Apple Launches Two Crazily Skinny MacBook Airs

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.

  • jskilnyk
    Is there a point were thin is too thin? I mean it feels like I would break it too easy.
  • Pyroflea
    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.
  • Why didnt they just get AMD to hook them up with Fusion?
  • burnley14
    I'd probably not buy it regardless, but having an i3/i5 with Optimus would make these way more appealing.
  • lauxenburg
    Nice 2 USB ports and a mini display. Very convenient.
  • tramit
    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.
  • mister g
    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).
  • exodite
    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.
  • SneakySnake
    It's not a netbook. It's got core2duo, the 320m (an exceptional IGPU), and up to 4 GBs of DDR3
  • exodite
    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.