Redesigned Macbook Air unveiled

Macbook Air


Macbook Air got a complete overhaul today; gone are the slow storage options, the single screen size and the flip out door for ports, in their place we have 2 new models with updated specs and lower prices.

Before we get to the specs though, Jobs made an interesting statement during the presentation, he called the new Air “the future of notebooks”. We could write that off as marketing speak, however an even stronger statement is now prominently displayed on the Macbook Air product page, which you can see below:

Next Generation of Macbooks

Next Generation of Macbooks

The Next Generation of Macbooks. It’s hard to take that any other way so we’ll just say it, Apple plans to replace the white macbook line with these new Air devices at some point in the near future. The Pro will certainly continue to exist, but it’s clear that Apple thinks these Air models are the way forward for their consumer notebook line.

The new Air is still available with a 13.3″ screen size, however it now has what Jobs called a “little brother”, the rumored 11.6″ model that comes very close in size to netbook land. Apple may not know how to make a small $500 laptop that doesn’t suck, but they seem to be quite willing to make one for $999, whether it meets the expectations of buyers remains to be seen.

The new Air models both feature Core 2 Duo processors, starting at 1.4Ghz for the 11.6″ model with 1.6Ghz optional, and 1.86Ghz or 2.13Ghz for the 13.3″ model. Both models start off with 2GB of ram standard, with 4GB optional. We can’t confirm this yet, but it appears that the ram is also built into the machine and is not user replaceable.

Whether you get an 11.6″ model or the 13.3″, you get the same graphics chip: an Nvidia 320M. This is no doubt why Apple chose to keep using the Core 2 Duo processors instead of newer Core i3 or i5 chips; Apple has made a big deal out of the fact that processor speed isn’t everything, users want capable graphics performance as well and the integrated graphics options included with Intel’s newest CPU lineup just aren’t enough.

The 13.3″ screen is 1440×900 native resolution, while the 11.6″ screen is 1366×768 native resolution. Both are LED backlit.

Both Air models will use a Unibody aluminum construction much like the Macbook Pro, however the 13.3″ model has an SD card slot while the 11.6″ model does not. Both have 2 USB ports, a Mini Displayport connector, a headphone jack and a microphone, along with a camera for Facetime.

Both Air models also include an internal lithium-polymer battery, the 11.6″ model claims 5 hours of real world use and the 13.3″ model claims 7 hours.

Neither model is available with a spinning hard drive, in fact there isn’t even a drive bay for one because all Macbook Air models now use integrated flash chips built into the mainboard along with an unknown SSD controller.

Both models also feature a full size keyboard, with the 11.6″ keyboard extending all the way to the edges of the body much like common netbooks.

Neither model has a CD drive, however you can still use the software based DVD drive sharing or the external USB superdrive (Which is not included) if you need access to optical discs. However in an interesting twist, Apple is now including a small USB flash drive that contains a copy of the Mac OS X installer. You can see what it looks like in the screenshot below:

What's in the box

What's in the box

That “Software reinstall drive” is very obviously a flat USB flash drive preloaded with the Mac OS X install disc. Previously you would have had to use another machine with DVD sharing to boot the installer if you wanted to reinstall Mac OS X.

And lastly, the prices. Apple says they want to price these machines aggressively, so the base 11.6″ model is $999 and includes 64GB of flash storage space and 2GB of ram, with optional features such as a faster processor or larger flash storage drive, or an upgrade to 4GB of ram. The top end 13.3″ Air with a 2.13Ghz processor, 4GB of ram and all the bells and whistles will cost you $1,799.

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