Test­ing the 13" Haswell Mac­Book Air


A few months ago, I built my first Hack­in­tosh and I re­ally liked Mac OS X, so at this year's WWDC I de­cided to buy the new Mac­Book Air 13" to re­place my old Dell XPS 15 note­book which I was very happy with. In this ar­ti­cle, I want to tell you every­thing from the or­der to ship­ment, first im­pres­sions and im­pres­sions af­ter some time.

Ordering the MacBook Air

As I wanted to use my new Mac­Book Air a lot and as long as pos­si­ble, I up­graded every­thing to it's max­i­mum. That means, it in­cludes the new In­tel Core i7, 8 GB of mem­ory and a 512 GB SSD, so the whole build cost me 1849,00 €. I or­dered di­rectly af­ter the WWDC and the next morn­ing, I got an E-Mail telling me that the or­der is be­ing processed and giv­ing me a link where I could see the or­der sta­tus. Eight days later, this sta­tus changed to "Prepar­ing for Ship­ment" and an­other day later, the packet shipped. Us­ing the UPS tracker, I could see that my packet would ar­rive just two days later.

First impressions

The MacBook's Packaging

Af­ter open­ing the pack­age, you'll see just the Mac­Book Air packed into a plas­tic film which can be eas­ily re­moved. Un­der the Mac­Book Air, you'll have all the ac­ces­sories. I or­dered an ad­di­tional Mini Dis­play­Port to VGA adapter for use in school which is also placed un­der the Mac­Book.

MacBook Air Accessories

Go­ing from left to right, you'll get two Ap­ple stick­ers, some man­u­als and war­ranty doc­u­ments, the ad­di­tional adapter, if you or­dered one, a power plug and a power ca­ble, and fi­nally the charger. You can choose whether you want to use the longer ca­ble or the smaller plug. I went with the small plug as I don't want to carry this long ca­ble with me. Com­pared to the old Mac­Books, the new charger is smaller and the MagSafe 2 con­nec­tor is a bit slim­mer.

The new chargerMagSafe 2

Com­ing to the Mac­Book Air it­self, on the top you'll only see the Ap­ple logo which will lighten up when the screen is on. On the left, there's the MagSafe port, a USB 3.0 port, a head­phone jack which also sup­ports iPhone com­pat­i­ble head­phones with con­trols and a mi­cro­phone, like the Bose MIE2i, and two mi­cro­phones which will re­duce back­ground noise if you want to. On the right, you'll see a Thun­der­bolt port which is back­wards com­pat­i­ble to Mini Dis­play­Port, an­other USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot. In­side the Mac­Book Air, there's a 720p Face­Time we­b­cam, the 13" 1440x900 pix­els screen, a full-size key­board and a glass track­pad and that's it.

The MacBook Air in all of its Glory 1The MacBook Air in all of its Glory 2The MacBook Air in all of its Glory 3The MacBook Air in all of its Glory 4The MacBook Air in all of its Glory 5

The first boot took about 10 sec­onds and af­ter that I was guided through the setup of Mac OS X. These steps in­cluded con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net, cre­at­ing an ac­count, link­ing it to iCloud, set­ting up the time zone, read­ing the terms of use, en­abling the lo­ca­tion ser­vices and op­tion­ally trans­fer­ring data from an old mac, a Win­dows ma­chine or a Time Ma­chine backup. That sounds like a lot of steps but the whole setup only took about two min­utes to com­plete.

Af­ter the setup I in­stalled my im­por­tant ap­pli­ca­tions, like Google Chrome, Skype, Drop­box, The Unar­chiver, Pocket, iS­tat Menu, Light­room, iWork and Mi­crosoft Of­fice. Thanks to the fast SSD, it did­n't take long for every­thing to fin­ish. The glass track­pad is very re­spon­sive and us­ing the built-in ges­tures you can nav­i­gate around your sys­tem eas­ily and quickly. The key­board is large enough for typ­ing, al­though I still have to get used to the new or­der of keys com­pared to my old Win­dows key­board. The keys aren't too loud when they're pressed and you can clearly feel whether they're pressed or not. Right now, I'm writ­ing this ar­ti­cle on the Mac­Book Air. Ap­ple promised a bat­tery life of 12 hours and they did­n't lie. I used my Mac­Book Air for about 12.5 hours af­ter hav­ing un­boxed it and it still had some bat­tery left. My bat­tery is now 8% full but ac­cord­ing to the sys­tem, I still have 1.2 hours of bat­tery life left. The fans are quiet most of the time. Only when I played DiRT 2 and when I setup Drop­box for the first time, they were au­di­ble. Also, the Mac­Book stays cool most of the time, like when I'm just brows­ing the in­ter­net or watch­ing movies. How­ever on harder tasks like play­ing graphic in­ten­sive games, it can get re­ally hot at the top of the key­board.

Re­gard­ing speed, the Mac­Book Air per­forms very well. The proces­sor scores 6903 points on Geek­bench and the SSD can read and write files at up to 800 MB/​s which makes every­thing run fast and smoothly. Sim­ple apps need less than a sec­ond to open and apps like Light­room open in just a few sec­onds. The new In­tel HD 5000 graph­ics chip that's in­te­grated into the proces­sor can han­dle most of the games that I tried in­clud­ing Minecraft on high set­tings and DiRT 2 with de­fault set­tings. The speak­ers are loud and good, but they lack some bass that my old Dell XPS 15 had and some­times, when there's a high fre­quency sound, they start rat­tling a bit, which is a lit­tle an­noy­ing. The screen is great and with it's res­o­lu­tion of 1440x900 pix­els, there's enough space for most of the ap­pli­ca­tions. On this screen, us­ing fullscreen apps re­ally makes sense. That way, you can get most out of your screen and us­ing a three-fin­ger swipe you can switch be­tween open apps.

The screen size and what you can do on it

Sum­ming it all up, my first im­pres­sions were great. I did­n't have any prob­lems set­ting the Mac­Book up and in­stalling ap­pli­ca­tions did­n't take long. Us­ing the Mac­Book Air feels great and I don't have any neg­a­tive points about it right now. In the next few weeks, I'll ex­tend this ar­ti­cle, when I have used the Mac­Book Air for some more time and have some more ex­pe­ri­ences.