13-inch MacBook Air unboxing and first impression

Here it is, the new Haswell-based MacBook Air. We're talking 1.7GHz dual core i7 proc with Intel HD 5000 graphics 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. The ports are the same as last year's -- 2x USB 3 and 1x Thunderbolt. Sadly, it's Thunderbolt 1 and not the new, fancy Thunderbolt 2, which kind of puts the damper on Retina Thunderbolt display support, and makes it standard size pixels all around. The only new addition is the second mic, which should hopefully help with sound input quality.

That's fine. The MacBook Air with it's claimed 12-hours of battery life isn't being aimed at the performance market. It's being aimed squarely at the heart of the persistence market. This is the MacBook for people who want to leave the house with nothing but a chuckling backward glance at their power supply, still plugged in next to their desk, as they leave the house for the day. This is for the airplane travelers and live bloggers, for coffee-shop hopping entrepreneurs and class-changing students.

It's not the MacBook for anyone even remotely needing a Pro. Hence the difference in names. The battery life is supposed to be great, and the solid state storage, blazingly fast. The screen... not Retina. The 11-inch has nowhere nearly enough pixels for Safari, Coda, Photoshop, or Final Cut Pro X -- or any pro app, really -- but 13 is fine. It's much the same as the iPad mini. You can have screen density, lightness, or battery life, and you only get 2 out of the three. This is the compromise for people who want lightness and long battery life, and that'll be the perfect compromise for many, many people...

...at least for now.

  • $999 and up - 11-inch MacBook Air (2013) - Buy now (opens in new tab)
  • $1099 and up - 13-inch MacBook Air (2013) - Buy now (opens in new tab)
Anthony Casella
  • I'm especially curious how this thing handles editing HD (1080p) video in Final Cut Pro X. Any chance you can touch on that in your review? Very interested in a 13" MBA as an editing machine to use on the train.
  • Yes, FCPX could be a tipping point for me as well. How many future generation of FCP do you think the Air could handle?
  • I'm interested in knowing how it manages photoshop and final cut pro too.
    Can you look on it during your review since you use booth theese apps?
  • I want one. Problem is i can't justify cost since work gives me a laptop..... ;(
  • To be honest, my hands are feeling a bit itchy myself. I have the 2012 11" entry level MBA, and there are times I find myself wishing I had the 13" model. I appreciate the smaller form factor for its weight and portability, but find the 13" better suited to working on documents. Battery life is generally not too much of an issue, since I am never too far away from a power source, but still, it would be nice to be able to move around without having to worry about power at all, like what I do with my ipad. It's totally inconceivable. Nobody makes any noise when Acer or Toshiba releases a dozen different laptop lines, yet two different laptop versions are enough to give me pause for thought!
  • I've been eyeing one, too, but I am not sure if there is a gap it could fill between my iPad and my iMac. I actually already have a brand new casing for a 11" Macbook Air (long story), and it is definitely taunting me...
  • Congrats on an epic hardware score. Now, let's discuss you finally taking off the wwdc shirt
  • I've seen a couple of other online reviews of the new 13" MBA, so I am eagerly awaiting iMore reviews of this machine.
  • Re: "The MacBook Air with it's claimed 12-hours of battery life isn't being aimed at the performance market." And it may never be. Apple needs to differentiate Air from Pro to justify the Pro price.
    Performance & Retina -> MacBook Pro.
    Persistence & non-Retina -> MacBook Air. I doubt that Apple is in any great hurry to put a Retina screen in the MacBook Air.
    It would cut back on battery life unless Apple can ship an IGZO-based Retina screen.
  • Love the MacBook Air, and I can't help extrapolating its current design into the future. Let's say Apple develops IGZO-based LCD screens with vastly lower power consumption. And let's say Apple continues to make the MBA thinner and lighter. What could an MBA of 2018 look like? - All-glass top half. Frosted N-th generation Gorilla glass on the outer side, bonded to the glass IGZO-based LCD screen on the inside. Any force that can crack the all-glass top half would crack the screen in the current MacBook Air anyway. Overall much thinner than current MBA's top half. - Anodized aluminum bottom half much thinner than today's MBA. Thinner because of the reduced power consumption of the IGZO screen, improved Intel power management (or possible ARM-based SoC), improved battery technology, and improved OS X power management. - Two color options: Aluminum and Slate. The Aluminum colored all-glass top half could be silvered glass as used on Apple's current trackpads. The Slate colored top half could be frosted dark glass to match the anodized aluminum bottom half as on Slate iPhones and iPad minis. No idea if any of this is even possible, but that's what happens when you put your "designer" hat on, isn't it?
  • glad to see my fav site slowly breaking the barriers of ios and involving macs too.
  • My MBA screen is cracked, but I'm holding off for a retina MBA or Haswell MBP. I just don't need a pro, as what I do on computers doesn't require it. I want to reasonably be assured in my mind I'll be able to install Mavericks and at least the grandson of Mavericks on whatever I get. Of course you never know but my MBA came with Snow Leopard and still humming along on Mountain Lion.
  • How much did that configure set you back?
  • if it had a 1080p screen, I'd probably buy it or at least would be able to justify my desire to buy it. Sorry Apple, no 1080p no buy.
  • how does this compare to the 13 inch MacBook pro retina? I am trying to decide myself. I know it all depends what you are doing on the pro, but I don't know how the intergraded graphics with the retina display will work out. I like the form factor of the new Air, but isn't it clocked speed low? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks