Friday, July 22, 2011

MacBook Air Makes Room for Baby Thunderbolt

MacBook Air Makes Room for Baby Thunderbolt: "

A teardown of the new 13-inch MacBook Air reveals the logic board, in its tiny, mighty glory. Photo courtesy of iFixit

A quick peek under the hood of Apple’s new MacBook Air reveals the company’s diligent efforts to squeeze in its brand-new Thunderbolt technology.

Gadget repair site iFixit dissected the new laptop to look at its chip board, which includes an Intel Core i5 processor and an integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip. The chip layout opens space for an Intel platform controller hub with Thunderbolt technology.

“Shifting to integrated graphics on the processor freed up a lot of room on the board — enough for Apple to add the sizeable Thunderbolt-capable Platform Controller Hub,” iFixit explained in a press release.

Apple released the upgraded MacBook Air on Wednesday. The newest additions to the notebook are backlit keyboards and Intel’s Thunderbolt connectivity. The Thunderbolt port technology allows for speedy data transfer that puts USB to shame.

As for wireless, the new Airs feature a Broadcom BCM20702 Bluetooth board, which supports BLE. Unlike previous generations’ Bluetooth, the new Air has 128-bit AES security, 6-millisecond latency, and better power efficiency. With OSX Lion, you might’ve noticed that the icon on the upper right is no longer the AirPort, but just “Wi-Fi,” powered by a Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.

Apple laptops in the past have been notoriously hot (temperature wise — not just in terms of looks), and to prevent unintended combustion, last-gen Airs received hefty dollops of thermal paste. The new Air, it seems, has resolved some of the cooling issues because there is far less paste than in the last generation, though the fan is still conspicuous, according to iFixit.

Previous Airs missed out on the backlit keyboard featured on the corpulent MacBook Pro. Now, from not-so-deep inside, a backlight cable powers the LEDs that illuminate the keys. But the MacBook Pro kids get one thing to brag about: the Air’s thin screen can’t accommodate FaceTime HD.

The Air’s upgrades, thanks to the circuitry inside that’s organized like a perfect game of Tetris, comes at a price. This laptop is not meant for tinkering, even in the name of repair. The RAM is soldered in (read: not upgradable or exchangeable) and the LCD panel so snug that it’s tedious to replace. Luckily, the solid-state drive (SSD), the quick, more stable, but smaller alternative to spinning-disc hard drives, isn’t soldered in, so it’s possible to upgrade for more storage.

Should anything catastrophic happen to their Air, owners will have to schlep to the nearest Apple Store — the laptop doesn’t come with a USB recovery drive this time around. Be careful with this thing.


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