Last October, Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air debuted. The tiny, slim ultraportable was the smallest laptop Apple had ever made. Its combination of size and power earned it a four-star review, with caveats: it had a last-generation Core 2 Duo processor, lacked a backlit keyboard, and omitted an SD card slot. We're glad to find the newly released, back-to-school-timed 2011 MacBook Air update fixes two of our three complaints, while keeping a $999 starting price.
Into a 0.68-inch high enclosure, Apple has dropped a modern high-performance engine where an old poky one used to be. That new powerplant would be Intel's newest power-efficient Core i5 processors, of course.
Where a Core 2 Duo--introduced way back in 2006--was, the new MBAs house spanking new Sandy Bridge chips. Intel's newest design is two generations removed from the Core 2 Duo. And that means you get nice design extras like processors that overclock automatically when applications demand bursts of speed. Intel calls this turbo frequency.
[Update: We've added First Look videos for both MacBooks. The 13-inch MacBook Air video is above, the 11-inch MacBook Air video is just below. ]
As with most Apple products, the MacBook Air has moved into an annual update cycle, taking it from the original niche product version to its new perch as Apple's mainstream laptop. And make no mistake about it, with the quiet discontinuation of the basic $999 white MacBook, the 11-inch Air (and to a lesser extent, the more expensive 13-inch version) is now considered the entry point for potential Apple laptop buyers.
The ides of July are almost upon us. And that can mean only thing: the arrival of OS X Lion with the refreshed MacBook Air in tow. At least, that's what two Apple enthusiast sites are reporting.
9to5Mac says that a "few overseas sources" tell them that "Apple Retail stores are planning 'overnights' on July 13th." Overnights typically entail a refresh of Apple store displays and training on new products.
And AppleInsider is hearing similar chatter, citing a "bulletin" posted to Apple's internal retail news network "advising store management to perform RAM upgrades to certain Mac models on the showroom floors by Sunday, July 10th at the latest." The deduction: this is needed to ready those models for upgrades to Lion.
Apple is already on the record with statements about a July release. At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the company announced that it would be releasing Lion as a $29.99 update to users in July. The OS has already reached gold master status, according to reports.
OS X Lion will bring plenty of enhancements and tweaks, including iCloud services built into the software, iOS-style Launchpad to house apps, full-screen apps and previewing Preview PDFs full-screen, Mission Control that comes up with a three-finger swipe, automatic tracking of document version history, and a resume feature that picks up where the user left off, among other new features. … Read more
The Samsung Series 9 laptop: sexy, yes. Expensive, heck yes. Starting at $1,199 for the 11-inch model, it's not for the faint of wallet. Yet, the very same Samsung surprised us at New York press event with a 12.1-inch laptop, part of the Series 3, that feels nearly as lightweight and, according to Samsung, will cost far less: about $749.
The Series 3 will actually represent a vast range of laptop sizes, from 11.6 inches all the way up to 15 inches and higher. However, the 12.1-inch Series 3 on display caught our eye the most. Its metallic trim and clean lines almost give it the feel of a Sony Vaio or an Asus ultraportable, brands we continually see reflected in Samsung's laptop looks.
The unit felt surprisingly lightweight in our hands. Even more surprising? According to Samsung reps on-hand, this little 12-incher has a full-voltage Core i5 CPU, unlike the low-voltage Core processors in the Series 9. It will also be enabled for Intel Wireless Display. … Read more
Intel has added three power-frugal Sandy Bridge chip models to its lineup, while a research note Monday from a Gleacher & Company analyst says the chipmaker will boost its presence in the burgeoning market for ultrathin laptops like the MacBook Air.
The processors, which appeared Sunday on Intel's updated processor price list, are faster than current power-efficient Sandy Bridge chips used in skinny laptops such as the Samsung Series 9.
Apple is expected to use this type of Intel chip in its upcoming MacBook Air refresh. The Air, to date, has used older-generation Intel Core 2 Duo chips.
Referred … Read more
Apple's refresh of the MacBook Air should come in July packing Apple's newest OS X Lion operating system, a Deutsche Bank analyst said today.
"Our checks suggest a forthcoming MacBook Air refresh in July where we believe units could ramp to as high as 1.5M units per [quarter] or 50 percent of the MacBook business," analyst Chris Whitmore wrote in a research note distributed via e-mail.
If the MacBook Air garnered half of all of Apple's MacBook business, that would be a significant milestone, as early versions of the Air, dating back to January 2008, were not that popular compared with other MacBook offerings.
The most significant upgrade to the Air is expected to be the switch to Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors. Less certain is whether the new models get the high-speed Thunderbolt port, though it has been widely reported that they will.
Whitmore's note continued: "We also believe Lion will drive a strong upgrade cycle due to: 1) low ASP; 2) significant enhancements/feature upgrades; and 3) arrives in conjunction with MacBook Air refresh."
Whitmore also commented on OS X Lion, saying that among its 250-plus new features, the most important improvements include iCloud, multitouch gestures, "mission control," and "resume." These will "spur a large part of the 54 [million] Mac installed base to upgrade," he wrote.
OS X Lion also benefits Apple because it is available only through Apple's App store, which means no retail distribution costs for Apple, Whitmore said. … Read more
We've been testing and reviewing Windows tablets for many years, the latest being the new Acer Iconia Tab W500P, but have typically found them lacking--both in comparison with more powerful Windows laptops, and with other tablets, such as Apple's popular iPad.
One Windows tablet that we've been eager to check out after seeing it at CES 2011 is the Asus Eee Slate EP121, a high-end touch-screen tablet with a separate Bluetooth keyboard. Asus is, for the uninitiated, most responsible for the (now faded) popularity of low-cost Netbooks, and the company is now pushing the boundaries of what … Read more
Especially in an age of iPads and tablets, thin laptops seem to be back on the rise. Emerging into a landscape full of MacBook Airs, Samsung Series 9s, and Toshiba Porteges--to name a few--is Lenovo's corporate take on the thin, sexy 13-incher, the ThinkPad X1. We've played with one for a week now, and have finally emerged with our review of Lenovo's sex(ier) beast.
The ThinkPad X series has been alive and well for years--the x100e and X201 are recent members of the ThinkPad's ultraportable line--but the X1 is a 13.3-incher that's … Read more
Panasonic's new Toughbook looks a lot like its old Toughbook. That is to say, it's bulky, is rated for MIL-STD-810G tests including drops up to 30 inches on its sides or 12 inches on the corners, and has a magnesium-alloy case, a shock-mounted hard drive, and spill-resistant keyboard.
The differences, however, are many: the new Toughbook 53 has lost over a pound of weight, dropping to a reasonable 5.6 pounds and downsizing its screen from 15.6 inches to 14 inches. The track pad has gotten larger, and added multitouch. 4G LTE service is now offered--a first … Read more