MacBook Air

line of ultraportable notebook computers by Apple

The MacBook Air is a kind of Macintosh laptop computer designed by Apple, known as the "world's thinnest notebook." It is positioned as the most portable in Apple's MacBook family and was introduced at the Macworld Conference & Expo on January 15, 2008.[5] The MacBook Air was the first laptop to implement Apple's precision aluminum unibody enclosure.[6]

MacBook Air
ManufacturerApple Inc.[1][2]
Release dateJanuary 29, 2008 (2008-01-29) (original release)
November 2020 (2020-11) (current model)
LifespanJanuary 30, 2008 (2008-01-30)[3]
Operating systemmacOS, formerly Mac OS X[1][4]
System-on-chip usedPre-2020: Intel Core
2020: Apple M1
TouchpadMulti-touch trackpad
Mass3 pounds (1.4 kg) (13 in, pre-2018)

2.2 pounds (998 g) (11 in)

2.8 pounds (1.3 kg) (13 in, current)
WebsiteApple - MacBook Air

The MacBook Air has been updated over four times since the original release. The first revision introduced better performance, a bigger hard drive, and a Mini DisplayPort for peripheral monitors.[7][8] The second update, introduced with the MacBook Pro series, featured a lower price, better performance, and a longer-lasting battery.[9] It was revised a third time in October 2010 when the outside container was redesigned. At this time Apple began selling another model with a smaller, 11.6-inch (29 cm) screen until 2019.[10][11][12] The fourth update was released in July 2011. There have been other revisions in between, but in October 2018, there was a fifth revision to the MacBook Air, with a fingerprint scanner, a larger Retina screen, and a backlit keyboard.

Design change

Flip-down hatch on right side of the older model notebook reveals ports on the computer.

The MacBook Air, made for thinness, weighs 3 pounds (1.4 kg),[note 1] was the first MacBook produced using a single piece of aluminum with Apple's unibody technique.[6][13] The computer has a glossy LED backlit screen and a backlit keyboard, as well as a large trackpad that responds to iPhone-like Multi-Touch gestures such as pinching, swiping, and rotating.[14] With the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the Air's multi-touch trackpad also supports handwriting recognition of Chinese characters.[15]

A hatch that flips down on the right side shows the ports on MacBook Air: a USB port, a Mini DisplayPort, and a stereo earphone jack.[1][14] The left side of the computer has a MagSafe adapter for power, and there is an iSight webcam and microphone above the screen.[1][14]

The MacBook Air was the first compact laptop sold by Apple since the full-featured 12" PowerBook G4 was stopped in 2006. It was also Apple's first computer with an optional solid-state storage drive.[16] ArsTechnica found "moderate" performance improvements of the 64 GB[note 2] solid-state drive of the first generation Air over the standard 80 GB hard drive in tests. On October 14, 2008, new models were announced boasting improved capacities of 128 GB (solid-state) and 120 GB (hard drive).[17] The Air comes standard with 2 GB[note 3] non-upgradable RAM.[17] The CPU on the original Air was an Intel Core 2 Duo chip especially designed to be 40 percent the size of the standard Core 2 Duo chip.[18] The current model has a low voltage, small form factor Core 2 Duo "Penryn" with 6 MB of cache, running on a 1066 MHz bus.[19] MacBook Air has no user-replaceable parts. The hard drive, memory, and battery are enclosed within the casing, with memory soldered directly to the logicboard.[20] MacBook Air's battery is enclosed within the case but can be replaced using normal screwdrivers, though it is unclear whether this process would void the notebook's warranty.[21][22] As part of the out-of-warranty service, Apple offers to replace the battery for a fee.[23]

The optional MacBook Air SuperDrive

Apple incorporated several features in the design of the MacBook Air, such as the reduction of toxic chemicals like lead, to make it more environmentally friendly. MacBook Air contains no BFRs and PVC wiring, meets Energy Star Version 5.0 requirements, has a recyclable enclosure, and is rated EPEAT Gold; its screen is made from arsenic-free glass and does not contain mercury.[1][24][25] To reduce the computer's size and weight, several features were sacrificed. It is Apple's first notebook since the PowerBook 2400c without a built-in removable media drive.[26] It also omits a FireWire port, Ethernet port, line-in, media card slots, and a Kensington Security Slot.[27]

To regain the features of an optical drive, users can either use a separately-available external USB SuperDrive, or the bundled Remote Disc software to access the optical drive of another computer. However, this method only allows for disk browsing or software installation; DVD movies or CDs cannot be watched or listened to.[1][28] The Remote Disc capability is achieved by the computer wirelessly accessing the optical drive of another Mac or Windows PC that has the Remote Disc program installed.[29][30] It can also be used to reinstall the system software from the included installation DVD.[31] Remote Disc supports netbooting, so MacBook Air can boot from its installation DVD in another computer's drive. This feature requires Remote Install Mac OS X to be running on the remote computer. The software does not allow the playback or information of DVDs or CDs, nor does it allow the installation of Microsoft Windows.[28] For these features, an external USB drive is required.[28] A single speaker located under the keyboard is included for mono sound.[1]

The MacBook Air includes Mac OS X Snow Leopard pre-installed, along with Apple's iLife multimedia suite. Apple's iWork work suite, similar to Microsoft Office, is also available with the purchase of the computer, with an extra charge.

With the 2008 changes to the notebook, wired Ethernet connectivity required a separately available USB-to-Ethernet adapter. However, for the 2009 revision, the adapter is included in-the-box.[32] Additionally, in the 2008 revision, the hard drive, graphics, front side bus, processor, memory, battery, and port connections were upgraded.

Launch and reception change

Steve Jobs with a MacBook Air at the 2008 Keynote

The MacBook Air was greeted with mixed reception when it was introduced. The portability of the MacBook Air was praised in reviews, however, the compromise in features was criticized.[33][34][35] The full-sized keyboard, weight of three pounds, thinness, and Multi-Touch trackpad were appreciated in reviews, while the limited configuration options, slow speed (in the non-SSD models), non-user replaceable battery, small hard drive, and price were criticized.[33][34]

Dan Ackerman of CNET commented on the original models, "the design and engineering that went into MacBook Air is extraordinary, but it's certainly a much more specialized product than the standard 13-inch MacBook."[35] Ackerman disliked the limited internet connectivity, slow speed, small hard drive, battery, and the price of SSD hard-drive option, however, appreciated the thinness, sturdiness, and the MultiTouch gestures. Macworld's Jason Snell praised the portability, however commented that "the decision about whether the MacBook Air is a product worth having can be answered by 1 question: How much are you willing to compromise?"

MacBook Air's launch was accompanied by a television commercial emphasizing its slender design. In the commercial, a hand unthreads a manila envelope and slides out a MacBook Air, then opens it to wake it from sleep. The music playing is "New Soul" by Yael Naïm.[36]

"Thinnest" disputes change

The Mitsubishi Pedion, released in 1998, was the thinnest rectangular laptop at 0.72 inches (1.84 cm) until the release of the Dell Adamo in March 2009, which is a rectangular laptop 0.65 inches (1.65 cm) thick.[37][38] Although both these laptops are thinner than MacBook Air's thickest point (0.76 inches/1.94 cm), MacBook Air tapers from 0.16–0.76 inches (0.4–1.94 cm), leading to some controversy over the "thinnest" laptop.[39]

The Sharp Actius MM10 Muramasas, a thin, tapered notebook, had a minimum height (thickness) of 0.54 inches (14 mm)[40] and a maximum height of 0.78 inches (20 mm).[41] It was the thinnest tapered laptop until the release of MacBook Air in 2008.[42] In March 2009, Dell challenged that claim with the release of the Dell Adamo XPS.[39][note 4]

Issues change

The flip-down hatch on the side of Mac Book Air is a tight fit for some headphone plugs and USB devices, requiring users to purchase an extension cable. Apple has removed the flip-down hatch on the Late 2010 model in favor of open connection ports as on other Mac books.[43][44] Since the release of the first-generation product, some MacBook Air users have complained of overheating that caused CPU lockup. The effect can be seen at CPU temperatures as low as 150 °F (66 °C) and worsens with higher temperatures. Apple released a software update in early March 2008 to fix the problem with mixed results: the deactivation of 1 CPU core appears to have been corrected; however, the runaway kernel problem remains for at least some users.[45][46] The problem is aggravated by system-intensive tasks such as video playback or video chatting.[47]

Specifications change

Discontinued Current
Table of models
Model Early 2008[48] Late 2008[7][8] Mid 2009[49][50] Late 2010
Model identifier MacBookAir1,1 MacBookAir2,1 MacBookAir3,1
Model number MB003LL/A MB543LL/A, MB940LL/A MC233LL/A, MC234LL/A MC505LL/A MC503LL/A
screen 13.3", 1280 × 800 11.6", 1366 × 768 13.3", 1440 × 900
glossy LED backlight TFT LCD widescreen screen
Shared with system memory
Intel GMA X3100 using 144 MB of DDR2 SDRAM with Micro-DVI output Nvidia GeForce 9400M using 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM with Mini DisplayPort output Nvidia GeForce 320M using 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM with Mini DisplayPort output
Front side bus 800 MHz 1066 MHz 800 MHz 1066 MHz
Processor 1.6 GHz (P7500) or 1.8 GHz (P7700) Intel Core 2 Duo with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache 1.6 GHz (SL9300) or 1.86 GHz (SL9400) Intel Core 2 Duo with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache 1.86 GHz (SL9400) or 2.13 GHz (SL9600) Intel Core 2 Duo with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache 1.4 GHz (SU9400) Intel Core 2 Duo with 3 MB on-chip L2 cache
Optional 1.6 GHz (SU9600) Intel Core 2 Duo with 3 MB on-chip L2 cache
1.86 GHz (SL9400) Intel Core 2 Duo with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache
Optional 2.13 GHz (SL9600) Intel Core 2 Duo with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache
Soldered to the logic board[20]
2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2 GB[note 3] of 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM 2 GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Optional 4 GB
Secondary storage 80 GB 1.8-inch ATA, 4200-rpm HDD or 64 GB SSD 120 GB 1.8-inch Serial ATA, 4200-rpm HDD or 128 GB SSD 64 or 128 GB of flash storage 128 or 256 GB of flash storage
Optical storage None, optional External USB SuperDrive

4× DVD+/-R DL writes, 8× DVD+/-R read/write, 8× DVD+RW writes, 6× DVD-RW writes, 24× CD-R writes, and 16× CD-RW recording, 8× DVD read, 24× CD read

No wired Ethernet
Integrated 802.11a/b/g and draft-n
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Integrated 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Battery 37-watt-hour non-removable lithium-ion polymer 40-watt-hour non-removable lithium-ion polymer 35-watt-hour non-removable lithium-ion polymer 50-watt-hour non-removable lithium-ion polymer
Dimensions 12.8 in (330 mm) wide × 8.94 in (227 mm) deep × 0.16 in (4.1 mm) – 0.76 in (19 mm) high 11.8 in (300 mm) wide × 7.56 in (192 mm) deep × 0.11 in (2.8 mm) – 0.68 in (17 mm) high 12.8 in (330 mm) wide × 8.94 in (227 mm) deep × 0.11 in (2.8 mm) – 0.68 in (17 mm) high
Weight 3.0 lb (1.36 kg) 2.3 lb (1.04 kg) 2.9 lb (1.32 kg)
Peripheral connections

Notes change

  1. Actual weight varies by configuration and manufacturing process.
  2. In this article, the conventional prefixes for computer storage denote base-10 values whereby “kilobyte” (KB) = 103 bytes, “megabyte” (MB) = 106 bytes and “gigabyte” (GB) = 109 bytes.
  3. 3.0 3.1 In this article, the conventional prefixes for computer RAM denote base-2 values whereby “kilobyte” (KB) = 210 bytes, “megabyte” (MB) = 220 bytes and “gigabyte” (GB) = 230 bytes.
  4. The Adamo is 9.98799 mm thick, while MacBook Air tapers from 0.16–0.76 inches (0.4–1.94 cm) thick. This has led to some controversy over which is the thinnest laptop.

References change

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