MacBook Air gets faster graphics, more storage

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The MacBook Air will feature more storage capacity and faster graphics, Apple announced Tuesday during a press event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. The revamped versions of the smallest and thinnest laptop in Apple’s portable product line will ship in early November at the same $1,799 and $2,499 prices as the current systems.

The graphics improvements are being ushered in by Apple’s switch to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M—the same core graphics chipset Apple is introducing to both its MacBook Pro and MacBook models. The Nvidia GeForce 9400M will be embedded on the computer’s motherboard, as was the case with the Intel GMA X3100 graphics chipset it replaces. Apple says the new graphics architecture in the Air promises four times the speed of the old system, though it won't run as quickly as on other MacBook models due to thermal concerns.

As for storage, the MacBook Air’s $1,799 configuration now includes a 120GB hard drive, up from the 80GB capacity of its predecessor. The hard disk is a Serial ATA (SATA) model, replacing the Parallel ATA (PATA) model of old. The $2,499 model replaces its 64GB solid-state hard drive with a 128GB SSD drive.

Despite the changes in graphics and storage, the processor speeds remain much the same as in the current MacBook Air offerings—1.6GHz in the $1,799 configuration and 1.86GHz (up slightly from 1.8GHz) on the $2,499 offering. However, the 2GB of memory that ship with the MacBook Air are DDR3 SDRAM running at 1,066MHz, compared to DDR2 SDRAM running at 667MHz in the current systems.

The new MacBook Air also replaces its Mini DVI video connector with the same Mini DisplayPort connector that's found on the new MacBook and MacBook Pro models. In addition to supporting DVI and VGA connections via separate adapters, the new MacBook Air supports dual-link DVI for the first time via an available Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter, meaning the Air can drive external monitors up to 2560-by-1600 pixels in size.

Otherwise specs in the revamped MacBook Air remain unchanged from the model introduced this past January. The laptop still sports a 13.3 inch LED-backlit display with 1,280-by-800 native resolution. The laptop still comes with built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support, a single USB 2.0 port, and an audio out port, along with the mini display port. Unlike the other new models announced today, the Air does not offer a clickable trackpad with four-fingered gestures, but has a single physical button and supports one-, two-, and three-fingered gestures.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. PT to include more information on the updated MacBook Air.

Updated at 11:54 a.m. PT with additional hard drive information.

Updated at 2:09 p.m. PT with additional information about displays, processor speeds, DisplayPort, and more.

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