23 October 2010

Interesting MacBook Air Notes

I suppose this post is slightly late, but still worth sharing anyway. It's more of an analysis of the new MacBook Airs, rather than a hands-on. In fact, when I went to the CambridgeSide Galleria Apple Store a few hours after the keynote, the only MacBook Air in the store was a lonely 13.3" model. *sad*

This past Wednesday, Steve unveiled new MacBook Airs! It was a nice revision; the computers got smaller, lighter, and faster. Briefly looking through disassembly pictures courtesy of iFixit and hands on reports by Engadget, MacWorld, and Ars, I have notice several small details:
  • The SSD is no longer a 1.8" SATA unit; it is a very long Mini-PCIe card. In theory, you can transplant the unit to a different computer with such a slot and have a very fast, small, and light disk. The unit does have TRIM support, though.
  • The backlit keyboard has been omitted. I suspect it will be reintroduced in the next revision, as with the Aluminum MacBook (Late 2008) to the 13" MacBook Pro (Mid 2009).
  • The IR sensor and sleep indicator have been removed. Not sure why the IR sensor is gone, but I have a theory about the sleep indicator. One of the highly touted features of the computer is instant on and its 30-day standby time. From Jason Snell's report, he says that the new Macs go into deep sleep (hibernate) after it has been [normal] sleeping for a while, and when it is woken up from deep sleep, it does not show the gray loading bar like in other Macs. In essence, the computer has shut down, and other Macs do not pulsate the sleep light while they are in the off state. As for Snell's second observation, the MacBook Air omits the loading bar once awoken from deep sleep because it can jump back to the original state much quickly due to the SSD. Therefore, the MacBook Air can do away with both of those items.
  • The 11" MacBook Air has smaller function keys than the other Mac keyboards. The space between the keyboard and the start of the depression (on all sides but the side closest to the trackpad) has been shrunken considerably.
  • The power button has been moved to the location of the eject button, so the button is no longer aluminum.
  • The last row of keys on the 11" MacBook Air are the same height as the alphanumeric keys. This is a small turnoff for me, as I always appreciated the extra height of the space bar and the function, control, option, and command keys. 
  • The 13" model still uses the shrunken package low-voltage Core 2 Duos, but the 11" uses the shrunken ultra-low-voltage Core 2 Duos. This is the reason that 11" units have lower clocks than their larger siblings. 
  • Both units have stereo speakers! They are located underneath the the left and right sides of the keyboard.
  • Operating temperatures have been reported to be lower, and therefore fan speeds are lower. No more hair-drying (or jet engined) MacBook Airs!
I think that's about it; I kept out the bigger features because those are widely documented. Hopefully this report will be useful to potential MacBook Air buyers! I know for sure that I will be getting a decked out 13.3" MacBook Air in the near future to replace my current laptop. (it's a 5-year-old MacBook Pro!)

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