On Wednesday, Steve Jobs will likely introduce a redesigned 13.3-inch MacBook Air with a bigger battery and more ports — yet thinner and lighter — than the current model, CultofMac.com has independently confirmed.
Apple will probably also add a second, smaller 11.6-inch “Netbook” version, according to our well-placed source.
Our information independently corroborates recent reports by AppleInsider, and Engadget, which ran a picture of a purported prototype over the weekend.
The new model is also apparently much snappier than its underpowered predecessor. “It boots so fast, it’s unbelievable,” our source says. “It’s amazing how fast it boots up.”
We haven’t confirmed the launch date, but it’s likely the new machine(s) will be introduced during next Wednesday’s “Back to the Mac” press event at Apple’s Cupertino campus.
The MacBook Air is due for an upgrade. Current models were launched more than a year ago, in June 2009, priced at $1,499 for the 1.86GHz model and $1,799 for the 2.13GHz machine.
Despite kudos from critics, the MBA hasn’t sold in high volume, being too underpowered for business travelers and too expensive for students.
A faster 13-inch model with upgradeable options should appeal to pro users, while a cheaper 11-inch MacBook Air might be more attractive to students and casual users.
According to our source, the new MacBook Air will have the following hardware features:
A 50-percent bigger battery, delivering 8-10 hours of battery life. The current MacBook Air has a 5-hour battery.
Thinner, lighter, boxier
The new machine is thinner and lighter, weighing less than the current model’s 3lbs, our source says.
The new enclosure is also an aluminum unibody design, like the current model — but not as curvy.
“It’s very, very nice,” says our source. “It does not have curves. It has straight edges. It’s boxier, like the iPhone 4.”
SD card, two USB ports, straight MagSafe
Two USB ports, one on each side.
An SD card slot on the right side will allow the MBA’s memory to be quickly and easily upgraded. SD cards are currently available at 64GBs, and will soon be available at 128GBs (super expensive, of course).
A Mini DisplayPort adapter on the left side, next to the MagSafe power plug (which is now straight, not bent at 90-degrees like the current model).
Trackpad and keyboard
Same black keyboard as current MBA, same single-button Multi-Touch trackpad.
RAM and SSD
The base model will likely have 2GB of RAM. However, unlike the current machine, the RAM module is upgradeable, as is the SSD drive — allowing users to upgrade the RAM or internal drive at a future date. Lack of upgradeable RAM has often been mentioned as a shortcoming of the current MBA.
NVidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics (same as the current MacBook).
Engadget’s pictured prototype was supposedly manufactured in April, and it appears to be running the same 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor as the current MBA. However, our source said the new model is likely to come in two different configurations — 2.1Ghz (with 2GB of RAM) and 2.4 GHz (with 4GB of RAM). However, this is unconfirmed.
The new MBA is rumored to be considerably cheaper than the current MBA’s $1,500 starting price. Our source suggests the 13-inch machine may be priced as low as $1,100, and the 11-inch MBA at $999. The source points out that the 64GB iPad starts at $700, and the MacBook Air doesn’t have many more components.
We’re skeptical, however. We’re not sure that Apple would price a premium machine like the MBA as low as the entry-level white plastic MacBook, which also starts at $999. More likely, price points will be at $1,100 for the 11-inch MBA and $1,400 for the 13-inch machine.