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MacBook Air Gets Haswell Silicon, Longer Battery LIfe, More Storage, But No MacBook Pro Upgrades At WWDC

Refreshed MacBook Airs announced at WWDC on Monday got with all day battery life, fourth generation (“Haswell”) Intel Core CPUs with faster graphics, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and flash storage claimed to be up to 45 percent faster than the previous generation’s. The 11-inch models now feature double the previous model’s standard storage capacity and the base price of 13-inch models drops to $1,099. Related announcements in the WWDC keynote included redesigned AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations featuring 802.11ac Wi-Fi providing up to three times faster performance.

That’s some substantive upgrading, and nobody will argue with the value-added of lower pricing, but it’s well short of the major MacBook Air redesign /or Retina Display some had been anticipating (or at least hoping for), and there were no MacBook Pro announcements at WWDC, so Apple’s professional notebooks will be soldiering on with third-generation Intel Core processor silicon and graphics for the near term. With the MacBook Air, however, being of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought, I’m satisfied with what we did get, although pertaining to my personal system upgrade deliberations I had been hoping for some clarity as to Apple’s plans, if any, to upgrade the non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro to Haswell power, so still waiting. The new 13-inch MacBook Air spec. and lower price point does make it more appealing, comparatively, but I’d still like to know the full range of what I’m comparing it to.

MacBook Air is the industry leader for thin and light notebooks, and now with longer battery life, we’ve set the bar even higher, said Philip Schiller, Apples senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing says in a release. With faster flash, more powerful graphics and up to 12 hours of battery life, the new MacBook Air packs even more performance into the portable and durable design our customers love.

The new MacBook Air features significantly more power-efficient fourth generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors that give the 13-inch MacBook Air a claimed up to 12 hours runtime on battery power and up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback. The 11-inch MacBook Air now delivers up to 9 hours of battery life and up to 8 hours of iTunes movie playback, these metrics based on testing conducted by Apple this month using preproduction MacBook Air configurations. The MacBook Airs’ new next generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi offers improved wireless performance up to three times faster than before when connected to an 802.11ac base station. New Intel HD Graphics 5000 integrated processor units give the MacBook Air up to 40 percent faster performance for gaming and working with graphics intensive apps, and while Apple says the upgraded flash storage provides speeds up to 45 percent faster than the previous generation and nine times faster than traditional hard drives.**

Returning features include dual microphones, a FaceTime HD camera, a high-speed Thunderbolt port and two USB 3.0 ports, and support for dual displays and video mirroring while simultaneously supporting full native resolution on the laptop’s built-in display.

Apple says the new MacBook Airs meet Energy Star 5.2 requirements and achieve an EPEAT Gold rating, with their unibody enclosures made of highly recyclable aluminum and equipped with energy efficient mercury-free LED-backlit displays made with arsenic-free glass. Apple notebooks also contain no brominated flame retardants, are PVC-free and are constructed of recyclable materials.

For the present, the MacBook Air will continue to ship with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, until OS X 10.9 Mavericks is ready for projected consumer release sometime this fall – a factor that might influence some customers’ upgrade timetables. However, while Mavericks pricing remains to be announced, it presumably will be either the $19.99 or $29.99 price points of its two most recent predecessors, so it shouldn’t be a major factor delaying purchase decisions, and it’s no hardship to have a machine that will support more than one OS version.

The refreshed MacBook Airs are available immediately through the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apples retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

The 11-inch MacBook Air comes with a 1.3 GHz processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.6 GHz, 4GB of system memory and starts at $999.00 with the upgraded base 128GB flash storage memory configuration. With 256GB of flash storage the price bumps up to $1,199.00 (US).

The 13-inch MacBook Air also comes with a 1.3 GHz processor offering short burst Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.6 GHz, 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage at the new starting price of $1,099.00, Upgrading to 256GB of flash storage will cost $1,299, which is only $100 greater than the preceding model’s price was with 128 GB, making the storage upgrade something of a bargain for just $200. Configure-to-order options include a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz, up to 8GB of memory (something to seriously consider because the Air’s system memory can’t be upgraded after manufacture) and up to 512GB flash storage. Additional technical specifications, configure-to-order options and accessories are available online at:

http://www.apple.com/macbook-air

Apple says the redesigned AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations announced Monday feature three-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology with a maximum data rate of 1.3Gbps, almost three times faster than 802.11n. The new AirPort base stations include high-powered radios and a six-element beam-forming antenna array to maximize range and performance. With setup built into OS X and iOS, users can create a high-speed Wi-Fi network in just a few clicks, and the intuitive AirPort Utility makes it easy to view and manage a network graphically. Featuring 2TB or 3TB hard drives, AirPort Time Capsule works in conjunction with OS X’s Time Machine backup routine and is the simplest way to wirelessly back up multiple Macs. Measuring a compact 3.85-inches by 3.85-inches and 6.6-inches tall, these new base stations can be located almost anywhere in the home.

The new AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations are also available immediately through the store.apple.com (http://www.apple.com), Apples retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

AirPort Extreme is available for a suggested retail price of $199 (US). AirPort Time Capsule comes in two models: 2TB of storage for $299 (US) and 3TB of storage for $399 (US). Additional technical specifications are available online at:
http://www.apple.com/airport-extreme
and:
http://www.apple.com/airport-time-capsule

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