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Latest Intel chip boosts speed and endurance in new MacBook Air

James Galbraith | June 17, 2013
Apple new ultraportable laptop sports a few under-the-hood changes that make it even better than before.

MacBook Air

Most of the products Apple announced at WWDC won't ship until later this year, but the new MacBook Air models are here. The MacBook Air didn't undergo a dramatic, Mac Pro-like redesign—all of the changes to the MacBook Air are hidden under the hood. Even compared to last year's MacBook Air—which brought Thunderbolt and USB 3.0—this new Air is more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Haswell inside
The biggest change in this iteration of Apple's most portable of portables is the inclusion of Intel's latest generation of Core processors, code named Haswell. These fourth-generation Core processors replace the Ivy Bridge processors in last year's MacBook Air. The Haswell processors require less power than Ivy Bridge, which improves battery life in portable computers like the MacBook Air.

Haswell also includes new integrated graphics in the form of the Intel HD Graphics 5000, which Apple says provides 40 percent higher performance than the HD Graphics 4000 used in Ivy Bridge processors.

The new MacBook Airs all support the new 802.11ac wireless networking standard, and the flash storage has also been improved, with higher capacities on the 11-inch models and faster performance across the line.

Apple offers four standard configurations of the new MacBook Airs, two with 11-inch displays and two using 13-inch displays. All four have the same dual-core 1.3GHz Core i5 processor, capable of reaching speeds of up to 2.6GHz with Turbo Boost and can act as a virtual quad-core processor thanks to Hyper-Threading. All four have the aforementioned Intel HD Graphics 5000 and 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR memory, which cannot be upgraded.

The difference between the two models of each screen size is the capacity of the solid state storage. The 11-inch MacBook Airs come with either 128GB of flash storage for $999 or 256GB of flash storage for $1199. The 13-inch models also come with the same 128GB and 256GB capacities for $1099 and $1299, respectively. With cloud storage options gaining popularity and features, some people will have no problem fitting their necessary onboard data within the 128GB capacity of the two lower-end models. Others, like me, prefer having more of their songs, movies, files, and photos accessible offline and prefer having the most capacity possible.

Luckily, Apple offers optional upgrades at the time of purchase that double the flash storage capacity to 512GB for a pricey $300, and double the amount of RAM to 8GB for $100. While 4GB of memory is probably plenty for general computing needs, I'd still recommend the 8GB RAM option, especially as the RAM is not user upgradable. Apple's other non-upgradable Macs, like the Retina MacBook Pro and 21.5-inch iMacs have 8GB of RAM standard. For an extra $150, Apple will swap out the dual-core 1.3GHz Core i5 processor for a dual-core 1.7GHz Core i7 with Hyper Threading and with Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.3GHz.


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