Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Air earns an Editors' Choice nod

See why the improved 13-inch version of the MacBook Air is an Editors' Choice winner.

CNET

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.

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• How to fix the single most annoying thing in OSX Lion: Bring back tap-to-drag
• Apple updates MacBook Air, Mac Mini
• What's your top must-have feature update to Apple's MacBook Air?
• Apple MacBook Air, Summer 2011 (11-inch) review

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.

Read the full review of the 13-inch MacBook Air here.

 

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