Apple's Haswell-Powered 13-Inch MacBook Air

Included Apple Software and Experience

The MacBook Air we tested came with OS X 10.8.4, the latest version of Apple's Mountain Lion OS.  We have previously posted a full overview of the features of Mountain Lion, so we won't dive in too deep here.  However, Apple's operating system offers a lot of key functionality out of the box, that purists might argue is more full-featured than competitive Windows-driven alternatives in the market currently.

And we're not talking about bloatware, or trial versions of software either.  Whether you consider simple utilities like the integrated DVD player, iTunes or iPhoto, or more higher-end software suites like GarageBand and iMovie, Apple really does pack in quite a bit of useful software in their standard bundle.

But it's the little things sometimes that matter.  One small addition to Mountain Lion that we find comes in quite handy is the Downloads Stack.  In a Windows 7 environment, you can often times find yourself drilling down through folders to get to a file you've recently downloaded.  Windows 8, on the other hand, offers more shortcuts to downloads and a download manager with pause/resume functionality.  For Mac OS the Downloads Stack is Apple's convenient solution to this problem that Windows web browser implementations have yet to address cleanly.  Just hover over the stack at the bottom right of the Mac OS dock (next to the trash can) and you can scroll through your downloads or open the Finder app to browse the download folder directly.

And of course Apple has tightly coupled social integration with OS X 10.8.  Within the Mail, Contacts and Calendars you can plug in your credentials to various services like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr adding your contacts at these services to your mail, contacts, calendar and messaging apps in OS X. Facebook integration plays an prominent role in the experience, if you want it to. Linking your Facebook account to OS X merges your online friends into your Contacts, adds profile photos for contacts, and delivers Facebook notifications directly on your MacBook.

Once these services are connected to your Mac, you can also then share files and media just by clicking the share button and selecting the service you want to share over. Competitively speaking, though these aren't exactly ground-breaking features, it feels like Microsoft has been playing catch-up adding this level of functionality into Windows 8. Mac OS X in some ways has a cleaner implementation of the same functionality.  In addition, though Microsoft is currently evangelizing one primary, touch-capable UI for all platforms, Apple does a relatively good job of injecting the feel and familiarity of iOS into OS X. 

Finally, content creation has always been a strong suit for Mac OS, and that trend continues with apps like GarageBand offering powerful tools that might otherwise be consider expensive software packages on other platforms.  On the software side of things, you do get what you pay for with the MacBook Air, let's see if the hardware is up to the task as well.

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