Apple MacBook Air 13in (early 2015)

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Apple MacBook Air 13in (early 2015)The latest version of Apple‘s most popular laptopApple’s 13in MacBook Air was for some time right up there among our favourite laptops. When it came to weight, durability, battery life and comfort it was simply peerless. However, there are now Windows ultra portable laptops (such as Asus’ Zen Book UX303LA) that are just as good. More competition comes from Apple’s very own, more generously equipped MacBook Pro Retina range, which has become more affordable of late. Yet, rather than overhaul the Air in response to rivals that have upped their game. Apple has chosen to merely tweak this latest version.

The most significant change is that the Air now has a Broadwell Core i5 processor, the dual core 1.6GHz 5250U. It’s a tad faster than the Haswell Core i5 in the previous generation Air, so you’ll have no problems using this laptop as your main PC. The model we tested struggled a little with our image editing test – due mainly to the disappointingly small 4GB of memory. We’d expect more in a laptop at this price, especially as you can’t fit more memory yourself. To get the maximum possible (8GB) you’ll have to specify this when ordering from Apple. The same rule applies to the SSD, if you want more than 128GB of internal storage.Thanks to the large battery and power-efficient processor, battery life was exceptional. The Air lasted just under 21 and a half hours in our light-usage test, and 11 hours 17 minutes in our more demanding test playing YouTube videos. It’s lightweight too at 1.3kg, so the Air is ideal for use on the move.Although we’d prefer the backlit keys to give a little more feedback when pressed, their generous size and travel make them very comfy to type on. The touchpad is one of the best we’ve seen on any laptop. It’s spacious, accurate and responds well to gestures, such as swiping with two fingers to scroll. It doesn’t have the new pressure sensitive features found in the new MacBook Pro Retina’s touchpad, but we don’t miss them.Although some will be disappointed by the 13in screen’s 1440×900-pixel resolution, instead of the more common 1080p, we actually think this is a good thing. 1080p in a 13in screen can make text small and hard to read – especially if your eyesight is not what it was. While the display is very bright, it’s a shame Apple hasn’t improved the colour accuracy, which remains so-so at best.Thankfully, Apple has left the casing design almost entirely unchanged. The metal build is still slender, sturdy and attractive. Only the Thunderbolt port (for connecting super-fast external storage) has changed it now uses the faster Thunderbolt 2 standard. Thunderbolt devices are still pretty rare though, so this is unlikely to change your life.Because the MacBook Air runs OS X, you’ll have to buy new software if you’re switching from Windows for the first time. This can be expensive, but Apple has bundled some useful free software to get you started. There’s the iWork office suite, the basic but sufficient Photos app and the surprisingly sophisticated iMovie video-editing program.The latest MacBook Air is still a very good laptop, but it’s no longer the best available. If you don’t need the longest battery life and can tolerate an inferior touchpad design, then a similar Windows equivalent (such as the Zen Book UX303LA) is a cheaper realistic option. If you can afford to spend £150 more, buy the 13in MacBook Pro Retina instead. It offers almost all of the same benefits, but with a superior quality screen and faster performance.Still a very good laptop, but the Air no longer stands out from the crowd as it once did.1.6GHz Intel Core i5 5250U dual-core processor • 4GB memory • 128GB SSD • Intel HD 6000 integrated graphics • 13.3in 1440×900-pixel screen • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac • Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite • 1.3kg (1.6kg with charger) • 17x325x227mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty

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