Right now, the 2010 MacBook Airs are the only Macs that still boast the stinky Core 2 Duo CPU, compared to the much faster processors Intel has released since. Even though the Air is a speed demon thanks to its ubiquitous SSDs, Apple will have to update it at some point… and Intel may have just announced the Sandy Bridge processors that will probably go into the MacBook Air starting later this year.
The MacBook Air’s slimness means its hard to fit much battery in there. That means any chips used in the Air need to be very respectful of power draw. Right now, the Core 2 Duo CPU used in the 11-inch Air only consumes 10 watts of power, but that’s upped a bit by the NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU.
Given these power-drain challenges, the Core i5 2537M is looking like a likely chip for a future Air. It’s clocked at 1.4GHz, but features an impressive turbo mode that reaches 2.3GHz, as well as a 1333MHz bus (up from 800MHz in current Airs), as well as an integrated (and respectable) GPU. All together, it only draws 17W, which is more than 10 watts, sure, but that also includes GPU.
Intel’s got other low-consumption Sandy Bridge processors in the works, and they are set to be launched at the end of the semester. The top of the line is the Core i7 2657M, featuring 2 cores, 4 threads, clocked at 1.6GHz and boasting a turbo mode reaching 2.7GHz. That would lead to performance roughly equivalent to the 13-inch MacBook Pro without taking into consideration the speed gains of the SSD, and the power draw remains at 17W.
So if you’re considering buying an Air right now, wait if you can: within a few months, Apple is likely to do a Sandy Bridge refresh.