MacBook Air 11-inch (2012) teardown reveals upgraded hardware, same battery/internal design

Bill Detwiler tears down the 2012, 11-inch MacBook Air and shows you how Apple upgraded its hardware without changing the internal design.

Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2012)

The 11-inch MacBook Air is Apple's smallest, lightest, and lowest-priced laptop. The company didn't make any big design changes to the 2012 Air, but Apple did make several significant hardware improvements. In this week's episode of Cracking Open, I take you inside this year's 11-inch Air and show you what's changed and what hasn't.

Our MacBook Air test unit had a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8GB RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 11.6-inch LED-backlit display (1366 x 768 native resolution). It measured 0.68" (H) x 11.8" (W) x 7.56" (D) and weighs 2.38 pounds.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the MacBook Air 11-inch (2012)

Cracking Open Observations

  • Intel 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) processors: A 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor comes standard, but our test machine had a 2.0GHz Core i7.
  • Better graphics: The 2012 Airs also come with Intel's HD Graphics 4000--a step up from the older model's HD Graphics 3000 system.
  • More, faster RAM: The 2012 Air can support up to 8GB of RAM, compared to the 2011's 4GB. The chips 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: The new Air can be configured with up to 512GB of storage--twice the maximum capacity of the 2011 model.
  • 720p FaceTime camera: The Air's built-in camera can shoot 720p video.
  • USB 3.0: The 11-inch Air has two USB 3.0 ports, a single Thunderbolt port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and built-in microphone.
  • 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 11-inch Airs have identical internal hardware layouts. There's a large battery in the center, two speakers on either side, a small I/O board, single cooling fan, and motherboard. And just like this year's 13-inch Air, the battery is identical to last year's 11-inch model.

So what's not to like about the new 11-inch Air? Well, nothing too serious. There's no SD card slot, as there is on the 13-inch Air. The base model's 64GB SSD seems small given the machine's $999 price tag. And for those accustomed to a standard laptop, the machine's 11-inch may take a little getting used to.

Bottom Line

As is its larger sibling, the 2012 11-inch Air is a solid update to the line.

Just remember you can't upgrade it, so get all the RAM, storage, and processing power you'll need when you buy it.

For more information on the 2012 MacBook Air 11-inch, including performance and battery life benchmark test, check out Scott Stein's full CNET review.

Internal hardware

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

  • 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Intel Platform Controller Hub (E210B677 SLJ8B G11334 01 PB3)
  • 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3L SDRAM (Hynix H5TC4G83MFR x 16)
  • 128GB Toshiba THNSNS128GMFP SSD
  • Broadcom BCM943224PCIEBT2 wireless module
  • Apple 7.3V, 35WH 4,680mAh Li-ion battery pack (Model A1406)
  • Panasonic UDQFZYR72DQU DC brushless cooling fan
  • Texas Instruments (58872D TI 221 A6LE E4)
  • Intel DSL3510L (Thunderbolt controller?)
  • K03P0 2B4 61N4
  • Maxim MAX15120G TL214 +BSAG
  • 3050 008B
  • Intersil ISL8014A 4A Low Quiescent Current 1MHz High Efficiency Synchronous Buck Regulator (8014AIRZRF209QP)
  • Texas Instruments TPS51916 DDR2, DDR3 and DDR3L Memory Power Solution Synchronous Buck Controller (51916 TI 22K D0FG)
  • SMSC USB2512B USB hub controller (USB2513B D1212-A2P10 8J149932D SCM-MY)
  • TL02043A 6352.107 ZSD211
  • 148AV 2D012 MSA
  • Macronix MX25L6406E 6Mb Serial Flash (L121483 MX25L6406EZNI-12GF 3K463400)
  • Texas Instruments/Stellaris LM4FS1AH microcontroller (980 YFC LM4FS1AH 5BBCIG 23A48YW G1)
  • Intersil ISL6259A battery charger (6259A HRTZ F209LN)
  • Texas Instruments TPS51980 TI 231 A50K G4
  • 21BF D68B
  • Texas Instruments CD3210 A0 TI 231 APHX
  • Linear Technology LT3957B DC/DC inverting switching regulators (212 3957 B65277)
  • Texas Instruments TPS2561 Dual Channel Precision Adjustable Current-Limited Power Switche (2561 TI 22I AL8Q)
  • 023 12 18 2D210
  • Cypress Semiconductor CY8C24794 PSoC Programmable System-on-Chip (CY8C24794-24L QXI 1219 A 05 PHI CYP 618090 245)
  • Silicon Storage Technology (SST) 25VF020 2 Mbit SPI Serial Flash (SST 25VF020 20-4C-QAE 1205AS2-AB)
  • Broadcom BCM5976A0KUB2G trackpad controller (BCM5976A0KUB26 TD1212 P10 194070 5T)

By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic 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 support specialist in the ...