As noted by AnandTech, Apple is using smaller and cheaper Thunderbolt controllers in the new MacBook Airs released on July 20th alongside new Mac Minis, OS X Lion, and the Thunderbolt Cinema Display. The website notes, whereas the 2011 MacBook Pros, iMacs and Mac Minis use Thunderbolt controllers codenamed “Light Ridge” with four bi-directional channels at 10 Gbps (thus achieving 80 Gbps aggregate bandwidth), the smaller chip implemented in the MacBook Air, called Eagle Ridge, is a scaled-down version with access to two channels. Furthermore, whilst Light Ridge comes with up to two DisplayPort outputs, the MacBook Air’s Thunderbolt controller has only one DisplayPort output.
Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output.
Presumably to cut down costs, save motherboard space and have a better impact on battery life, Apple decided to use a smaller version of the Thunderbolt controller that made its first appearance in February on the new MacBook Pros, first to feature the Thunderbolt technology co-developed by Apple and Intel and originally named Light Peak. It was previously reported high production costs of Thunderbolt ports could be the reason behind relatively slow adoption by third-party accessory makers. Currently only a series of high-end RAID configurations are available on the Apple online store and Apple’s own Thunderbolt Display is set to ship sometime next month. You can read more about Thunderbolt here.
[via AnandTech - image: iFixit]
With the release of OS X Lion and new MacBook Airs, Apple has made slight tweaks to the custom f-keys on their keyboard. The main change is that the Dashboard key (located on the F4) has now been replaced with a Launchpad key. The other change is that the Exposé button (located on the F3) key that is now used for Mission Control in Lion has seen a minor change to the icon.
Noticed by iSpazio the change has also propagated to Apple’s wired keyboards and one would presume it will soon make its way to the Apple wireless keyboard. Bundled keyboards with purchased iMac’s and Mac Pros should also soon ship with these slightly tweaked keyboards. Unfortunately these minor signage tweaks are about the extent of the changes to the Apple keyboards – no backlit keys or significant design changes.
[iSpazio via 9to5 Mac]
MacBook Air 13” Mid 2011 Teardown
Although today is an exciting day for consumers, it is a sad day for consumer repair. Apple decided that the “svelte and sexy” MacBook Air would replace the “simple and serviceable” white plastic MacBook (for consumers at least– the white plastic MacBook is still available for educational use). While this means that your book-bags will be significantly lighter, it will also mean that you won’t be upgrading or servicing your computer anytime soon.
As iFixit tears down the MacBook Air this afternoon, they’re equally sad to see the plastic MacBook leave Apple’s consumer lineup (it will still serve a purpose in the education sector for students around the world). I still have my old black MacBook, and I don’t plan on getting rid of it anytime soon. Thunderbolt machines are still young, Lion is new, and there’s still some shifts to be made in Apple’s product line before I’m willing to commit to a new machine. (I’m waiting for the optical drives to be removed from the MacBook Pros, which would likely happen with a redesign). That said, I’ve been keeping my MacBook alive thanks to the great folks at OWC. Already, they’re looking to support the new 2011 MacBook Airs. OWC Grant writes:
If I’m right about this, and the clues certainly make it appear so, then once again, OWC offers an upgrade path that offers up to four times more capacity (480GB) than the size of the typical choice stock drive (128GB) from the factory in the new machines.
If I’m wrong…and the flash storage is truly soldered in, there are two possible options. One, get your hands on a Refurbished 2010 model instead and drop an OWC Aura Pro Express in there for the capacity you truly need and want. Two, we always could (note that “could” term there!) offer a Turnkey Program where you would send your 2011 MBA to us and we’d send it back with higher capacity and likely faster flash storage.
According to iFixit’s update this afternoon, there should be no need for the Turnkey Program. Apple’s latest MacBook Air should accept the OWC Aura Pro Express so you may add more storage if needed to the lightweight machines.
It’s not just your normal Wednesday morning folks. Nope — coinciding with the launch of Lion that was only confirmed yesterday during Apple’s Q3 conference call, Apple has released a handful of new products including updated MacBook Airs, updated Mac Minis, and new Apple Thunderbolt Displays (a step up from the Apple Cinema Displays). In the chaos of four press releases and an updating Apple Store, there’s lots of new items to note alongside our major morning launches, so let’s run through the list!
Eventually, after literally months of rumors, Apple has today unveiled a refreshed line of MacBook Airs. As expected the new models come with the new Thunderbolt I/O port that made its way onto the MacBook and iMac earlier this year. Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors also power the new MacBook Airs with a mixture of i5 and i7 processor options depending on the model you choose. Lion, which has been released just a few minutes ago also comes pre-installed on the new models. All new models also come with a built-in backlit keyboard.
The base MacBook Air Model features the same 11.6” display and comes with a 1.6 GHz i5 processor, 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of flash storage for the same price of $999. The more expensive 11.6” model sees an increase in RAM to 4 GB and storage to 128 GB for $1,199.
The 13.3” variety of the MacBook Air also has two standard models; the first comes with a 1.7 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage for $1,299. The more expensive model simply bumps up the storage to 256 GB for $1,599. Built to order versions can be maxed out with a 1.8 GHz i7 processor, 4 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage. The 13” model also now includes an SD card slot.
“Portable, affordable and powerful, MacBook Air is the ultimate everyday notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “MacBook Air features our most advanced technology and is an ideal match for Lion, especially with its new Multi-Touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control and Mac App Store.”
Jump the break for more details and Apple’s full press release.
The new MacBook Airs expected to launch this week alongside OS X Lion may feature a return of the backlit keyboard that was omitted from the October 2010 redesign of the popular line. According to AppleInsider, people familiar with the matter have indicated that this month’s refresh will see the return of the backlit keyboard, together with new hardware improvements such as Sandy Bridge processors, Thunderbolt technology, and faster flash memory.
With the release of new models later this month, Apple is set to reinstate a feature to its MacBook Airs that went missing when the company overhauled the ultra-thin notebooks into more cost-affordable products late last year, AppleInsider has learned.
According to people familiar with the matter, backlit keyboards will join the string of hardware enhancements planned for the new 11.6- and 13.3-inch notebooks, which are also expected to adopt high-speed Thunderbolt ports, an upgrade to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture, and possibly high-speed 400MBps flash memory.
The lack of a backlit keyboard in the 2010 redesign of the MacBook Air family generated quite a backlash online, especially considering the previous iterations of the MacBook Air came with a backlit option by default. Many speculated Apple had to remove the backlit keyboard due to design issues and battery life constraints; the upcoming refresh is said to feature the same design of the 2010 MacBook Air, thus suggesting Apple has either figured out a way to implement the backlit system in the ultra-thin chassis of the machine, or listened to customers’ feedback and decided the feature had to return. A backlit keyboard helps in low-light conditions, and it’s currently implemented in all versions of Apple’s MacBook Pro line.
The new MacBook Airs’ part numbers have already leaked online, suggesting an upcoming refresh for the entry/upgraded 11-inch and 13-inch models. No details on whether Apple will tweak pricing of the line have surfaced yet, however, based on recent speculation, it seems fairly certain that the new machines will come with Lion pre-installed on a possible July 14th launch.
[Old-gen MacBook Air keyboard image via]
If your little hearts just can’t handle the anticipation in waiting for this week’s presume launch of OS X Lion, just wait until you hear this next bit of news. If you’re a college student or professional video editor / graphic designer, you’ll have some additional goodies to look forward to. 9 to 5 Mac have a scoop with model numbers for the upcoming MacBook Airs featuring ultra-quick Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt.
What wasn’t expected is rumored announcement for all new Mac Pros. It isn’t sure whether we’ll be seeing new guts or all new redesign, but the Mac Pros are rumored to include Thunderbolt as Apple updates their line, and there’s even a server model specifically designed for use in business environments.
The new Macs will ship with Lion (and Lion Server) preinstalled, and are expected to launch with the release of 10.7. 9 to 5 Mac says that the 14th is a possible launch date for all three of these items, so keep an eye on Thursday for an Apple launch-stravaganza.
[via 9 to 5 Mac]
According to two separate reports coming today from 9to5mac and AppleInsider, some Apple retail employees and store managers have been notified to hold “overnights” in the next week to prepare for the launch of OS X Lion, set to become available sometime in July at $29.99 as a digital download from the Mac App Store. First off, 9to5mac says retail stores are planning overnights on July 13th, which would support their earlier claims of Lion launching on July 14th. Apple retail employees would need to be trained for the new software to showcase to customers and, according to the website, new MacBook Airs are also expected to launch in the same week. A previous rumor suggested that Apple had put new Mac models on hold until Lion’s launch so that new units could come with the new OS pre-installed.
AppleInsider also reports other stores have asked staff to upgrade RAM on certain Macs, presumably to make sure Lion can run smoothly in demo sessions to customers. AppleInsider, however, says new MacBook Airs could become available the following week, and not immediately alongside the launch of Lion.
This same person also mentioned hearing rumors from colleagues that Apple may formally invite some customers to its retail locations to download the new OS from within the store so that they can receive assistance in becoming familiar with some of Lion’s more prominent enhancements.
Meanwhile, people with ties to Apple’s other operating segments are supporting claims that Apple will make Mac OS X Lion available to the general public sometime next week. They add that long-awaited refreshes to the MacBook Air line will follow the launch closely, possibly the following week.
Last week, we separately confirmed with our sources that all Apple employees will be given a free redemption code for Lion, with the retail Information Systems & Technology department getting ready for an “imminent” launch, already installing a final build of the OS on some company machines. As for the new MacBook Airs, the new models have been long in the rumors, allegedly sporting new Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge specifications and with most recent rumors claiming they could also get faster SSDs, a 3G component and a black version to go alongside the standard aluminum one.
The white MacBook that Apple has seemingly forgotten about is due for an upgrade, and according to AppleInsider, that may happen sooner than later. The entry level MacBooks have been running out of supply at resellers such as Amazon, J&R, and MacConnection. MacMall still has “plenty of models in stock” according to a sales representative, but that could be anywhere from ten models to a few dozen. Neil Hughes writes that a European distributor has run out of MacBook supply, and aren’t expecting any future shipments.
Apple’s MacBook Air supply is also dwindling at Authorized Apple Resellers, and it’s rumored that the MacBook Air launch would coincide with the arrival of Lion. It’s likely that the new MacBook Airs would be updated with Sandy Bridge processors (perhaps Intel’s new Core-i5 and Core-i7 ULV chips) and Thunderbolt. DigiTimes reported that component production for the new MacBook Airs is ramping up, indicating that there will be a July launch.
Apple’s white MacBooks certainly have the looks and charm to attract new customers, but the price point is arguably steep for hardware that’s becoming quickly outdated. With the rest of the MacBook line being updated to newer processors and Thunderbolt technologies, the MacBook could see similar upgrades — slower, but still able processors compared to the MacBook Pro, and updated with Thunderbolt off the Mini DisplayPort. The current MacBook features a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, and is upgradeable to 4 GB of RAM. The upgrades to the MacBook would be modest. I’m not expecting any significant changes, otherwise, under the hood.
Too, Apple could reduce the price of their current MacBook line and keep it as is. Hughes makes the point that Apple could strategically keep the MacBook current by shaving off a hundred dollars and making it more valuable to college students. Combined with the education discount, the new MacBook could be priced closer to Apple’s entry-level Mac Mini. With the 11” MacBook Air and 13” MacBook overlapping in price, and the 13” MacBook Pro only a couple hundred dollars more, I think it would benefit Apple to competitively price their white unibody to better differentiate their product line. Too, it would better target potential PC converts with an attractive price-point.
With my first and current Mac being an aging “BlackBook”, I would love to see Apple release an update to the Mac line I’ve grown up with. Apple hasn’t forgotten about their low-end MacBook, but simply places their emphasis on flagship products. If a MacBook refresh is imminent, it will be just enough to keep it current.