MacBook Air is based on Centrino Duo platform from Santa Rosa generation, which relates this solution to any contemporary mobile Wintel computer. However, Apple made a few corrections to this standard set of components that is why we can’t say that MacBook Air features a typical configuration. The thing is that the main goal to create and extremely thin and lightweight solution required the developers to think not only about the performance and power consumption of the components they used, but also about their physical size. Therefore, the hardware components one finds inside this airy notebook will most likely arouse as many emotions as its exterior design.
First of all, I have to say that the engineers had to sacrifice different slots and mainboards connectors for the sake of thin form-factor. To save some space the CPU as well as memory are soldered permanently to the mainboards and cannot be replaced.
Moreover, MacBook Air uses a not quite standard CPU. Intel ships a special smaller Merom version specifically for Apple.
In a standard configuration it would be a mobile Core 2 Duo with 4MB L2 cache and 1.6GHz clock frequency. This processor can be regarded as an economical modification, its default Vcore has been reduced to 1.25V, and the TDP – to 20W. The standard mobile processor from Intel manufactured with 65nm process features 15W higher typical heat dissipation rate and work at 0.1V higher processor core voltage. There is an option, however, to request a faster processor modification working at 1.8GHz clock speed.
The notebook is equipped with 2GB of built-in quite contemporary dual-channel DDR2-667 SDRAM working at 5-5-5-15 timings. For the reasons described above you cannot change the amount of memory in MacBook Air.
For the system chipset Apple chose Intel GMA965 core logic with the integrated X3100 graphics core. It means that MacBook Air cannot become a gaming platform. It features evidently weak 3D graphics, according to today’s standards. Nevertheless, Intel X3100 works just fine in typical 2D environment. The only limitation is the maximum screen resolution supported by the external DVI port that cannot exceed 1920x1200.
Although Santa Rosa platform may also include Intel’s wireless network adapter, that also supports draft 802.11n protocol, Apple preferred to use an add-on Broadcom controller with the same functionality instead. This could have been done because Intel ships its solutions only as mini-PCIE cards, which cannot fit inside MacBook Air.
Besides wireless network, this notebook supports another popular wireless interface – Bluetooth.
The hard drive installed into MacBook Air deserves our special attention. In a standard configuration it is a 1.8-inch Samsung Spinpoint N2 hard disk drive with 80GB storage capacity. The main advantage of this HDD is certainly its small size despite sufficient capacity: it is only 5mm thick. However, you shouldn’t expect any serious performance from it: the spindle rotation speed is only 4,200RPM and the average access time – 13ms. Moreover, the hard drive uses almost forgotten Ultra ATA-100 interface. So, no wonder than even 8MB buffer cannot help improve things here.
An alternative solid state hard disk drive with 64GB storage capacity can certainly ensure much better performance parameters. It can be installed into Apple MacBook Air upon the customer’s request. Besides, it is also much more economical prolonging MacBook Air’s battery life by about 10-15%. The only disturbing thing is the price: SSD will cost you additional $999.
The integrated sound solution uses Realtek’s dual-channel codec. Frankly speaking, this notebook produces very poor audio quality. It has only one speaker located on the right beneath the keyboard. So, you will hardly be able to listen to anything other than OS beeping through this audio system. As for the external audio devices, there is only one analogue stereo output port for those.
MacBook Air battery was also selected as small and lightweight as possible. That is why this notebook uses lithium-polymer battery with 37Wh capacity instead of lithium-ion one. A high-capacity battery for an ultra-portable notebook like this is claimed to provide up to 5 hours of operation time. This is partially true: MacBook Air does really run on battery for quite a long time. However, it also takes a while to charge: it may require more than 5 hours to charge fully.