Apple's smallest notebook could soon be getting the company's fastest input/output technology, along with a notable processing boost.
Digitimes reports that Apple is ramping up for a manufacturing run of 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs that sport Intel's "Sandy Bridge" processors, as well as Thunderbolt, the I/O technology that's now available on the MacBook Pro and the iMac. The new Air models are said to be shipping in June or July, according to the report.
CNET reported a similar timeframe for an update to Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt back in February.
Thunderbolt is the I/O technology resulting from a collaboration between Intel and Apple. It boasts considerable speed advantages over USB 3.0, which is available on a number of PCs but not on Mac computers. Thunderbolt remains a nascent technology in terms of adoption across the computing industry, with only Apple's computers currently sporting a Thunderbolt port. Other manufacturers are slated to gain access to Thunderbolt next year.
As for Sandy Bridge, the extra processing boost could make a big impact on the Air's computing prowess. Apple's two Air models currently top out with a Core 2 Duo chip, which is Intel's previous generation chipset. Sandy Bridge represents the second iteration of Intel's "i" line of processors and brings with it both a boost in processing power and graphics capabilities. PC ultra-portables, including Samsung's 9 series laptops, have sported the chips since March.
Questions still remain about whether there's room inside the Air's jam-packed enclosure for the Thunderbolt's controller. Considering the graphics boost that Sandy Bridge's chips bring, Apple could be trading out the NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU for Intel's integrated graphics to free up space.
Apple's MacBook Air was completely relaunched back in October as part of Apple's "Back to the Mac" event. That was also where Apple took the wraps off OS X 10.7 "Lion," which is due this summer.