Apple MacBook Air gets fresh specs, new OS

The Apple MacBook Air is here. So how does this Lion-powered machine stack up to past Air models?

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    Apple debuted the new MacBook Air Wednesday.
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Apple today took the wraps off the newest iteration of its popular lightweight MacBook Air computer, and judging by the specs, screenshots, and early reviews, this thing is a doozy. Witness the Lion OS, the Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors – which Apple says make the Air twice as fast as the previous generation – the Intel HD graphics, the FaceTime capability, the back-lit keyboard, and the Thunderbolt ports.

The new Apple MacBook Air will ship in two versions: an 11-inch and a 13-inch. The 11-inch Air weights just 2.38 pounds, while the 13-inch Air clocks in at just under 3 pounds; battery life is 5 and 7 hours, respectively. Both computers are 0.11 inches at their thinnest point, and both computers get the aluminum unibody design. Prices start at $999 for a base-model Air.

So is this thing as good as it looks?

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Well, in a comprehensive review over at Laptop Magazine, Mark Spoonauer says that potential consumers should evaluate the Air in two ways – "first as an ultraportable and next as the most affordable laptop Apple offers. As an ultraportable, the Air is superior in almost every way. It offers a bright display with wide viewing angles, good sound, a comfy backlit keyboard, a large and intuitive touchpad, and a processor that's fast enough to handle most tasks."

But as Spoonauer points out, in rolling out the $999 Air, Apple is also doing away with its base model MacBook (which this Horizons blogger has used – and cherished – for a solid two years). That means no more white plastic laptop, which also means that plenty of people are going to buying the base level Air as an entry into the Apple world. And that worries Spoonauer.

"We're just not sure consumers want to use an 11-inch laptop as their primary computer," he writes. "Frequent travelers and students would, but a few family members and co-workers said they would prefer a larger 13-inch screen. Apple offers that, too, but you'll need to spend either $1,199 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro or $1,299 for the 13-inch MacBook Air."

The 11-inch Air is a "very good ultraportable," Spoonauer concludes, but some shoppers will likely look elsewhere for a primary machine. Is he right? Maybe. But $999 is a price point designed to appeal to casual users, who don't need a super-sized amount of firepower – just enough to do some word processing, some music downloading, some Web browsing, and maybe a little light design work. And the 11-inch Air should work just fine for that.

Considering a new MacBook Air? Drop us a line in the comments section below.

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