The new MacBook Air, unveiled by Apple last October, may not look very different from the original. Same aluminum unibody, same backlit keyboard, same 13″ slim and trim lightweight design. But in reality the laptop has received quite a notable upgrade. Apple has ripped out the slower and constrained guts of the MBA and replaced them with higher end components designed to save users from frustration over stuttering video playback and 3rd degree leg burns.
Some of the upgrades are hard to see. The processor clock speed only ticked up 60MHz to 1.86GHz from 1.8GHz, but the front-side bus was bumped to 1066MHz from 800MHz and the L2 cache was boosted to 6MB from 4MB. The RAM stayed at 2GB max, but now we’re talking fast DDR3 RAM instead of DDR2. There are also some upgrades that you’ll notice immediately.
Storage options have been boosted from a paltry 80HDD/64SSD to 120HDD/128SSD, with the SSD upgrade not nearly as expensive as it was in the previous version. Apple has wisely switched from Intel X3100 integrated graphics to NVidia GeForce 9400M graphics. They also gave the trackpad multi-touch capabilities, a nice touch.
These changes greatly help to improve the user experience with the MBA. No longer is it impossible to watch hulu or youtube with consistency on your Air. No longer will any attempt to do so result in the extreme overheating that was so common before. Apple claims NVidia’s graphics are 4x better than Intel’s were, meaning you might actually be able to do some light gaming. The fast SSD in concert with the faster RAM/CPU makes boot and other load times snappy. You’re still stuck with a lone USB port and nothing but an obscure video out option (mini-DisplayPort instead of mini-DVI), and the battery remains unswappable. The price hasn’t gone down a whit from its pricey origins, either. But if you’re in the market for a gorgeous, superslim and now decently capable notebook, you can’t help but drool a little over the MacBook Air.