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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Next MacBook Air May Get Sandy Bridge and Built-In 3G

Apple’s latest MacBook Air has only been on the market since October, but we’re already hearing rumblings of a refresh rolling around well before next fall. The idea sounds far-fetched until you consider the benefits Intel’s Sandy Bridge could bring to Apple’s ultraportable--power saving with a faster processor and far better integrated graphics than Intel’s had to offer before. Two of Intel's ULV i7 chips draw only 17W.

Adding to the Sandy Bridge speculation is a rare Apple customer survey all about the MacBook Air--with an emphasis on 3G connectivity.

AppleInsider picked up on the survey and broke it down question-by-question, noting a pretty obvious trend: MacBook Air functionality was the key topic. Apple is obviously interested in which features of its minimalist notebook people use most, and it asked about everything from function keys and USB ports to cloud-based services and 3G connectivity. Given its partnerships with AT&T and Verizon, a 3G Air from Apple isn’t too hard to picture.

In an older AppleInsider story from 2009, the site noted that Apple had hired a 3G expert for its Mac products. Steve Jobs himself had commented that Apple explored 3G for the Air, but decided against it to keep customers from being tied to one carrier. Well, things have changed since then--the iPad and iPhone are both available with data plans from AT&T or Verizon. Maybe it’s time for the portable Air to join the party.

It’s practically a given that Apple will update the MacBook Air to Sandy Bridge--the real question is when. Cnet reports that the change will come this June, shortly after the projected March or April update to MacBook Pros. It makes a certain amount of sense for Apple to get all of its laptops on board with the same processor at some point. The sooner they move past Core 2 Duo, the better.

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