London - When Apple first launched the MacBook Air in 2008 it drew praise for being the lightest, sleekest and, well, prettiest laptop the world had ever seen. It was also labelled an over-priced piece of kit for people who cared more about image than substance. That's a debate for another time, though. Since then Apple has faced a slew of challengers from netbooks, rival laptops and its own creation; the booming tablet market. This is the latest, feature-packed version of the MacBook and Apple claims it's the lightest and fastest yet.
It might not have a finger print-recognition sensor but the new MacBook Air, its makers claim, has 40 percent faster graphics thanks to its new Intel card. The hard drive is entirely flash storage too, so recalling files and launching applications is noticeably quicker than on older models. The new Intel Haswell processor actually has a slower clock speed than the outgoing model, which may tempt some to opt for the £120 (about R1 800) upgrade to the 1,7GHz i7 processor. Don't bother: this machine is more than fast enough for real-world conditions and everything except the most demanding software packages. Likewise for the extra 4GB of SDRAN at £80.
It has something called 802.11.ac, which apparently is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology. That's nice.
It certainly feels quicker than my desktop iMac on the same network. What's also (perhaps more) interesting is that the new MacBook Air does without the much-touted Retina screen - you can't even select it as an option - but you can hardly notice as the resolution is excellent.
It also means battery life remains undisturbed - it will easily manage 10 hours of standard use with plenty of streaming and video playback.
Is it worth the money?
There are certainly cheaper laptops on the market (including an 11” MacBook Air from Apple) and a new hybrid laptop/tablet challenger with a touch screen seems to launch every day now, but Apple has refined the MacBook Air into a near-perfect product.
Cheaper rivals include the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D (what's with the terrible name?) also with an i5 processor and a 13-inch screen, but it's not really much cheaper. Has Apple closed the price divide, or is it the other way around?
Anyway, apparently the economy is improving... is it time to treat yourself to something pretty?
MACBOOK AIR 13”
Processor: Haswell Dual-Core i5 Processor
Graphics: Intel HD 5000
Memory: 4GB SDRAM
Flash storage: 128GB
Battery life: 12 hours - The Independent