BitDepth 754 - October 26

Apple introduces a critical revamp to its Macbook Air line of laptop computers.
Next up, SSD

The new Macbook Air, four models ranging in price from US$999 to $1599. Photo courtesy Apple Inc. 

In 1998, Apple introduced the iMac and said a firm but quite definite goodbye to the floppy drive, the ubiquitous 1.4MB discs that were the primary medium of data transfer wayyy back then.
The company has been including optical drives in all its computers since then but over the last decade, its commitment to optical media has been perfunctory.
The company, slow to add CD burners to its line, has consistently trailed the field in adding the latest DVD drives. To this day, Apple still doesn’t include a Bluray drive in any of its computers nor does it have software support for reading the discs if users add their own drives.

The reasons for that lethargy clearly has more to do with a strategy for media and Apple’s enthusiasm to sell you movies and television shows from its iTunes store, but that’s irritating for folks who can’t easily access the company’s online media offerings.
Add to the company’s list of envelopes pushed on its computers the elimination of the hard drive, at least on its new Macbook Air.
Announced last Wednesday, the new version of Apple’s lightweight laptop no longer includes flash based storage as an expensive option. Mac users who buy the new Air will now get a solid state drive (SSD) as a standard feature of the superthin laptop. 

The new Air comes in a 2.3 pound 11-inch model with a choice of 64GB and 128GB SSDs and a 2.9 pound, 13-inch model with either 128GB and 256GB SSDs. Much of that weight is the computer’s batteries, which occupy two-thirds of its internals.
The computer is using “bare metal” SSDs in the new Macbook Air, dispensing with the case packaging that makes these drives look like standard 2.5 inch laptop drives.
That isn’t surprising, since the laptop, which thins in a wedge from a whopping .7 inches at its rear to .11 inches at its front, has no room for anything but circuitry and batteries in its case.

There seems to be no price premium attached to this particular improvement since prices have dropped overall across the new line of Airs. Earlier models with the SSD option added US$500 to the base cost.
The new Macbook Air improves, just barely, on its predecessor’s anaemic connection options, and adds a proper external display connector and a second USB port. The laptop’s OSX installation software ships on a USB drive.
Expansion options are limited to additional RAM, which buyers will need to request on purchase since it seems that this model, like its predecessor, solders the RAM directly to the motherboard.

It’s surprising that Apple giveth with the new standard SSDs and stalleth on the system memory. Any Mac running Mac OSX that does anything more than basic word processing and web browsing performs significantly better with additional memory and the 2GB that’s standard in all the Air models just feels stingy. Adding SSDs and not upgrading the RAM to 4GB across the line seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the market’s needs.
Expect the next version of the line to correct this error.

The new SSDs are likely to compensate for the Macbook Air’s notorious lethargy. The laptop may be Apple’s lightest and thinnest, but it is also its slowest portable option. While the video chip is much faster than the one that shipped in the original Air, the CPU is only incrementally better. 
If you do any kind of serious graphics or design work, follow my fingers and listen to my voice, these are not the Macs you are looking for.
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