New MacBook Air, now with extra SSD goodness

Thin as ever, the latest Air offers up to twice the storage and snappy performance

One of these MacBook Airs is not like the other. The first-generation model is on the left; new one is on the right.

One of these MacBook Airs is not like the other. The first-generation model is on the left; new one is on the right.

I really like Apple's newly revamped MacBook Air, which got extensive under-the-hood updates last month. And I really, really like the apparent speed boost offered by the larger solid-state drive (SSD) in the Air I've been testing for the past week.

I'll have more to say about that SSD in a bit, but suffice it to say that the drive makes a noticeable difference in how fast the Air boots up, how fast programs launch and how fast this slimmest of Apple laptops feels -- especially in comparison to the stock 4,200-rpm hard drive included in my first-generation Air.

New Core 2 Duo processors

For those who may have missed the changes in the Air's specs unveiled by Apple on October 14, here are the basics. The 3 lb. MacBook Air still comes in two models, both of which now use stock Intel Core 2 Duo processors instead of the custom jobs that powered the first generation announced last January.

The base model has a 1.6-GHz processor, the same speed as before. The top model, the one Apple sent over for review, has a 1.86-GHz chip -- 60 MHz faster than the 1.8-GHz processor that debuted on the top-end model at the start of the year. Both processors now feature 6MB of Level 2 cache RAM, 50 percent more than the older models.

More important, there's increased room for your files. The base model now comes with a 120GB hard drive, 50 percent more than the first version did; the pricier, 1.86-GHz iteration sports a 128GB MLC (multilevel cell) SSD, double the amount of space offered originally.

The 1280-by-800-pixel LED screen remains unchanged from the earlier Air, according to Apple officials, which is a good thing. It's stunningly bright, even in broad daylight with the sun shining directly on the screen.

The price for the entry model, which has yet to ship, remains unchanged at US$1,799. The more expensive model, already on store shelves, goes for US$2,499. That's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than when the SSD version went on sale in January -- the 64GB SSD cost a whopping US$999 extra for less storage space than the base model. The growing use of SSDs in laptops has brought prices down from stratospheric to merely expensive.

The changes in processors and drives aren't the only new things in the second-gen Air. Apple has changed the video-out port to the new Mini DisplayPort, meaning you'll need an adapter if you're planning to use an Air with anything but Apple's new 24-in. LED monitor. Apple no longer includes an adapter in the box, by the way.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags macbook air

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ken Mingis

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?