Apple is known for pushing boundaries. Sometimes it's a cutting-edge industrial design, sometimes it's new technology and sometimes a new standard. When the MacBook Air was originally introduced, it was all three. Growing less unique with the netbook craze, Apple was forced to rethink thin. Did they succeed?
The manufacturer's suggested retail price of our review unit is $999; a fully-specced 11.6-inch MacBook Air will cost $1,399.
The original MacBook Air remains one of the thinnest notebooks ever created; like the current iteration, it was designed along a tapered-wedge form factor. Although it wasn't necessarily the thinnest laptop ever created (hey there, Mitsubishi Pedion!), the first-generation MacBook Air brought a number of new features to the table.
It was the first of Apple's notebooks to be designed using the now-famous unibody engineering technique, which essentially carves the computer's case from a single block of cast aluminum. The CPU was a Core 2 Duo designed to take up only 40% of the room of its more traditional counterparts.
Apple finally realized that with the latest refresh of the MacBook Air lineup, something had to change. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air is Apple's smallest laptop ever, harking back to the days of their original 12-inch ultraportable offerings. Both the 11.6- and 13-inch Airs share the same design trend and some of the same dimensions. Both are 0.68 inches in the back, tapering down to a scant eleven-hundredths of an inch at the front.
Much of the notebook's exterior is notable only for its emptiness. The front of the Air has a notch cut out of the bottom lip to provide a spot for opening the screen. Like most modern MacBooks, the screen easily lifts up with a single finger.
Opening up shows off a typical MacBook sight - individual black keys poking up through perfectly cut holes in the aluminum case. Noticeably, the keyboard on the new MacBook Air models is not backlit, a downgrade from prior models. Likely a cost-cutting measure, it's also unfortunate, as Apple seemed to standardize around the backlit keyboard - it certainly makes low-light computing much easier.
In order to save space but still provide a large trackpad and full-sized keyboard, the function keys on the 11.6-inch MacBook Air are half the size of those on the 13-inch MacBook Air and the rest of Apple's mobile lineup.
Additionally, while the power button might look like just another button now - and just as easily pressed - casually powering off the machine shouldn't be a concern as it goes to and returns from sleep rather quickly.
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