Inside the 2012 MacBook Air: Apple overhauls the engine

The updated Air is really about new silicon. But there are other tweaks, like the fan, that are not insignificant.

It's all about the chips.
It's all about the chips. CNET

The updated MacBook Air doesn't look new on the outside, but the inside is a different story.

That story mostly revolves around Ivy Bridge, Intel's new 22-nanometer processor that boasts upgraded graphics silicon ("up to 60 percent faster graphics," says Apple). But there are a few more subtle changes, too, according to iFixit's teardown.

Intel's new engine: iFixit found a Core i5-3427U 1.8GHz chip. That comes with Turbo Boost, which can ratchet up the speed to 2.8GHz, and Intel's HD 4000 graphics. Not surprisingly, the Core i5 is Intel's most power efficient variety, which draws only 17 watts. And there's other Intel silicon too, like a Thunderbolt controller chip.

Solid-state drive: The SSD that iFixit uncovered was made by Toshiba. A new twist is the SandForce controller. That indicates the SSD could be an upgrade, as a high-quality controller chip (like that from SandForce) can deliver better performance and durability.

Faster memory but not upgradeable (as usual): The MBA now has 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory. That memory is coming from Hynix in this case.

Quieter, asymmetrical fan: This is another new feature that Apple has been touting. "In most fans, the blades are positioned symmetrically, which creates a single identifiable frequency. We positioned ours asymmetrically to spread the sound over a variety of frequencies, which makes it seem quieter," according to Jonathan Ive.

MagSafe 2: Though not an internal component, iFixit had a lot to say about this. "MagSafe 2 is a luxury reserved (so far) for the new MacBook Air and the Retina display-equipped MacBook Pro," iFixit said. "The new MagSafe 2 connector...is much thinner and wider than its predecessor. This is pretty significant, because the thickness of Apple's devices seems to be limited only by the size of their ports."

2012 MacBook Air.  Note MagSafe 2 connector.
2012 MacBook Air. Note MagSafe 2 connector. Apple
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About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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