The 2012 Macbook Air looks nearly identical to last year’s model on the outside. But, what about on the inside? In this week’s episode of Cracking Open, I take you inside the 2012 Air and show you what’s changed and what hasn’t.

Although its basic wedge-shaped design has remained constant, the MacBook Air has undergone some pretty significant changes over the years.

In 2010, Apple dropped the traditional hard drive, in favor of solid state storage. In 2011, they ditched the NVIDIA graphics chip for an integrated Intel HD graphics processor. And, there have been lots of other changes from the case’s design to the use of pentalobe screws on the bottom cover.

Apple didn’t make any big design changes to the 2012 Air, but they did make several important hardware improvements.

Our MacBook Pro Air test unit had a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8GB RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display (1440 x 900 resolution). It measured 0.68″ (H) x 12.8″ (W) x 8.94″ (D) and weighed 2.96 pounds.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2012)

Cracking Open observations

  • Intel 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) processors: Our test machine had a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, but a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 is also available.
  • Better graphics: Thanks to the new processor, the 2012 Air also had Intel’s HD Graphics 4000–a step up from the older machine’s HD Graphics 3000.
  • More, faster RAM: The 2012 Air can support up to 8GB of RAM, compared to the 2011’s 4GB. The chips are also faster–1,600MHz DDR3L SDRAM compared to the older model’s 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM. As on previous models, the chips are soldered to the motherboard, which makes adding more memory impossible.
  • More storage: You can now configure the Air with up to 512GB of storage–twice the maximum capacity of the 2011 model. Apple also claims the new flash storage is faster than on previous machines.
  • 720p FaceTime camera: The 2012 Air’s built-in camera can shoot 720p video.
  • USB 3.0: The new model has two USB 3.0 ports.
  • MagSafe 2 power connector: Like the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, the 2012 Air has Apple’s new MagSafe 2 power connector.
  • Tamper-resistant case screws: Like previous Air models and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Apple uses special, pentalobe screws on the case’s bottom cover.

A design that works

Despite all the hardware updates, the 2011 and 2012 Airs have identical internal hardware layouts. Each has a large battery, two speakers on either side, a small I/O board, a single cooling fan, and motherboard mounted above the battery.

Apple even used the same battery on both models. Impressive, given that CNET found the newer machine provides better battery life.

Bottom Line

Overall, the 2012 MacBook Air is a solid update to Apple’s line of ultra-thin laptops. Just remember, you can’t upgrade this machine. You’ll want to get all the RAM, storage, and processing power you’ll need when you buy it.

For more information on the 2012 MacBook Air 13-inch, including performance and battery life benchmark tests, check out Scott Stein’s full CNET review.

Internal hardware

Our 2012 13-inch MacBook Air test unit has the following hardware:

  • 1.8GHz duad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Intel Platform Controller Hub (E208B985 SLJ8B G11334 01 YF11)
  • 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3L SDRAM (Hynix H5TC4G83MFR x 16)
  • 128GB Toshiba THNSNS128GMFP SSD
  • Broadcom BCM943224PCIEBT2 wireless module
  • Panasonic UDQFZYR70DQU DC brushless cooling fan
  • Intel DSL3510L (Thunderbolt controller?)
  • Linear Technology LT3957B DC/DC inverting switching regulators (212 3957 B66147)
  • Texas Instruments (58872D TI 231 A7Q3 E4)
  • K03P0 2B4 61R5
  • Genesys Logic GL822 card reader controller chip (GL822 IAB0303 2149831)
  • 023 15 08 SD213
  • Texas Instruments CD3210 A0 TI 221 AH79
  • Texas Instruments TPS51980 TI 231 A2EC G4
  • Intersil ISL6259A battery charger (6259A HRTZ F209LN)
  • R33V TI 21K CCGN
  • 25Q064A 13E40 99 PHL 7B210A2H99
  • Texas Instruments/Stellaris LM4FS1AH microcontroller (980 YFC LM4FS1AH 5BBCIG 22AD29W G1)
  • SMSC USB2512B USB hub controller (USB2513B D1213-A2P10 8J150018F CSM-MY)
  • TL02043A 8284.109 ZSD213
  • Texas Instruments TPS51916 DDR2, DDR3 and DDR3L Memory Power Solution Synchronous Buck Controller (51916 TI 22K CXQ1)
  • Intersil ISL8014A 4A Low Quiescent Current 1MHz High Efficiency Synchronous Buck Regulator (8014AIRZRF209QT)
  • 3049895D
  • Maxim MAX15120G TL214 +BSAH
  • BQZ TI K 2397
  • Cypress Semiconductor CY8C24794 PSoC Programmable System-on-Chip (CY8C24794-24L QXI 1213 A 04 PHI CYP 610676 181)
  • Silicon Storage Technology (SST) 25VF020 2 Mbit SPI Serial Flash (SST 25VF020 20-4C-QAE 1203WM9-AB)
  • Broadcom BCM5976A0KUB26 trackpad controller (BCM5976A0KUB26 TD1203 P10 18 1527 5T)