Apple MacBook Air Teardown: Lack of Radical Change

Apple's MacBook Air might be shifting the company closer to its mobility-centric goals, but an iFixit teardown suggests much of the same hardware as its previous edition.

When Apple tossed the white MacBook from its portfolio in favor of an updated, 11-inch MacBook Air (both devices priced at $999, just to make it perfectly clear that the latter was Apple's new "entry level" laptop), it was the tech-world equivalent of Cort??«s burning his troops' ships on the shore to prevent them from retreating. Apple is now fully committed to a mobility-centric, ultra-portable paradigm, one in which even its laptops share substantial DNA with handheld devices like the iPad and iPhone.

That being said, a teardown of the new MacBook Air by repair firm iFixit suggests that Apple hasn't deviated much from the previous model. From the outer shell, which "uses the same pentalobe screws as the previous generation on the lower case," to the heat sink, which "looks nearly identical to the one used on the Core Duo Airs of last year," there aren't a whole lot of new surprises inside that thin-and-light body.

"Although today is an exciting day for consumers, it is a sad day for consumer repair," the firm wrote in a note accompanying the teardown. Whereas the white MacBook was "simple and serviceable," the MacBook Air is apparently its total opposite: "While this means that your book bags will be significantly lighter, it will also mean that you won't be upgrading or servicing your computer anytime soon."

In addition to a choice of 11-inch or 13-inch screens and Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, MacBook Air offers between 64GB and 256GB of flash storage (depending on the model), Thunderbolt I/O (for ultra-fast data transfers), 2GB or 4GB of memory, and Bluetooth for wireless peripherals. The battery offers around five hours of wireless-Web time for the 11-inch Air, according to Apple, and closer to seven hours for the 13-inch edition.

The Air also comes with Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion," which takes many of its cues from Apple's work with its iOS mobile operating system, including an application store, the ability to run full-screen applications, and an AirDrop feature that wirelessly shoots files to other users.

"Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac Users will really like," Jobs wrote in October 2010, after Lion and the revamped MacBook Air were first unveiled. As for the design philosophy behind the latter, he added: "We asked ourselves, what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?"

It's a radical idea, one that edges laptops away from their safety zone within the PC world. But as iFixit's teardown demonstrates, Apple isn't accompanying that philosophy with a radical shift in the MacBook Air's hardware and capabilities-at least, not yet.

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