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CNET First Look
Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, Summer 2011)Apple's smallest MacBook is faster, has a backlit keyboard, and comes with OSX Lion, all in time for back-to-school shopping. We go hands-on and look at what's changed.
Hi. I'm Scott Stein, senior editor at CNET.com. And, this is the new 11 inch MacBook Air. Now, last year in the fall, Apple debuted for the first time an 11 inch MacBook Air. It was the first ultra portable in that size range that Apple had made that was a MacBook, and a lot of people have been hungering for a sort of a Netbook or ultra portable that fit in to that range. Nearly iPad size, weighing a little bit more, the 11 inch Air really fit that niche where people that wanted something tiny and on the go. Now, the new model that just debuted looks exactly the same as the old one from a design and size perspective, which is fine, we'd love the design before. There are some new wrinkles though, there's a Thunderbolt port on the side, there are places Mini DisplayPort. Now, that's kinda of almost an [unk] drag for most people because they might not be buying any peripherals for it until the fall or sometime around then. But, like on the MacBook Pro and on now almost all of the Macs across Apples line, it allows you to also connect to high speed data storage as well. So, you can connect to needs to be Thunderbolt capable but you could connect to external hard drives, monitors as well, and daisy chain them all, and really creates some interesting solutions, especially for device this small. Now, Apple does have a Thunderbolt display that's gonna be available on August, specifically made for devices like this that will dock, and it cost 999. You've got Thunderbolt, you've got 2 USB 2.0, you've got your charger, you've got your microphone and headphone jack and that's it, so it remains pretty minimal. But, with Thunderbolt, it really does offer you a lot more connectivity options for the future. Also, there's a backlit keyboard on this model. Now, [unk] you miss the backlit keyboard before especially for people who are writing on the go, bloggers, people writing new stories such as our selves and dimly lit rooms. It's actually really useful because you're no longer [unk] to look for perfect lighting to write. OS X Lion debuted and it's pre-installed on the Air's, and well, it's really sort of in a lot ways presents more of a graphic UI's sort of a wrinkle to the OS X, in fact it almost iPadafize it by presenting your apps and your other interfaces in a more gesture-based style. It really suit yourselves well for a small device line the 11 inch Air, being able to see all of your apps lined up, and be able to scroll through them easily and start them, might really appeal to somebody who might be also bill you for an iPad, and get something that's very simple and easy to use, it's easier to access you apps, although it's a little hard learned all of the various multi-touch gestures that are now in Lion. Once you get the fell for it, you can actually bring them all up using that large multi-touch pad. Also, being able to resume apps is really nice for us. A quick on, quick off device like the Air, we haven't really gone deep in the Lion yet, but as we continue to play around with it, we're sure we'll find a lot more wrinkles. In terms of upgrades with the Air, it's a lot like in the base configuration what you saw before 999 has 64 Gig, flash storage built in, and 2 Gigs of RAM. The processor is dramatically upgraded. It's now a second generation Core i5 processor. So, people who are looking for a little more [unk], they should really provide it. You can also upgrade that to a Core i7, which is a lower voltage than you find on a regular laptop but is still a lot faster than what happened with last year's, and that cost about $150 more. You can upgrade the internal flash storage up to 256 Gigs, which is more than what was the maximum before on the 11, but that will cost you an extra $300 over the 128 Gig version which cost $11.99. But, for back to schoolers, they might really enjoy something this light, this portable, and with Lion installed in it now, it's even a little more usable. I'm Scott Stein, and that's a look at the new 11 inch MacBook Air.