Planning to buy a new Mac? Now comes the hard part: which Mac should you buy? That’s where we come in. We’ve tested every standard-configuration Mac model currently in Apple’s lineup, and we know each model inside and out. We’re happy to help you make a decision.
This buying guide explains all the Mac models available andwhich is best suited to which purpose.
Thin and light – a truly portable portable
The MacBook Air has become Apple’s marquee laptop. Its thin, lightweight design makes it an ideal portable computer, and you no longer have to accept the feature compromises that older MacBook Air models required. As Macworld’s Jason Snell said in his review of the MacBook Air, “You get the distinct impression that it’s only a matter of time before all Mac laptops look like the Air.”
Since Apple discontinued the MacBook in July 2011, the MacBook Air is also Apple’s lowest-priced laptop at £849. This doesn’t mean it’s Apple’s least powerful laptop though, in fact it equalled the entry-level MacBook Pro in our speed tests.
The 2011 MacBook Air line uses Intel dual-core Core i5 processors, a vast improvement over the Core 2 Duo processors used in previous models. In fact, the 2011 MacBook Air models are at least 1.5 times as fast as the 2010 11in MacBook Air with a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor. All come with flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 3000. It’s the graphics capabilities that let this lightweight laptop down, meaning it’s not really suitable for high-end gaming.
Past MacBook Air models had just USB 2.0 connectivity; but the latest MacBook Airs feature Thunderbolt, a high-speed connector that widens the range of peripherals you can use. For example, the Sonnet Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter (£126, www.sonnettech.com) lets you connects FireWire and eSATA devices to the Thunderbolt port.
There are four MacBook Airs: two 11in models and two 13in models. The entry-level 11in MacBook Air has a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of flash storage for £849. The other 11in MacBook Air has the same processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage for £999. Both 11in models feature a high-resolution, backlit, glossy, LED display with a 1,366 x 768-native resolution.
The only difference between the two 13in MacBook Air models is the amount of flash storage. Both 13in models feature a 1.7GHz Core i5 processor, but the £1,099 13in MacBook Air has 128GB of flash storage, while the £1,349 13in MacBook Air has 256GB.
The MacBook Air is quite capable of handling everyday tasks, such as emailing, web browsing, using office applications, and more. You can even use it for editing short videos, and working with JPEGs from your iPhone or point-and-shoot camera. The 11in MacBook Air and entry-level MacBook Pro are among the slowest in Apple’s lineup (only the entry-level Mac mini is slower) but the 11in Air is still no slouch, thanks in part to its flash storage.
Macworld’s buying advice Previous MacBook Air generations were thought of as niche laptops. But the latest MacBook Air is the ideal laptop for most Mac users. It’s a great combination of performance and portability. We wholeheartedly recommend it for all but the most intense processing demands. Sure, it has less storage than other Macs, but an external drive can fix that issue.