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Fresh New Air

June 19, 2012 - Dave Hecei
I really like the MacBook Air. There is just something about the size that makes it the perfect traveling computer. Last week, on June 11th, Apple introduced updated Air models. This was more a bump in speed, but it did add a few new features, along with faster graphics performance.

While the biggest news about this year’s WWDC keynote is the new Retina MacBook Pro, I think the Air is the computer for the rest of us. Starting at $999, the Air is the least expensive laptop that Apple makes. It’s still available with either an 11-inch or 13-inch widescreen display.

What makes the Air an Air is the form factor, one that the major PC makers are currently trying to duplicate. The Air is amazingly thin at only 0.68 inches. The tapered edges of the Air give it the appearance of being even thinner. The Air is also super lightweight at only 2.38 pounds for the 11-inch and 2.96 pounds for the 13-inch. Even at such a small size, the Air has a full sized backlit keyboard and a beautiful wide-screen display. The 11-inch shows 1366 by 768 pixels and the 13-inch shows 1440 by 900.

The biggest change in the new Air models is the Intel Core i5 CPU – the brains (the faster Intel Core i7 is available as a build-to-order option). The previous models used the Intel Sandy Bridge chipset. The latest from Intel is called Ivy Bridge. This new chipset not only brings some groundbreaking technologies (22nm die and 3-D transistors) it includes the faster Intel 4000 HD integrated graphics and USB 3.0.

Ports are sparse on the Air. On the left side there is a MagSafe 2 power plug, a USB 3.0/2.0 port, and a headphone jack. On the right is a Thunderbolt port (a combination high-speed port and mini DisplayPort), and another combo USB 3.0/2.0 port. On the 13-inch Air there is an extra addition, a SD card slot. While this may seem to be lacking in expansion options, using the Thunderbolt port can add most of the missing ports other full sized laptops have. This includes Ethernet, Firewire, e-sata, HDMI, mini Display Port, digital audio in/out, along with options not yet thought of. While Thunderbolt has not taken the world by storm, it is still in its early days and Thunderbolt will start ramping up thanks to Ivy Bridge.

The new Air comes with 4GB of RAM but can now be ordered with a maximum of 8GB. Just note that the Air is expandable later on. The RAM is soldered to the main board so if you need 8GB you must buy it with 8GB. This is just part of the price you have to pay to get super light and thin in a laptop computer.

Yes, the new Retina MacBook Pro is a beast and a work of art. It is also priced over $2000, and for a well equipped one almost $3000. The 11-inch MacBook Air starts at only $999, but I would double the storage and get the $1099 model. If you want a larger screen, the 13-inch starts at only $1199. This gets you a 1.8GHz Core i5 processor (with Turbo Boost to 2.8GHz), 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD storage. This is, in my opinion, the best deal on a new Mac today.


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