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.
With 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage, the 13-inch Air is a better bet for trouble-free mainstream computing than the 11-inch version, which defaults to 2GB of RAM and only a 64GB SSD (of which, only around 48GB is available to use). The trend toward cloud storage makes this less of a problem than it might have been, but you may want a little more breathing room.