The new MacBook Air offers an interesting paradox: a spanking-new, ultra-thin design that is wrapped around old Intel chips.
The just-announced 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch Airs are a marvel of thin design, with the smaller model weighing in at only 2.3 pounds and both models only 0.68 inches at the thickest point. What Apple CEO Steve Jobs described as MacBook-meets-iPad. And inside is Apple's latest and greatest flash storage technology that sits directly on the system board as well as a new higher-performance Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics chipset.
Also inside are old Intel processors. How old? Old enough to date back to the same line of processors used in the original MacBook Air, announced three years ago come January. No power-efficient--and much newer--Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processors here. So, what gives?
Here's the pithy, tepid statement that Jobs made Tuesday during the MacBook Air rollout: "The Core 2 Duo is a fast processor for this class of machine." And Apple had this to say in its press release yesterday. "Flash storage combined with power-efficient Intel Core 2 Duo processors and Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics delivers an ideal balance of mobility, battery life and performance."
But digging a little deeper, the reason is really no different than the rationale given for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which also uses Core 2 Duo processors. In short, real estate. Because Apple needs to tap into the performance goodness of the graphics processing units (GPUs) from Nvidia--even in a highly compact design like the MacBook Air--Apple can't use a new Core i series processor because it would require too many chips: an Intel Core i5 processor (as an example), an Intel chipset, and the discrete Nvidia GPU. (Also: see Additional Notes at bottom.)
Apple solves the real estate problem by using a two-chip design (see graphic): the Core 2 Duo and the Nvidia GeForce 320M chipset.… Read more