Apple's new MacBook Air explored

The MacBook Air just got serious. Really serious. Last year Apple added the likes of Sandy Bridge to its repertoire but for many that just wasn’t enough. Things such as graphics processing, cheaper storage and added RAM persuaded some to look elsewhere. 

Apple has been back to the drawing board and come up  with a package more persuasive than Iron Man's pants. This time round the MacBook Air means business, with Apple pulling tricks that make this new ultra-thin the most exciting yet.

Look at that screen

Confounding rumours, no Retina Display has been added to the MacBook Air range. There's a pretty standard 1440 x 900 resolution panel instead on the 13-inch, with the 11-inch getting 1366 x 768 - leaving the Retina Display up to the new, redesigned Macbook Pro.

Apple has also improved its FaceTime camera, which is now capable of producing 720p video. Fingers crossed that it's Skype compatible,  because we do love our Skype video chats.  

More beef under the hood

It's not much of a surprise that Apple has given the Air a little speed bump. The machine now has the option of a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7 processor which can "turbo boost" up to 3.2GHz. And there's also he choice of 8GB of RAM , which is more than you'll find in most Ultrabooks. 

The default spec for the 11-inch machine is a 1.7GHz processor, with 4GB of RAM, while the 13-inch machine has a 1.8GHz CPU and 4GB of memory. 

There's also the option to upgrade to SSD. The 11-inch Air has either 64GB or 128GB versions available, while the 13-inch comes with 128GB or 256GB. But the really great news for those with deep pockets is that there's also a 512GB solid-state storage option. It won't be cheap though.

Graphics have been updated, from Intel HD Graphics 3000 to 4000 - an improvement well worth having. Apple says this update makes the new machines 60 per cent faster, graphically. 

Connectivity worth having

Apple has also disposed of all USB 2.0 ports. Apple now has two USB 3.0 ports. This is something that PC manufacturers have failed to adopt - generally providing one 3.0 and one 2.0 socket - makes sense, especially on a premium Apple machine, and one with limited space for sockets. 

But you also still get a Thunderbolt socket. That will come as a huge relief for the tens of people with Thunderbolt accessories, monitors and hard drives. 

No weight loss

On the plus side, there's no weight gain either, with both machines having the same heft as the previous generation. 

Latest software

The new Airs are available to buy right now, although they won't ship with Mountain Lion. Instead owners will get a free update later in the year when the new OS goes on sale. 

Prices aren't getting a lot cheaper

The 11-inch MacBook Air with 1.7 GHz processor, 4GB of memory and a 64GB SSD will cost £849. Opting for a 128GB SSD will bring the price to £929.

The 13-inch MacBook Air with the 1.8 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD will cost £999. That jumps to £1,249 if you opt for the 256GB SSD.

The rich can opt for that 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, up to 8GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 on-board memory and up to 512GB flash storage.

Both these machines are available to buy now. 

Like the sound of the new MacBook Air? Let us know in the comments below ...
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