Computerworld: MacBook Airs Approach Perfection

Computerworld has put together an extensive review of the new Mid 2011 Apple MacBook Airs, both the 11-inch and 13-inch Intel Core i5 models. They feel that people in the market for a Mac laptop should look at the MBA, thanks to the new Ultra-Low-Voltage (ULV) Intel Core i5 CPUs that power both models. There is an Intel Core i7 upgrade, although the main benefits are speed and an increase in L3 cache. The move to Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform has been kind to the Macbook Airs, but Computerworld also points out that with the Thunderbolt port, the MacBook Airs increase the usability and potential market for the MacBook Airs. Thunderbolt lets you use an external display plus Thunderbolt-based stoage (much faster than USB or FireWire), and with an adapter, ethernet or FireWire.

It’s a very glowing review, with the claims of “If the MacBook Air is the future of the Mac laptop, the future is now” and “The 11-inch MacBook Air might not be the perfect computer, but it’s as close to perfect as Apple’s ever come..

Full article: Computerworld

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MacWorld Tests BTO MacBook Airs with Intel Core i7

MacWorld has taken a look at the 2011 Build-to-Order MacBook Airs that Apple released earlier this month.

The reason being, the BTO models have the option of an Intel Core i7 for both the 11-inch and 13-inch MBAs. Normally they come with ultra-low-voltage (ULV) Intel Core i5 CPUs

11-inch Standard: 1.6Ghz Intel Core i5
11-inch BTO: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7
13-inch Standard: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5
13-inch BTO: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7

As the review points out, the Core i5s that ship with both MacBook Airs already have Hyperthreading and Turbo Boost, so the main difference is clock speed and a larger L3 cache.

To upgrade the 11-inch, it costs $150 USD. 13-inch? $100.

The big differences on the 11-inch MBA: Parallels WorldBench (for Parallels Desktop VM software) saw a 25% increase, and Cinebench, iTunes encoding, Pages ’09 importing, and zipping a 4GB file saw right around a 20% increase. Keep in mind that both models use flash memory for their hard drives – the same as what you see Solid State Drives (SSD).

With the 13-inch MacBook Air, the differences are not nearly as much – Parallels WorldBench saw a 10% increase, and unzipping a 4GB file saw a 21% increase in performance. Otherwise everything else was very low.

Graphics wise, there isn’t much difference – the mid 2010 MacBook Airs had dedicated NVIDIA graphics chipsets and the new Intel HD Graphics 3000 didn’t perform much better. The CPU upgrades in the mid 2011 models were clearly the main difference.

Full Article: MacWorld

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Macworld Tests New MacBook Airs – Standard Models

Macworld has been very busy since Apple’s new Intel Core i5 MacBook Airs launched. They’ve been testing and benchmarking all of the standard Intel Core i5 MacBook Airs. An Intel Core i7 is available as a Build-to-Order (BTO) option, for $150 USD more on the 11-inch model, and $100 USD more on the 13-inch model. They’ve found the Core i5 upgrade from last year’s Core 2 Duo is a major boost.

The marketing for the MacBook Airs is pretty accurate – Macworld found performance increases of up to twice as fast on quite a few tasks. Granted, the 2010 MacBook Airs were running on Core 2 Duos that were slower speedwise than the newer Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5 processors.

With the multimedia test Cinebench CPU, the i5 pushed the MBAs up to 2.4 times faster, and HandBrake was 2.3 times faster.

Some graphics-intensive tasks such as games or OpenGL benchmarks were actuall faster on the older 2010 MacBook Airs, due to the NVIDIA GeForce 320M dedicated graphics chipsets instead of Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 integrated chipset.

Full article: Macworld

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Ultrabooks Set For September Production

DigiTimes is reporting that Acer, Asustek (ASUS), Dell, HP (Hewlett-Packard), and Lenovo are going to be launching ultrabooks later in 2011, with production starting up in September.

Acer, Lenovo, and Asustek have already been mentioned a lot, especially with Asustek’s UX21 being one of the first ultrabooks to probably launch, and which has already been designed and developed, but there’s not been a lot said about HP and Dell. DigiTimes’ sources are saying that some of the laptop/notebook are having problems with production, leaving the ASUS UX21 to be one of the first ultrabooks to land in the hands of buyers. They are also claiming that Asustek has ordered up to 400,000 – 450,000 “ultra-thin” noteboks from its component suppliers, with 100,000 being ultrabooks, per month. I have no idea on the breakout of those numbers as far as the mix of UX21 and UX31 ultrabooks.

They are still maintaining that Acer and Dell plan to start production in September, while HP’s ultrabook might not make it out until early 2012.


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Apple Discontinues MacBooks for Consumers

I guess it’s no surprise. Several websites were reporting that Apple was going to discontinue the MacBook, and Apple has now removed the 13-inch Intel Core 2 Duo powered laptop from it’s main website as of yesterday, July 20, 2011.

This was the last of Apple’s polycarbonate (“plastic” as some call it) laptops as well as the last Apple laptop powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

Have no fear though, Apple is not abandoning the under $1,000 laptop market. It’s clearly positioning it’s $999 11-inch MacBook Air, and what an upgrade it is from the MacBoook. With an Intel Core i5 CPU and with a Thunderbolt port allowing for high resolution displays, super fast peripherals and mass storage, it’s a natural progression for Apple.

One big change between the MacBook and 11-inch MacBook Air besides the materials – the display, while being smaller on the MacBook Air, is actually of a higher resolution and better quality. There is still the 13-inch MacBook Air, but it starts at $1,299. There is also the loss of the optical drive, although Apple has been moving down this road with the MacBook Air, and now the Mac mini. There are USB DVD drives available everywhere, including Apple’s own external USB drive.

While the MacBook was targeted at students, the MacBook Air should be a suitable fit – it’s smaller, more powerful, and has a better battery life.

That’s not to say the MacBook isn’t still available. Amazon still has MacBooks from other retailers and you should be seeing MacBooks popping up in the Refurbished and Clearance section of Apple’s online store. And for those students and educational institutions that prefer the MacBooks or need optical drives, MacRumors is reporting that Apple will still make them available for educational instituations.

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