Laptops

Apple MacBook Air Teardown (2010 11-inch)

Cracking open the MacBook Air

In October 2010, Apple released the 2nd generation MacBook Air. The redesigned notebook is available in 11-inch and 13-inch models. We cracked open the 1st generation MacBook Air (released in 2008) and could wait to get our hands on the 2010 model.

Follow along as we crack open the 11-inch MacBook Air.

To disassemble the new Air you'll need a screwdriver with Torx T5 and T9 bits and either a very small flathead screwdriver or special "cloverleaf" security bit.

Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic

Caption by: Bill Detwiler

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

23 comments
richie3po
richie3po

i love it, more portable? How is a thinner laptop any "more portable" than the Alienware? Are we saying that lighter means it goes places the Alienware does not? Like where, behind the refridgerator?

richie3po
richie3po

Hahahahaa, I would rather have the Alienware any day of the week! Hmmmm...I could have twice the features at the same price?....I'm not so into my self image that I need a laptop that has lost weight to hang out with to feel better about myself - long live PC!

cquirke
cquirke

If on a tight budget, one often wonders whether it's better to buy an old used laptop to get full size screen and an optical drive, or a netbook that is more compact and may give longer battery life. Either way you get a puny hard drive capacity and maybe not enough RAM, but that can be fixed if the old laptop is new enough to use S-ATA. Being laptops, you'd be stuck with "special" motherboard and no card slots, but RAM and hard drive would be replaceable and upgradable. Here, you are locked into special cards if the rAM goes bad, and can't upgrade the RAM, or use a larger hard drive to replace the SSD storage. You only have two USB sockets, so you can't connect an external mouse plus optical drive plus external hard drive without adding a powered hub. If you want to avoid working off mains, that's 2.5" external hard drives, many of which use two (and thus for this system, all) USB ports. Reminds me of an old movie title: "Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width". I'll pass, thanks.

wild__bill
wild__bill

let's take a look at the brand new $1300 macbook air released this week!: I bet it has that spiffy magnetic power adapter! YES I bet it has one of those cool new Core i3 i5 or i7 processors, right? probably an i7 at that price right? ummm NO, just an old timey Core 2 Duo well surely I can upgrade the CPU later to a faster Core 2 Duo? ummm NOPE - soldered in ok fine, I see it comes with 2GB RAM, I can upgrade that to 4GB or 8GB, right? ummmm NOPE - soldered in & no expansion slots how about 3 or 4 USB ports? NOPE 2 (like a year 2004 laptop computer) ok, how about a backlit keyboard, an ambient light sensor, or even Adobe Flash? NOPE, NOPE, and NOPE can I at least have an internal DVD drive at this price? NOPE, and if you want an external DVD, you are now down to 1 USB port! geez, did you say this thing was $1300 or $300?

mgregory83
mgregory83

nice... i'd like to see the HP Slate 500 now please. :)

chromeronin
chromeronin

I was thinking that 1.4 GHz would be woefull, but then I had a closer look at how my 2 ghz mini from 2007 performs. With 2 GB RAM the only time the CPU runs close to 100% is transcoding video. As the drve is only sata1, and system bus is only 600mhz I imagine most irvine delay is simply IO. OS X is definitely faster than windows7 on the same hardware. With no SuperDrive you wouldn't be ripping media, so there is one job not likely to be done by most on it. HD video playback is fine even with an 800mhz CPU on iPhone, so 1.4ghz should be fine. That's similar to a 2ghz singlecore atom for grunt, and the integrated GPU and system bus in the atom gear I have seen is nowhere near as fast as the Air. And as cheapest equal MacBook, does make a choice to be plastic Mac, or superportable. The only limit will be in 4 years, everything will feel 6 years old. But as an official apple model, Apple will have to make sure OS X works ok on it for it's operational life.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Almost the entire system is reserved for battery, also explains why they won't let you change it.

tacully
tacully

I really wanted to grab the new air but releasing with a 2.0 USB what were they thinking?3.0 is new standard, guess I?ll have to wait another 6 months

SciHacker
SciHacker

I guess if you just want to play games an Alienware laptop is OK? But I prefer to do real work and need a real Unix-based operating system - Windows (as a TOS or a NOS) doesn't cut it; Linux is passable but you'd be be best choosing a good distribution for your needs. So MacBook Air will be ideal as my mobile development laptop - complementing my Quad Core i5 iMac and the two or three supercomputers standing on tap!

richie3po
richie3po

Someone will say what we should all be saying...I won't waste my time with Apple's trendy crap! Give me a PC that rips through media, and is scalable to my needs. What I don't need is to field questions from the hipsters about my MacBook at the coffee shop. Keep it, gimme the Alienware!

Br.Bill
Br.Bill

Since they've only sold a kajillion Macbook Airs so far.

Slayer_
Slayer_

IPhone 4's resolution, source: http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html This is significantly less than what computers were producing in 1995. and is actually about the same resolution of a normal TV signal, no where near HD quality. The iPhone, therefore, does not play HD videos. Its measly power is barely used for such a video... My old 200mhz machine with 4mb video memory and 16mb of RAM had no trouble playing videos recorded at 1280 x 1024. A video like that averaged about 10-20% CPU usage under Windows 95 using "Active Movie".

lcoleman
lcoleman

So why did we think it got the great battery life: magic? Of course, everything's a tradeoff. Which is preferable: the long-lived MacAir w/o user battery exchange, or 15% less battery life with user exchange? If I were Apple, I know what I would do (did).

nwallette
nwallette

Why would you need that on this class of notebook? USB 2.0 is fast enough for the majority of external storage needs. Going for the gold would only benefit the performance-oriented crowd, which would probably not be interested in this model anyway. It's an ultralight. Not an Alienware.

richie3po
richie3po

They know all the "cool kids" will buy it because everyone else will have one, not because they want a computing tool with great features.

nwallette
nwallette

Video playback these days is often not at all a function of CPU power. Without a seriously brawny CPU, it's almost always offloaded to a dedicated decoder. The iPhone has one, the iPad has one, any netbook capable of playing anything above SD files will need one. Performance-oriented computers will squeak by these days decoding in software, but not without some effort. I don't completely understand why, but general-purpose CPUs have a hard time with it. Custom silicon like Broadcom's Crystal HD card can decode 1080p h264, MPEG4, or MPEG2 and draw a measly 1W while doing so. Many GPUs have hardware video decoding too, but driver/library support sucks right now. (Too many restrictions, and companies not willing to give away the recipe to their secret sauce.) Only certain applications can take advantage of it. Windows (DirectX) support is pretty good, fair on Mac, partial on Linux (usually only with the right binary driver distros.) Furthermore, display resolution is a completely separate subject. I can jailbreak an iSomething and attempt to play a 1080p24 movie. It'll only display at my device's native resolution, but it still has to decode the full 1920x1080, then resize it for output. Obviously that's pretty wasteful, and likely not to work well, so I don't.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Got to wonder if that battery gets warm.

Slayer_
Slayer_

A fast access high capacity USB drive, to supplement the small internal flash drive, would have been nice. Thankfully, current USB speeds are fast enough to stream 1080HD videos no problem.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Yeah your right, pure dedicated hardware for decoding works much better than the general purpose hardware. we have seen this with older console systems, the SNES, Playstation 1/2, SEGA, heavy measily processors and almost no memory, and yet it takes a computer 30 times the power of a SNES to play a SNES game. I suspect eventually in the future, video cards, etc, will have dedicated chips for decoding, possibly with updatable firmware.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Costs almost the same, but is a full fledged computer. The iPad just seems more overpriced every day... Of course such a laptop is of little use to me, I require computing power, that little thing would overheat and melt in no time for me after 72 hours of straight gaming and such.

tehpea
tehpea

Good for heating.

Slayer_
Slayer_

According to the reviews of it in Windows machines, its only a bit less power than the 9600m GT. Which is a good chip. No PhysX support though, not supprising. The shared memory is its only weakness. Though its DDR3, which is the same as the dedicated 9600 card has. It could be a fairly good performer. Heat would be its biggest issue. I would expect its seriously underclocked under normal operational, and temporarily boosts itself as needed. And actually, if you look at the identical equipment in a Mac vs a PC, games always seem to need significantly more hardware to run on a Mac. My only guesses are that the Mac graphics framework is shit (possible, never been a gaming system afterall) or that the hardware is underclocked to make it last longer to give the illusion of Macs having higher quality hardware.

nwallette
nwallette

... but is this GPU capable of decoding them? My current laptop has a 160GB disk. I have Linux and Windows installed on it, and a large third partition for data. That's pretty much enough for the stuff I want to keep on the laptop itself. Would've been nice to have a memory card slot and Firewire port though.