Apple MacBook Air 13 (Ivy Bridge) vs Ultrabooks

Design & Layout

The refreshed MacBook Air's dimensions are virtually unchanged from the previous generation, measuring 0.11 inches at its thinnest point and 0.68 inches at its thickest, 12.8 inches wide, and 8.94 inches deep, and weighing 2.96 pounds. It's only slightly bigger and heavier than the 11.6-inch model, which sports the same height dimensions but measures 11.8 inches wide by 7.56 inches deep and weighs 2.38 pounds. For the sake of comparison, the Zenbook UX21E-DH71 from Asus that we reviewed a year ago is just a hair thinner overall and slightly lighter at 2.43 pounds. And versus the recently launched Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the MacBook Air is even lighter and thinner still.

From a construction standpoint, Apple has pretty much perfected the thin and light form factor on the MacBook Air, which is also sturdy and stylish. There's nothing overtly unique about the MacBook Air's styling compared to the dozens of Ultrabooks that have tried to emulate a similar look and feel while injecting their creators' own design cues; instead, the MacBook Air's aesthetics rely on subtleties, like rounded corners, an all-aluminum unibody frame, and Apple's simply stated logo that's featured so prominently on countless movies and TV shows these days.

At less than three pounds, the MacBook Air is plenty light enough to wield with one hand as you toss it in your book bag or carry under your arm.

Staying true to past iterations of the MacBook Air, the latest models retain the tapered shape that's slightly thicker in the rear and increasingly thin in the front. There's a 0.56-inch difference in thickness between the opposite ends. Ever protective of its designs, Apple actually owns a patent -- D661,296 -- that, in part, covers the wedge-shaped profile of the MacBook Air. So far that hasn't prevented Ultrabook makers from implementing similar designs.


As we pointed out earlier, the MacBook Air doesn't offer a smorgasbord of ports to play with. On the left side is a nifty MagSafe 2 connector, which is magnetic and allows the power cord to pop right off if you accidentally trip over the cord; a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port; a headphone jack; and a tiny microphone. Over on the right side is the second of two USB 3.0 ports; an SD card slot, and a Thunderbolt connector.

Apple shunned outfitting the MacBook Air with a Retina Display, but to the company's credit, the Air's panel is one of the best we've seen in a non-IPS screen. Off angle viewing shows very little deterioration, including at extreme angles, and the LED-backlit display is both bright and vibrant. Colors pop and text appears crisp on what's a rather remarkable TN panel. In fact it looks so good, we had to double check the specifications to make sure Apple didn't quietly slip an IPS panel into the refreshed models.

The generously sized Multi-Touch trackpad takes up about a third of the width of the MacBook Air and sits dead center beneath the keyboard. With support for gestures, it's the next best thing to a full-fledged touchscreen. Tap to zoom, two-finger scrolling, multi-fingered swipes, and a whole lot more are supported on the responsive touchpad,

Apple retained the same keyboard as found on the previous generation MacBook Air, complete with a backlight, which is a bit of a rarity in the Ultraportable space. The chiclet style keys offer just the right amount of tactile feedback with sufficient spacing in between each key. About the only negative we came up with is the lack of a dedicated numpad, a tall order for a notebook this size and not in existence from any manufacturer currently that we're aware of.

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