Not too long ago, the MacBook Air practically stood alone in the computer landscape with its unique blend of design, size, and performance, an improvement on the thin laptop with low-voltage CPU. The MacBook Air, in turn, influenced the arrival of the ultrabook, and a wave of newly designed Windows ultrathin computers aspiring to one-up the Air at its own game.
The 2012 MacBook Air no longer stands as the coolest Mac laptop: that crown has been temporarily stolen by the Retina Display MacBook Pro. Nor is it as unusual. However, it still remains the best example of an ultrathin laptop — for its construction quality, performance, and ergonomics.
The 13-inch Air has the same looks as last year, and nearly the same build, with a few key differences: a new third-gen Intel Core i5 processor, USB 3.0 ports (replacing the previous USB 2.0), a higher-def 720p Webcam, and an altered MagSafe 2 charge cable and connector. Also, both 13-inch MacBook Pro models now cost $100 less, bringing the entry-level model with 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) to $1,199, the exact same cost as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. While the new Air doesn’t have Mountain Lion, the next version of OS X, installed, a free upgrade will be made available when it’s released.
The good: The 13-inch MacBook Air has new Intel CPUs, better battery life, and an improved 720p Webcam, and finally adds USB 3.0 ports, while shaving $100 off the price from last year’s models.
The bad: The design, while strong, stays largely the same: there’s no Ethernet port, and the base SSD storage option of 128GB is smaller than a standard hard drive, though common for ultrabooks.
The bottom line: This year’s MacBook Air opts for gradual improvements rather than anything revolutionary, but lowered prices continue to make it the go-to mainstream recommendation for any MacBook owner-to-be.