. That resolution works well on a screen of this size, but it is starting to look a bit dated compared to the many Windows laptops that now offer a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Even my third-generation 10-inch iPad can manage 2048 x 1536.

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Compact clamshell

As Tony point out in his 13-inch Air review, it’s not that we necessarily want a “retina” display here, but we do want more pixels to let us get more content onto the screen.

Connectivity also remains a particular issue with this model. Neither the 11- nor the 13-inch Air has on-board Ethernet, HDMI or Firewire, but the smaller machine of the two lacks even the SD slot found on the 13-inch version. Admittedly, the multi-purpose Thunderbolt port can fill in for most of these missing interfaces – but only by purchasing adaptors at £25 a shot. Just because this is becoming increasing the case with other vendors’ Ultrabook-class machines doesn’t let Apple off the hook.

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Who needs a $@#!?!$%in’ tablet, eh?

And – whisper it gently – the MacBook Air’s once-groundbreaking design is starting to show its age. Gleaming Gorilla Glass is starting to replace boring old metal in many of the latest Windows laptops, and with Haswell rivals such as Sony’s 11-inch Vaio Pro weighing in at just 870g, it’s possible that the MacBook Air may have spent just a little too long resting on its admittedly once impressive laurels.

The Reg Verdict

The competition may be catching up, but the 2013 edition of the 11-inch MacBook Air remains a classy piece of kit. The Haswell update provides significant improvements in performance, graphics and battery life, and the premium prices charged for many Windows Ultrabooks means that it no longer looks over-priced when compared to its nearest rivals. It’s a shame that the 2013 update wasn’t a little more ambitious, but the 11-inch MacBook Air is still one of the most attractive ultraportable, netbook-size laptops currently available. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013

Apple MacBook Air 11-inch 2013: Netbook with next-gen tech

Apple’s compact ultraportable may be getting a little long in the tooth, but the Haswell, Sata Express and 802.11ac will keep it going for a while yet.
Price: From £849/$999 RRP

More from The Register

next story
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.