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A closer look at Apple’s new MacBook Air

The sleek and slim MacBook Air has long been a flagship product for Apple, demonstrating to the world that it led the way in innovative notebook design. While the look remains the same, Apple's not resting on its laurels with the MacBook Air, announcing an update to the familiar ultraportables during yesterday's WWDC keynote.

The 11in and 13in MacBook Airs are being updated with Intel's just announced 4th-generation processors, better battery life, and larger, faster flash storage.

Haswell processors

Apple announced that the newest MacBook Airs feature Intel's 4th-gen ULT dual-core processors, the Ultrabook class of Intel's Haswell platform. Like the late 2012 models, the new 11in and 13in MacBook Air models come with a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor as standard. For £120 more, you can configure the same system with a 1.7GHz Core i7, and both come with 4GB of RAM standard.

Improved graphics

Thanks to Haswell's enhanced graphics capability, the new MacBook Air models also offer the improved Intel HD Graphics 5000 – with up to twice the number of execution units found in the previous Intel HD Graphics 4000. The result is a 40 per cent improvement in graphics performance, providing performance on par with an entry-level discrete GPU.

Better battery life

The biggest gain to be offered by Intel's new hardware, however, is in battery life. Apple promises several hours more usable battery life; the 11in MacBook Air steps up from 5 hours of battery life to an all-day 9 hours. And even notoriously battery draining activities last longer – Apple promises 8 hours of iTunes movie playback.

The 13in MacBook Air's larger chassis provides space for a larger battery, and this too will see a big improvement, extending the battery life from 7 hours to 12 hours. Movie playback is stretched to 10 hours. Though details weren't discussed during the keynote at WWDC, Apple's product information page also claims that the 30-day standby time offered by the previous MacBook Air will be the same.

802.11ac Wi-Fi

For a blazingly fast Internet connection, the new MacBook Air models have stepped up to 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the newest wireless standard, offering up to three times the speed of the current 802.11n standard. This switch to the newer, faster standard will also provide a measure of future proofing to keep the newest MacBook Air feeling fast over the next three to five years.

Because 802.11ac isn't commonly available on the market yet, Apple is also releasing a new 802.11ac version of the AirPort Extreme.

Bigger, faster storage standard

Finally, while the base price of the 11in and 13in MacBook Air models are staying the same, the amount of storage included has doubled. Where the 11in and 13in MacBook Air models previously came with 64GB standard, they now offer 128GB of flash memory. In addition to the larger capacity, however, Apple has also upgraded to faster performing flash memory, up to 45 per cent faster than the flash storage in the previous-generation MacBook Air.

Pricing and availability

The new 11in MacBook Air, with 4th-gen Intel hardware and 128GB of storage, is available for £849. The 13in MacBook Air, also with a 4th-generation processor and 128GB flash storage, starts at £1,029. Both can now be ordered through the Apple online store.