New MacBook Air specs make for better business laptops

Apple's updated MacBook Air should prove appealing to business users. Erik Eckel explains.

New MacBook Air
Image credit: James Kendrick / ZDNet

Apple refreshed its MacBook Air line in late April. Business users will be pleased with the changes, which include updated hardware and lower prices -- always an attractive combination.

Organizations previously viewing the MacBook Air as potentially unnecessary, luxurious upgrades vs. more conservative but reliable MacBook Pro models may wish to revisit such conclusions. As of April 29, the MacBook Air features faster processors, fast flash storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity, and significant battery life (up to 12 hours).

The ultrabooks already delivered impressive power within a lightweight package. The fourth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs leverage ultra-efficient architecture to speed through common business productivity and even many graphics-intensive tasks while sipping electricity when possible to help ensure mobile users receive the battery life needed to run throughout the typical business day. Apple estimates the 11-inch models can run up to nine hours, while 13-inch models can extend to 12 hours of service between charges.

Now less than three-quarters of an inch thick and weighing less than two-and-a-half pounds, the MacBook Air is an attractive option for incessantly mobile professionals. Previously, an Intel 1.3 GHz Core i5 CPU proved standard. Processor speed is now 1.4 GHz. While only a modest uptick, new chips typically benefit from other advantages as well, such as improved energy efficiency.

Apple's also lowered prices both for 11- and 13-inch models by $100. What's that really mean for business users? Common builds are now faster and less expensive. Take an entry-level 13.3 MacBook Air, for example. With an Intel Core i5 1.4 GHz CPU (turbo boost up to 2.7 GHz), 4 GB RAM, 128 GB PCIe flash storage, and OS X with Apple's software suite (including iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), the out-the-door cost is just $999. An 11-inch with the same configuration is now only $899.

Does your organization's traveling staff need even more robust performance? More capacity is available, but note it comes at a price. The top-of-the-line MacBook Air is the 13-inch Intel Core i7 1.7 GHz CPU model with 8 GB RAM and 512 GB flash storage. Those laptops cost $1,749.

All MacBook Air models are ready for desktop operation, even within demanding business environments. Both 11- and 13-variations possess integrated HD cameras, a Mini DisplayPort and VGA, DVI, and HDMI output capacity using corresponding adapters sold separately, as well as two USB and one Thunderbolt ports for connecting peripherals.

Are these specs impressive enough to make room for the MacBook Air in your organization? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...