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Apple Launches Two Crazily Skinny MacBook Airs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 85 comments

Steve Jobs today showed off "what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up."

Apple CEO Steve Jobs talked about a lot of cool stuff today. The company has breathed new life into iLife, brought FaceTime to the Mac and launched an App Store for Macs. However, there was just 'one more thing,' and it was the thing everyone was waiting for. Apple today uncovered two brand new, super-skinny MacBook Airs.

Available today in 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch variations, Apple is describing these MacBook Airs as a mash-up between the MacBook and the iPad. Jobs said they wanted to take the battery life, instant on, and portability of the iPad and bring that to the MacBook Air. The result is a laptop that measures 0.68 inches at its thickest point and then tapers down to 0.11 inches at the front. It packs a 13.3-inch LED backlit display (1440x900 resolution), Core 2 Duo CPU, GeForce 320M graphics, a full sized keyboard, up to 256GB of SSD storage, 2GB of RAM and a multitouch glass trackpad. There's no optical drive and no HDD. The specs for the 11.6-inch version of much the same, except the storage limit is half the size: users have a choice of either 64GB or 128GB. The Battery for the 13.3-inch is 7 hours, while the smaller 11.6-inch model is 5 hours. Both have a standby period of 30 hours.

Probably the biggest disappointment is the omission of Intel's Core i-series processors. While it seems completely short-sighted to have not included them, there's a few likely reasons for their absence. First is heat, and second is battery life. Another reason could have been space. Apple simply may not have had room for the Intel chipset as well as the Nvidia GPU. By opting for Core 2 Duo, Apple can make better use of space because they can fit in a chipset with an integrated GPU, something that is currently not available for the Core i-series due to licensing issues between Intel and Nvidia. This was the reason Steve Jobs gave for the 13-inch MacBook Pro's lower power processor, and while it's a hard excuse to swallow in that instance, the amount of batteries in the MacBook Air would make for a very plausible excuse.

Pricing for the device is surprisingly low. It starts at $999 for the 64GB 11.6-inch model and goes up to $1599 for the 256GB 13.3-inch model. One wonders if Apple is worried that the low price of the base model will impact sales of the $999 white MacBook. Still, those are the new MacBook Airs. As we mentioned earlier, this are already available. If you want to read more about OS X Lion, iLife and FaceTime for Mac, check out our handy-dandy live blog here.

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  • 31 Hide
    Pyroflea , October 20, 2010 9:34 PM
    Lol, I thought Apple wasn't interested in netbooks. Sure you could argue this is a laptop, but it's a < 12" laptop with no DVD drive and next to no expansion ports. I'd call it a netbook personally, regardless of the hardware it's packing.
  • 22 Hide
    stm1185 , October 20, 2010 9:36 PM
    Why didnt they just get AMD to hook them up with Fusion?
  • 21 Hide
    jskilnyk , October 20, 2010 9:33 PM
    Is there a point were thin is too thin? I mean it feels like I would break it too easy.
Other Comments
  • 21 Hide
    jskilnyk , October 20, 2010 9:33 PM
    Is there a point were thin is too thin? I mean it feels like I would break it too easy.
  • 31 Hide
    Pyroflea , October 20, 2010 9:34 PM
    Lol, I thought Apple wasn't interested in netbooks. Sure you could argue this is a laptop, but it's a < 12" laptop with no DVD drive and next to no expansion ports. I'd call it a netbook personally, regardless of the hardware it's packing.
  • 22 Hide
    stm1185 , October 20, 2010 9:36 PM
    Why didnt they just get AMD to hook them up with Fusion?
  • 14 Hide
    burnley14 , October 20, 2010 9:36 PM
    I'd probably not buy it regardless, but having an i3/i5 with Optimus would make these way more appealing.
  • 1 Hide
    lauxenburg , October 20, 2010 9:37 PM
    Nice 2 USB ports and a mini display. Very convenient.
  • 3 Hide
    tramit , October 20, 2010 9:40 PM
    256gb ssd at 1599 is not too bad, like the illuminated keyboard on mac products and I like the sturdy feel of the aluminum chassis versus my current vaio z. Carbon fiber does not feel as sturdy compared to the unibody design at all. I similar equipped x201s can be had at 1499 with same screen res and everything except it comes with 4gb ram vs 2gb but hard drive wise 256ssd vs rotating drive is a good trade for me at least since I don't plan to VM or do any intensive tasks.
  • 0 Hide
    mister g , October 20, 2010 9:49 PM
    I wonder who's more to blame for the crappy CPU, Nvidia and Intel having a row over Nvidia making chipsets for the Core i series; or Apple wanting the Air to have the graphics muscle of a 320M(I doubt it).
  • 13 Hide
    exodite , October 20, 2010 9:49 PM
    It goes a long way towards being interesting but the main issues, for me, remain the same.

    Lack of useful ports such as HDMI, USB3 and Gb Ethernet. I can can forgive the lack of VGA on a MBA despite competing ultra-portables having it.

    C2D + 320M. I couldn't care less about the graphical capabilities of an ultra-portable, I'd gladly trade the 320M for an i3 or i5 ULV. A notebook being released only months before Sandy Bridge and Ontario/Zacate with this level of hardware is disappointing.

    No backlit keyboard. I realize it's due to wanting to make it even slimmer but frankly a backlit keyboard is one of the few really compelling arguments in favor of Mac notebooks.

    If there's any truth at all to the Apple/AMD rumors they should have waited for Ontario/Zacate. This enclosure with a Fusion chip, USB 3 and HDMI (both supported by the AMD chipset) as well as 4Gbyte of RAM standard would have been a killer ultra-portable.

    That's Apple's main weakness in my book, they always seem to have some fatal flaws attached to what's essentially pretty cool tech.

    I suppose that's why I've never been able to bring myself to buy any Apple product, despite looking long and hard at them every time I'm considering a purchase from one of the product segments in which they have a presence.
  • 5 Hide
    SneakySnake , October 20, 2010 9:54 PM
    It's not a netbook. It's got core2duo, the 320m (an exceptional IGPU), and up to 4 GBs of DDR3
  • 4 Hide
    exodite , October 20, 2010 9:55 PM
    tramit256gb ssd at 1599 is not too bad, like the illuminated keyboard...

    Only it's not an SSD, it's surface-mounted Flash chips, and it doesn't have an illuminated keyboard.

    I'll not pass judgement until I see actual numbers but considering it's 'Flash Storage' rather than 'SSD' it's likely there's no advanced controller chip responsible and thus RW speeds might be closer to that of an Flash Drive rather than an SSD.

    Without the USB 2 bottleneck mind you but still not up to par with an SSD.
  • 5 Hide
    digitalrazoe , October 20, 2010 9:55 PM
    Wait.. Didn't dell come out with a ridiculously thin note book with a stupidly high price already ?
  • 1 Hide
    CHRISTLUBAS , October 20, 2010 9:56 PM
    jskilnykIs there a point were thin is too thin? I mean it feels like I would break it too easy.

    It is too thin!
  • 1 Hide
    robochump , October 20, 2010 9:56 PM
    I do agree that CDs and DVDs are being replaced by thumb drives and streaming content so not a huge deal if an optical drive is not included. Would be surprised if a ext drive is not included though. The Air MacBook is study due to the materials used so dont worry about it being less fragile than a typical laptop. Gonna check one out =)
  • 0 Hide
    robochump , October 20, 2010 9:58 PM
    *sturdy not study...lol. Wish we could edit comments!
  • 6 Hide
    CHRISTLUBAS , October 20, 2010 9:58 PM
    I think the M11x from Alienware is a better buy.
  • 1 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , October 20, 2010 9:59 PM
    The $999 mac book air seems to be a nice choice for college students who is only focus is word process and web surfing... But i don't know... I don't want other students to think i am "rich-kid who doesn't know anything about computers who may have well spent his money on a cheaper windows." Then again i like clean, sturdy laptops, and apple usually makes good laptops. Five years on my iBook G4 and still going strong to this date, compared to an HP laptop i had two years ago and died in 14 months, and my friend's Dell laptop that died in two weeks...
  • 5 Hide
    Khimera2000 , October 20, 2010 10:11 PM
    this makes me feel happyer for getting the M11x R2. fater CPU faster GPU, and 4.5 hours off cord... These macs still look like they provide too little on the preformance front.
  • 2 Hide
    Anomalyx , October 20, 2010 10:13 PM
    It's a netbook... right after they said netbooks are just a passing fad that would fall in favor of tablets.

    Yes, it's a netbook. It may be more powerful than an average netbook, but that's not what defines a netbook vs laptop. I can build a laptop with a bigger/better screen and more features than my desktop. I can even set it on my desk top, and it's still a laptop, not a desktop. No matter what processor or how much memory they put into a netbook, it's still a netbook. I'm sure they'll give it some other name, just to save face from their stupidity, but oh well.

    Personally I think that cramming all that power into something that small is simply not going to find a successful market... save for the Apple fanboys who don't really know much about computers, of course.
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