Steve Jobs unveiled the first MacBook Air in early 2008 to mixed reviews, but a series of redesigns and hardware refreshes through the years have resulted in a product line that has had a huge impact on the industry. PC makers have struggled to match the Air’s extremely thin and simplistic design, prompting Intel to announce the ultrabook initiative at Computex in 2011.
New for the 2012 MacBook Air is the Intel Ivy Bridge processor sporting Intel HD 4000 graphics, higher capacity storage and memory options, as well as an improved 720p Facetime HD camera, and support for USB 3.0. The 13-inch system also received a $100 price cut, now starting at $1,199.
Earlier this week Apple announced updates to its entire notebook lineup, bringing it up to date with Ivy Bridge processors and a few other goodies. Like them, many other computer manufacturers have been showcasing new and updated laptops over the past few days and weeks.
Ultrabooks in particular received quite a bit of attention, and we’re not surprised. Intel is putting a lot of weight behind the concept and expects it to be the main driver of PC market growth in the short term. With that in mind, we’re taking a couple of Wintel alternatives to check how well they stack up next to the new 13-inch MacBook Air.
Instead of breaking new ground in performance, Ivy Bridge improves efficiency, marking the arrival of Intel's 22nm design process which uses new 3D transistors. This allows the flagship quad-core 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K to consume less power than the more modest Sandy Bridge i5-2500K.
Granted, the 19-watt power savings we recorded in our tests probably won't excite desktop users, but it does present a tangible benefit for battery-bound mobile machines. Ivy Bridge's improved fuel efficiency should grant laptops a little more mileage away from wall chargers.