The MacBook Air started out as a premium ultra-portable notebook for Apple, but has since become more affordable over time. When it was launched in 2008, the 13-inch MacBook Air commanded a US$1799 launch price; today, the base 13-inch model costs just US$1099. Now that the standard MacBook has been discontinued, the MacBook Air has become Apple’s entry level notebook. (This also indirectly signals the fact that Ultrabooks are going mainstream, more so with the new processing platform and it will ultimately replace all other conventional sized notebooks in due time.)
Although the new MacBook Air has not changed radically, Apple has provided it with substantial upgrades under the hood. Thanks to the new Core i5-4250U processor and marginally larger battery, the MacBook Air now has even longer battery life. Even though its showing on Powermark was slightly underwhelming, considering Apple’s lofty claims, we found that it was entirely possible to achieve and exceed 12 hours if you used the MacBook Air as Apple has intended.
As for performance, the new Core i5-4250U processor was certainly competitive, and the new Intel HD Graphics 5000 integrated GPU allowed it to completely outclass previous generation Ultrabooks and hybrids that were powered by last generation’s Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated GPU. The new PCIe-based SSD also made the MacBook Air feel ultra responsive and snappy.
Locally, the basic 13-inch model is retailing for S$1488, which is actually S$100 less than last generation’s entry-level 13-inch model. That aside, the new basic 13-inch MacBook Air comes with 128GB of storage, double that of last generation’s, which makes this new 13-inch MacBook Air more value for money. If that sounds too good to be true, you can also head to the local online Apple Store to check it out.
However, do note that new MacBook Air does not have any user-upgradeable or serviceable components. This means you have to decide and think very carefully about specifications when placing an order. As always, upgrading with Apple will cost a pretty penny. An upgrade to 8GB RAM is an additional S$140, whereas a 512GB SSD will set you back S$420.
Its base price of S$1488 makes it considerably more affordable than its Windows-based competitors. The MSI Slidebook S20 costs a tad more at S$1599, but other competitors such as the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro cost around the S$2000 mark, whereas the ASUS Taichi 21 has an eye-popping S$2698 price tag. Granted these more expensive notebooks are performing dual functions of both a tablet and a notebook, the point we're driving at is that you can obtain a top-build notebook like the Apple MacBook Air at an affordable price point that has great portability and more than decent performance. So while the MacBook Air doesn't go head-on with the new breed of convertible and hybrid Ultrabooks, the vast price differential will certainly make many think twice if the added capabilities are worth the premium.
For the more budget conscious, Apple also offers an 11-inch variant of the MacBook Air and prices for those begin at S$1348 for the base model, which has the exact same specifications (Core i5-4250U processor and 128GB SSD) as the model we reviewed in this article.
All things considered, Apple has made the MacBook Air better with subtle but crucial improvements. The longer battery life makes the MacBook Air and even more compelling tool for those who are always on the go; while the new "Haswell" processor and PCIe-based SSD makes the MacBook Air and even more capable system; lastly, build quality is nearly faultless.
In short, Apple has made one of the best ultraportable notebooks in the market even better. To check out other optional accessories to consider when purchasing the MacBook Air, drop by the online Apple Store.