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Thinner Lighter Better

Macbook Air 2011 version- same great design, awesome hardware revamp

By Mark , updated on March 29, 2012

Well, it’s finally here, folks. Apple listed their new Air notebook for sale, starting at $999, and it promises to be a fantastic new entry in the series.

The new Air comes in both 11 and 13 inch variants, just like its predecessor, but it promises some changes when it comes to the internals. The outside remains kind of the same. Both versions are 0.68 inches thick, which is almost the same as the previous generation (0.7), while fitting very comfortably in the ultrabook rulebook (a maximum of 0.8 inches).

The 11.6 inch version has an LED backlit screen with a glossy finish with a native resolution of 1366 x 768, while the larger version has a native resolution of 1440 x 900- of course, there are lots of intermediary resolutions, depending on the aspect ratio you’re going for.

The keyboard and track pad are similar to the ones on the previous generation, but this time the keyboard is backlit, so you can use the computer in any type of lighting conditions. And you don’t even have to turn it on or off by yourself, as an ambient light sensor will detect visibility conditions and will automatically activate the  feature when you need it.

The touch pad comes with enhanced multi touch gestures, which allow you to scroll pages or go through menus in a very intuitive way, kind of similar to the touch experience you get on tablets. Apple decided to go all Flash on this new series, as storage options only include SSD.

The base model comes with 64 GB of storage, while the maximum amount goes up to 128 GB. Is not much, especially if you want to use this laptop as your primary machine. You can add to that via an SD card, but only on the 13.3 inch model; for the smaller one, you’ll just have to settle for a maximum of 128 GB.

The new MBA is even thinner than its predecessor, but packs much more punch

The new MBA is even thinner than its predecessor, but packs much more punch

But the best things are yet to come. Apple ditched the Core2Duo chips for Sandy Bridge processors, namely Core i5 and i7. Sure, these are still ULV processors, but they offer twice the speed and power you got from Core2Duo. The base model comes, in both cases, with a 1.6 GHZ Core i5 processor, but for a couple of extra hundred bucks, you can upgrade to a 1.8 GHZ Core i7 and extra RAM.

This upgrade, basically the most significant one in the new series, brings much smoother computing and support for multitasking, making the Air more prone for professionals as well. The 11.6 inch version comes with 2 GB of DDR3 RAM memory, but the more expensive, $1199 version comes with 4 GB. The 13.3 inch version comes directly with 4 GB and it seems you can’t add to that.

Graphics wise, you’ll have to settle for Intel HD 3000, which is an onboard graphics solution. This means that HD clips and movies will run smoothly and all those fancy iOS apps will look great, but gaming is out of the question. But hey, who buys one of these for games? The new MBA features Apple’s Thunderbolt port, which replaces traditional ports like USB and HDMI, allowing for transfer speeds 10 times faster- the downside is that you can only connect it to another Apple computer. But if you’re into Apple’s ecosystem, then this will work as a charm for you.

Using Flash storage allowed Apple to put in a larger battery and thus offer more autonomy. The 11.6 inch version can go on a single charge for more than 5 hours, while the 13.3 inch version has an autonomy of up to 7 hours. In both cases, the mini laptop can go, in sleep mode, for about a month. The OS on board is OS X, which comes with plenty of pre loaded apps, like iPhoto, iMovies, Garage Band and Face time, the later to be used in conjunction with the built in HD camera.

The keyboard is now backlit and the touch pad supports a wide range of multi touch gestures

The keyboard is now backlit and the touch pad supports a wide range of multi touch gestures

Overall, the upgrade that MBAs received is important, but not stellar, considering that is only normal for a $1000 and more mini laptop to pack Sandy Bridge processors. Also, SSD is a nice and efficient touch, but might affect those that like having plenty of data with them at once.

And with a minimum price of $1000 and a maximum of 1600 bucks, the new MacBook Air keeps the same price policy as before, being (again) one of the top solutions for ultra thin mini laptops.

Mark is an Editor here at tlbhd.com . He's studying Screenwriting and Production in "sunny" London and in his spare time, he works as an IT editor for a couple of mobile publications, like this one.

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