Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2011) Review

Performance

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2011) specs:

  • 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor; 3MB shared level 3 cache
  • 4GB of onboard 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 128GB of flash storage
  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit high-resolution glossy widescreen display (1440 by 900 pixels)
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory

The Apple MacBook Air (mid 2011) comes pre-installed with OS X Lion, Apple’s latest OS. Lion brings a whole range of features and performance updates to its predecessor, Snow Leopard.

Just like my current MacBook Air (late 2010), the boot-up time was very fast with it taking, from pressing the power button to desktop, just 14 seconds compared with my late 2010 MacBook Air which took 18.7 seconds.

Once logged in and ready to go I first decided to put the 4GB of RAM to the test, opening as many resource hungry applications as I could find. Applications such as iTunes, iMovie, Garageband, iPhoto, Photo Booth and Spotify all worked extremely well and I experienced no lag or performance decrease at all, even with all of these applications open and performing tasks.

In terms of Graphics, the mid 2011 MacBook Air features an Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor and has 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with the main system memory, so upon launching programs such as Adobe Photoshop and watching a couple of full HD 1080p movies, you can definitely see the difference after trying to perform the same tasks on the late 2010 model.

I tried these same tasks on my own late 2010 MacBook Air, to which I was met with some varied results. Due to the lack of graphics power in the older model, streaming full HD 1080p video on YouTube was met with some lag in certain places as well as the fans starting to run at full power (around 6000rpm).

However, on the mid 2011 model, 1080p video streamed very well and there were no performance or video problems at all. The fan did come on eventually however, and it’s not surprising since the MacBook air only features one air vent, which is located behind the screen hinge.

Thanks to the lightning quick SSD drives included with the MacBook Air, applications start up and run almost instantly. Although, if you’re one for storing a lot of film, video and music on your notebook, you may want to invest in an external hard drive because that 128GB SSD soon fills up and then all of a sudden you’ve only got 50GB of space left.

The battery life seemed very good, being almost identical to the previous generations’ 6 hour battery life.

We did find that after time, if you’ve been running many resource hungry applications, the fan will begin to run very quickly and will produce an almost excessive amount of noise which can become very distracting if you’re perhaps rendering a video in the background, but at the same time trying to concentrate and write a review in the foreground. It would have been nice to have seem some sort of update, regarding the fan, to perhaps make it slightly quieter when it does decide to turn on.

We found Mac OS X Lion to be brilliant on the mid 2011 MacBook Air, and after using it for the past few months on my current MacBook, I was really impressed at how well it ran on the updated model. All of the transitions between full screen applications were lag free, unlike the late 2010 model, and I’d say that everything opened almost twice as fast on the updated model, which really showed off OS X Lion’s potential.