Apple Refreshes MacBook Air with All-Day Battery Life and Announces a New Mac Pro

By Wesley Fenlon

MacBook Airs get $100 cheaper and offer nearly double the battery life of Apple's 2012 models. Meanwhile, Apple announced a new Mac Pro, which is guaranteed to cost a ton of money.

Is it a trash can? No. Is it a time capsule? Nope. Is it a torpedo? Not even. Surprise--it's a Mac Pro! After several years with no major updates, Apple showed off a brand new Mac Pro desktop at this year's WWDC keynote, and it may possibly the most un-computer-looking computer any major company has ever released. Apple's ditched the classic blocky tower design for a rounded cylindrical body, though they've kept (and significantly improved on) all the power inside the workstation, which is aimed at professional video editors, photographers and designers.

The Mac Pro got the audience hyped, but it wasn't Apple's last hardware announcement for the keynote. In fact, the average consumer has something much better to look forward to--new models of the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air running on Intel's Haswell platform. We recently touched on the hardware details of Haswell and what the new processor line means for laptops, but here's the short version: Sweet, sweet battery life.

Apple announced that its 11-inch MacBook Air is gaining 4 hours of battery life, jumping from 5 hours to 9 hours of use. Even better, the 13-inch model is increasing its 7 hours of battery life to 12 hours. All-day battery life, meet the Mac. It's taken a few years, but the great battery performance of netbooks has finally made its way into much, much more usable computers.

Those estimates are likely on the generous side, as battery estimates almost always are, but those numbers are still close to double what last year's Ivy Bridge platform delivered. Along with drastically improved power usage, Haswell is granting 40 percent faster graphics performance and better low-power states, meaning a MBA can sit in standby for a solid 30 days.

Apple's also throwing 802.11ac Wi-Fi support into the MacBook Air, which will come in handy in the next couple years as the router market moves to the new standard. Apple also pointed out that the new MacBook Airs come with 45 percent faster flash memory. Coupled with that low-power Haswell performance, the system can pop awake from sleep mode in about 1 second.

And more good news: Pricing has come down on the MacBook Airs, though only slightly. The 128GB 11-inch Air starts at $999 (last year's model started at 64GB), with the 256GB model costing $1199, a hundred bucks cheaper than last year's. The 128GB model of the 13-inch Air starts at $1099 (again, a hundred bucks off) and the 256GB model costs $1299.

Also, they're on sale as of today. As in, right now, on Apple's website.

Now, about that new Mac Pro: It looks weird. And nice--but weird. It's also impressively smaller than the old Mac Pro tower--Apple says it's an eight the volume of the previous generation. But what's it got inside?

The latest generation of Intel's Xeon processors, configurable with up to 12 cores for double the CPU performance of the previous Mac Pro. 1866MHz DDR3 RAM that delivers up to 60 GB/s of bandwidth, which is, again, double the previous Mac Pro's performance. Standard dual AMD workstation GPUs, maxing out at 7 teraflops of GPU computing power, up from 2.7 teraflops in the past.

When it comes to specs, Apple's most impressive numbers belong to the new built-in flash storage. They hit up to 1.25 gigabyte per second read speeds and 1 gigabyte per second writes, which is about twice as fast as most SATA solid state drives. Apple went with PCIe flash storage for the Mac Pro, which is a solid gigabyte per second faster than the old SATA hard drives in the last generation of Mac Pros.

Those dual GPUs can push graphics to up to three 4K displays, which is possible thanks to the new 20 GB/s speeds of Thunderbolt 2. And the system is naturally loaded with I/O ports--four USB 3.0, six Thunderbolt 2, HDMI 1.4, and two gigabit Ethernet. Naturally, the desktop also supports the latest in wireless, meaning 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

You can check out a pretty slick interactive demo of the Mac Pro's design on Apple's website. There are two things we still don't know about the new desktop: When it's coming out (beyond sometime later this year), and how much it's going to cost. Whatever the price tag is, it's going to be seriously expensive. Time to start saving, video editors.