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Summary:

Apple said the new MacBook has the longest battery life of any of its notebooks. Well, according to the first users, that claim is true. Here’s a roundup of the best Air reviews.

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There was only one new laptop launched at WWDC this year and there wasn’t very much new about it. The 2013 MacBook Air looks basically the same as it has for a few years: same thin silver package, same rounded corners, same clicky black keys. But people who’ve been using the new Airs — the 11-inch, starting at $999 and the 13-inch starting at $1,099 — say don’t let that sameness fool you. There’s a huge difference that you can’t see: super-long battery life.

Here are the main conclusions from the best reviews out there:

  • The Verge spent time with the 13-inch Air and puts it this way: “13 hours and 29 minutes. That’s all you really need to know — that’s how long the new MacBook Air running Safari lasted running The Verge Battery Test, which cycles through a series of websites and images at 65 percent brightness.”
  • Fortune tried out the 11-inch version and was quite happy though has one quibble: “A week with the new 11-inch MacBook Air has convinced me that Apple’s hardware upgrade—minor as it may seem—will still be enough to convince some to upgrade or buy one for the first time based on excellent battery life alone. It doesn’t achieve 9 hours in-between charges with everyday use, but 8.5 hours of Web browsing is pretty close. And while I wish Apple would offer a build-to-order option for a higher-resolution screen—the current 1,366 x 768 resolution is really starting to feel cramped—it’s a small omission on an otherwise excellent device.”
  • CNET is effusive about the battery (but strangely knocks it for not having a touchscreen): “It’s easy to say that this new version of the 13-inch MacBook Air is a modest step forward, with no physical changes to the exterior, and still no higher-res display, touch screen, or HDMI port. The battery life is a very big deal, however, and when you couple that with a $100 price cut on the base model, down to $1,099, the 13-inch MacBook Air is, despite not being the newest design on the block, still one of the most universally useful laptops you can buy.”
  • PC Magazine got the 13-inch to last 15.5 hours, but also noted this: “The downside of the lower-clocked processor is that the MacBook Air is a bit slower on the multimedia benchmark tests (Handbrake and Photoshop CS6), where it lags the Windows systems with faster-clocked Core i5 processors. On the flipside, the MacBook Air is still two to four times faster than Intel Atom-powered Windows 8 slate tablets on the Handbrake test, and those Atom-powered tablets can’t run the Photoshop CS6 test at all.”

For our take on the announcements made at WWDC 2013, be sure to listen to the special edition of The GigaOM Show podcast:

  1. Again, who the hell needs HDMI? AirPlay does that wirelessly.

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    1. And there are Thunderbolt to HDMI adapters…

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  2. And look for that battery life to get even better when Mavericks ships and apps are revised to use its battery saving features.

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  3. Comparing the Mackbook Air to an Atom-powered tablet? Why not a 286 running DOS?

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  4. Sounds like Apple nailed it again, making smart tradeoffs on options to cover a broad range of users with little overlap. As to “Fortune’s” desire for more pixels – to get that level of optionality you need to compromise the things the make the new “air” so great. Wait a year or two and Moore’s law will get us there.

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