Review - Apple MacBook Air 11”

We got our hands on a new Apple MacBook Air 11” to put through its paces, and find out how you can use it to cover your musical bases from making through to performing.


Tech, Review

MacBook Air battery life

The latest MacBook Air’s big claims to fame are longer battery life and speedy graphics. Both of these are a boon for busy musicians and mean you can travel light.

The 11” boasts 9 hours of battery life from a charge, and can give you 9 hours of wireless web browsing and 8 hours of iTunes film watching Apple says.

Dual mic audio

With the latest GarageBand built in, you can easily create music wherever you are, and there are new synth pads and free textures to explore. The Air comes with the whole iLife suite (iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand).

We were really impressed with the audio quality on this Air. You can get good sound levels using the inbuilt stereo speakers, and the bass was great - something that’s often missing on a computer.

A dual mic system is designed to reduce background noise.

Fast graphics with Intel Core i5 processor

The processor is the new Intel Core i5, and it works with Intel HD Graphics 5000 to make graphics up to 40% faster. The new Air also boasts a massive 128GB SSD, twice the size of previous models, which gives plenty of storage space and fast access to data. There is also a 256GB option. Put all this together and it feels really nippy and responsive!

There’s also a built-in HD Facetime camera.

MacBook Air Thunderbolt flexibility

We took it on a stage of sorts, and used it with Keynote software (purchased separately) to give a conference presentation with video and audio. The visuals went out via a Thunderbolt connector, and the audio through a cable connected to the 3.5mm headphone socket. We were pretty impressed with the results, and it was great to have such a small piece of kit to use to present, and not to have to worry about a power supply.

The Thunderbolt can also drive large monitors, and extend the MacBook with other breakout stuff to make it the heart of a big workstation. You can daisychain up to six devices such as screens, hard drives, and external soundcards. Thunderbolt works with DVI, VGA, HDMI and MiniDisplay port devices.

There are two high-speed USB 3.0 ports too, so you can plug in things like a printer, iPhone, camera or storage.

Backlit keyboard

You can do things like play an MP3 backing track off it for rehearsal, and use it with MainStage too. Though if you do a lot of live tweaking you may prefer a device with a bigger screen. The LED-backlit widescreen display isn’t high res Retina like the iPad. Nor is there an SD card slot - that only features on the 13” version.

The backlit keyboard is lovely to use, and helpful in dimly lit studio environments. There’s a built-in light sensor, which automatically adjusts the backlighting.

Faster WiFi

The MacBook Air has new 802.11ac technology designed for super-fast WiFi - better range and up to three times the speed of the previous generation when connected to an 802.11ac base station, including the new AirPort Extreme or AirPort Time Capsule.

Compact all-rounder

At 11” and 1.08kg the MacBook Air is only a little bit longer than an iPad, and roughly as thick as an iPad with a case - and is a fantastic all-rounder that fits in a gig bag. Compact, super-light, fast and flexible.

Prices start at £849 from the Apple Store.

  • Check our our piece on the new GarageBand App which now works with Audiobus and a whole world of plugins.