Apple bumps processor on MacBook Airs, drops price

macbookair refresh apr2014

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As predicted by some Apple-watchers, the company updated its line of lightweight notebooks on Tuesday, bringing updated versions of Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors to the MacBook Air. Even more significantly, the company’s dropped the price of the MacBook Air models by $100 each, making the slim portables even more affordable than ever.

The new processors—which, like the versions in the last Air models, are based on Intel’s Haswell architecture—aren’t just about increasing performance on the MacBook Air line; the focus is on providing that performance without compromising battery life. Like their predecessors, these 13-inch and 11-inch MacBook Air models offer 12 and 9 hours of battery life, respectively. There’s also a minor increase in the amount of iTunes movie playback time you can achieve on the new Airs, from 8 hours to 9 hours on the 11-inch model and from 10 hours to 12 hours on the 13-inch model.

The improvements themselves are relatively minor: Across the board, the MacBook Air line now comes with a 1.4GHz Core i5 processor that can, with Turbo Boost, hit speeds of up to 2.7GHz; that’s up slightly from the 1.3GHz Core i5 found in previous MacBook Airs. Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 5000 chip remains standard, as does  4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage. The $1099 11-inch model and $1199 13-inch model have otherwise identical specs, except for a 256GB flash drive. And of course all models sport the usual assortment of wireless technology, including 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Again, as with its predecessor, optional upgrades on the Air include a 1.7GHz Core i7, with Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, for $150, as well as a RAM bump to 8GB for $100. The higher-level 11-inch and 13-inch models can also upgrade to 512GB of flash storage for $300.

Overall, the latest MacBook Air is a minor upgrade, a speed bump that keeps the product inching forward. But the price cut across the board is a welcome one; the Mac line has done well of late, including 4.1 million units shipped in the most recent quarter, and no doubt this upgrade will make the company’s entry-level laptop even more attractive.

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