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News

Thunderbolt MacBook Air – First Thoughts

Our first impressions of Apple's little powerhouse

So I arrived back at iCreate Towers earlier today after a rather wet journey over to Apple, and with me I brought not only a new Mac Mini with no optical drive, but also a brand spanking new 13″ MacBook Air. We reviewed the 11″ Air a little while back, but this new one is a whole new animal.

First of all, Lion is pre-installed for your pleasure on all Macs that you buy from now. For a run-down of the best new features of Lion, check out our post on the subject here, but rest assured it’s a brilliant upgrade and real value at such a low price.

The Thunderbolt Port replaces the Mini DisplayPort on the right-hand side of the machine.

With recent updates to the Mac lineups, there have been only tiny cosmetic changes on the outside of most casings to add Thunderbolt Ports on the outside, instead concentrating on the innards of the machines for the real changes. The story is mostly the same here, but with a few changes; first of all, and most obviously, the Airs do indeed now include Thunderbolt technology to bring it in line with the new technology. Apple have also added the popular backlit keyboard to the newest update of the Air – the feature, which was present in the original minimal laptop in 2008, and has always been a staple of the Unibody MacBook Pros – which we love here at iCreate. On the train home I was actually hoping that we would pass through tunnels, as every time we did the ambient light sensor on the Air would brighten up the keyboard with a welcoming glow.

Four buttons at the top of the keyboard bring Launchpad and Mission Control access to the Air

The keyboard also adds a few new buttons, giving you instant access to Mission Control and Launchpad if you don’t want to move your hand down to the trackpad. Apple regularly update their keyboards to reflect how you use them on the Mac, and so it’s interesting to see their new ‘Lion-ready’ setup. We expect this to become the standard configuration within a few months, too, which means you can probably see this on the Wireless Keyboards and other MacBooks soon.

Finally, the speed. Now, we’ve only be using this little beauty for a few hours, but we’ve already experienced the power it’s packing with its new Sandy Bridge Core i5 (and i7) processors and Graphic chips. While doing a demo for the rest of the team, I opened up every app that was in the dock (App Store, Safari, iPhoto, iTunes etc) and all were open within a second of clicking the icon. I then did a boot test, and from touching the button to having full control of OS X took less than 18 seconds, which was astounding. We’ll be putting the Air through it’s paces properly in the next few days, and seeing how it handles video editing and HD gaming, but so far we’re massively impressed.

We’ll have a lot more in-depth coverage of the Air (as well as the Mac Mini) soon after we’ve completed our tests, so check back here and keep and eye out for future issues of iCreate Magazine for our full opinions on the new notebooks.

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