MacBook Index

MacBook Air

MacBook Air Index

Nickname: AirBook

Apple took a completely different approach to ultralight notebook computers with the MacBook Air (MBA), which was initially offered on Janury 2008. Where others used small screens, shrunken keyboards, and underpowered CPUs to create netbooks, Apple went very thin so the MacBook Air can be very light and still have a 13.3" display, a full-sized keyboard, and a Core 2 Duo CPU (the MBA uses a special version of the Core 2 CPU that's 60% smaller than usual) - along with up to 5 hours of battery life without turning off AirPort. There is no built-in optical drive.

The MacBook Air introduced a large multitouch trackpad, which lets MBA users do the same kind of things iPhone users can with multi-finger gestures.

The MacBook Air was Apple's first computer to support wireless NetBoot, and the Remote Disc software that ships with the MBA (on CD) can turn a Mac or Windows PC into a NetBoot server, allowing access to that computer's optical drive from the MBA even for reinstalling the operating system. (However, you have to use a USB optical drive to install Windows for use with Boot Camp or virtualization. You can buy an external USB 2.0 SuperDrive that is only compatible with the MacBook Air for US$99.)

The MacBook Air has the same footprint as the MacBook, but it's 2.2 lb. lighter and was the first Mac to use a unibody aluminum design.

A few things are missing. This was the first "pro" Mac since 1999 without a FireWire port, and you only get one USB port. There is no option to upgrade RAM from the 2 GB built into the computer because it's soldered to the logic board. MacBook Air logic boardThere's no built-in ethernet port; if you need ethernet, Apple sells a USB 2.0 ethenet adapter for $29. The Apple Remote is not included with the MBA; it sells for $19.

Like the MacBook Pro models, the MacBook Air has a backlit keyboard, and the original MBA uses the same Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor, which ties up 144 MB of system memory, as the consumer MacBook of the same era.

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 $130.

The original MacBook Air was available in two configurations, which could be further customized:

  1. 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 80 GB 4200 rpm hard drive, 2 GB RAM, built-in iSight, and a 1280 x 800 display for US$1,799.
  2. 1.8 GHz, 64 GB solid state drive, 2 GB RAM, US$3,098.

Second Revision, October 2008

The updated MacBook Air used the same Mini DisplayPort introduced with the 15" MacBook Pro. Drive options included a 120 GB hard drive and a 128 GB solid state drive (SSD).

Perhaps the biggest improvement was ditching integrated Intel GMA X3100 video for the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor, which is much more powerful and uses 256 MB of system memory.

There are lots of incremental improvements - a 6 MB level 2 cache (up from 4 MB), a 1066 MHz memory bus (up from 800 MHz), and a tiny bit more speed at the top end - 1.86 GHz instead of 1.80.

The MacBook Air supports wireless NetBoot, and the Remote Disc

Third Revision, June 2009

The June 2009 update gained faster CPUs (1.86 GHz and 2.13 GHz) and lower prices ($1,499 and $1,799). It used the same Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor. Except for those differences, it is essentially a faster version of the October 2009 MBA.

Fourth Revision, October 2010

The October 2010 redesign saw the introduction of an even smaller and lighter MacBook Air with an 11.6" display. Still based on Intel Core 2 Duo processors, the 2010 edition dispensed with hard drives to become an exclusively SSD machine.

Fifth Revision, July 2011

With the July 2011 update, Apple finally moved the MacBook Air to Intel Core i5 processors, which it claims doubles performance - and there's even a Core i7 option for power users.

Sixth Revision, June 2012

With the June 2012 update, Apple finally adopted USB 3, which is 10x as fast as USB 2.0 and provided more power to peripherals. Also new is a FaceTime HD webcam and a build-to-order option for 8 GB of system memory.

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