Apple unleashes Lion, new MacBook Air, and more

Fresh from telling the world just how much money it makes, Apple has invited everyone to give it some more. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion has become available on the Mac App Store, and with it, Apple has introduced updated MacBook Air laptops, a new Mac mini, and the “world’s first Thunderbolt display.”

The new-and-improved MacBook Air tag-team now features Sandy Bridge processors, purportedly making them twice as fast as the previous, Core 2-powered generation. Apple has ditched Nvidia integrated graphics in favor of Intel’s HD Graphics 3000, and Thunderbolt connectivity is now in the mix. Prices still start at $999 for the 11″ system and $1,299 for the 13″ one, although now, all but the cheapest offering come with 4GB of RAM as standard. (Considering how cheap memory is, one wonders why the $999 machine does not.)

Apple’s Mac mini has gotten a similar upgrade. Here again, the entry-level model is saddled with 2GB of RAM. Apple does offer a $799 variant with a 2.5GHz dual-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and Radeon HD 6630M discrete graphics, however. Oh, and despite these upgrades, the Mac mini still fits inside a diminutive aluminum enclosure measuring 7.7″ on each side and 1.4″ in thickness.

As for the Thunderbolt Display, that monitor looks very much like Apple’s 27″, $999 LED Cinema Display. However, Apple says the new monitor features a “FaceTime® camera, high quality audio, and Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire® 800, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt ports,” which one can tap into from one’s Mac via a single Thunderbolt cable. Users can daisy-chain “up to five” additional devices with extra Thunderbolt connections, too.

Interestingly, Apple looks to have retired the vanilla MacBook altogether. That means the 11″ MacBook Air is now Apple’s cheapest laptop, and users pining for a 13″ display and a full-sized touchpad will have to spring for either the $1,299 Air or the $1,199 MacBook Pro. Knowing Apple, that move will do little to curb the vertiginous ascent of Mac shipment figures.

Comments closed
    • kyboshed
    • 8 years ago

    They’ve now [url=http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/07/21Lion-Downloads-Top-One-Million-in-First-Day.html<]announced[/url<] that they've sold over 1 million copies of Lion on the first day. That's over 3.5PB of bandwidth!

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      Much less given CDN’s.

    • Ryu Connor
    • 8 years ago

    Is that artist interpretation of a galaxy used as the desktop background in the screenshot available as a download from Apple?

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      [url=http://wyseworld.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/get-the-lion-desktop-picture-shown-at-wwdc-keynote/<]Probably.[/url<]

    • StashTheVampede
    • 8 years ago

    Some co workers complaining about the Apple tax and Apple’s double the cost, etc. It’s a shame that so many users don’t see that you aren’t buying a Core i7 cpu, some gpu and ram. You are buying a completely well thought out and integrated machine that no one else can offer.

    What is the closest competitor to the Air? Lenovo X1? Maybe the latest Samsung? Few laptops have the resolution the MBAs have, even fewer of them are SSD only.

    The only real competition (ihmo) is when we start comparing the non-Air units.

      • ThorAxe
      • 8 years ago

      The Asus UX21 kills the MBA in both looks and performance.

        • BestJinjo
        • 8 years ago

        That laptop isn’t out. So how can you make such a claim?

          • ThorAxe
          • 8 years ago

          It’s an Apple, so of course it’s going to be underpowered. 🙂

          Anyway it’s pretty standard hardware.

            • BestJinjo
            • 8 years ago

            Normally, that’s true, but not this time. In the Ultrabook space, the MBA has the fastest SSD+CPU combo at this price. Check out laptopmag.com review where it handily trounced Samsung Series 9 and Lenovo X1.

            IIRC, the 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2637M gets a turbo boost of 2.8ghz, plus you have hyper-threading. That’s plenty fast for an every day laptop. I am using a Core 2 Duo 2.0ghz laptop with Intel graphics (which is prob 4x slower than HD3000), and it’s plenty fast for a laptop.

        • crazybus
        • 8 years ago

        The UX21 won’t even be out for another 2 months. As MBA ripoffs go, it’s as shameless as they get, but it remains to be seen if Asus can actually put a decent screen in an ultraportable notebook.

          • ThorAxe
          • 8 years ago

          That’s like saying that the MBA ripped-off the ThinkPad. It’s just a thinner laptop – big deal.

          At least the UX21 looks nicer.

            • Skrying
            • 8 years ago

            Come on dude, there’s no denying the UX21 is taking a lot of inspiration from the MBA. The MBA is the complete opposite of a ThinkPad in almost every way. You could lump the X220 and the MBA in as ultraportables, that’s where the similarities stop.

            • ThorAxe
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t mean current ThinkPads, I mean laptops in general. Apple clearly stole the design of the early laptops and made a thin version. The MBA even has a screen and keyboard! 🙂

      • BestJinjo
      • 8 years ago

      Check out this review: [url<]http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptop/apple-macbook-air-13-2011.aspx?mode=benchmarks#comments[/url<] The X1 and Samsung Series 9 are worse than the new MBA. For the first time, Apple actually offers MORE for the same price.

    • leor
    • 8 years ago

    As much as people complain about apple overcharging for things, I do appreciate a $29 OS upgrade price. Beats the crap out of $149, $199, or $259 depending on what version you want . . .

    I actually got caught by that tiered pricing. I needed to run XP mode on my laptop for work, so I had to upgrade from home to professional. The laptop came with home preinstalled with professional as a 129 dollar “upgrade,” fun times.

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    Good, old M31, still looking pretty.

    • ThorAxe
    • 8 years ago

    I have a Dell U2711, it uses the same LG panel as the Apple Thunderbolt Display but the Dell (at least according to the reviews I read) has better image quality. The Dell monitor cost me $500 AUD LESS than the Apple monitor.

    You would have to be extremely stupid to pay the extra $500 just for a few additional features on a lower quality monitor. But then Apple is all about style over substance.

    Flame on!

      • KoolAidMan
      • 8 years ago

      Lucky you, in the US the Dell costs $100 more than the Apple monitor, and the NEC version costs $400 more.

        • ThorAxe
        • 8 years ago

        That is weird. With a 15% coupon I only paid $682 while the Apple is $1199.

        Normally we get shafted in Aus, especially for games – Call of Duty: Black Ops is $89.99 AUD on STEAM.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          YOU’RE JUST WHINING CAUSE THAT’S LIKE 99$ USD

      • Skrying
      • 8 years ago

      The Thunderbolt port allows the monitor to act as a one cable dock. That’s more functionality than any other monitor on the market.

        • ThorAxe
        • 8 years ago

        Not really, you still need to daisy chain anything you want to use with thunderbolt and too bad if your video card only has DVI.

        As for more functionality the Apple is way behind –

        The U2711 has the following:
        2 x dual-link DVI with HDCP
        HDMI w/HDCP
        DisplayPort w/HDCP
        VGA
        Component
        Composite
        4 x USB Ports
        8-in-1 flash reader
        2-channel headphone/line out

          • Skrying
          • 8 years ago

          Apple doesn’t design the Cinema Display for anything but their own recent model computers. Thunderbolt gives what amounts to a docking port minus the power. That’s only two cables and takes up a lot less space than a traditional dock does. It’s not the most amazing feature, but neither are a number of the connections on the U2711.

            • ThorAxe
            • 8 years ago

            I agree, connections do not a great display make. I went for the U2711 because it is rated as having better picture quality than the Cinema Display in the majority of tests, has an anti-glare, matt finish and a more extensive colour space as well as internal processing and far more picture adjustability.

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 8 years ago

    I dunno about the Airs, but even being a PC person since 1994, I think the MBPs are worth the price premium for what they add to the experience. They’re just solid machines.

    I still balk at what they charge for Mac Pros given some of the generations-old tech in them, though.

    • crazybus
    • 8 years ago

    I’m surprised and a little annoyed that Apple didn’t go with 4GB RAM standard across the board, especially considering they’re not designed to be upgradeable.

    I wonder if the displays in the new Airs are upgraded at all. An sRGB gamut screen like the MBPs would be nice.

    • sschaem
    • 8 years ago

    Apple now charge $100 for 2 gig of DDR3 PC1333 ?
    10$ of that goes to taiwan to pay for factory, workers, etc.. while 90$ is Apple direct profit.

    I wonder how those supplier feel about those economics…

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      They’ll be happy to have Apple business. If they whine, Apple will just pick someone else.

      • Rakhmaninov3
      • 8 years ago

      It’s not about technology!

      It’s about Magic!

      That 2GB DIMM is just full of Apple Magic. I’m sure it started out as a lame $12 big-brand stick of sand, but after being imbued with all that Apple specialness it’s easily worth $400. And they only charge $100! You people don’t know a bargain when you see one.

      • Turkina
      • 8 years ago

      HP and Dell charge $60-$80. Adding things via “customization” is a rip off everywhere.

        • Chun¢
        • 8 years ago

        Maybe to jump from 4 to 8, but higher density dimms cost more, so that’s not as much of a margin

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        60 != 100

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          On an HP dv6t, going from 4GB to 8GB is $120. You need to compare memory upgrade pricing with laptops on the Windows side, since Apple is using SO-DIMMs.

    • WillBach
    • 8 years ago

    [url=http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/07/20/new_macbook_airs_mac_minis_feature_lion_internet_recovery_disc_less_repair.html<]AppleInsider[/url<] points out an interesting feature: OS reinstall over the Internet, if your hard drive is toast. [url=http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4718<]OS X Lion: About Lion Recovery[/url<] I hope the other computer manufacturers pick this up. Then again, I've been hoping for the last two (three?) years that they would pick up decent track pads and we all know how that's going :-/ I really don't like paying Apple's prices, and I don't like their anemic graphics and game support. I don't. But I'm frustrated by how the other computer makers drop the ball in so many areas. And I love Pages :-/ Speaking of which, I should go bother Jason Fox to see if he finally picked up iWork and gave it a spin...

      • xeridea
      • 8 years ago

      I am pretty sure you can install some flavors of Linux over the internet, but I am not a huge Linux fan (nothing against it, have friends that love it, just not my style).

        • WillBach
        • 8 years ago

        The rumors were that Apple would use toggle NAND and it looks like that been born out by the pictures on their website: [url=http://www.apple.com/macbookair/features.html#flash<]all-flash storage[/url<] It looks like the chips are attached directly to the motherboard, and I read somewhere on Apple's website that you could only configure different amounts of storage on the Air at checkout, implying that it's not user upgradable.

          • crazybus
          • 8 years ago

          The [url=http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook-Air-13-Inch-Mid-2011-Teardown/6130/1<]iFixit teardown[/url<] reveals that it's using the same style of SSD module as the 2010 Macbook Airs.

            • WillBach
            • 8 years ago

            Oh, thanks for letting me know! I really thought they’d changed that. Whew!

    • alphacheez
    • 8 years ago

    I wonder if these MBA models will be thermally constrained like earlier models. The latest Core 2 models seemed to be using low enough power to not be throttled much but these Sandy Bridge chips may run a bit warmer. The real performance constraint in such a small form-factor seems to be cooling.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    Apple’s showing some balls on the optical disc drive front. They dumped it from even the non-“server” Mac Mini, which I’m pretty sure it was still there in the last Core2 version. According to the Ars review of Lion, you’ll be able to buy it on a memory stick for $70 (so $40 more than the download) rather than on DVD, which is interesting.

    I still have one in my PC, but its use becomes more and more rare, just the occasional burned disc. I already dedicated a 4GB flash drive to be my Windows 7 installer.

      • Decelerate
      • 8 years ago

      If they can influence the exit of optical drives like they did it to the floppy, I’m all for it.

      • burntham77
      • 8 years ago

      I do wonder how one does a recovery on a Mac without an optical disc. Is there a partition on the drive with backup data? Does the Mac come with a backup flash drive? Is it something you can get online? Do they provided the disc then expect you to buy a USB DVD-drive?

      I am genuinely curious because my wife wants a Macbook of some kind in the near future.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        According to the Ars review, a recovery partition is created as part of the download/upgrade process. They also have an article posted that explains how to make a recovery USB disk.

          • crazybus
          • 8 years ago

          I’m trying to figure out how the ~3.7GB installation image fits within the 650MB recovery partition.

          edit: figured it out — per Anandtech’s review

          [quote<]If you didn’t burn a disc as outlined previously, the recovery partition also gives you your only option for a clean install of Lion - erase your hard drive using Disk Utility and then elect to install a fresh copy of Lion. At this point, you will be prompted for your Mac’s serial number, which is then communicated to Apple, and if it clears your Mac will re-download (sigh) and re-install the OS. This serial number check is OS X’s first real implementation of what anyone could call activation, though it’s worth noting that if you install Lion from a .DMG copied to another disk, the OS will still install without any checks.[/quote<]

            • Corrado
            • 8 years ago

            During install, it downloads a bunch of stuff. I’m guessing that it does a bare minimum install and then downloads extras.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      Opticial media will be around for a while yet.

      There is still a rich library of media that uses optical. It is cheaper and easier for physical distribuation than making a bunch of tiny thumb drives. Digital downloads wouldn’t take over until you can do a low-level installation over the internet/LAN. FYI, I know that this is possible but it requires a dedicated server to push the installation over the network. The client has to be properly configured to find the aforementioned server. This is mostly done in the professional arena.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        I think the biggest hurdle is the fact that content providers cannot deliver HD content without horrible compression in real time, and the choices for buying downloadable video are slim. For anyone who cares about the quality of what they’re looking at Blu-Ray is the only game in town.

          • Palek
          • 8 years ago

          Indeed. This is why I just do not understand the burning desire of some folks to bury optical media. Watching films on Netflix is akin to using 64kbps MP3s for your music.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 8 years ago

            I’m just trying to bury it from my PC. Blu Ray standalone players have a place – mine is a PS3 and its place is next to my TV.

            • Palek
            • 8 years ago

            My Blu-ray player is a PC and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is much more flexible than any dedicated player device. Windows Media Center is pretty awesome, too.

            • A_Pickle
            • 8 years ago

            True, however, watching 1080P 5.1-surround .mkv files is just dandy for me.

            Really, the only thing holding us back from digital distribution of media is the current crop of absolutely garbage U.S. internet speeds… if we had good networks, people wouldn’t care about downloading a single, 8 GB, HD movie…

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            The real problem is that there still a large of number systems that simply do not have internet access. This can be from a number of reasons.

            Physical media is still a necessity for PCs in a number of cases. Flash memory is just too expensive when compared to optical media for mass distribution. Honestly, I don’t see the big fuss. Optical drives are pretty cheap and most PC desktop chassis have at least one 5 1/4″. You can “still” try to run without an optical drive, but I like I said it presents itself with some interesting challenges, for example; good luck trying to do low-level troubleshooting when your OS is borked. 😉

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            There hasn’t been an optical drive in my systems since 2006 it is dead easy to live without one.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            It didn’t say it was impossible, but if you need to do any sort of low-level work especially on an older system. You need to have some kind of optical or a floppy to boot off from. USB Boot support is only good on platforms that are four years old or newer.

            It is even tricker to do a OS installation over a network, but it can be done.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            I’d say it’s akin to using 160kbps MP3s for your music. Whenever I stream with PS3 and it hits the “X-High HD” quality, it’s pretty damn good.

            If you don’t get that, maybe you should consider blaming your ISP instead of Netflix.

            • Palek
            • 8 years ago

            That’s assuming that a film is available in HD. If your net connection and your ISP can handle it HD Netflix streams will look okay. That’s a lot of ifs though. And compared to Blu-ray Netflix HD will still come up short.

    • puppetworx
    • 8 years ago

    Oh, so that’s how much it costs to look slightly better then everyone else while checking email at your local coffee shop.

      • cynan
      • 8 years ago

      Or just to fit in at your local coffee shop, depending on the demographic and SES of where you live.

      • BestJinjo
      • 8 years ago

      Except, finally, the MacBook Air is better than its primary competitors such as the Samsung Series 9 and Lenovo X1. It has a better battery life (without portruding sliced battery), the only one with a unibody alumnium construction, the only one that can play casual games like WOW/Portal 2, has faster file transfer speeds, the fastest boot times, and the best screen:

      [url<]http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptop/apple-macbook-air-13-2011.aspx[/url<] Next time let's try to be objective.

        • puppetworx
        • 8 years ago

        You’re implying that the drawbacks of looking like just another conspicuously consuming hipster coffee-house whore don’t outweigh those ‘benefits’ ..

          • Corrado
          • 8 years ago

          Its weird you call it ‘hipster’. Hipster is supposed to be so OVER things that the mainstream is buying. If you go into a coffee house and see 10 MBAs, it’d be hipster to NOT have an MBA. Just pointing that out.

          “I was into Apple when their computers still sucked”

          • BestJinjo
          • 8 years ago

          If you are that concerned about what your image in the eyes of other people then you have other things to worry about in your life. Why does it even matter what other people think about your computer at a coffee shop? The Air is a great laptop for $1,299, end of story. And this is coming from a PC user. I am sure at some point we’ll have a better laptop on the PC (perhaps when Ivy Bridge ships next year), with a potent SSD. But for now, there just isn’t anything as fast + slim, with as much battery life and as good of a construction quality on the PC at this price.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    The use of the word “vertiginous” has been on a vertiginous ascent, lately, not that I mind

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    how is intel’s opencl support? Since dx11 obviously doesn’t matter on a mac, and mac’s are typically slower at playing games, are these gpu’s going to be fast enough to run the 7 year old games that are now being ported to mac? things like hl2, portal, civ iv etc.

      • xeridea
      • 8 years ago

      People don’t buy Macs to play games.

        • indeego
        • 8 years ago

        They probably will now with Lion and the iPodification of their laptops and desktops.

        • phawkins633
        • 8 years ago

        People don’t buy Macs to play games.

        Because they can’t….

          • SPOOFE
          • 8 years ago

          Starcraft 2 is a game.

          • BestJinjo
          • 8 years ago

          MacBook Air won’t play Crysis 1 or 2 maxed out, or Witcher 2 for that matter. But it easily smokes every single competing thin PC laptop in its segment for casual games like Portal 2, WOW and Starcraft 2:

          [url<]http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptop/apple-macbook-air-13-2011.aspx[/url<]

      • mikehodges2
      • 8 years ago

      For what it’s worth, my late 2010 13″ Air could easily handle portal 2, although I only installed it to test just that…like xeridea said, noone buys a mac to play games.

        • End User
        • 8 years ago

        I agree. I love my OS X machines but I game on my OC’ed i7 SLI rig.

      • Game_boy
      • 8 years ago

      Intel’s OpenCL support is terrible because the underlying hardware was never redesigned for compute like Fermi or AMD’s new thing.

      But if I can run SC2 acceptably with a five year old Intel IGP on my netbook the games you listed should be fine.

        • xeridea
        • 8 years ago

        I call BS. It barely runs on my laptop, and is totally not playable on lowest settings…. like 12FPS at the start of game, 2-3 during battles. My laptop is a slower ultraportable, but it is surely faster than your Atom. It has been tested to run poorly on Fusion counterparts also.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      openCL support is handled completely on the CPU on these as intel graphics does not have the capability of running openCL.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        that’s what i thought. it’s interesting though, because wasn’t that the justification for pushing nvidia gpu’s for years?

          • Skrying
          • 8 years ago

          What option do they have exactly? Apple stuck with Core 2 Duo + Nvidia 320M longer than anyone expected. Now that they can’t get a chipset with integrated graphics that supports OpenCL they don’t really have much of a choice.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            Well there is this company called AMD which just came out with a CPU that would probably work really well for such requirements.

            • Skrying
            • 8 years ago

            None of the Llano mobile chips fit within the thermal requirements of the MacBook Air. The Sandy Bridge based chips being used in these models are all 17W TDP, which would put them in to the Zacate range. That’s a rather massive drop off in CPU performance with highly questionable GPU benefits.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            You’re comparing CPU TDP to CPU+GPU TDP. When you compare total system power draw, you might be able to put a Llano in there.

            It could be harder to cool heat from a single source like that though.

            • Skrying
            • 8 years ago

            Sandy Bridge includes graphics…

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            My bad, you’re right.

            Don’t know what I was thinking.

          • Deanjo
          • 8 years ago

          The thing is even with you have a low end discrete gpu that can run openCL you will usually find that a cpu will give you better performance for openCL. openCL doesn’t really take off with GPUs capable of massive parallelism and that isn’t really found in low end discreet parts.

    • xeridea
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Fresh from telling the world just how much money it makes, Apple has invited everyone to give it some more.[/quote<] LOL

      • cynan
      • 8 years ago

      I liked that as well. Nicely put Cyril.

    • End User
    • 8 years ago

    Mac mini server ships with a 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 and dual 7200 rpm drives for $999.

    A very nice set of upgrades overall.

      • cynan
      • 8 years ago

      But why, oh why, no discrete GPU on the high-end “server” model? I guess you have to choose between HTPC and server functionality…

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        The Mac OS X Server version is no more. Lion has a server add-on package that you can download. They call it “server” because it’s already installed on the Server version of the Mini.

        edit: it does appear you give up the second hard drive without the Server version, which is too bad. But if you need more storage for HTPC use, an external USB drive should be fine.

        • FuturePastNow
        • 8 years ago

        May be a cooling limitation. The “server” has a 45W processor vs a 35W CPU + ??W GPU.

    • mikehodges2
    • 8 years ago

    Sold my late 2010 Air last month (for almost what I paid for it 🙂 ), so I can get my hands on one of these new ones. I wonder whether the rumoured 400MB/s flash drives made it in..?

      • WillBach
      • 8 years ago

      They aren’t using flash drives as much as they are using flash chips soldered to the motherboard for local storage. That said, while it’s not really a flash “drive” I’d expect it to be very fast. Benchmarks will probably start to trickle out by Friday night.

        • demani
        • 8 years ago

        Are you sure they are soldered? They weren’t in the last model (just some crazy design on mini-sata)

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