Same small size, same small price, same SSD options, but a whole new CPU – and lightning-fast Thunderbolt to round things out. That pretty much summarizes the July 2011 update to the MacBook Air.
At its heart is a 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU, with a 1.8 GHz i7 version for those who need more power. Apple claims the new CPUs “do everything twice as fast” – we’ll know more when we see benchmarks for the upgraded models. That means also integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, so say good-bye to the Nvidia GPU used in last year’s version.
A backlit keyboard is back, making it much easier to use the MacBook Air in poor lighting. Solid-state drives (SSD) are standard across the board – and they’re built right onto the motherboard. Apple claims this makes its SSDs twice as fast as conventional ones. Battery life is rated at “up to” 5 hours.
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Two USB 2.0 ports (one on each side) remain standard, and the native screen resolution of 1366 x 768 is also the same as last year.
You can expand RAM from the stock 2 GB, with 4 GB as the 11.6″ MBA’s maximum (a $100 build-to-order option), and for the first time you can have Apple install a 256 GB SSD in the entry-level model.
For those who need or want a faster CPU, a 1.8 GHz i7 is a build-to-order option for the 128 GB SSD model.
The MBA has no built-in optical drive, but you can add an external USB 2.0 SuperDrive for US$79. Rather than include an install disc or flash drive, OS X 10.7 Lion includes a recovery partition.
A few things are missing. There is no FireWire port. There’s no built-in ethernet port; if you need ethernet, Apple sells a USB 2.0 ethernet adapter for $29.
The MacBook Air is available only with an 18-bit glossy display (not the 24 bits you might expect). Like the iPod and iPhone, it does not have an easily replaceable battery. Cost to have Apple replace the 37 Watt-hour battery out of warranty is $129.
Closed Lid Mode: All Intel ‘Books support “lid closed” (or clamshell) mode, which leaves the built-in display off and dedicates all video RAM to an external display. To used closed lid mode, your ‘Book must be plugged into the AC adapter and connected to an external display and a USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard (you might also want to consider external speakers). Power up your ‘Book until the desktop appears on the external display and then close the lid. Your ‘Book will go to sleep, but you can wake it by moving the mouse or using the keyboard. The built-in display will remain off, and the external monitor will become your only display. Since all video RAM is now dedicated to the external monitor, you may have more colors available at higher resolutions. The MacBook Air is designed to run safely in closed lid mode, but if yours runs hot (perhaps due to overclocking or high ambient temperatures), you may want to open the lid when in closed lid mode: The screen will remain off and the computer will more readily vent heat from the CPU.
To resume use of the internal display, you need to disconnect the external display, put the computer to sleep, and then open the lid. This will wake up your ‘Book and restore use of the built-in display.
- introduced 2011.07.20 at US$999 (2 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD) and US$1,199 (4 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD), 1.8 GHz i7 build-to-order option for 128 GB model; replaced by faster model 2012.06.11.
- Part no.:
- requires OS X 10.7 Lion or later
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility
- AirPlay Mirroring is supported.
- AirDrop is supported.
- Power Nap is supported.
- CPU: 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 1.8 GHz i7 option
- Level 2 cache: 3 MB in i5, 4 MB in i7
- Bus: 1066 MHz
- RAM: 2 GB, expandable to 4 GB
- Performance (1.6/1.8 GHz)
- 64-bit Geekbench: 4587/5699
- Speedmark 7: 152/
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000, supports extended desktop.
- VRAM: uses 256 MB or 384 MB of system memory
- Video out: Thunderbolt (to 2560 x 1600 resolution)
- display: 11.6″ glossy 1366 x 768 135 ppi color active matrix
- supports 1366 x 768, 1344 x 756, 1280 x 720, and 1024 x 576 pixels at 16:9 aspect ratio; 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 720 x 480 at 3:2 aspect ratio
- allows mirroring to external display and extended desktop mode
- Hard drive: 64 GB solid state drive standard, 128 GB and 256 GB optional
- SSD: uses same SSD modules as 2010 MacBook Air
- SuperDrive: optional external USB 2.0 drive, requires high power USB port (only compatible with MacBook Air)
- Thunderbolt: 1 port
- USB: 2 USB 2.0 ports
- FireWire: none
- Ethernet: optional USB-to-ethernet adapter
- WiFi: 802.11n AirPort Extreme built in
- Modem: No longer offered by Apple
- Bluetooth: BT 4.0 built in
- ExpressCard/34 slots: none
- SD Card slot: none
- expansions bays: none
- IR port: none
- battery: 35 Watt-hour, 5 hours of wireless productivity
- AC adapter: 45W MagSafe
- size: 7.56 x 11.8 x 0.11-0.68″ (192 x 300 x 3.0-17 mm)
- Weight: 2.38 pounds (1.08 kg)
- Low End Mac’s best MacBook Air deals.
- Best Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Snow Leopard.
- Best Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Leopard.
- The 2011 MacBook Air Value Equation, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2010.10.26. The i5 CPU doubles processing power, Thunderbolt provides more expansion options than ever, and the backlit keyboard is back.
- Extended coverage for MacBook Air hinge, Mac Portable Retrospective, iBook as netbook, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.09.25. Also building a Pismo from 3 dead ones, upgrading RAM, buyers interested in Apple tablet, first USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,294, and more.
- Protect your notebook against loss, theft, data loss, and security breaches, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.08.25. 10 percent of laptops are lost or stolen every year. Tips on preventing theft, securing your data, and recovering from a lost, stolen, or broken notebook.
- The 64-bitness of Mac OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Although Apple is promoting ‘Snow Leopard’ as a fully 64-bit operating system, it defaults to running in 32-bit mode.
- The Road Ahead: 64-bit Computing, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Personal computers started with 8-bit CPUs, Macs started out with a 24-bit operating system, and 32-bit computing is starting to give way to 64 bits.
- OS X 10.6 requirements, why Apple owns the high end, when to upgrade your Mac, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.08.14. Also Microsoft Word patent infringement, BackPack shelf for iMac and Cinema Displays, two updated Bible study programs, and more.
- OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for $29, run Windows on your Mac for Free, Update Breaks Office 2008, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.08.07. Also getting your Mac ready for Snow Leopard, Time Capsule doubles capacity, Picasa 3 for Mac, Bodega Mac app store, and more.
- Optical drives on way out, MacBooks can’t display millions of colors, MacBook Air doomed, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.07.17. Also problems with 7200 rpm drives, more iTablet speculation, the subsidized netbook rip-off, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,144, and more.
- MacBooks propel Mac growth, MacBook Pro shortage due to 250 GB drive, $5,000 Stealth MBP, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.07.10. Also MacBook Air cooler with Nvidia graphics, notebook battery warning, 5 hour external battery for MacBooks, USB 2.0 to ExpressCard adapter, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,100, and more.
- Optimized Software Builds Bring Out the Best in Your Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac’s Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.30. Applications compiled for your Mac’s CPU can load more quickly and run faster than ones compiled for universal use.
- Avoiding dead and stuck pixels on your LCD screen, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.06.22. While CRT monitors would sometimes develop burn-in, LCD monitors may ship with or develop bad pixels.
- Snow Leopard Up-to-Date, 13 Mac browsers, run Windows 7 on your Intel Mac for free, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.06.19. Also Mac sales steady in May, Apple vs. low-bandwidth users, Opera Unite turns browser into a personal server, and more.
- Fresh Air: Why a MacBook Air is my newest notebook, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2009.06.16. In the end, the light weight and close-out pricing made the MacBook Air the right complement to my ThinkPad T400.
- Low End Mac’s Safe Sleep FAQ, Dan Knight, Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.15. What is Safe Sleep mode? Which Macs support it? How can you enable or disable it? And more.
- The Safe Sleep Mailbag, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2009.06.15. Safe Sleep mode is enabled by default on modern MacBooks. How it works, and how to change how it works.
- MacBook White updated, DIY Mac tablet, danger of ‘Safe Sleep’, $350 80 GB SSD kit, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.05.29. Also Apple tablet ‘confirmed’, 3G and lower cost MacBook Air models rumored, 500 GB bus powered hard drive, Mini DisplayPort adapters, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,299, and more.
- Hackintosh Dell Mini worth it?, smallest external notebook drive, troubleshooting your ‘Book, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.05.26. Also Apple’s ‘student rugged’ netbook from 1997, reviving a ‘Book that won’t power up, some trackpad options missing on 10.5.7, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,290, and more.
- Mac ‘Book Power Management Adventures, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.05.19. If your ‘Book won’t power up, shuts down while your working, or has other power issues, resetting its internal power manager may clear things up.
- New education iMac, first third-party Mini DisplayPort monitors, 8x Blu-ray for Mac, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.04.17. Also giving the iMac a matte display, when to reset PRAM, dissecting an eMac, cloud computing for the Mac, and more.
- Nvidia replacing faulty graphic chips, Mac netbook speculation, OS X on a netbook, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.03.20. Also MacBook mod puts screen behind Apple logo, $150 green battery, external battery for MacBook Air, new notebook stands, bargain ‘Books from $170 to $2,999, and more.
- Making the switch from a G4 PowerBook to a Unibody MacBook, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.03.17. The transition to an Intel-based Mac hasn’t been without its problems – slow dialup performance, incompatibility with Eudora, and no real gain in speed with standby apps.
- Apple won’t ever make a Mac netbook, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.23. Netbooks are small, cheap, and underpowered. Apple should offer a subnotebook, but not something underpowered or cheap.
- Unibody MacBook vs. 12″ PowerBook, 17″ MacBook Pro disassembled, living with MacBook Air, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.02.20. Also replacing hard drive much simpler in new MacBook Pro, netbooks now 20% of notebook market, notebook dock with video, bargain ‘Books from $499 to $1,899, and more.
- No high definition iTunes video for you, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.11.19. The October 2008 MacBooks are preventing users from viewing some high-def iTunes content from being viewed on their external displays. Poor form!
- 2 compact portable USB 2.0 hubs, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.01.12. Compact hubs from Targus and Proporta make a great complement to your notebook computer. Each accepts a third-party AC adapter to provide bus power.
- MacBook keyboard among best ever, glass trackpad less than intuitive, TiBook desktop mod, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.01.09. Also $179 to change battery in 17in MacBook Pro, argument for an Apple netbook, MacBook Air SuperDrive hacked for any Mac, bargain ‘Books from $170 to $2,299, and more.
- How netbooks impact Microsoft and Apple, Tim Nash, Taking Back the Market, 2009.01.07. Netbooks are keeping Windows XP alive, which may slow adoption of Windows 7, and perceived value keeps the Mac market share growing at the expense of Windows.
- No, an overgrown iPod touch is not a netbook, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.01.06. BlackBerry pretends its Storm is a netbook, but a netbook needs to be big enough for a typable keyboard.
- Apple’s half-baked support for DisplayPort, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2009.01.06. The DisplayPort specification supports audio, so why does Apple use USB to route sound to the LED Cinema Display?
- OS X on netbook guide, fast Intel X25-M SSD benchmarked, Woz joins Axiotron board, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.12.24. Also multi-touch trackpad update for Boot Camp, Nvidia’s ‘Intel-thrashing’ netbook GPU, Toshiba launches first 512 GB SSD, bargain ‘Books from $170 to $2,299, and more.
- Ubuntu Linux and Boot camp make it easy to create a triple boot Mac, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.12.24. Boot Camp makes it easy to install Windows on Intel Macs, and Ubuntu now makes it easy to install Linux to a virtual Windows drive.
- Why DisplayPort is the video connector for the future, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.12.23. DisplayPort supports multiple displays, combines audio and video on one cable, and costs nothing to use.
- New MacBook trackpad takes some getting used to, Alan Zisman, Zis Mac, 2008.12.22. The large glass trackpad is a joy to use in many ways, but it can be frustrating for longtime notebook users and has issues with Boot Camp.
- 4 GB RAM problem persists after firmware update, TriBook concept MacBook, DIY Mac netbook, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.12.19. Also using third-party monitors with ‘Late 2008’ MacBooks, MacMagSaver protects MagSafe cord, $25 802.11g USB adapter, bargain ‘Books from $500 to $2,299, and more.
- The ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ Guide to Installing Mac OS X Updates, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.12.16. Most users encounter no problems using Software Update, but some preflight work and using the Combo updater means far less chance of trouble.
- MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air teething problems and firmware updates, The ‘Book Review, 2008.12.16. Also Apple notebooks strong in weak market, CoolBook controls CPU frequency and voltage for cooler running, Logitech’s new Comfort lapdesk, bargain ‘Books from $500 to $2,299, and more.
- Unibody MacBook video problems, DisplayPort DRM loosened a bit, Mac netbook discussion, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.12.05. Also free licensing for Mini DisplayPort, the sexy clamshell iBook, Apple’s liquid cooled notebook plans, Sonnet FW 400/800 adapter, bargain ‘Books from $500 to $2,299, and more.
- MacBook slowdown without battery, DisplayPort and DRM, 256 GB SSD, MagSafe solutions, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.11.26. Also Mac netbook prospects, laptop cooling table with 2 fans, solar notebook bag, hard shell cases for unibody ‘Books, bargain ‘Books from $500 to $2,299, and more.
- Software to keep your MacBook cool, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.11.25. Heat is the enemy of long hardware life. Two programs to keep your MacBook running cooler.
- Netbooks tempting, cry out for Mac OS X, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.11.24. Netbooks are light, cheap, compact, and underpowered. One with OS X and a real Core 2 Duo processor would fly.
- DisplayPort copy protection, trackpad update, netbooks not to be taken lightly, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.11.21. Also Apple set for record sales, 4-finger gestures on original MacBook Air, MacBook Apple’s best consumer notebook to date, Cricket laptop stand, bargain ‘Books from $490 to $2,299, and more.
- Virtualization shootout: VMWare Fusion 2 vs. Parallels Desktop 4, Kev Kitchens, Kitchens Sync, 2008.11.20. Both programs do the same thing, but one runs Windows XP smoothly alongside Mac apps, while the other bogs down everything but Windows.
- Just right: Papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear MacBooks, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.11.20. Some people like small and light notebooks, others prefer huge desktop replacements, but the best value tends to be in the middle.
- OS X netbook not from Apple, one-third of notebook buyers leaning to Apple, Spaces made for ‘Books, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.11.14. Also Apple’s ‘special deals’ site, good-bye to a faithful TiBook, bent Unibody MacBook Pro, 10 hour battery for MacBook Pro, 6 GB RAM solutions and benchmarks, bargain ‘Books from $480 to $2,399, and more.
- Kensington Ci95m Wireless Mouse: Great battery life, smooth performance, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.11.13. Kensington’s slim wireless mouse is well built, works smoothly, has great battery life, and avoids Bluetooth pairing and wake-up issues.
- Targus USB 2.0 High-Speed File Transfer Cable helps offset loss of FireWire, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.11.10. Although it can’t replace Target Disk Mode, Targus’ $40 cable makes it easy to transfer files quickly between two Macs, two PCs, or one of each.
- A brief history of portable computing: From Dynabook to netbooks, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.11.06. 40 years ago Alan Kay dreamt of a two pound handheld computer. Portables have made a lot of changes since 1981, but haven’t yet matched the Dynabook.
- Debunking the Apple Tax, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.10.31. “…no one else is offering the quality of computer construction that Apple offers in the same price range.”
- One OS to rule them all, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.10.29. With Fusion or Parallels letting you run Windows at full speed, Mac OS X gives you the best of both worlds.
- Apple’s new production technology: Is it worth it?, Tim Nash, Taking Back the Market, 2008.10.27. Carving MacBook bodies from a block of aluminum simplifies production, increases assembly automation, and gives Apple a leg up on the competition.
- How to clone Mac OS X to a new hard drive, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.10.07. Whether you want to put a bigger, faster drive in your Mac or clone OS X for use in another Mac, here’s the simple process.
- MacBook Air makes a convert, Alan Zisman, Zis Mac, 2008.09.24. Apple’s thin, light MacBook Air makes a great field computer for someone who already has a desktop system up and running.
- Tomorrow’s solid state drives and notebooks, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.09.04. Flash drives are great but have some shortcomings. Some thoughts on building better SSDs and notebooks to use them.
- Does running OS X system maintenance routines really do any good?, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.08.26. Mac OS X is designed to run certain maintenance routines daily, weekly, and monthly – but can’t if your Mac is off or asleep.
- Tricking out your notebook for superior desktop duty, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.07.29. For desktop use, you don’t need to be limited by the built-in trackpad, keyboard, and display or a notebook’s compromised ergonomics.
- Kensington Portable Power Outlet a great accessory for the road warrior, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.07.22. With three AC outlets and two USB charging ports, this compact device is a great way to have extra power outlets when you’re on the go.
- Free VirtualBox for Mac now a virtual contender, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.07.21. A year ago, the Mac version of VirtualBox lacked some essential features. Over the past year, it’s grown into a very useful tool.
- Time Machine can now backup to a shared hard drive, Alan Zisman, Zis Mac, 2008.07.08. Earlier versions of Leopard didn’t seem to allow backup to a shared drive on another Mac, but the 10.5.4 update allows it.
- Win the depreciation game by buying on the low end, Charles W Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.06.24. The worst depreciation afflicts high-end models. By buying a less powerful version, choosing certified refurbished, or picking up a used computer, you’ll come out ahead.
- 16:9 computer displays: Let’s not go there, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.06.17. “…there’s no reason our computer displays should match the proportions of our television displays.”
- 5400 rpm 1.8″ drive, Apple grows notebook share by 61%, MacBook Air attracts, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.06.13. Also poor WiFi in MacBook Pro linked to Real Player, how to dim the Penryn MacBook Pro’s sleep light, low-end notebook sales taking off, 2-finger scrolling for older ‘Books, bargain ‘Books from $150 to $2,749, and more.
- SheepShaver brings Classic Mac OS to Intel Macs and Leopard, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.05.20. Mac OS X 10.5 doesn’t support Classic Mode. Neither does Leopard. But SheepShaver lets you emulate a PowerPC Mac and run the Classic Mac OS.
- Windows on Macs: Three paths for integration, Jason Packer, Macs in the Enterprise, 2008.05.14. Mac users have three routes for running Windows apps: Run Windows using Boot Camp or virtualization, or use a compatibility layer such as WINE.
- MacBook sales explode, MacBook Air reviews, several new hard drives, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.05.09. Also silver-zinc batteries may outlast lithium-ion, Bell Aliant bundling MacBook with Internet access, notebook drives benchmarked, bargain ‘Books from $150 to $2,699, and more.
- 18-bit video inadequate, restoring AppleWorks speed, Macintosh display info, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.04.09. Also problems importing AppleWorks drawings and a damaged, unfixable mail database in Outlook Express 5.
- Millions vs. thousands of colors: What’s the difference?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.04.07. Once again Apple is being sued over a Mac that can display ‘only’ 262,144 colors per pixel, not the millions it claims. Does it realy matter?
- Apple design in the MacBook Air era, John Muir, My Turn, 2008.02.25. The MacBook Air represents Apple’s first fully new Macintosh design since the Mac mini was introduced, and it’s destined to shape the look of Macs to come.
- MacBook Air a compelling option for the true road warrior, Steve Watkins, The Practical Mac, 2008.02.22. Although it’s not intended as a desktop replacement and has a few shortcomings, the lightweight MacBook Air with its 13″ display could be the perfect field computer.
- Could a wireless dock be in the MacBook Air’s future?, John Hatchett, My Turn, 2008.02.11. The MacBook Air is too limited in terms of connectivity, but what if Apple thought outside the box and created a MacBook Dock that connected by WiFi?
- Solid state drive vs. hard drive in MacBook Air, Mac drivers for Atheros WiFi cards, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.02.08. Also MacBook Air reviewed, Intel offers new CPU to all, MacBook Pro update imminent, MBA teardown, 8x SuperDrive for MacBooks, bargain ‘Books from $180 to $2,599, and more.
- Is the MacBook Air this road warrior’s dream machine?, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2008.01.24. A longtime ultraportable user and 12″ PowerBook G4 fan looks at the compromises in Apple’s lightweight notebook. Will it become his next ultraportable?
- The MacBook Air makes a statement, Frank Fox, My Turn, 2008.01.23. Apple’s MacBook Air isn’t designed to be all things to all users. It’s designed to tell the world “this is all I need when away from my desk.”
- MacBook Air: What do you do when there’s no WiFi?, John Hatchett, My Turn, 2008.01.22. Every modern PowerBook had ethernet and a modem, but how do you connect the MacBook Air when there’s no WiFi service?
- We need more than 2 USB ports in MacBooks, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.01.14. There’s something wrong when you can’t plug a flash drive, mouse, and printer into a notebook computer at the same time.
- Macintel stumbling block: Sometimes you need Classic, Jeff Adkins, Mac Lab Report, 2006.01.25. As nice as the new Intel Macs seem to be, the lack of any Classic environment makes it impossible for some people to upgrade.
- MacBook Air (11-inch and 13-inch, Mid 2011) – Technical Specifications, Apple