The 2011 MacBook Air addresses nearly every concern anyone could lob at its predecessor. It's still light on ports, the missing SD slot on the 11-inch model is a drag, and no, it isn't cheap, but this machine is fast, efficient, and not to be underestimated. It's a supermodel with a law degree from Columbia, a hunky motorcycle racer who looks good in leathers yet is also a concert pianist -- whatever your passion it won't disappoint, all while making a lot more room in your bag. More room for what? Well, your life, for starters.
When last we tested an Air, the 13-inch model with a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo processor scored a 2,717 on the GeekBench benchmark. This new 13, configured with the default 1.7GHz Core i5 and paired with 4GB of DDR3 and a 128GB SSD, nearly doubled that: 5,373. No, that won't threaten the full-bore 15-inch MacBook Pro for sheer speed, but double the performance in nine months is a welcome improvement, living up to Apple's 2x promises here, and from what we've seen elsewhere the 11-inch lives up to its 2.5x promises as well.
The outside of this 2011 refresh of the MacBook Air is virtually indistinguishable from that which came before it. Yes, that means compromises. On the 13-inch model you'll still have to make do with but one USB port on the left and one on the right, but now that latter one is flanked by a Thunderbolt connector, Apple's implementation of Intel's Light Peak standard. This 10Gb/sec interconnect has become standard fare on all new machines coming out of Cupertino, a fact that should help to accelerate the so-far tardy uptake in support from accessory manufacturers.
The 11-inch model is likewise emblazoned, but sadly has still not been granted an SD reader, something restricted to the bigger 13. On the left you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, the MagSafe power connector and... nothing else. All other ports have been deemed unnecessary by Apple's designers and therefore relegated to myriad USB adapters for things like Ethernet -- though if you start relying on those you'll likely need to start packing a USB hub as well.
Like before, the omission of these ports leaves the Air free to pinch down to a delicious taper beneath the keyboard, thin enough to make for a decent cleaver when no proper blade can be found -- or when you just can't be bothered to find one. Even on the fat end it measures a mere .68-inches (17mm) thick. Or thin, rather. (engadget.com)