The 2013 MacBook Air Review (13-inch)by Anand Lal Shimpi on June 24, 2013 12:01 AM EST
Things didn’t go exactly as I’d expected at WWDC. I spent the week before the show at Computex, talking to PC OEMs, who had all just launched their Haswell ULT based Ultrabooks. With a couple of exceptions however, the bulk of Haswell ULT systems weren’t scheduled to ship until later this year. Even the Acer S7 I snagged while in Taipei was still a pre-production unit, with final hardware due out in the next month. Based on what I saw in Taiwan, and Intel having seeded me an Iris Pro machine the week before, I assumed that the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is what would get the Haswell treatment first. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
In hindsight, the move makes sense. Apple will sell far more MacBook Airs than rMBPs. The Apple/Intel relationship is looking very healthy these days, so it’s also not surprising that it would have supply and early enough access to Haswell ULT to launch the MBAs at WWDC with almost immediate availability. The Haswell ULT shift didn’t require a new chassis for Apple, which meant a less complex development process.
From the outside, the new MacBook Air looks nearly identical to its predecessor. There's a second mic opening on the left side of the machine now, but otherwise you'd be hard pressed to tell this year's model apart from the previous generation. Internally, nearly everything has changed.
The battery is higher capacity, with no increase in weight. Making better use of that larger battery is Intel's new Haswell ULT silicon. Since we're talking about a ULT part, the PCH moves from the motherboard to the CPU package - creating an emptier motherboard than we've seen in previous years:
The 2013 13-inch MacBook Air Motherboard, Courtesy iFixit
It's clear to me that the MBA is due for a more significant redesign, but this is not the year for that.
Alongside Haswell comes a brand new PCIe SSD, 802.11ac support and LPDDR3 memory. All at a price equal to, if not less than last year's models:
|2013 MacBook Air Lineup|
|11.6-inch||11.6-inch (high-end)||13.3-inch||13.3-inch (high-end)|
H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 11.8" (30cm)
D: 7.56" (19.2cm)
H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 12.8" (32.5cm)
D: 8.94" (22.7cm)
|Weight||2.38 lbs (1.08kg)||2.96 lbs (1.35kg)|
|CPU||1.3GHz dual-core Core i5||1.3GHz dual-core Core i5|
|GPU||Intel HD 5000|
|SSD||128GB PCIe SSD||256GB PCIe SSD||128GB PCIe SSD||256GB PCIe SSD|
|Display Resolution||1366 x 768||1440 x 900|
|Ports||Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.0, headphone jack||Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.0, SD card slot, headphone jack|
|Networking||2x2:2 802.11ac||2x2:2 802.11ac|
|Battery||38 Wh||54 Wh|
We've been over the MacBook Air chassis thoroughly in the past so I won't go through it again here. Build quality remains excellent. The clickpad and backlit keyboard never give me any troubles either. It's sad that we're still having clickpad issues elsewhere in ultraportables but this is one area where Apple's vertically integrated advantage is apparent (as is the company's willingness to spend a little extra on even the little details).
The only thing that hasn't changed, that perhaps should have is the display. The MacBook Air retains the same 1366 x 768/1440 x 900 panels from last year, while much of the competition has moved to at least 1080p IPS in the 13.3-inch form factor. This year at Computex we saw a number of systems move to 2560 x 1440 13.3-inch panels, at least as an option, however I'm expecting those systems to be priced more in line with the 13-inch rMBP rather than the MacBook Air. Admittedly, I don't know the right solution here.Ultra high resolution panels drive cost and power consumption up, the latter which can be offset by going to a larger battery - but then you have a 13-inch rMBP. Perhaps the right move for the MacBook Air would be for Apple to move to IPS panels at least? Or maybe we see a merger of the 13-inch MBA/rMBP, and something new entirely replace the 11-inch model.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
Skolde - Monday, June 24, 2013 - linkI find the current display resolutions on these "premium" products to be very lacking for me to actually seriously consider a purchase. At least stick something in there like 1600x900.
....1366 x 768? Come on!
Also - bumping the memory up to 8GB would be nice. I know it isn't build to be a workhorse, but still.
The XPS13 from Dell seems to be a much nicer option currently.
rangerdavid - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link1440 x 900 on this 13".
ddriver - Monday, June 24, 2013 - linkWhy not, they put higher resolution on 5 inch phones...
darwinosx - Monday, June 24, 2013 - linkThey put higher resolution screens on their retina laptops. The Air focus on battery life and performance above all.
designerfx - Monday, June 24, 2013 - linkexcept that's a problem. You can't take advantage of certain basic parts of *performance* if you have a terrible display.
dsumanik - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - linkHere is the non TLDR version of this review:
"intel came out with a new CPU, samsung made a new SSD and apple slapped it together last minute in an existing design. Ultimately, You get a slower, longer lasting air for a 100 bucks less that carries over all the little annoyances from last year."
whoop dee f*ckin do……..This is apple innovation?
"the m.2 spec wasnt far enough along to be used in this generation"
Oh please, What a load of horse ****. I think anand, like many other review sites invested heavily in apple stock and are now trying to stop the bleeding. Apple has been deliberately stifling user upgrades for years….That is why they have proprietary connectors…ON EVERYTHING...your readers, and your reviewer knows this.
"The only thing that hasn't changed, that perhaps should have is the display. "
ya think? My phone has better rez. You've been criticizing PC makers for 2 years about the 1366x768 resolution, and here we have apple in 2013 and you say they "perhaps should have changed"
Here are some "cheap" things they could have done to actually make this product an upgrade:
-move the thunderbolt port beside the power connector (no more stethoscope when plugged in driving a display)
-second thunderbolt port (now you can have 2 displays native and not be down a precious USB3)
-16gb ram availability (now I can run several VM's comfortably when developing)
-performance on par with last years MBA?
here is some mild innovation they could have done:
-detachable screen (tablet notebook hybrid)
-wireless desktop charger
3rd tier PC makers are coming out with better hardware than apple now, this year was critical and they've dropped the ball…with the exception of the Mac pro.
a smartwatch *could* be cool if it comes out totally water proof for active users…jogging swimming etc, if not i don't see the incentive to purchase unless it is super low cost.
what they need to "fix" the situation
-low cost iPhone (incoming 2013)
-large screen iPhone (2014)
-retina display across the board on all products (2015)
-updated thunderbolt display, USB3 and 4k Rez for under 2000 bucks.
-apple branded TV and home theatre system
-thunderbolt or USB3 sync speeds on all iDevices
Dump your apple stock now, it will bounce back but never to the highs it was previously.
Glindon - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - linkBored much?
abazigal - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - linkCan you name me all the other manufacturers who are implementing these features, much less doing them properly?
You want retina, there's the 13" retina MBP. And I think he was criticising manufacturers for using 1366x768 res on a 13" laptop screen. Apple uses that for their 11" MBA line, which I find is still acceptable.
Apple decided that a slight decrease in performance was an acceptable tradeoff for longer battery life. And I am inclined to agree with them. The new processor speed still more than suffices for what typical consumers use it for anyways.
What am I supposed to do with NFC on a laptop? You want the power source to be beside the thunderbolt port. I don't think there is quite sufficient space for 2 USB ports on one side, and so long as it hooks up to your thunderbolt display just fine, does it really irritate you so that the two cables split up?
Personally, I feel there is nothing Apple "needs" to do. I am perfectly fine with their products. I like them, I buy them.
ysaykin - Saturday, July 13, 2013 - linkI think that in a way the comments are right. 11 inch laptops for $1000 should have some luxury features. One of those is amazing battery life, good keyboard, nice display, and good performance. The macbook air has some bases covered, but lacks the display. The resolution is fine for a sub $600 notebook but not at $1000, also a TN panel on a $1000 notebook sounds like a rip off. It should have been at least an ips panel. The longer battery life is only achievable because Mac OSx has been optimized for battery life, but if you use windows on the machine your battery takes a huge dip. So is it a good laptop, definitely, but is it worth the $1000 price? I think it's def a mac tax. Look at the Lenovo yoga which if updated to haswell would have awesome battery life, touchscreen, ips 1600x900 resolution, and convertible to tablet mode.
rudolphbyers - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkThere's nothing that could replace my MacBook Air! /Rudolph from http://www.consumertop.com/best-laptop-guide/