There's not going to be any numbers or benchmarking in this review. It's not that kind of technical review. But I will compared it to the Mac Mini (2012) that is my current workstation.
The review will be based on my experience using it for days during my recent Spain trip.
Mine's the standard configuration for the 13-inch model that Apple released in June 2013.
- 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
- Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz
- Intel HD Graphics 5000
- 4GB memory
- 128GB flash storage
Configurable on the Apple online store are the processor up to 1.7Ghz and 8GB RAM. The higher end model, you can configure for more storage up to 512GB.
There are two USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt port, and only the 13-inch models come with the SDXC card slot.
The 11.6-inch weighs 1.08kg and the 13 inch 1.35kg. Many users claim they can't feel the weight, but it's definitely there. But it's also definitely much lighter than the Macbook Pro.
I'm using it for blogging and photo editing.
The iPad just quite can't cut it for blogging just yet for the simple reason that it lacks a mouse. It's just way faster working with a mouse/trackpad.
For photo editing, I use Lightroom 5, handling just slightly over a hundred photos each time.
The Macbook Air is very responsive. It's quick to startup, launch applications, import and download files. Wake from sleep is instant. It's runs silently even when the fans are on. And it runs cool most of the time unless you really tax the processor. Battery life is 9hrs+ with non-stop movie running.
Photo editing and video
The screen resolution is 1440 by 900 for the 13-inch model, and 1366 by 768 for the 11.6 inch. The resolution is comfortable for working with multiple tabs and menu interfaces.
Those who edit photos are more critical about the screen. There are things to note.
First, viewing angle is not as good as typical IPS desktop panels that offer 178 degrees. Depending on the tilt of your screen, your colours will vary. And you can be sure you won't always tilt your screen to the precise angle, unless it's all the way back.
If you have to photo editing on a mobile computer, there's not much choice anyway, especially if you're using Mac OS.
Rendering photos takes a while, actually longer than I expect. The dual core 1.3GHz is not slow but it's not fast either. I don't think there's any point in upgrading the processor to 1.7GHz and there's no way to go quad-core on the Air. So time save from processor upgrade is not going to be significant. By comparison, my Mac Mini quad core renders in less than half the time.
Same goes to video rendering as well, which depends even more on processor speed. Personally, it will be extremely difficult to do in one day, to shoot footage, compile, render and upload. On a quad core Macbook Pro, that would be no problem, and will even allow for margins for error (e.g. typo correction on title screen). I'm mentioning this because sometimes I do all those things in a day.
Personally I'm fine with the glossy screen. Gloss affecting colour is not as critical as the panel's colour variance depending of viewing angle.
Lightroom by itself only uses about 1GB of RAM during editing.
Choosing between 11.6 inch and 13 inch
The 11.6 inch has no SD card slot.
You might think you'll not get use to the small screen, but you will, just like how you got use to the smaller screens of your phone and tablet. For graphics work, getting a bigger screen is more useful.
For the purpose of testing RAM usage, I loaded up Lightroom with 700+ photos and did some batch editing. The only other application running was Chrome browser. Total RAM usage, including OS plus applications, is around 3GB+.
If you're intend on using another heavy application such as Photoshop, I would recommend upgrading to 8GB. Photoshop can use up RAM very quickly.
If you're not using any graphics or video applications, 4GB RAM is more than sufficient. This applies for light usage such as office work, blogging, web surfing and light photo video editing all at the same time. If you use more applications than that, get the 8GB RAM.
You can only configure more storage for the models that come with standard 256GB storage, up to 512GB.
Mine's the 128GB model. I think it's sufficient for general use. 10GB storage can hold 550 18MP RAW photos.
If you need more storage, just get an external drive such as the WD My Passport 2TB USB 3 External Storage which is extremely value for money.
For even more portable storage, I go with the Transcend 64GB UHS1 SD card. This is backup and just-in-case storage I carry in my wallet. This applies only for the 13-inch model with the SDXC card slot.
Importing data with USB 3 or SDXC is blazing fast.
Photo editing machine?
The Macbook Air 2013 is good for light and occasional photo editing. If you work on photos regularly, I would recommend going for a quad-core Mac.
For general usage, the Air is excellent, and hence highly recommended for general users.
Again, below are all the different standard configurations as available on Amazon, who sells them cheaper than Apple online store themselves.
11.6 inch with 128GB storage
11.6 inch with 256GB storage
13-inch with 128GB storage
13-inch with 256 storage