MacBook Air revisited: 12 weeks in

MacBook Air revisited: 12 weeks in

Summary: Apple upped its game by including the latest Haswell processor from Intel in the current MacBook Air. After almost three months using the Air, this details how it's held up.

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, Laptops
Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

When Apple announced the newest MacBook Air a few months ago, I immediately ordered one even though the last thing I needed was to add another laptop to my ever-growing stable of gear. What pushed me over the edge was the inclusion of the Intel Haswell processor which was not available in other laptops at that time. 

My review of the Air almost three months ago gushed over the performance of the Haswell and rightly so. The Haswell gives good performance while extending the battery life significantly. 

See related: New MacBook Air: Haswell ups the game (review) | The new MacBook Air with Haswell on the way | MacBook Air and Pro: No touch screen required (unlike Windows 8)

So how has the MacBook Air held up over the past 12 weeks?

MBA art
MacBook Air art from -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

In a word, superbly. I noted in my initial review of the MacBook Air that due to the Haswell and other speed improvements Apple put in the Air that it regularly outperformed my MacBook Pro with a faster (non-Haswell) processor. I am happy to report that the performance of the Air is still as fast as can be. Things happen instantly on the MacBook Air and using it is a real joy.

The battery life of over 9 hours I first reported is still the case, and I've gotten used to it. This long battery life is normally only found on low-powered Atom or ARM processors (or giant laptops) so it's amazing to get it on a fast Core i5 processor. Battery life is so good that I can't remember the last time I checked the battery status while out and about. I no longer think about remaining battery when out for long days, and that is liberating.

There's nothing you can complain about having good battery life and performance when it's contained in such a svelte package. The MacBook Air isn't much bigger or heavier than the iPad in a keyboard case.

I own a couple of Windows laptops that each has a touch screen but I don't miss it when I use the MacBook Air. After heavy use, I still find the touch operation on OS X (touchpad only) to be better than that of Windows 8, even with a touch screen on the Windows laptops.

I'm using the current version of OS X like everybody else and not the beta version Mavericks. I'm hoping Apple makes the touchpad operation even better and doesn't screw up what's obviously working so well for me.

I'm not complaining about Windows 8, I find it to be a good touch operating system. But when I use the Air with the touchpad I find operation to be totally natural. I regularly find I am doing swipe operations on a Windows 8 trackpad and when nothing happens I realize I'm doing OS X gestures. That indicates how natural those gestures are when I want to do them all the time.

I am very happy with the MacBook Air almost three months in. The hardware is fantastic, performance is great, and battery life is wonderful. It's one of the best laptops I've ever purchased, if not the best, and I'd happily buy it again.

I also like my other laptops and the platforms they run, I use them a lot too. Just to head off the inevitable "you like the MacBook Air so you hate everything else" responses.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Laptops

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  • The trackpad thing

    Yes, I find myself doing my Macbook trackpad gestures all the time on my Dell Latitude. That's my only complaint, is they've raised expectations for the behaviour of other trackpads.
    • Trackpad

      Had a trackpad for my Mac Mini for a few years now. I've also been a Mac air user for a year. It's an amazing experience and I think better then touch screen can be on a PC / laptop. Whenever I use the trackpad on my work dell, it makes me want to shoot myself.

      Why more manufactures don't copy it is beyond me. Would make the Win 8 experience bearable. I assume its to sell all the mice that people buy to carry around with their laptops.
    • Even the Magic Mouse

      makes everyday computing a breeze on a Mac. The scroll ball Mighty Mouse was nice - until the scroll ball clogged with dust and dander. Wheel mice on Windows are alright with me, but the left/right scroll functionality doesn't work all that well (and clicking down to get the 360 movement based on cursor location is annoying).

      You're so right about this. Microsoft just needs to license Apple gesture tech for trackpads (and the Magic Mouse, for that matter, since their attempt to copy it didn't work all that well).
      • That's if Apple would want to license it.

        James hit on the track pad as one of the main features why he like his MacBook.

        If Apple were to license out that tech (to MS or OEM's? How much is hardware, how much is software?) then you take away an advantage of buying a MacBook over a Dell.

        I could see MS doing it for those wanting to run Windows on a MacBook, though.
        William Farrel
    • Air owner

      Macbook Air is undoubtedly a very good notebook
      Price and lack of optical drive can affect a large number of users whose decision during the judgment can be negative so that they can decide to choose another manufacturer.
      Air is perfect and the best "second computer" that you can wish for.
      His task was not to be the main and only computer we can possess.
      If you want excellent laptop computer that will be able to carry it with you wherever you go, the Air is an excellent choice for perfectly reasonable size and more pronounced weight that barely exceeds one kilo.
      Take a look at this comparison at and You will see comparison to the another Apple laptops.Anyone considering purchasing this laptop needs to see the information in this chart.
  • Apple puts quirky Windows HW to shame.

    SurfaceRT powered by a puny Atom sucker doesn't even come close to Apples fully fledged laptop. That's laughingstock. SurfacePro ... even worse.

    At least Sony comes close with its latest iteration of VAIO Pro/Duo devices.
    • Don't know what your talking about.

      Surface RT gets way more then 9 hours of use.
      • RT isn't a full Intel computer

        A Macbook Pro or Air is.
        • yes, but

          can they run windows applications as fast and reliable as surface RT or Pro? The problem is, in many cases there are either no matching applications on Mac or their are incompatible (Win Mac) or do not work as well as their windows versions. This is why many users cannot switch to Mac 100% and keep their Windows computers. Neither processor speed nor battery life, resolution, etc can remedy this problem. Too bad for Apple. This just tells you that their market is consumer electronics, not professional equipment.
          • Re: can they run windows applications as fast and reliable as surface RT or

            Yes, a Mac runs Windows very well. Some claim it is the best computer for Windows.

            What is more, the Mac can run Mac and Windows applications at the same time.
          • being there, tried

            all kinds of visualization software,,, parallels, Virtual Box. Nah, it is too slow and it drains the battery much faster than those 9 h we are promised. As for the first statement, this kind of defeats your argument since I have to boot to Windows, not OSX, and have to deal with two OSs occupying too much space and the need to buy the license for Windows. Why bother?
          • Re: “tried all kinds of visualisation (sic) software.."

            Virtualisation software, like Parallels and VMware Fusion, is so close to native speed that complaints about virtualised Windows programs being “too slow and drains the battery” aren’t credible.

            The only cases when the performance of virtualised Windows 7 software on Macs fell below half the native speed, were for OpenGL hardware-accelerated games, 3D manipulation software and pure floating point performance.

            Otherwise, the performance penalty for running Windows 7 & 8 software on Macs with Parallels 8 or VMWare 5, was generally under 20% (See the September 2013 MacObserver benchmarks.)

            So you’ll only notice the speed difference between a Mac running virtualised Win 7-8 apps and the native experience, if you’re doing very heavy duty computing.

            The vast majority of people, running virtualised word processing and spreadsheet applications, probably won’t notice any difference - in speed or battery life.
          • I have better luck running many old apps through WINE on OS X

            than I do in XP mode through Windows 7. Especially stuff designed originally for 95/98 or NT4.
          • RT can't run real Windows applications

            Other than a reduced version of Office.

            A Mac, on the other hand, is one of the most reliable Windows machines around ( the MacBook Pro at any rate) according to Ed Bott.
    • Point of fact: Surface RT is powered by an ARM and not an Atom processor

      Perhaps you chose an unfortunate moment in time for publishing a typo. At least I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
      • You just called him out on it...

        so you are not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt. If you truly had, you would have not called him out.
        • Your defination of calling someone out is a singularly unique one

          I gave EnticingHavoc a way of "saving face". It was the polite thing to do.
    • Surface RT is Tegra 3, not Atom.

      The "puny processor/Laughing stock" on a surface RT is an Nvidia Tegra3.
      You owe Intel an apology ....
    • I apologize

      For confusing one lame CPU with another. But being a PS guy everything below an i5 belongs to the ToysRUs department.
      • We're playing that game?

        Anything below a supercomputer with 1000 processors belongs in the ToysRUs bin in my opinion. Ha! You were outdone! I win!! Douche.