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11-inch MacBook Air 2011 review

Can this 1.8GHz Core i7 marvel justify its asking price?

Our Verdict

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1366 x 768
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Brilliant new processors
  • Backlit keyboard returns
  • Beautiful screen
  • Thunderbolt port
  • Very portable

Against

  • Mediocre sound
  • Expensive
  • No optical drive
  • Few Thunderbolt peripherals available
  • Might be more powerful than you need

The 2011 MacBook Air refresh retains the form factor introduced with 2010's line of ultraportables, but makes significant improvements to the core technologies. Apple has switched the ageing Core 2 Duo chips for new Sandy Bridge processors, the Mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a versatile and powerful Thunderbolt port and the backlit keyboard makes a welcome return too.

The new MacBook Air range (check out our 13-inch MacBook Air review) contains four off-the-shelf versions. The cheapest offers an 11-inch screen, 64GB of flash storage and 2GB of memory for £849. The next in line, also an 11-inch model, has a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM for £999. A similarly spec'd 13-inch MacBook Air costs £100 more, while for £1349 you can get a 256GB flash drive.

You can check out a video review of the MacBook Air below:

All four MacBook Airs have dual-core Intel Core i5 processors (1.6GHz for the 11-inch models, 1.7GHz for the 13-inch notebooks), with Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics. Each has two USB 2.0 ports, usefully positioned with one on each side of the notebook, and a Thunderbolt port. The 13-inch model also has an SD card reader. All the Airs also have a FaceTime camera that supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 x 1600 pixels on an external display.

The MacBook Air we're reviewing here is the more expensive of the two 11-inch models, but enhanced by the optional customisations available when ordering at the Apple online store. The processor has been beefed up to a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 and the flash storage drive has been doubled in size to 256GB. Naturally, these enhancements take their toll on the price.

This custom-built MacBook Air costs £1,399, which is more expensive than the priciest off-the-shelf model. But is it worth the extra money, and do you really need all that power in an 11-inch MacBook Air?

Tech Specs

Product TypeNotebook
Green CompliantYes
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 3000
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time5 Hour
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
DisplayPortYes
Product FamilyMacBook Air
Keyboard BacklightYes
ThunderboltYes
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.7 Lion
Brand NameApple
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size29.5 cm (11.6")
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.08 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR, EPEAT Gold
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Total Number of USB Ports2
Memory StandardDDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Height17.3 mm
Width299.7 mm
Depth192 mm
Screen ModeWXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMC968B/A
Product NameMacBook Air MC968B/A Notebook
Pointing Device TypeTrack Pad
Product LineMacBook Air
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberMC969B/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

Thin, light, durable. Thank you, flash storage

Even at less than an inch thin, MacBook Air sets a pretty high standard - by making flash storage standard. Flash chips are very small, allowing MacBook Air to be incredibly thin and light. Flash is also solid state, meaning there are no moving parts. Which makes it reliable, durable, and quiet. And because we place the flash chips directly on the logic board, they take up much less space - about 90 percent less, in fact. That creates room for other important things, like a bigger battery. So you have a notebook that weighs almost nothing and runs for hours on a single charge. That's mobility mastered.

Maximum Memory4 GB
Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • MacBook Air MC968B/A Notebook
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • AC Adapter
  • Power Cord
  • Printed and Electronic Documentation
Limited Warranty1 Year