In 2008, the world caught a glimpse of the future being removed from a manila envelope by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer Inc. Audiences around the world gasped in surprise at the appropriately named MacBook Air and since then, imaginations about the future portable personal computer were ignited. But make no mistake. Apple wasn’t the first company to create such a marvelously engineered laptop. Sony was the first to do it with their Vaio line. It was however priced out of reach for many people and so not many people really knew about them in a big way.
For laptops to become ridiculously thin (just the way we like it), it required an incredible amount money to be funneled into research and design, and not many manufacturers were prepared to throw good money at a potentially expensive product that would appeal to a small group. The original MacBook Air ran on hardware that other manufacturers have already started using, but costs a whole lot more due to the Air's design. As a result it didn’t capture the market as intended, no matter how good the marketing team at Apple was. While the initial sales of MacBook Airs were not that fantastic, it was encouraging enough for Apple to persevere with the MacBook Air line.
Today, in mid-2011 however, we can finally see how Apple’s determination was able to bring us the thinnest and most beautiful piece of consumer hardware we have ever seen. Years of experience in designing and manufacturing desirable electronics has granted Apple access to suppliers and manufacturers that help keep costs so low that other manufacturers hoping to hop on the ultra-thin bandwagon can’t keep up. Working with Intel and convincing them to make low voltage processor variants that would suit the thermal design power of their notebook design also helped keep their machines running longer (and cooler). After all, there's a reason why certain Intel mobile processors aren't featured anywhere else until much later.
The result is the latest 13.3-inch MacBook Air (MBA) using the mobile Sandy Bridge processor which has graphics abilities built right into the processor. It’s not powerful enough to play hardcore games, but in the world of tablets and mobile phones, the last thing you’d want to do on your core i5 (1.7GHz) ultra-portable notebook is to play those games (it can handle Facebook games just fine though). Cost-wise, the MBA has also become extremely competitive, reducing the previously large number of reasons not to get it.
Looks-wise, it resembles the more powerful MacBook Pro (a design change which started with the previous generation of MBAs), to keep things uniform, just the way Apple (and apparently their customers) like it. It is still decked out in champagne colored matte aluminum. While it generally feels solid, there are areas where we observed flex like on the lid as well as the bottom of the machine.
The new Air features the most relevant and commonly used connectivity options but there's still no USB 3.0 support. In place however is the addition of a ThunderBolt (TB) port. Reports say that it is a watered down version, but a ThunderBolt port is still a ThunderBolt port. While devices benefiting from this interface are few and far between, some consumers would still see it as a plus point, but many might still lament the lack of a USB 3.0 port which is fast becoming the next high-speed interface standard of choice. You even have several devices using this interface and the best part is its backward compatibility.