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MacBook Air 11-inch teardown reveals unchanged design, updated hardware

TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler cracks open the 2012 11-inch MacBook Air. Inside, he find lots of hardware updates but an unchanged hardware layout.

Now playing: Watch this: Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2012)

Apple didn't make any big design changes to the 2012 MacBook Air, but the company did upgrade the machine's hardware. In this week's episode of Cracking Open, I take you inside this year's 11-inch Air and show you what's changed.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2012)

Significant hardware updates
The new Airs have Intel third-generation (Ivy Bridge) processors. A 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor comes standard, but TechRepublic's test machine had a 2.0GHz Core i7. The machines also have Intel's HD Graphics 4000 system -- a step up from the older model's HD Graphics 3000.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Apple also beefed up the machine's memory and storage. The 2012 Air can support up to 8GB of RAM, compared with the 2011's 4GB. The chips are also faster -- 1,600MHz DDR3L SDRAM compared with the older model's 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM. The new Air can be configured with up to 512GB of storage, twice the maximum capacity of the 2011 model.

A 720p FaceTime camera, two USB 3.0 ports, and Apple's new MagSafe 2 power connector round out the hardware updates.

Unchanged design

Click to enlarge. Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Despite upgrading the Air's hardware, Apple left the overall internal design alone. The battery sits in the center of the case, with a speaker located on each side. Like this year's 13-inch Air, the battery in this year's 11-inch model is identical to the one in last year's version. The motherboard, cooling fan, and smaller I/O board run along the back edge.

Minor complaints
As is the case with the 2012 13-inch Air, this year's 11-inch version is a solid update to the laptop line. But you will make a few sacrifices for the machine's smaller design. There's no SD card slot, as there is on the 13-inch Air. The base model's 64GB SSD seems small given the machine's $999 price tag. And those accustomed to a standard laptop may need a little time to adjust to the machine's 11.6-inch display.

Lastly, Apple didn't design the Air to be upgraded or serviced by the owner. The RAM is soldered to the motherboard. The SSD is a proprietary design. And the case's bottom cover is held in place with tamper-resistant pentalobe screws. Be sure you get all the RAM, storage, and processing power you'll need when you buy it.

A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.