When Apple first released the MacBook Air more than five years ago, the device significantly changed the laptop landscape in terms of portability. Is the new 2015 13-inch MacBook Air much different than the previous versions?
The first MacBook Air was released at a time when larger sized laptops were still popular with working professionals and students. The introduction of the MacBook Air represented Apple’s foray into mobility and portability for the laptop market. The first device was very similar to netbooks because of the absence of legacy connectivity ports and a CD drive.
Apple reconsidered the MacBook Air design a few years later in 2011 to include a lighter and sleek unibody along with flash storage. Since then, Apple has not changed a whole lot in terms of designs and features, even with the introduction of the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air. Regardless, the MacBook Air has still maintained the quality and functionality it is known for with a few upgrades under the hood.
WHAT IS THE DESIGN AND AESTHETICS LIKE?
If you compare the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air with previous versions from a few years ago, it is very hard to tell the difference at first glance. It appears that Apple has not felt the need to change anything over the last few years, except for a few of the internal components. The 2015 MacBook Air has still maintained its reputation of being razor thin and ultra-portable just like the Protégé series by Toshiba.
The 13-inch MacBook Air has the same durable aluminium unibody design which is just 17mm in thickness at the widest point. The sturdy aluminium body does not add much bulk to the device either and weighs in at just 2.38 pounds.
When you open the lid, you will find that Apple has kept the same functional backlit keyboard and generously sized multi-touch trackpad from the last version with trademark buttons made of solid glass. This means there is no learning curve plus, the back-lighting is still adjustable when you want to work in dimly lit environments.
The 2015 13-inch MacBook Air still offers the same variety of port connectivity options as the previous version with the exception of a new Thunderbolt 2 port. Port connectivity options are also placed in the same position on the outside of the device as previous versions of the MacBook Air.
In terms of the display screen, Apple has maintained the same screen from five years ago which still is defined as high definition. The screen is fine for most tasks but is somewhat dated when compared to other similar devices offering displays with 1080p resolution or higher. Additionally, the display does not offer Retina technology and has viewing angles that are not as good as those in the MacBook Pro.
WHAT ARE THE FEATURES AND SPECIFICATIONS?
Although, many of the features and specifications have remained largely unchanged, the 13-inch MacBook Air still provides decent performance. Although it is not overly powerful, many working professionals prefer the MacBook Air for its responsiveness and broad variety of tools for easily performing daily work tasks. This is mainly because of Apple’s distinct ability to effectively join hardware and software together.
In terms of the operating system, the 2015 MacBook Air comes with OS X 10.10 Yosemite pre-installed. Those who purchase the MacBook Air early in 2015 will likely be eligible for a free upgrade to OS X 10.11 when it is released later in the year.
Other specifications include:
Many technology professionals have speculated that the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air would offer a Retina display. However, this has proven not to be the case as the 13-inch model offers a 13.3-inch LED widescreen display with a 1440 x 900 pixel resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio.
Although Apple neglects to mention the pixels per inch on its spec page, the 13-inch MacBook Air offers 227ppi which is less than the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The screen is still not bad but is noticeable if you are accustomed to using a Retina display.
Depending upon the model of MacBook Air you choose, the laptop will be equipped with 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or an optional 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz. Additionally, there is 128GB to 256GB of internal flash storage depending upon the MacBook Air model with the option to upgrade to 512GB for an additional cost.
The processing performance has been slightly increased from the previous MacBook Air from 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz for the base model. If you are looking to upgrade from last year’s model, it may not make sense since the change is minimal. On the other hand, an upgrade may make sense since it is more significant when compared to the MacBook Pro. This is because the Pro has lower specs with a processor increase from 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz which can actually slow down the performance.
In terms of memory, the 13-inch MacBook Air is equipped with 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 RAM (Random Access Memory) which provides speedy performance when multitasking and Intel Graphics 6000 which is okay for light gaming. The Random Access Memory can be upgraded to 8GB for an additional cost.
On the outside of the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air, you will find the usual selection of ports. There are two USB 3.0 ports and an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot for additional storage which is an exclusive option for the 13-inch model of the MacBook Air. Apple has also upgraded Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 2 and has continued to include MagSafe 2 for power and a 3.5mm headset jack.
When it comes to port connectivity, Apple likes to keep it simple from this standpoint. This eliminates the need for a learning curve on the part of the end user while providing the functionality MacBook Air is known for.
The 2015 13-inch MacBook Air is equipped with 802.11ac Wi-Fi which is the newest wireless standard. This means you can connect to an AirPort Time Capsule or AirPort Extreme base station equipped with 802.11ac to get wireless connectivity that is three times as fast as the previous version of MacBook Air. Wireless connectivity also includes an expanded range to allow you to connect more easily when performing tasks on the go.
Additionally, there is Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology which allows you to connect Bluetooth-enabled peripherals. You will also find a FaceTime high definition camera with 720p resolution at the top of the display screen which has not been upgraded for the last three years.
The 54-watt-hour battery has an extended life due to the change in processing performance from previous versions of the Mac Book Air. The battery on the 13-inch model is capable of lasting up to 12 hours when surfing the web and using wireless connectivity. 12 hours of battery life is Apple’s claim and, tests showed results that were very close to 12 hours when performing light tasks and using iTunes film playback.
Additionally, the MacBook Air 2015 can be left off charge when performing work tasks over a few days without the need to plug in the device. In this case, you can get about two hours of work out of the device per day if you choose not to put it on charge. If for any reason you would need to do without a power port, the battery life is quite impressive and has a standby time of up to 30 days.
IS THE 13-INCH MACBOOK AIR SUITABLE FOR COMMUTING?
In terms of performance, there is a lot to like about the 13-inch MacBook Air. Working professionals and students can get by very easily with surfing the web, doing work, performing office tasks, engaging in some light gaming, and more. The device is very lightweight, ultra-portable and designed for productivity.
If you are using the MacBook Air for some of the activities described above, the storage and processing performance should be more than enough to get you through your day. On the other hand, if you work in graphic design, the 13-inch MacBook Air is really not designed for major productivity. In this case, you would be better off considering the most recent version of the MacBook Pro instead.
IS IT WORTH THE PRICE TAG?
As of early 2015, the 13-inch MacBook Air is being offered in two different configurations. Each configuration has basically the same specification with the only difference being the amount of flash storage.
The base model MacBook Air is offered with a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of LPDDR3 Random Access Memory (RAM) and 128GB of flash storage for a price tag of about £849.
The upgraded model of the MacBook Air is offered with a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of LPDDR3 Random Access Memory (RAM) and 256GB of flash storage for a price tag of about £999.
If you are a professional that requires more processing power and storage, the MacBook Air may not be worth the cost. Instead, it may be better to go with the new version of the MacBook Pro to accommodate your needs.
On the other hand, if you are not into graphic design, 3D modelling, or hardcore gaming, the 13-inch MacBook Air will surely provide you with what you need for the price tag. The Intel Core processor and high definition 6000 Graphics Processing Unit will provide you with more than what you need to get you through the workday without any issues.
Where the 13-inch MacBook Air is lacking is in new features and display quality. This means that the MacBook Air is competing with many other devices on the market that offer the same type of performance with much better display screens. The MacBook Air is also not equipped with a touchscreen which may or may not be an issue for you.
When compared with the Dell XPS-13 laptop, you can get a display screen with a 1080p resolution and an Intel Core i3 processor for just under £735. If you choose the Dell XPS-13 with an Intel Core i5 processor, it still matches up the MacBook Air and at a lower price point. This means the choice comes down to whether or not you prefer OS X or Windows and if you prefer the design and ergonomics of the MacBook Air over other devices on the market.
Additionally, there are a few upgrades that provide a boost in performance from both the productivity and graphics standpoint. The flash storage component is also faster as well plus, Apple provides a pre-installed upgrade to Thunderbolt 2.
FINAL VERDICT. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
If a thin design and ultra-portability are what you are seeking when it comes to a laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Air will fit the bill nicely. It has great looks, durable construction, a decent number of ports and connectivity options, and a battery life that is quite impressive when compared to other devices on the market.
The absence of a retina display, the slightly dated design and the missing new Force Touch touchpad make it easy to overlook the 13-inch MacBook Air. However, it is still a very competent ultra lightweight laptop that provides more than enough functionality and performance for students and working professionals alike.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Our IT Department is one of London’s leading IT support companies, providing SMEs across the city with a range of support services. Do you use Macs in a business environment? Visit our Mac Support services page to find out how we can help.