If you're a habitual Apple user, your main priority with a laptop is likely the OS X Mavericks operating system. Among the best laptops we reviewed, the MacBook Air is the only non-Windows machine, which might be all you need to make your purchasing decision. You have to choose between two screen sizes: 11 inches and 13.3 inches. Both are very light and portable and offer great performance with excellent battery life, but with a subpar display and few ports.
One of the best features of this laptop computer is the 14-hour battery life. The average battery life among the laptops in our review is just over nine hours. The Air lasts almost twice as long as many laptops before you need to tether it to an outlet. In addition, the temperature measured from underneath the laptop after 15 minutes of streaming video was only 81 degrees. This makes it one of the coolest-running laptops on the market. It's well under the 95-degree threshold, after which the laptop gets uncomfortable to use on your lap.
The performance received an A grade, which makes it one of the best-performing laptops available. You have the choice between the Intel i5-5250U processor, which is clocked at 1.6GHz and comes with Intel's HD 6000 graphics, and the Intel i7-5650U, which also comes with HD 6000 graphics. Intel's HD 6000 graphics are as good as you can get for graphics without a dedicated graphics card.
The biggest disappointment with the MacBook Air is the subpar display. Much of the reason for the excellent performance is the low-resolution display, which doesn't require as much processing from the CPU as higher-resolution displays. The cheaper 11-inch model comes with a 1366 x 768 screen, which is the lowest resolution in our review. The more expensive 13.3-inch model is an upgrade, but not by much – it only has a resolution of 1440 x 900. For comparison, the best displays available have resolutions that start at 1920 x 1080. In addition, the display was below average for brightness and color accuracy in tests performed by Laptop Mag, our sister site.
Storage is another downside to the Air. The SSD comes with the base model, which adds to the excellent performance, but you only get 128GB of storage as a result. This is less storage than a classic iPod has. You can upgrade to a 512GB SSD, which should alleviate any storage space woes. In addition, this laptop lacks much of the connectivity you'd find in the best laptops. There are only two USB ports and no HDMI ports.
The Apple MacBook Air is one of the best-performing laptops in our lineup, but this is the result of compromises with the display and storage capacity. While it has a great processor and elite battery life, it lacks a high-res display and the necessary storage for most users. However, it's the best laptop for students and home users who prefer the Mac OS X Mavericks operating system.
The 14-hour battery life is exceptional.
It only has two USB ports and no HDMI ports.
The MacBook Air has exceptional performance and battery life, but the display, storage and connectivity don't compare to the best laptops available.