Product Notes: Apple MacBook Air
July 29, 2011
On July 20, 2011, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Air notebook. Specific changes include the addition of Thunderbolt I/O, Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and the return of a backlit keyboard. This is the first update to the MacBook Air since the full case redesign in October 2010.
Integrated WWAN capability is not included or optional in any new MacBook Air. Like every MacBook Air before them, the new models do not include an optical drive, an Ethernet port, or FireWire. Also, there is no matte screen option, which matters to some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons.
Design and Changes
The MacBook Air is now slightly heavier than before - the 13-inch version weighs 3.0 pounds while the 11.6-inch version weighs 2.4 pounds.
These systems are the first Apple notebooks to ship with Mac OS 10.7 installed and required. Unlike the previous generation of Air, these systems do not ship with a Software Reinstall Drive (USB flash drive) - there is only a recovery partition on the internal drive.
Base RAM on the MacBook Air 11.6-inch remains 2.0 GB, so the lower-end MacBook Air 11.6-inch configuration needs to be upgraded at time of purchase to meet the RAM specifications for a Lightweight Notebook in the Notebook Purchasing Guide. The upper-tier 11.6-inch and all 13-inch MacBook Airs now ship with at least 4.0 GB of RAM.
Displays are unchanged. The MacBook Air 13-inch includes a 1440 x 900 display with a 16:10 aspect ratio - higher pixel density than the 1280 x 800 display available on the current MacBook and MacBook Pro 13-inch models. The MacBook Air 11.6-inch includes a 1366 x 768 display with a 16:9 aspect ratio - a common netbook resolution and a concession to the realities of lower cost LCD screen production.
All MacBook Air models have received an EPEAT Gold rating and are Energy Star 5.0-certified.
Configuration and Ordering Notes
Several notes when ordering a MacBook Air:
See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of July 2011, configuring a MacBook Air 11.6-inch to the Value Notebook specification can be done for approximately $1,200. A MacBook Air 13-inch can be built to the Lightweight Notebook specification for approximately $1,500. The University's Computer Connection has new MacBook Air configurations available for order.
ISC sees the updated MacBook Air product line as being a highly competitive choice among lightweight and value notebooks available in mid 2011. They remain Apple's lightest weight notebooks and are now up to date with their internal hardware.
ISC will follow up with a full review of these products as soon as testing has been completed.
MacBook Air graphic courtesy of Apple
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (July 29, 2011)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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