Apple Updates MacBook Air, Mac Mini, Releases Mac OS X Lion

Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air gets Intel Sandy Bridge chips and the company's OS X Lion operating system.

Apple unveiled a host of updated products, including an updated MacBook Air and Mac mini, and released Mac OS X Lion, the eighth major edition of the company's operating system with more than 250 new features, which is available as a download from the Mac App Store for $29.99. The updated Air, available in 11-inch and 13-inch models sports next generation processors, Thunderbolt I/O technology, a backlit keyboard and Lion.

The Air's Thunderbolt I/O technology provides expansion possibilities through a single cable, where users can connect to high performance peripherals and the new Apple Thunderbolt Display. Thunderbolt can also be adapted to support legacy connections such as FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet. The 1.6 GHz 11-inch Air is available in two models, one with 2GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage for $999, and one with 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage for $1,199. The 1.7 GHz 13-inch Air comes in two configurations, one with 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage for $1,299, and one with 4GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage for $1,599.

The notebook comes with a full size backlit keyboard and a glass Multi-Touch trackpad. The backlit keyboard uses a sensor to automatically detect a change in ambient lighting and adjusts the keyboard brightness for any environment. The Multi-Touch trackpad supports Lion's new Multi-Touch gestures such as momentum scrolling, tapping or pinching fingers to zoom in on a Web page or image, and swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between full screen apps.

The Air also includes Bluetooth for wireless peripherals and two USB ports for connectivity. The 11-inch model weighs 2.38 pounds and provides up to 5 hours of battery life, while the 13-inch weighs 2.96 pounds and provides up to 7 hours of battery life, and the Air's aluminum unibody enclosure measures a thin 0.11-inches at its thinnest point and 0.68-inches at its thickest.

Some of the features in Lion include new Multi-Touch gestures, system-wide support for full screen apps, Mission Control, a view of everything running on a Mac, the Mac App Store built right into the OS, Launchpad, a new home for all a user's apps and a completely redesigned Mail application. The company noted Lion requires an Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor and 2GB of RAM.

Additional features in Lion include Resume, which conveniently brings apps back how the user left them when a user restarts the computer or quits and relaunches an app, Auto Save, which automatically and continuously saves documents as you work, Versions, which automatically records the history of a document as it is created and gives users a way to browse, revert and copy and paste from previous versions and AirDrop, which finds nearby Macs and automatically sets up a peer-to-peer wireless connection for transferring files.

Apple also updated the Mac mini with next generation Intel core processors, new discrete graphics, Thunderbolt I/O technology and Lion. Available in three different configurations, customers can choose a Mac mini with tdual-core Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors, AMD Radeon HD 6630M discrete graphics, or a quad-core Intel Core i7 powered server configuration. Designed without an optical disc drive, Mac mini can access the optical drives on other PCs and Macs, and works with the Air SuperDrive. Configure-to-order options include up to 8 GBs of memory, a faster 7200 RPM hard drive and a 256GB solid state drive.

The 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Mac mini with 2GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive starts at $599, with options to add memory up to 8GB and a 750GB hard drive. The 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Mac mini with 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive starts at $799, with options to upgrade to a 2.7GHz dual-core Core i7 processor, up to 8GB of memory, and a 750GB hard drive with an option to add or replace with a 256GB solid state drive. The 2.0 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 Mac mini with Lion Server, 4GB of memory and dual 500GB hard drives starts at of $999. Options include adding memory up to 8GB, two 750GB hard drives, or up to two 256GB solid state drives.