Apple's MacBook Air isn't as impressively portable as it once was, but the slim notebook still offers good performance, high-quality hardware and nearly unbeatable endurance. The freshly updated 2015 model of the 13-inch MacBook Air doesn't change much from last year's version, but it remains a great value for mobile business users who prefer the Mac ecosystem to Windows.
The 2015 MacBook Air does boast some updated internals, including a faster fifth-generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor. You also get a faster solid-state drive (SSD), which offers transfer speeds up to twice as fast as the drive in last year's Air model. That means that multitasking feels snappier, and apps open and close more quickly, which can help boost your productivity over the course of the workday. The standard Thunderbolt port from last year's model has also been replaced by a speedier Thunderbolt 2 port.
Otherwise, the new MacBook Air looks pretty much identical to its predecessor. It still weighs 2.98 lbs., which makes it light enough to lug between home and the office, though competing machines are lighter still. The Dell XPS 13, Asus ZenBook UX305 and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro each weighs around 2.6 lbs., though the latter two notebooks run on less powerful Intel Core M processors.
Perhaps most important, the 2015 iteration boasts even longer battery life than last year's model. It ran for an amazing 14 hours in our battery test, 2 hours longer than the 2014 version. In comparison, the average ultraportable notebook lasts just 8 hours and 5 minutes. That's good news for business users seeking a laptop that can last through the longest business flights.
Unfortunately, you'll still have to sacrifice screen resolution. The 2015 Air has the same 1440 x 900-pixel display panel it's had since the 2010 model, while competing laptops boast screen resolutions of 1920 x 1080 pixels or higher. That's fine for basic productivity tasks, but things can start to feel a bit cramped during heavy multitasking. The relatively low resolution is part of what helps the Air achieve its long battery life, however.
The Air's keyboard is still solid, though its keys remain a bit shallower than we'd like with just 1mm of travel. The XPS 13's keyboard is slightly more comfortable, with 1.2mm of travel. Apple's excellent trackpad is as good as ever, though.
The 13-inch MacBook Air isn't as portable as Apple's new 12-inch MacBook, but it's much more practical with more power, more ports and a roomier display. Windows users might be better off with the Dell XPS 13, though, which offers a sharper screen and a smaller, more portable design.