Apple MacBook Air 11in (Mid-2012) full review

Apple’s miniaturised take on its original 13in Air, the MacBook Air 11in, was revised along with the rest of the Mac portable range in June 2012. Read our review of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Like its compatriots, it now benefits from a faster Ivy Bridge processor, more memory and USB 3.0 ports. 

Two models are offered again in standard trim, with either 64GB or 128GB of SSD storage. In fact, this is the only listed difference between the £849 and £929 versions now, with both taking a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U dual-core processor. 

And both are now blessed with 4GB of memory, once again soldered to the logic board so later user upgrades are not possible. You can specify 8GB at time of purchase, for an additional £80.

In the case of the £929 model, you can also swap out the 1.7GHz Core i5 and take a 2.0GHz Core i7 for another £130. Storage options for this version include 256GB or 512GB SSD for £240 or £640 respectively. Read more high-end laptop reviews.

The entry-level Apple MacBook Air 11in (Mid-2012) model is not just the cheapest Air, it’s also the Mac maker’s most affordable laptop.

While 64GB is a relatively paltry amount, available Thunderbolt and now USB 3.0 ports means you can easily add external storage with potentially the same performance as the internal flash drive. And you still get the same peerless build quality and features as any other MacBook Air.

We noticed a few other changes around the Air. The built-in webcam is now specified for 1280x720 HD use. And the power connector has been revised to MagSafe 2, a slimmer take on Apple’s original magnetic power connector first seen when Macs went Intel in 2006. 

MagSafe 2 wasn’t an essential change, as the Air chassis already accomodated the marginally larger original, although it makes sense for Apple to start unifying on the revised design across the portable line.

Far less welcome is the loss of the reflection-reducing coating on the glossy screen.

While shiny screens are the enemy of comfortably viewing, every MacBook Air until now had a thin optical coating that helped mitigate against the worst of mirror reflections, akin to that applied to spectacles. Without this coating, reflections are now a more annoying reality for 2012’s MacBook Air.

Apple MacBook Air 11in (Mid-2012): Performance

An upgraded processor and more memory inevitably introduce better application performance – and much improved graphics too, thanks to Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 integrated processor.

Tested while running Windows 7, the 2012 11in Air scored an impressive 129 points in WorldBench 6. When we benched the 2011 64GB 11in model we saw a more than useful 111 points, but this is a significant step up on an already fast laptop.

Graphics performance has picked up even more steeply, from 17fps to 28fps in our basic FEAR game test.

Battery life is more extended, according to the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test, from 278 to 370 minutes. As ever for Mac portables, note that this six-hour runtime is likely to be longer when running the native OS X operating system. 


Apple MacBook Air 11in (Mid-2012): Specs

  • 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U
  • 11.6in (1366 x 768) LED-backlit glossy LCD
  • OS X 10.7.4 Lion
  • 64GB SSD
  • 4GB DDR3L 1600MHz RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 384MB shared system memory
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • Thunderbolt/Mini Display Port
  • headset jack
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • mic
  • stereo speakers
  • 105 x 63mm glass Multi-Touch trackpad
  • backlit keyboard
  • 35Wh lithium polymer non-removable battery
  • 45W MagSafe 2 power adaptor
  • iLife ’11
  • 300 x 192 x 3-17mm
  • 1070g