The MacBook Air, Apple's sexiest system, has figuratively received a fresh new coat of paint. But are the spec bumps and new operating system enough to justify an upgrade? We compare last year's entry-level model with today's to find out.
MacBook Air 11" 2010 vs MacBook Air 11" 2011
One of the MacBook Air's most noteworthy upgrades is concealed under the laptop's wafer-sized hood; the new model includes Intel's Sandy Bridge-based Core i5 processor, a beefy upgrade over last year's Core 2 Duo–based CPU. The benefits to the upgraded CPU include better multitasking, a better video-streaming experience, and enhanced graphics capabilities. Owners of Apple's previous generation MacBook Air might have noticed slight stuttering when streaming HD videos, but the Sandy Bridge CPU promises to smoothen out that experience.
Another big upgrade is the inclusion of Mac OS X Lion. The new software comes pre-installed in the 2011 MacBook Air and brings some of iOS 4's best features straight to your laptop, including enhanced gesture support, a new full-screen view of your apps, and better integration of the Apple App Store within the OS.
Minor upgrades include a Thunderbolt port (which supports data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps and purports to allow up to eight simultaneous uncompressed 720p streams), Bluetooth 4.0, and the addition of a backlit keyboard, a nice perk for in-the-dark Web surfing.
At $999, the 2011 MacBook Air is a powerful machine sporting a current generation Intel processor, Apple's latest OS, and more than enough horsepower for mainstream computing. If you don't already own a 2010 MacBook Air, the 2011 model is a no-brainer purchase. However, owners of the 2010 MacBook Air should think twice before upgrading. Sure, the new version out-values last year's model, but the price of admission is still steep. At the very least, we'd recommend waiting a few days or selling your current laptop on a site such as Gazelle (which as of this writing is offering $499 for a mint-condition 2010 MacBook Air) before taking the plunge on a new model.