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Grow Your Business Technology

Apple MacBook Air (11.6-inch, 2015): Is It Good for Business?

apple macbook air, business laptops
The 11.6-inch MacBook Air is almost as portable as the ridiculously slim 12-inch MacBook. / Credit: Jeremy Lips

With a ridiculously slim and light design, Apple's new 12-inch MacBook looks like a travel-friendly dream machine for mobile workers. But its business credentials are hampered by a few key hardware limitations, including the machine's middling performance and a lack of ports for connecting accessories. That's why the updated version of Apple's 11.6-inch MacBook Air might actually be the better productivity machine.

Apple introduced the new version of its smallest MacBook Air this year, but it offers just a few modest upgrades over last year's model. Other than a slightly faster 5th-generation Intel Core processor and a faster Thunderbolt 2 port, it's identical to the 2014 model in form and function. And, starting at $899, it's still the most affordable MacBook, making it an enticing choice for budget-conscious business users — especially compared to the 12-inch MacBook, which starts at $1,299.

On the other hand, the Air's 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768-pixel display may feel cramped for screen-intensive work tasks like editing spreadsheets; that resolution is pretty modest by today's standards. The 12-inch MacBook blows the Air out of the water with an ultrasharp 12-inch, 2,304 x 1,440-pixel display.

The Air is noticeably more powerful, though, in both its Core i5 and Core i7 configurations. In comparison, the 12-inch MacBook is powered by Intel's low-power Core M chip, which still provides good enough performance for daily work tasks. The low-power Core M chip also enabled Apple to make the 12-inch MacBook (2 lbs., 0.52 inches thick) slimmer and lighter than the Air (2.38 lbs., 0.68 inches thick).

But although you'll lose a little portability with the Air, you gain additional connectivity options. The Air sports two USB 3.0 ports, as well as a Thunderbolt 2 connector and a charging port, so you can easily link the notebook to older accessories and monitors at your work desk. The 12-inch MacBook, in contrast, has just a single USB-C port that doubles as its charging port, so you can't connect most peripherals without a slew of dongles and adapters.

The 12-inch MacBook may be sleek, but if you're a business user in the market for a superportable laptop, you'll likely find the 11.6-inch MacBook Air more practical for work — that is, if you can deal with its low-res display.

Brett Nuckles

Brett Nuckles has been a working journalist since 2009. He got his start in local newspapers covering community news, local government, education and more before he joined the Business News Daily staff in 2013. He graduated from Ohio University, where he studied Journalism and English. Follow him on Twitter @BrettNuckles.