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.
It is pretty clear that a refreshed MacBook Air line is coming soon, based on the numerous rumors and reports that have come in over the past month or so. Further evidence of an imminent refresh came late yesterday night when 9to5 Mac discovered that Best Buy had stopped shipping all MacBook Airs from its website. Although they are still selling them from their retail stores, stock is reportedly low, with some “exceptionally low on MacBook Air stock”.
The UK Best Buy online store is also completely out of stock except for the 128GB version, which is low in stock and can only be collected from certain retail locations. The story is similar with Canadian retailer Future Shop which is also low on stock as well as Amazon, which has low stock in a number of countries. 9to5 Mac also speculated in its post that July 4th could be a potential release date for the refreshed models, other rumors had suggested the launch would correlate with the launch of Lion.
The refreshed line of MacBook Airs is widely expected to include the new Sandy Bridge processors from Intel, as well as the new Thunderbolt I/O port which made its debut in this years refresh of the MacBook Pro models, and more recently in refreshed iMacs – both refreshes also brought new Sandy Bridge processors.
[Via 9to5 Mac]
A report from DigiTimes today claims that Apple’s supply chain for its MacBook products will begin to “run in full gear” from early July as Apple prepares to a launch an updated MacBook Air. The report is in line with previous suggestions that Apple will wait until late July to launch a refreshed MacBook Air to coincide with the launch of Lion – which DigiTimes itself corroborates in the report.
[Increasing orders for components] is in line with Apple’s previous strategy to ramp up deliveries prior to the launch of new products.
The report does also mention that Apple expects to take “deliveries of over eight million MacBook Airs in the third quarter”. However, as MacRumors has pointed out, that figure is extremely large and actually represents double the amount of all Macs sold in the second quarter.
As noted by Cnet, Intel has updated its official processor price list to include new Sandy Bridge-based Corei5 and Corei7 processors with ultra-low voltage power specifications that will make them suitable for future ultra-thin laptops like the upcoming MacBook Air refresh, set for a June or July release. The new processors, as included in the list:
- i5-2557M (3M cache, 2 Cores, 4 Threads, 1.70 GHz 32nm) - $250
- i7-2677M (4M cache, 2 Cores, 4 Threads, 1.80 Ghz, 32nm) - $317
- i7-2637M (4M cache, 2 Cores, 4 Threads, 1.70 Ghz, 32nm) - $289
As reported back in May, these new power-frugal processors make for a great option when it comes to powering thin machines like Apple’s MacBook Airs or other devices called “ultrabooks” by Intel. By increasing clock speed from 1.4 GHz and 1.6 GHz to 1.7 GHz and 1.8 GHz from the previous-gen Arrandale CPUs, and with turbo boost frequencies set at 2.8 GHz and 2.9 GHz, Intel’s new ULV chips seem to fall in line with Apple’s requirements for low power consumption and speed. More importantly, the new Sandy Bridge processors dissipate only 17 watts, unlike standard laptop-oriented processors from Intel that with 35-watt dissipation would be too much for the MacBook Air’s thin and slim design.
The new MacBook Airs were initially rumored to be receiving an update in June, though recent speculation claims Apple will refresh the line in July – also holding out for new Mac releases until Lion comes out, so the new OS will come pre-installed on new Mac models. Many have indicated the MacBook Air as Apple’s new “crown jewel”, the most popular new MacBook model that will be perfectly capable of running OS X Lion thanks to its fast SSD, instant-on feature, high portability and multitouch trackpad.
With increasing speculation and reports claiming that Apple is putting the final touches to the new MacBook Air line set for a late June or July refresh, MacRumors now suggests the new models may come with a black option for the aluminum case in the high-end configuration. According to various anonymous tips they received, the new black finish would come with an anodized aluminum case that would be a departure from Apple’s recent design standard for notebooks.
Over the past week, we’ve received several anonymous tips claiming that at least some models of the next-generation MacBook Air will be be available with a black finish, different from the aluminum case used on the current MacBook Air and most of Apple’s other Macs. The most specific of the claims suggests that a black anodized aluminum case would be available on a top-end MacBook Air model, in much the same way as Apple once offered a high-end black MacBook on top of the standard white offerings.
As widely reported over the past months, the new MacBook Airs are rumored to receive a substantial hardware update with Sandy Bridge processors replacing the outdated Core2 Duo CPUs, as well as Thunderbolt connectivity following the implementation in the MacBook Pros and iMacs earlier this year. As for the black color, Apple used to offer a black version of the MacBook a few years ago (the plastic model), and a MacBook Air prototype with a bottom black case was sold on eBay two years ago. The MacBook Pros released in February were also rumored to be getting an all-new black design based off Apple’s Liquid Metal acquisition, though that obviously didn’t happen and Apple decided to go with the classic unibody aluminum design, first launched in late 2008. A few days later, a report claimed a new design for the MacBook line is expected in 2012, starting with new MacBook Pro models. Meanwhile, 9to5mac says their sources haven’t heard anything about the alleged black MacBook Airs.
Update: MacRumors is now reporting an alleged email from an Apple employee who claims black MacBooks were indeed produced, but didn’t get Steve Jobs’ approval in the end.
The rumors that the next iteration of the MBA’s will have an optional black finish is grounded in truth.
We tried to powder coat the Air’s (and Pro’s for that matter) in black as a test run. There are more than a few floating around campus.
The coating looks good and holds up well, but it also soaks up body oils, making the palm rest look pretty gross. Ultimately that is the reason that the top brass (Jobs) killed the idea… it was just too easy to make the computer look like crap. At some point we may offer a black coating, but it won’t be powder coat, and it won’t be anytime soon.