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Cracking Open: Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2013)
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Cracking Open: Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2013)

4:25 /

Bill Detwiler cracks open an 11-inch MacBook Air and shows you how Apple gave the 2013 Air better graphics, a faster SSD, faster Wi-Fi, and longer battery life.

The 2013 MacBook Air may look like last year's model, but thanks to several hardware updates, the new Air offers faster Wi-Fi, more base storage, and almost double the battery life. How did Apple do it? Let's find out. I'm Bill Detwiler and this is Cracking Open. Apple didn't make any changes to the exterior of the 2013 Air, nor did they change how you crack it open. The bottom panel is held on with special pentalobe screws, and while your local hardware store might not have the necessary driver to remove them, plenty of online retailers do. With the bottom panel removed, we get our first look inside the case and despite all the hardware updates, the 2013 Air has the same basic layout as the 2011 and 2012 Airs. Along the back edge is the motherboard, cooling fan assembly, and a small I/O Board. A pair of speakers flanked the battery which is the first internal component to come out. Next, we'll remove the SSD and the wireless card, the cooling fan, and the I/O Board. Now last to come out is the motherboard and once we've removed it, we can detach the heat sync. Now I could detach the lid and display by removing these hinge screws and the track pen by removing its screws, but there's nothing really to see by doing that. So I'm going to leave them in place and declare this teardown finished. So, if the 2013 Air looks so much like the previous models, what did Apple change and how did they so dramatically improve battery life? Well, for starters the battery is better. The new Air has a 7.6 volt 5,100 milliamp-hour battery, compared to the 2012 models, 7.3 volt, 4,680 milliamp-hour unit. But this change alone can't account for the jump from 5 hours to 9. For that, Apple turned to Intel's new 4th generation Haswell processors. By combining the CPU and the platform controller hub onto a single BGA package, these ultra low voltage chips are better able to manage power than previous ones. They also require less space on the motherboard. A 1.3 gigahertz dual-core Core i5 comes standard on both the 11 and 13-inch Airs. But our test machine had a 1.7 gigahertz Core i7. Now along with the new CPU, the chip also has Intel's HD Graphics 5,000 which Apple claims is up to 40 percent faster than the old GPU. But it's not only the graphics that are faster. Thanks to a solid-state drive which uses a PCI Express Interface, instead of the slower side of connection, the new Air is 45 percent faster when accessing files. You'll also get more storage for your [unk]. The base model Air comes with 128-gig drive, compared to last year's 64-gig unit. Rounding out the upgrades is a new wireless card that also speeds things up by supporting the 802.11ac Standard. Now just remember, you'll need an 802.11ac access point to take full advantage of the new card. Now, conveniently releases new Air port stations that do just that. This year's Air upgrades were all about efficiency and speed-- more efficient power management, faster graphics, a faster SSD and faster Wi-Fi. Now thanks to these updates, Apple definitely hit a triple with the new Air. Had the company included a retina display, added an SD card slot, and upgraded the camera, they would have hit a homerun. Now for more information on the 2013 Air including performance and battery life benchmark tests, check out Scott Stein's full CNET Review. And to see more teardown photos and read my full hardware analysis, go to techrepubilc.com/crackingopen. I'm Bill Detwiler, thanks for watching.

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