Ivy Bridge at last. Intel released the desktop line of its new processors at the end of April, but summer marks the first availability of the Ivy Bridge line in laptops. Apple's leading the charge with a pair of refreshed MacBook Airs that improve upon the already-awesome 2011 Sandy Bridge models with everything Ivy Bridge has to offer: native USB 3.0 support, HD 4000 graphics, and slightly faster processors. And they're 100 bucks cheaper.
The 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air models retain the same body sizes and pixel counts as last year. The 11-incher weighs 2.38 pounds and offers a 1366x768 screen. The 13-inch model weighs 2.96 pounds and has a slightly higher-res 1440x900 pixel display. Almost everything else has seen a minor upgrade.
Both USB 2.0 ports are now USB 3.0 ports; both models now start with 4GB of 1600 MHz RAM, upgradeable to 8GB (faster than last year's 1300 MHz memory). The base i5 processors are clocked at 1.7 and 1.8 GHz, upgradeable to 2 GHz i7 CPUs. Apple also claims graphics performance will see a 60 percent boost from the integrated HD 4000 GPU.
The solid state drives are now faster, hitting speeds of up to 500 MB/s, and can be upgraded to 512GB, though that space won't come cheap--it adds $500 to the price of the top-tier 13-inch and $800 to the top-tier 11-inch.
Battery sizes remain the same on both models, with a 35-watt-hour battery in the 11-inch and a 50-watt-hour battery in the 13-inch. Battery life remain the same in this year's models--approximately 5 hours with the 11-inch and 7 hours in the 13-inch. Typically less, with a few applications running and the brightness turned up.
The 11-inch model now starts at $999 and the 13-inch starts at $1199. And that's right where the MacBook Pro line picks up--other than new CPUs and graphics cards, they look an awful lot like last year's models.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is sadly still rocking an outdated 1280x800 display. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch systems still have disc drives. The form factor remains unchanged, but they've seen a few expected hardware bumps.
USB 3.0 is in. The 13-inch starts with a dual-core 2.3 GHz i5 and is upgradeable to a 2.9 GHz i7. The 15-inch starts with a quad-core i7 clocked at 2.3 GHz and can go up to a 2.7 GHz processor.
Both models can be configured with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and SSDs, though they start with 500 GB hard drives. While the 13-inch has to make due with HD 4000 graphics, the 15-inch model uses a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 650M. The 13-inch starts at a price of $1199, just like the lighter, higher-res MacBook Air. The 15-inch starts at $1799. Apple's new 15-inch Retina Display MacBook, meanwhile, is in a class all its own--we'll get to that one in a separate post.