The MacBook Air’s design has not changed much since its release in 2008 and it is starting to look like it needs a bit of a refresh. Nevertheless, it remains to be one of the thinnest and lightest 13-inch notebooks around and Apple’s build quality cannot be faulted. The aluminum unibody chassis feels as solid as ever and the MacBook Air exudes an air of quality that is hard to match at any price point.
The keyboard is also well-sized and pleasant to type on and does not exhibit any flex like it does on poorer built notebooks. It is backlit as well, a feature usually reserved for more upmarket notebooks. The multi-touch trackpad is spacious and was responsive and accurate.
So far so good, but some might be disappointed at the exclusion of a Retina display. Apple still uses the same TN panels with a native resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels for the 13-inch models and a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels for the 11-inch ones. The colors are brilliant and the viewing angles are good, but a Retina display or an upgrade to IPS ones would have been very welcomed.
Apart from the new processors, a significant update to the MacBook Air is the inclusion of PCIe-based SSDs. And Apple claims that this new storage configuration is up to 45% faster the previous generation MacBook Air. This is due to the greater bandwidth of the PCIe interface. According to reports, the new MacBook Air’s PCIe-based SSD uses two PCIe 2.0 lanes for a total of 2GB/s of bandwidth. Comparatively, a SATA 6Gbps interface supports a maximum bandwidth of just 750MB/s. These are theoretical figures, so the actual numbers are likely to be lower. But even so, a PCIe implementation is certain to be significantly faster. In terms of actual usage, we felt that the new 2013 MacBook Air booted and recovered from sleep-mode appreciably quicker.