Apple's latest MacBook Air now comes with the Mac OS X Lion operating system (OS), faster processors and a 10Gbit/s Thunderbolt connection for the first time.
The MacBook Air is still available in the 13in screen version it originally launched with in January 2008, but in this incarnation both models have faster processors and a 10Gbit/s Thunderbolt connection [see picture].
For connoisseurs of networking technology, Thunderbolt is Apple’s implementation of Intel’s Light Peak technology, and Thunderbolt makes an appearance on the MacBook Air for the first time [see lightning bolt in picture].
One of the most visible and biggest improvements is the keyboard, which has backlighting to help users work in dim light.
The keyboard has a much more positive action than the 2010 13in model we used last year, even though the keyboard travel looks the same.
The new 11in MacBook Air weighs in at about 1.1kg – 270g less than its bigger 13in brother, with dimensions of 300mm x 192mm x 30mm [17mm at its thinnest point].
We connected the MacBook Air with an Apple Thunderbolt Display via the Thunderbolt connection. This display can be set up to mirror the MacBook Air's display or set up as an extra screen estate.
We used it to display a Windows 7 desktop running as a virtual machine in Mac OS X Lion [see picture].
As a test of how easy it was to set up Thunderbolt-enabled devices, we attached a Promise Technology Pegasus R6 direct-attached storage (DAS) system through the Thunderbolt connection – ideal for users requiring fast local storage [see picture].
This gave our MacBook Air access to a direct-attached RAID system of 6TB, at theoretical data transfer rates of 10Gbit/s. We recorded a maximum transfer rate of 800MB/s using the Pegasus DAS.
The Pegasus R6 DAS was the first peripheral to use Apple's Thunderbolt connection, but unfortunately there are few Thunderbolt-enabled pieces of hardware available.
The problem for Apple is that the number of Thunderbolt-enabled devices being launched appears to be a trickle rather than a flood.