Apple debuts OS X Lion, new Macbook Air, Mac Mini & more

With the release of Mac OS X Lion came updates to some of Apple’s hardware options.  The rumored Macbook Air update happened today along with updated Mac Mini’s and new Cinema Displays.

Apple debuts OS X Lion, new Macbook Air, Mac Mini & more

Both the 11 inch and 13 inch Macbook Air models got updated.  It appears the rumors about the inclusion of Sandy Bridge processors in these devices ended up being true, with Core i5 and Core i7 options available.  The 11 inch model starts at $999 with a 1.6 GHz Core i5 processor, 64GB of storage, and 2GB of RAM.  The RAM can be pumped to 4GB on that model.  Going with a custom configuration allows you to bump the processor to the 1.8 GHz Core i7 processor and offers a max of 256 GB of storage.  The 13 inch Macbook Air gives you the option of 1.7 GHz Core i5 or the 1.8 GHz Core i7 with the RAM and storage options the same as the 11 inch.  All of the model also got the much needed addition of a backlit keyboard.

Also notable here is the elimination of the white unibody Macbook.  It looks like Apple is going to push the Air as the go to laptop in the $999 range that a great portion of students are comfortable with.  The only real issue with that is the lack of an optical drive, which some students might just miss.

The Mac Mini also got a new coat of paint with this hardware update.  The little machine no longer has an optical drive either ,which is kind of curious considering it’s pitched as a great machine to connect directly to your HDTV.  It looks like Apple is really pushing the idea of having more than one Mac in your home.  In that scenario an iMac would be able to share it’s optical drive with either the Air or the Mini but that’s not exactly the cheapest scenario for most folks.  The Mini also got processor upgrades with options including 2.3 and 2.5 GHz Core i5s and 2.7 GHz Core i7.

The other notable addition to both of these machines is the inclusion of a Thunderbolt I/O port.  This technology, developed by Intel, is essentially a very high speed way to connect peripherals to your computer.  It’s faster than USB and is compatible with PCI express and Display Port, allowing it to be used as the new display port on the updated Cinema Displays as well.

Devices should be coming down the pipe from a number of peripheral manufacturers that support this port, including Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise, and Western Digital.  It stands to reason that hard drive manufacturers might fall in love with this thing for external drives. You can also daisy chain devices with Thunderbolt, just like Firewire, which is a nice plus.  Thunderbolt was also added to the iMac line along with a nicer camera, and better graphics card options.

It’s nice to see Apple incorporating Intel’s Thunderbolt technology and adding some much needed speed to the Mac Mini and Macbook Air lines.  The only really disappointing thing about these updates is the loss of the optical drive on the Mini.  

Are you thinking about picking up one of these new Apple devices?