The world is getting smaller – as in mobile devices like smart phones and tablets are replacing laptops. The obvious response for computer laptop makers is to try to “catch up” by scaling down. Enter the new Apple MacBook Air.

This ultra-light laptop was the first of its kind. I bought the very first version of the Air on the very first day it was available. It’s come a long, long way since those days.

I recently decided that lugging around my ultra-fast and ultra-heavy 17″ MacBookPro didn’t make sense. I needed a tax write off so I picked up the latest 13″ MacBookAir fully loaded. My test machine for this article is running with a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7, four gigabytes of 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000 384 MB and a crazy fast 250GB SSD drive. I also ordered the Apple SuperDrive, Thunderbolt cable and AppleCare.

Coming from Apple’s heaviest laptop to one of its lightest is very freeing. This thing is barely thicker than my iPad. I can walk around on a photo shoot with this in my hand and it’s lighter than most of my cameras.

The connectivity is much improved over the previous versions. There’s a new Thunderbolt port which I use to connect to the Promise Pegasus R6 for 10 TB of usable RAID storage, plus two TB of redundant storage. There’s a port for connecting a CD Rom drive (extra) and two USB ports. There’s a headphone jack and one feature I just love – a fast built-in SD card reader. While I have never been a huge fan of SD cards it’s clear that the manufactures are. More and more of the cameras I use support SD so this is a very convenient feature. Believe it or not, no matter how many card readers I buy (and it seems like I’ve bought dozens) I can never find one when I need one so thanks Apple for saving my bacon with the SD reader.

The ergonomics are better than ever. The screen is bright and easy to read and the backlit keyboard was very important to me since I often write at night. The computer doesn’t get hot on my lap. The touchpad works very well.

For me, the biggest improvement in the new MacBook Air is speed. In everyday use, the 13-inch Air feels incredibly snappy, thanks in large part to the way Apple integrates flash memory into the design. The Air boots almost instantly. Just as impressive, the Air’s flash memory achieved a crazy-fast file transfer rate of 127 MBps!

And the final speed test? Running Aperture. I used to lament the fact that Aperture wouldn’t run on my original Air. Okay it would RUN but not in an acceptable way. It was dog slow and utterly unusable. On this new i7 Air Aperture glides along making the new 13″ MacBook Air perfect for travel.

The battery will last a good six hours or more if you baby it but I love to run full on so I get about half that. It’s comparable with other laptops I’ve used.

The 13″ MacBook Air as I’ve configured it is indeed spendy. I paid just north of $2000 plus tax. But I priced a comparable laptop from Samsung running Windows and the price ended up being nearly identical, with the Samsung being about $50 more expensive.

If you want an ultra-light, small laptop for photography and can afford it, the 13″ MacBook Air is worth a look. It’s fast, well-designed, has decent battery life, a nice display, great connectivity and easy to carry.

Highly recommended.

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