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Apple's radical 12-inch MacBook Air is the slimmest, lightest Mac ever

Brad Chacos | March 10, 2015
The 12-inch MacBook was redesigned from the ground up and uses a single USB Type-C connector in a quest for revolutionary thinness.

There's a reason Apple hasn't changed the MacBook Air's core design for years now: It's basically perfect--the epitome of a thin-and-light laptop, from its luxurious, razor-thin exterior to its majestic glass trackpad. But even perfection can't coax Apple into sitting on its heels.

On Monday, Apple revealed a new 12-inch MacBook Air, a radical revamp that shakes up the winning MBA design by dumping virtually every conventional port--Thunderbolt, the SD card slot, a power connector, everything--in favor of a pair a single USB Type-C connection and an audio jack. That, paired with some other advances, helped the 12-inch MacBook Air become the slimmest, lightest MacBook ever.

"Can you see it?" a grinning Tim Cook asked, holding one aloft onstage. "I can't even feel it!"

The overhaul slims the notebook down to a ridonkulous 2 lbs. and 13.1mm--the slimmest MacBook by a full 24 percent, according to Apple's Phil Schiller. And that's with a full fanless design. Achieving such thinness required Apple to redesign the machine from the ground up.

First, the display on the 12-inch MacBook Air--which packs a Retina-class 2304x1440 resolution--now reaches edge-to-edge, with barely there bezels. It measures just 0.88mm thin.

The keyboard now sits edge-to-edge, sporting closer-together keys than the new MacBook Air's counterparts. Apple actually created a new keyboard switch for the 12-inch MacBook Air, to replace the scissor switches that power most laptop keyboards. The "Butterfly mechanism" uses a single assembly with a stainless steel dome, which Schiller claims is both much smaller than yet four times as accurate as scissor switches.

The MacBook Air also introduces a new "Force Touch trackpad." It's covered in glass like Apple's previous models, but also sports four force sensors under the hood to create a uniform tapping feel. Together with the introduction of a "Taptic engine," the 12-inch MacBook Air introduces the idea of light and deep clicks--the laptop registers a new class of deep clicks that it uses to automatically open certain programs depending on where you click. Click on a word in Safari, for instance, opens a Wikipedia entry for it, while force clicking a date opens a calendar entry.

One of Intel's new energy-efficient Core M "Broadwell" processors powers the 12-inch MacBook Air, sitting in a logic board 67 percent smaller than Apple's previous record. The processor sips a mere 5 watts of power, running at 1.3GHz that can Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz when more oomph is needed.

Around the Force Touch trackpad and itty-bitty logic board, Apple crammed the 12-inch MacBook Air with batteries, using a new layered, terraced battery design that lets the company use all the available space inside the unibody chassis. The 12-inch MacBook Air will get 9 hours battery life while web surfing, or 10 hours while watching video.


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