New MacBook Air: It’s Really, Really Small

Last week, Apple announced yet another product innovation at their latest keynote presentation. This time around, they unveiled their latest hardware alongside their updated version of their iLife creative suite. The new MacBook Air is even thinner than before, and within the tiny frame of this device lies some impressive technology that will lead the way in the modern computing world.

The new MacBook Air comes in two varieties — consumers have the choice of either an 11.6 or 13.3-inch display, and have the option of upgrading the RAM and hard drive space, depending on how much your wallet is willing to spare.

From talking to friends and family and hearing the general opinion of the past MacBook Air models, Apple has a lot to prove to the general consumer that this product is something special and worth buying. And with this new iteration of the Air, I think the Cupertino-based company has (nearly) done just that.

Upon first glance, the change that most people will notice is the new shape of the product itself. At its thickest point, the Air only measures about 0.68 inches and tapers all the way down to a measly 0.11 inches. That, in itself, is quite the accomplishment for the amount of hardware they managed to pack into this thin device.

By doing this, however, Apple did have to take some risks and sacrifice certain aspects that may leave some potential buyers still skeptical of purchasing this new product. There’s still no internal SuperDrive (CD/DVD reader/burner) available. On the left side of the laptop there’s a charging port, one USB slot and a headphone jack. On the other side, there’s another USB slot and a Mini DisplayPort for connecting the laptop to a projector or other types of displays.

As for the keyboard on the device, it looks the same as other full-size MacBook products but is slightly smaller due to the new reduced size of the 11.6-inch screen. However, Apple did keep the touchpad the same size as the other MacBook devices, which is a welcomed factor because of comfort and issues with ease of use.

Despite these small shortcomings, the new Air doesn’t have to sacrifice much externally as a result of the extreme thinness of the device. Chances are, if you’re buying the MacBook Air, you don’t need a SuperDrive or a ton of ports to connect your laptop to speakers and to multiple other peripherals at the same time.

What’s really important with the new Air is what Apple has placed on the inside of this extremely light, aluminum uni-body enclosure of this new member of the MacBook family.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the internal hardware is the implementation of solid-state flash memory as opposed to the usual magnetic disk hard drive memory that we’re (more than likely) all using in our current laptops or desktop computers. To the non-tech savvy consumer, this might not mean much simply because it seems like a small detail, but there’s really much more to it than that.

What sets SSDs (solid-state drives) apart from hard disk drives is that SSDs have no moving parts and use microchips to store memory instead of the spinning disks and heads that read and/or write data onto the hard disk drives. In short, this means that SSDs are less likely to break due to the fact that there are less parts that can fail within these drives, reducing the potential for malfunction.

Another great thing about the SSDs are that they’re whisper-quiet, which I’m sure would be very welcome to those concerned about the whirring sounds that their laptops make or the amount of work that cooling fans have to do in order to keep HDDs from overheating.

In order to save space on the inside of the machine, Apple has taken special measures to organize these SSDs in such a way to maximize the space available for battery storage. Battery, as it turns out, was also a major priority that Apple had in mind when designing the new Air. Most of the space inside of the Air is taken up by the battery cells, which can last quite a while (unless you’re doing something like streaming video from Hulu) and is quite impressive for a device of its class.

In the end, what people really want to know is whether or not this is a device worth spending their hard-earned money on. My advice would be this: if you really need an extremely light and highly portable computer, then this Air is the product you have been waiting for, especially now that the price has gone down to $999 for the new, smaller model.

Even if you’re not planning on buying the new Air (which I’m still sure most college students aren’t), it’s definitely a step in the right direction in the field of modern computer manufacturing. By learning different ways of utilizing the least amount of space possible and optimizing battery life, Apple is paving the way for the new standards of ultra-thin, ultra-mobile computing.

Zachary Risinger is a second-year English major. He can be reached at zrisinge@uci.edu.