The new 2011 version of Apple's MacBook Air laptop takes a major step forward, both in hardware and concept. With the demise of the long-serving $999 white plastic MacBook, the Air now becomes the default mainstream entry point for potential Apple laptop buyers. The parallel is clearer in the 11-inch version, which starts at the same $999, but unless you need the bigger hard drive or optical drive of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the new 13-inch Air should be your first stop for that screen size, which is why we've given it a rare Editors' Choice nod.
Apple's new Air models hold last year's prices, the 13-inch model starts at $1,299, while dramatically upgrading the processing power: the new second-generation Core i5 processor in the base 11-inch and 13-inch Air is a jump of two Intel generations, going directly from the older Core 2 Duo CPUs past the first generation of Core i5/i7 chips and directly to the 2011 second-generation Core i-series.
Thunderbolt has been added to the both Airs as well, replacing the Mini DisplayPort (the new combo port acts as a Mini DisplayPort output as well). At the moment, it's more of a novelty than anything else, with few accessories available, but Apple's upcoming Thunderbolt Display, intended for use with laptops, seems intriguing. … Read more