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Haswell That Ends Well

June 14, 2013 - Dave Hecei

macbook airThere are new Mac notebooks in the Apple store. The new updated MacBook Air is scheduled to arrive in Apple Retail stores and online Apple resellers today, though places like Best Buy don’t seem to have them just yet. The new Air has been updated with the latest Intel processors named Haswell.

The new MacBook Air looks identical to the previous generation. What has changed is all on the inside. The main difference is the new 4th generation Intel processor. The previous chipset was named Ivy Bridge. The new Intel chipset has improved speed, better integrated graphics, lower power consumption and more importantly, better power conservation built in.

The Air is Apple’s thinnest and lightest notebook. It is still available with an 11-inch or 13-inch LED backlit screen. Although heavily rumored, the new Airs do not have the high-resolution Retina display. With that said, the displays on both models are excellent. The 11-inch display has a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, while the 13.3-inch has a resolution of 1440 by 900.

Both sizes have a MagSafe power port, (2) USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, and headphone jack. The 13-inch adds an SD card slot (SD, SDHC, SDXC compatible). As with all the Airs, there is no built-in optical drive. This omission is what allows Apple to create such a thin ‘ultrabook’.

There are a few more upgrades in the new Air. The Air was one of the first Macs to use SSD for storage (Solid State Drive). This type of storage uses flash memory chips instead of a spinning hard drive. An SSD device can read and write data many times faster than most spinning drives and made the Air feel faster even though it has a slower processor compared to a MacBook Pro or even iMac.

The new Air uses a newer PCIe based SSD that almost doubles the speed of previous models. According to Apple’s website, the new SSD is up to 9 times faster than a standard spinning notebook drive and 45% faster than the previous Air.

Along with improved CPU performance, the new Haswell chips have a faster integrated GPU or Graphics Processing Unit. The GPU is what creates and displays graphics in a computer. The faster the GPU runs the faster the screen redraws and games play smoother. The previous Air had Intel HD 4000 graphics. The new Air has the Intel HD 5000 graphics chip. This GPU runs more efficiently and still is up to 40% faster then the previous Air.

Another speed boost inside the new Air is faster WiFi. This is Apple’s first Mac that supports the faster 802.11ac. Of course to get all this new speed you need a wireless access point to go along with it. Apple has also introduced a new Airport Extreme wireless router and Airport Extreme Time Capsule that uses the new 802.11ac WiFi. The Extreme is a wireless router with three additional Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port for either additional storage or connect to compatible USB printers, which can then be shared to any device on the network. Apple’s Time Capsule is an Airport Extreme with a built-in hard drive. This drive is used in conjunction with Time Machine – an automatic backup system built into OS X. Airport Time Capsule has all the feature of an Airport Extreme with either a 2TB or 3TB hard drive inside.

Probably the biggest news is the improved battery life in the new Airs. According to Apple, the 11-inch model now gets up to 9 hours and the 13-inch now gets up to 12 hours. When you close the lid on the Air it goes to sleep. According the Apple's website, after three hours the Air will then enter a standby mode. In this mode the Air is said to last up to 30 days. Another feature of any SSD-based MacBook is called Power Nap. If this is active, the MacBook will continue to receive new email and other notifications.

The new MacBook Air is available starting today. The 11.6-inch with the 4th gen 1.3GHz Intel i5, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD is $999. The 13.3-inch with the new 1.3GHz Intel i5, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD is $1099. The Airport Extreme is $199. The Airport Time Capsule is $299 for the TB model and $399 for the 3TB.


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