Apple Unveils New MacBook Air with Backlit Keyboard, Thunderbolt

Posted by at 7:51 am on July 21, 2011

Apple kicked off the launch of Lion Wednesday with a new version of the MacBook Air. The new version makes the leap to Intel’s low-voltage Core i5 and i7 processors and is theoretically twice as fast as the Core 2 Duo systems they replace. They use Intel’s much faster integrated graphics and, in some models, ship with as much as 4GB of RAM.

Thunderbolt makes its appearance on the Air for the first time and means that even an 11-inch Air can use very high-speed input, either for fast RAID drives or for the new Thunderbolt Display. It can even serve as a bridge for connections that have been off-limits to the Air in the past, such as FireWire or gigabit Ethernet.

A much-requested backlit keyboard makes its return on every model. Battery life is the same at five hours for an 11-inch system and seven hours for a 13-inch edition.

The 11-inch system starts as expected, with a 1.6GHz Core i5, 2GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD for the same $999 as before. An upgrade to 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage boosts the price to $1,199. The 13-inch systems start at $1,299 for a 1.7GHz Core i5, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, climbing up to $1,599 for 256GB of space. Either size of notebook can upgrade to the same 1.8GHz Core i7, and the 11-inch model can finally get a 256GB storage option.

All of the new MacBook Airs are available to order today at the Apple Store and will be in retail shops on Thursday.

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