Apple Announces Two New MacBook Air Models with Solid State Storage

MacBook Air preview

As expected from multiple leaks and rumors over the past week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage in Cupertino this morning at the company’s “Back to the Mac” event to take the wraps off not one but two new MacBook Air models.

Following a flurry of product announcements at today’s “Back to the Mac” media event in Cupertino, including iLife ’11, FaceTime for the Mac and a preview of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Apple CEO Steve Jobs asked the question, “What would happen if an iPad and a MacBook hooked up?” to a round of laughter from the crowd.

At only 2.9 pounds, the new 13.3-inch MacBook Air borrows from many of the iPad’s key features, including the ability to instantly start up, offering great battery life, amazing standby time, solid state storage with no optical or hard drives and thinner and lighter than ever. The laptop is a mere 0.68 inches at its thickest and 0.11 inches at its thinnest, or as editor Roberto Baldwin put it, “The stabbiest Mac ever.” (Though we obviously don’t condone its use in that manner.)

The 13.3-inch MacBook Air features an LED backlit display with 1440 x 900 pixels, 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics, full-size keyboard, a multitouch trackpad and a FaceTime camera.

Perhaps the biggest news is that the laptop contains no optical drive or hard drive, instead using on-board solid state storage for rapid, instant-on use. Apple claims that using the same type of storage already featured in the iPad will be up to twice as fast, more reliable and 90 percent smaller and lighter.

The solid state storage also has another positive side effect, with an increase in both standby and use times on the new MacBook Air. Apple claims up to seven hours of wireless web use and a whopping 30 days — yes, a full month! — of standby time.

Proving once again that rumors can often be fact, Apple is also offering an 11.6-inch model for the MacBook Air which weighs in at only 2.3 pounds with a 1366 x 768 pixel display and 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, plus all of its big brother’s other features. The 11.6-inch model also features 30 days of standby time with a reduced five hours of wireless web use, presumably because of the smaller battery.

Both models include standard features such as 802.11n Wi-Fi, stereo speakers and a large on-board battery, which in keeping with recent Apple laptops, is not user-replaceable.

The 11.6-inch MacBook Air starts at 9 with 64GB (99 for 128GB) while the 13.3-inch model starts at 99 with 128GB and is also available with 256GB for 99. Both models are shipping today.

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